for Prospective Members:
interested in starting a new hobby or joining an organization often
has many questions. To introduce prospective Black Horse members to
our unit, we've put together this narrative that should be at least a
good start at describing who we are, what we do, and how we do it.
We Engage In:
Black Horse participates in Civil War battle reenactments, living
histories, presentations for the public, and films. We place strong
emphasis on developing skills as a cavalryman, and members are
expected to attend drills. Click here for more information on the
types of events
in which we participate.
Black Horse Member:
is a gentlemen horse owner whose hobby is riding but enjoys this
historic twist to his equestrian pursuit. He is not extreme in his
views about the Civil War. This is not a political
average member is 52, works full time, and is married. Our youngest
member is 12. Our oldest is 70. Some are retired. Most have
kids who've grown up and left the nest. Others have pre-school and
elementary school-aged children. About half our members served in the
U.S. Navy, Army, Air Force, or Marine Corps.
you have a black horse? Well, no. None of us are the first sons of
wealthy pre-Civil War plantation owners and have the pick of a
stable. You, as a new member, are going to bring the horse you have.
Over the years, we've found that the horses best suited to cavalry
reenacting are Quarter Horse geldings but we also have almost every breed represented in the unit including at least two Arabians, four TWH's, three Morgans, a Racking Horse, a Thoroughbred, an Argentine TB, an Appaloosa and many crosses: two QH/Morgan crosses, a QH/Paint cross, a Percheron-QH cross, a Percheron/TB cross, and at least four horses are mares.
Thoroughbreds may be thought to have the toughest time adjusting to close order drill and gunfire but at least two that have been ridden in the unit seem to have coped satisfactorily.
Black Horse Teach Me to Ride?
No, and Yes. We don't give riding lessons in a pure sense, but you
will learn to ride in close order formation (kneecap-to-kneecap) at
the walk, trot and canter. We prefer that novices and their horses
have a fair amount of some trail experience. Many limited-experience
riders have found a home in the Black Horse and matured into
confident, determined horsemen. Whatever level you are, our
experienced cavalrymen will take the time to work with you to make
sure that you are safe and to build your confidence in yourself and
your horse. If you want to work toward becoming an experienced
cavalryman, there will always be encouragement and support. There
will come a time when you will take the field at a reenactment with
10,000 infantry and 200 cavalry and feel comfortable with musket fire
and artillery around you. You will not only be confident but feel a
rush as the Black Horse charges into opposing forces
with sabers drawn.
Learn to Shoot?
Yes. The unit prides itself in using two firearms - the pistol and
carbine. Both weapons are fired from horseback although the carbine
is generally used dismounted - fighting on foot as
If you are
not familiar with firearms, we will teach you the basics. Both the
pistol and carbine are loaded with of gunpowder and sometimes topped with an inert materal such as
"Cream of Wheat" cereal. No lead ball, or bullet, or any other
potential projectile is ever used. Even if we're not shooting but
only carrying weapons, the unit's armorer always inspects weapons for
safety. Ironically, the biggest difficulty associated with shooting
is learning to clean and maintain the weapons so they go "Bang!"
first time, every time (the horse, it seems, is more tolerant to us
shooting off their back than the weapons are to the gunpowder residue
that accumulates during firing). We stress safety and responsibility
always with our firearms. They may be period pistols loaded with
cereal but they are still capable of inflicting wounds. They will
never be pointed or fired directly at a person or horse.
ranks are de-emphasized in our unit. Everyone is a Private except the
limited number of officiers, Sergeants, and Corporals. New members are
"recruits" until after they have competently completed their first reenactment
and, as such, are promoted to 'Trooper'. Unit leaders are elected.
the year, there are generally just one or two events more than 100
miles out of the area. Nearly all of our activities fall within a
70-80 mile radius centered on the Manassas Battlefield. Be the trip
short or long, however, it's in your best interest to own a two-horse
trailer and a vehicle to pull it. You can't count on bumming a ride
all the time, but we do try to "trailer pool" as much as we
unit commander will cancel a drill if weather reports indicate it's
big round numbers, you should be able to equip yourself fairly
quickly with reproduction tack ($1500), basic uniform items ($400),
and weapons ($1100) for about $3000. We are not "hard core" but we do
make a real effort to be authentic, so please ask us for advice
before you buy any horse equipage, uniforms or weapons.
Depending on the unit's needs, annual dues can vary from $50 to $100.
Don't immediately choke on these numbers. Getting outfitted properly
takes some time so the cost is spread throughout the
of the Black Horse Cavalry act as volunteers to the U.S. government
(Manassas National Battlefield and other federal installations), State governments,
local governments (Fairfax County, Prince William County), and various non-profit
and charitable organizations. As volunteers we provide a service to those entities
that cannot be afforded by them. We itemize most of our "out-of-pocket expenses"
and deduct them on our individuals tax returns.
Uniforms & Equipment:
Follow these links for information on our authenticity standards and for a list of recommended vendors.