As I was putting together yesterday’s post, I kept coming across references within the reports to “squadrons” and “large squadrons.” As I noted previously, even in Carter’s history I found the same terms. Now I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but throw something in front of me enough times and I begin to wonder about it.
Squadrons during the Civil War consisted of two companies, without exception that I have encountered in my studies. Battalions consisted of four, but generally were used much less frequently than squadrons. So a squadron is a squadron is a squadron, right?
The answer is yes. The reason the differentiation was made was due to the strengths of different regiments, particularly in this engagement. The 1st U.S. Cavalry in this engagement numbered maybe 300 sabers. Captain Davis’ squadron of 60 in the reports would thus be average. There were various reasons for this, but in general the regiment was close to its pre-war strength.
The 6th U.S. Cavalry, on the other hand, was a recently-formed regiment at close to full strength. Even with all of the men sick or detached from the regiment for various reasons, it still numbered approximately 750 sabers present for duty at the skirmish. At 150 sabers per squadron (only two companies had carbines at this time), its squadrons were “large squadrons.”
Alas, no remarkable revelations or mysteries solved, but at least that question’s not bothering me any more.