Some might argue that the American cavalry achieved only mixed results with their raids. Famously, General Robert E. Lee desperately missed General Jeb Stuart’s cavalry who were on an inconclusive raid, during his 1863 offensive into Pennsylvania. Many blame the mishandling of Stuart’s cavalry for the decisive defeat of the Confederate forces at Gettysburg. Still, Stuart’s earlier raids, and Union Generals Phil Sheridan and James H. Wilson successful operations in the last year of the war, point to the potential for decisive operational effects from cavalry raids.
Where did the concept of raiding come from? American generals were students of the Napoleonic wars but there was no precedent in the Napoleonic period for large cavalry raids. The idea that purely romantic notions of chivalry inspired by Southern antebellum culture may have inspired the idea begs the question of why decidedly unromantic Union commanders like Phil Sheridan copied the idea. Other historians believe that their association with plains Indians in the years before the Civil War inspired American cavalry commanders Regardless of the origin of the idea, there was enough success associated with it that it should have become a lesson for European cavalry.European cavalry also modeled themselves on the Napoleonic period. This, combined with their strict conservativism, made them reluctant to try anything new. European cavalry spent the period from the end of the Napoleonic period until World War I perfecting their ability to execute the massed mounted charge in the tradition of cavalry employment at Waterloo. They especially were reluctant to learn anything from the American Civil War. Therefore, they not only unwilling to consider cavalry raiding but also such other uniquely American mounted innovations as the pistol charge and dismounted combat with breech-loading carbines. Because of the unwillingness to learn, European cavalry never attempted to emulate the independant mounted operations of the Stuart, Sheridan and Wilson, and the modern mounted cavalry raid remained a uniquely American tactic.