Cavalry was the general term applied to military forces which normally served on horseback. Dragoons were originally armed with muskets, and were trained equally for cavalry and infantry service. In the United States service before the Civil War, cavalry and dragoons were armed and drilled alike; the distinction was nominal. Their arms were the saber, pistol, and carbine, with which they were trained to fight dismounted or mounted. Mounted rifles were armed and fought dismounted as infantry. Their horses were chiefly used as a means of rapid transport. Most every county in the South had its company of cavalry, their designation usually being Light Dragoons, prefixed by the name of the county.

The companies of cavalry that existed in the State's militia before the war carried no lettered designations within the cavalry regiments to which they belonged. After the companies were mustered into active service and formed into battalions or regiments, they were given a lettered designation such as Company A or Company D. The term troop was never used with the lettered designation; otherwise troop and company, in the cavalry, were synonymous. Squadrons were tactical organizations comprised of two companies, with the senior captain in command. They were field organizations and were not recognized by the Adjutant and Inspector General's Office as independent commands.