This is a review by Randy L Harvey of Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman from Osprey Publishing by author John Walter with illustrators Adam Hook and Alan Gilliland and series editor Martin Pegler.


** During the American Civil war, the mounted soldiers fighting on both sides of the conflict carried a wide array of weapons, from sabers and lances to carbines, revolvers, and other firearms.  Though some sections of the cavalry placed their trust in the saber, the advent of viable breechloading carbines - especially repeaters such as the Spencer – was to transform warfare within little more than a decade of general Lee’s finale surrender at Appomattox.  Output struggled, however, to keep up with unprecedented demands on manufacturing technology and distribution in areas where communication was difficult and is states whose primary aim was to equip their own men rather than contribute to the arming of Federal or Confederate regiments.  In addition, the horrendous losses of men and equipment ensured that virtually any firearm, effectual or not, was pressed into service.  Consequently, the sheer variety of weaponry carried reflected the mounted soldiers’’ various roles in different theaters of operation, but also the availability – or otherwise – of weapons, notably on the Confederate side.  Fully illustrated throughout, this study assesses the effectiveness of the many different weapons arming the Civil War cavalryman. **  

** Quoted from the back cover of the book.  

The Book

Osprey Publications has released Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman as Number 75 in their Weapon series. It is a soft cover book with 80 pages. Included with the text are black and white and color photographs, color illustrations, detailed captions and more. It has a 2020 copyright, a publication date of September 17, 2020 and the ISBN is 978-1-4728-4223-7.  The book covers the development, use and impact of various small arms and weapons used by Federal and Confederate cavalrymen during the American Civil War.


- Introduction

- Development

          - The march of technology

- Use

          - Weapons and war

- Impact

          - Weapons: fact and fiction

- Conclusion

- Appendix: US Patents

- Select Bibliography

- Index


Author John Walter covers American and foreign made rifles, carbines, shotguns, revolvers, pistols, derringers, ammunition, sabers, knives and the associated equipment such as holsters and duty belts, used by both the Federal and Confederate cavalrymen during the American Civil War in the 1800s.  The specific weapons featured have detailed text discussing things such as the manufacturers of the weapon, countries of origin and manufacture, caliber, numbers issued, how they were loaded, how the actions of the weapon worked, which military used, them as well as the positive aspects of the weapons and their failures and short-comings and improvements made to them, and specific military actions some of the weapons were used in and the results of the actions due to the use of the weapons mentioned.  The text in the book is nicely written and well detailed.  As I read through the text, I didn’t notice any spelling or grammatical errors.  Grammar and spelling might not be an important factor to everyone however it is something that I take notice of and pass on my findings.  I did find one error in the text on page 24 in the first paragraph.  It states “the special combination tool issued with each Gallager carbine was not strong enough to prize cases free of the breech effectually”.  Is should state “to pry cases free’ instead of “to prize cases free”.  It is a minor error but I feel it should be mentioned.  I feel that if the text is well written then it shows that the author has taken the time to be professional with their writing.  Anyone wanting to add an excellent reference and history book detailing various weapons used by both the Federal and Confederate cavalrymen during the American Civil War to their personal library will be pleased with this very informative and interesting book.   


A total of 5 black and white photographs and 63 color photographs are included in this volume.  The photographs range from up-close detailed images of the various weapons detailed and being discussed to period photographs of individuals and locations.  I would say that the photographs that were chosen for this book were for the most part lesser-known photographs as opposed to photographs that are featured in many other titles that deal with the same subject matter.  The majority of the photographs are clear and easily viewable, however a few of the period photographs have an out of focus look to them and some appear to be too dark, and others appear too light.  This is typical for the discussed periods of history and consideration needs to be given to the fact that some of the photographs are over one hundred years old and the quality of the photographs is of no fault of the author and do not take anything away from the book.  Author John Walter stuck to the title of the book and chose subject specific photographs and did not include photographs that strayed from the main subject of the book.  The majority, if not all, of the photographs will prove to be a wealth of information to anyone interested in weapons used by both the Federal and Confederate cavalrymen during the American Civil War as well as the uniforms and warfare of the period due to the details they contain.  


There are 5 color illustrations by illustrators Adam Hook and Alan Gilliland.  The illustrations are very well done and nicely detailed.   


The captions are well written and explain the accompanying photographs and illustrations in great detail eliminating any doubt as to what is shown.  The captions go into very specific detail as to specific weapons shown and key items of interest on them, specific individuals shown, the side of the conflict they fought one, the military unit to which they were a member of, types of clothing worn, weapons, equipment carried and used, dates and locations and other such pertinent information.  I did find on error in one of the captions.  It was on page 66 and it states “the other rider brandishes a revolver, a second gun being holstered on his belt”.  In the illustration the rider has both revolvers drawn and the holster is empty.  A minor error but I thought it should be mentioned.  I was impressed by John Walter’s captions as they are very helpful to the reader due to their detailed content as opposed to other captions that I have seen that are very brief and lacking in detail.   


There is 1 informational chart included in this volume and it provides information on:

- Federal Breech-Loading Carbines

- The chart provides data on 17 different weapons.  The data compares technical in the form of caliber (nominal, bore, chamber), length (overall, barrel), weight (pounds), action (shots), guns (quantity, price) and cartridges (quantity in millions, price per 1,000).  

Osprey Publishing also offers Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman as:

eBook (ePub) ISBN: 978-1-4728- 4224-4


eBook (PDF) ISBN: 978-1-4728- 4221-3

Osprey Publishing’s, Weapons of the Civil War Cavalryman is also available as a Kindle version through Amazon.

PRICE:  UK £13.99 / US $22.00 / CAN $30.00

This book was provided to me by Osprey Publishing.  Please be sure to mention that you saw the book reviewed here on the KitMaker Network when you make your purchase.  Thank you. 



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