US3NJ-02A Dismounted Trooper, 3rd New Jersey Cavalry Regt., “The Butterflies”
Towards the war’s end most of the Federal cavalry were equipped and supplied via centralized depots, one of the units which stood out as belonging to another time and place was the 3rd New Jersey Cavalry, or the “Butterflies”, a nickname they were given for their flamboyant attire.
Raised initially in January 1864 as the 1st U.S. Hussars, they were dressed in such splendour previously unseen in other Federal cavalry regiments, which was deliberate in an attempt to attract new recruits. Yet their appearance was deceptive, as they were the embodiment of what the Union cavalryman had become by 1865. They were heavily armed with repeating Spencer carbines and .44 Remington revolvers which gave them the edge in skirmishes and melees with rebel cavalry and infantry units.
The state paid for the additions to the regulation cavalry uniform, the cap was the issue forage cap with the peak removed, extra braid was placed on the jacket and the remainder was US army regulation.
This unit was typical of the new horse soldier which served under General Sheridan, they no longer merely served as a screen for advancing infantry. They possessed tremendous fire power and had the ability to hit the enemy hard and fast. They had eveloved into a powerful force capable of independent action. The 3rd New Jersey would serve with distinction until the war’s end routing southern cavalry at Tom’s Brook, Virginia, and seeing action at the Battle of Five Forks, which helped force Lee’s battered army out of its fortifications around Petersburg.