by Chris Bagley
Trumbull, Ct.: Gettysburg Publishing / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2021. Pp. xii, 210.
Illus., maps, gloss, diagr., append., biblio., index. $26.95 paper. ISBN: 0999304968
Four Footed Warriors
Battlefield guide, registered nurse, and horse fancier Bagley gives us a very detailed look at the military horse – and mule – during the Gettysburg Campaign, and by extension in the war overall.
Bagley opens with three chapters that introduce us to horses and military service. The first talks about horses, covering terminology, anatomy, breeds and their specialties, and colors. This is very useful given that, unlike those living in the era of the Civil War, most people today are wholly unfamiliar with equines.
Bagley’s second chapter discusses how both sides “recruited” horses for officers' use, for cavalry, and for traction, whether for the artillery (a single battery could require over 100!) or supply wagons; Uncle Sam paid as much as $195.00 for cavalry mounts, an impressive sum, as much as a fully employed northern urban factory worked could make in eight months or more.. He addresses problems involved in providing trained farriers and veterinarians to look after them, and their physical and medical care, including some elaborate hospitals. This is followed, in Bagley’s third chapter, with a look at how horses were trained, with comparisons to modern methods.
Bagley follows these chapters with five more, retells the story of the battle from the perspective of the role of the horse in various phases of the fighting. He then concludes with an account of the memorialization of horses, and mules, and their military service.
This is excellent work. But in what areperhaps the book’s most serious flaws, Bagley fails to give us some idea of the size and distribution of the equine population, nor does he give us some idea of the casualties they suffered, deaths among equines certainly exceeded those among humans.
The Horse at Gettysburg is an invaluable book not only for those interested in Gettysburg but for anyone with an interest in the Civil War or nineteenth century military practice, and, of course, horses.
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