Field Ambulance

Tenth U.S. Cavalry

The use of horses in World War I marked a transitional period in the evolution of armed conflict.  Cavalry units were initially considered essential offensive elements of a military force.  Tanks would ultimately replace cavalry in shock tactics.  While the perceived value of the horse in war changed dramatically, horses still played a significant role throughout the war.

The military mainly used horses for logistical support during the war; they were better than mechanized vehicles at traveling through deep mud and over rough terrain.  Horses were used for reconnaissance and for carrying messengers, as well as pulling artillery, ambulances, and supply wagons.  The presence of horses often increased morale among the soldiers at the front.

By 1917, some troops were told that the loss of a horse was of greater tactical concern than the loss of a human soldier.  Several memorials have been erected to commemorate the horses that died.  Artists, including Alfred Munnings, extensively documented the work of horses in the war, and horses were featured in war poetry.  Novels, plays and documentaries have also featured the horses of World War I.

This photograph shows a pair of 10th Cavalry ambulances, circa 1918.

2014.8.3, Courtesy of The Library of Congress