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Jeff Davis's Own: Cavalry, Comanches, and…

Jeff Davis's Own: Cavalry, Comanches, and the Battle for the Texas…

by James R. Arnold

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Excellent book on the 2nd Cavalry and its service in Texas against the Comanche. The documentation is very good and the author makes the story very readable. The author brings the story like a novel and keeps the readers interest. Recommend this to fill in the gaps of pre-Civil War history. ( )
  dhughes | Jan 27, 2014 |
Jeff Davis's Own is a splendid book which details both the early U.S. attempts to secure the western frontier as well as the development of several important general officers of the Civil War. The book is concentrated on the 2nd U.S. Cavalry, which was composed of officers hand-picked by then Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Davis, noted for his long memory, rewarded officers he thought superior by placing them in this elite regiment designed specifically to combat the swift-moving Comanche.

The regiment experimented with everything from saddles to tactics in an effort to defend against the Comanche. Some of their experiments, such as the use of gutta percha ponchos, were successful. Other aspects of the regiment belonged only on the parade ground. For instance, the regiment arrived in Texas riding thoroughbred horses, the colors of which were uniform in each company. However, it seems that no one bothered to think about the effect sparse feed and hard use would have on these animals and many died or simply gave out. Additionally, the command was consistently hampered by poor logistics, a fact which greatly reduced the ability of the unit to carry out its duty.

The effectiveness of the unit was questionable. They employed tactics similar to those used in Vietnam, in that patrols went out from the forts in an effort to find the enemy, who proved remarkably elusive. While there were some fierce battles, the periodic large sweeps usually resulted in nothing more than days of riding with a few sightings if the unit was lucky. Comanche raids were not noticeably reduced and the civilians of Texas were less than pleased with the effectiveness of their new protectors. However, the unit did serve to train several of the leaders of the next great war.

Of the officers who accepted positions in the 2nd Cavalry, 16 became generals in the Civil War. 11 Confederate, including four full generals, and five Union. These generals included notables such as Albert Sidney Johnston (Colonel), Robert E. Lee (Lieutenant Colonel), George H. Thomas (Major), Earl Van Dorn (Captain), Edmund Kirby Smith (Captain), and John B. Hood (Second Lieutenant). Other notables who appear in this book are Texas Ranger Captain Sul Ross and Tonkawa Chief Placedo. In fact, the exploits of Ross detailed in the book are worth the price.

Throughout this well written and very readable book, Arnold has included the writings of the principle participants. One of the more fascinating aspects of the book for me was a description written by R. E. Lee of his hand-to-hand combat with a Comanche indian. For some reason, I had never thought of Lee as participating in battle, but directing it from afar. This book gave me new insight into the man and his character.

This book was a wonderfully easy book to read and kept me up late at night. The tales of Texas heroes and the frontier will appeal to Texana lovers and the inclusion of so many Civil War generals will do the same for students of that struggle. The book is indexed and contains a plethora of footnotes which serve to greatly enhance the educational aspects of the book. This is one volume no Texas or Civil War historian should leave out of their collection. ( )
  devilyack | Aug 23, 2008 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0785821910, Hardcover)

Excitingly told and meticulously researched, this is an intriguing and colorful saga of the commanders who united to fight an enemy on its native ground, then divided again to face each other across the battlefields of their own homeland.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:37 -0400)

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Presents the history of the Second Cavalry, a division of the U.S. Army formed to quell the Native American warriors attacking frontier settlements in Texas and Mexico.

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