Southern Boots and Saddles

by Fred Ray on June 2, 2006 · 1 comment

Having been on the road in Virginia, I haven’t had much opportunity to blog, which I hope to make up for in the next couple of weeks. Upcoming posts will include lots of information about the accuracy of various types of period rifles, and as we will see they did right well.

Today, though, I want to do a quick review of of a recent purchase, Art Green’s Southern Boots and Saddles: The Fifteenth Confederate Cavalry C.S.A. 1863-1865. The Fifteenth was one of those units you’ve never heard of, that performed unglamorous but vital duties in a backwater theater of war, in this case the area between Mobile, Alabama, and Pensacola, Florida.

The Fifteenth Confederate cavalry got its unusual designation not by being a regular unit, but by being an amalgamation of Alabama and Florida cavalry companies (five of each) in late 1863. The new outfit began as the First Regiment Alabama and Florida Cavalry but shortly afterward switched over to the Fifteenth Confederate.

Much of the Fifteenth’s service was providing a screen for the Mobile area (in Confederate hands) against Union raiders located in Pensacola, and more importantly protecting the railroad that ran from Atlanta to Mobile by way of Pollard, Florida. This was the Confederacy’s principal east-west rail line, and as such was the persistent target of Federal raids. It also participated in a punitive campaign against the so-called Free State of Jones in Mississippi (where they hanged half a dozen men), as well as the late war battles of Spanish Fort and Blakely.

For the men of the Fifteenth there were few big battles, just and endless series of small skirmishes in an area that at the time was very sparsely populated. Casualties were low compared to major theaters, and many men enlisted to be near their families, which led to frequent “French furloughs.”

Camp Pope Publishing

Desertion was a problem, too, since many of the men had little attachment to the Confederacy (there was, in fact, a serious mutiny at Pollard in 1863). One of those was my own great-grandfather, S. F. Ray, who deserted the Fifteenth in late 1863 and joined the newly created First Florida Cavalry (US) at Fort Barrancas (near Pensacola). In fact many of the men of the 1st Florida were deserters from the Fifteenth, which must have made for a tense situation on the picket line.

Green’s book is one for the specialist and at $40 is rather expensive for a 6×9″ paperbound book. Still, it represents a lot of work on his part, because over three-quarters of it is extracts from the service records of the men who served in it. If one of them was an ancestor, or if you need to abstract data on this unit, this is the book for you. The rest of the book is most all the material published on the Fifteenth in the OR and elsewhere, which is rather sparse.

Available from Heritage Books, it’s an interesting look at an obscure unit in a forgotten theater.


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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Drew Wagenhoffer June 3, 2006 at 2:07 pm

I like those kinds of unit histories if they can throw a light into neglected areas of combat (a good example is “Clarkson’s Battalion”, a nice book I recently read and reviewed). However, slapping a $40 price tag on a slim paperback written by an unknown author from an obscure publisher sure isn’t going to promote any impulse buys!

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