The Sunday Question: Who Was the Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalry Commander?

The nominees are:

  1. Jeb Stuart: Lee’s eyes and ears, who might have even made a good corps commander had he retained command of Jackson’s corps after Chancellorsville (note the Gettysburg what-ifs usually shy away from that possibility). His performance during the Gettysburg campaign remains the most controversial part of his Civil War career.
  2. Nathan Bedford Forrest: Forrest has his fans, and not always for the right reasons. Moreover, he did not play well with others, and it’s a good question whether he made that much of an impact strategically. Still, the man could fight, and fight well.
  3. Wade Hampton: There are those who believe that Hampton might have been better than Stuart, and that he performed well after Stuart’s death. Others may claim that he never had a chance to display his talents for long in an independent command in Virginia.
  4. Joe Wheeler: Wheeler’s men did a lot of damage. Of course, white Georgians claimed that his men forgot that they were on the same side.
  5. Anyone else come to mind? For you Romeos out there, there’s Earl Van Dorn. And if you like nepotism, Fitz Lee’s reliable.

23 thoughts on “The Sunday Question: Who Was the Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalry Commander?

  1. bob carey May 22, 2016 / 3:46 pm

    Although I voted for Stuart, I think the cavalry commander who was most beneficial for the Confederacy was Judson Kilpatrick.

    • Buck Buchanan May 24, 2016 / 6:49 am

      *golf clap*

    • Cortez June 26, 2016 / 9:36 pm

      What about the Grey Ghost John Mosby

  2. Derek May 22, 2016 / 4:03 pm


    • John Foskett May 23, 2016 / 10:14 am

      Not based on the 1863 debacle (which was also in violation of orders).

  3. Rob Baker May 22, 2016 / 4:21 pm

    I went with Forrest because of his use of mobile warefare, he used his cavalry almost like a mobilized infantry.

  4. James F. Epperson May 22, 2016 / 4:23 pm

    I voted for Hampton, but Stuart would be a close second. The other guys don’t merit much consideration. I’m heavily influenced by the work of Eric Wittenberg and Dave Powell.

  5. Shoshana Bee May 22, 2016 / 5:16 pm

    This is ridiculous: I am monitoring this poll like a favourite baseball team is at stake! (Well, my guy is in second place) I thought Nathan Bedford was Mounted Infantry? I might have to bring in a cavalry expert to testify if ol Nathan beats JEB

  6. Al Mackey May 22, 2016 / 5:16 pm

    I go with JEB. Hampton may have been technically better in some areas, but if we’re talking greatness, then that’s more than just technical ability. It’s also the ability to get into the heads of the opposition, which no one did better than JEB.

    • Shoshana Bee May 24, 2016 / 9:39 am

      Nice commentary.

      A local Medium has been channeling Nathan Bedford Forrest and he states that he is ready to concede the vote to the rightful winner: JEB Stuart 🙂

  7. War Horse May 22, 2016 / 6:04 pm

    Forrest was a Dragoone. A real throw back to the old style heavy cavalry. He was mobile infantry. It really doesn’t qualify him as real cavalry. He didn’t screen, he didn’t gather information and he rarly flanked. A real Dragoone. An impressive one, but definitely not the light cavalry that had developed during the American Civil War. Just my two cents.

  8. War Horse May 22, 2016 / 6:30 pm

    Hampton is a much better choice than Forrest. JMHO

  9. BorderRuffian May 23, 2016 / 6:01 am

    Jo Shelby?

  10. Lyle Smith May 23, 2016 / 7:45 am

    I chose Hampton. Stuart was, at times, too cavalier.

  11. John Foskett May 23, 2016 / 7:52 am

    Ended up reluctantly voting for Stuart because Hampton wasn’t in a position to do as much for as long a period – otherwise he’d have gotten my vote. Jeb did have his overrated side – the June, 1862 “ride”; the Antietam Campaign; the Brandy Station surprise; and the Pennsylvania Frolic. Forrest? He never consistently acted as a true cavalry commander; when he did he wasn’t necessarily at the A level (Chickamauga); and his biggest achievement in the field was against Sam Sturgis (who admittedly didn’t care for John Pope “one pinch of owl dung”). Wheeler??? I’ve read Dave Powell’s work…

  12. hankc9174 May 23, 2016 / 8:14 am

    +1 for Stuart.

    he has more tools: scouting, screening, protecting, raiding, disrupting.

    He died at the end of the ‘old’ style of war and Hampton (my #2) took over quite ably.

    Hampton has Forrest’s traits: mobile and hard-hitting – well demonstrated during the Petersburg campaign.

    Forrest had a good punch but generally ignored the Stuart characteristics above.

  13. Bert May 23, 2016 / 2:15 pm

    It was a close call, as Stuart was without question an excellent cavalry commander. I held my nose (due to Fort Pillow and his postwar antics) and went with Forrest. Sherman seemed to think of him as a high priority target. Although a strong argument can be made for Stuart, most of his success came in the first half of the war when the Federal cavalry was still on the learning curve in both fighting skills and leadership. Forrest usually seemed to find a way to win no matter what was thrown at him. Not sure Stuart would have done quite as well in those situations.

  14. Bill Brown May 23, 2016 / 7:41 pm

    I voted for Wade Hampton for his actions during the Carolinas Campaign of 1865. His recon work laid the foundation for the Battle of Bentonville, NC, and provided timely information to General Johnston.

  15. TF Smith May 23, 2016 / 11:10 pm

    Stuart and Hampton were the only two who ever really commanded at the corps-level as part of an army in the field, practicing combined arms; Wheeler’s and Forrest’s commands at their heights didn’t really compare. I’d suggest Stuart, Hampton, Wheeler, Forrest.

  16. Joshism May 29, 2016 / 7:46 am

    I think only Stuart and Hampton can really be in contention.

    The best western cavalry commanders – Forrest and Wheeler mostly, with Shelby and Morgan at least worth mentioning (I don’t think Van Dorn is eligible because most of the time he was not a cavalry commander) – were all good mounted FIGHTERS but failed to be well-rounded CAVALRY.

  17. Dave June 14, 2016 / 4:52 am

    How about John Singleton Mosby?

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