7th Cavalry Regiment
Historical Missions
"The Seventh First"

One could not write about the history of the 7th Cavalry Regiment without providing background information on one of the most influential figures which shaped the "Spirit of the 7th Cavalry Regiment", General George Armstrong Custer

On 05 December 1839, Custer was born in New-Rumley, Harrison County, Ohio. He obtained a good common education, and after graduating engaged for a time in teaching school. In June 1857, through the influence of Honorable John A. Bingham, a member of Congress from Ohio, he obtained an appointment and was admitted to the United States Military Academy at West Point on 01 July. When Ft. Sumter was fired on, Custer, in the class of '62, was graduated early on 24 June 1861 with standing of 34th in one of the brightest classes that had graduated to date.

Immediately upon leaving West Point he was appointed Second Lieutenant in "G" Company the Second United States Cavalry, a regiment which had formerly been commanded by Robert E. Lee. On 20 July, the day preceding the Battle of Bull Run, Custer reported to Lieutenant General Scott. The Commander in Chief gave him the choice of accepting a position on his staff or of joining his regiment, then under command of General McDowell in the field at Centreville, Virginia. Longing for an opportunity to see active service, and determined to win distinction, Lieutenant Custer chose the field assignment, and after riding all night through a country filled with people who were, to say the least, not friendly, he reached the headquarters of McDowell at daybreak on the morning of the 21st. Preparations for the battle had already begun, and after delivering his dispatches from General Scott and hastily partaking of a mouthful of coffee and a piece of hard bread he joined his company.

It is not necessary to recount the disasters of the fight that followed, but Custer's company was among the last to leave the battle field. He rode at the rear of his company as it retreated that night in good order, bringing off General Heintzelman, who had been wounded in the engagement. The young officer continued to serve with his company, and was engaged in the drilling of volunteer recruits in and about the defenses of Washington, when upon the appointment of Phil Kearny to the position of Brigadier General, that lamented officer gave him a position on his staff. Custer continued in this position until an order was issued from the War Department prohibiting Generals of Volunteers from appointing officers of the regular Army to staff duty. He then returned to his company, not, however, until he had been warmly complimented by General Kearny upon the prompt and efficient manner in which he had performed the duties assigned to him.

Lieutenant Custer marched forward with that part of the Army of the Potomac which moved upon Manassas after its evacuation by the rebels. The cavalry was in advance, under General Stoneman and encountered the rebel horsemen for the first time near Catlett's Station. The commanding officer made a call for volunteers to charge the enemy's advance post. Lieutenant Custer was among the first to step to the front, and in command of his company he shortly afterward made his first charge. He drove the rebels across Muddy Creek, wounded a number of them, and had one of his own men injured. This was the first blood drawn in the campaign under McClellan. After this Custer went with the Army of the Potomac to the Peninsula and remained with his company until the Army settled down before Yorktown, when he was detailed as an Assistant Engineer of the left wing, under Sumner. Acting in this capacity he planned and erected the earthworks nearest the enemy's lines.

He also accompanied the advance under General Hancock in pursuit of the enemy from Yorktown. Shortly afterward, he captured the first battle flag ever secured by the Army of the Potomac. From this time on he was nearly always the first in every work of daring. When the Army reached the Chickahominy he was the first man to cross the river; he did so in the face of the fire of the enemy's pickets, and at times was obliged to wade up to his armpits. For this brave act General. McClellan promoted him to Captain and made him one of his personal aids. In this capacity he served during most of the Peninsula Campaign, and participated in all its battles, including the bloody seven days fight. He preformed the duty of marking out the position which was occupied by the Union Army at the battle of Gaines' Mills. He also participated in the campaign which ended in the battles of South Mountain and Antietam. On 07 November 1862, General McClellan was relieved from the command of the Army of the Potomac. In loyalty to his former commander, Custer accompanied him back to Washington, and for a time was out of active service.

In November, Custer went home to Monroe to await further orders. There at a party on Thanksgiving Day, he met Elizabeth Bacon, who was to later become his wife. He was next engaged in the battle of Chancellorsville, and immediately after that fight he was made a personal aid by General Pleasonton, who was then commanding a division of cavalry. Serving in this capacity he took an active part in a number of hotly contested engagements and marked himself as one of the most dashing, some said the most reckless, officers in the service. When Pleasonton was made a Major General, his first pleasure was to remember the valuable services of his Aid de Camp. He requested the appointment of four Brigadiers to command under him, and upon his recommendation, indorsed by Generals. Meade and Hooker, on June 29, 1863, young Custer was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned to the command of the First, Fifth, Sixth, and Seventh Michigan Cavalry.

He did noble service at the battle of Gettysburg. He held the right of line, and was obliged to face Hampton's division of cavalry, and after a hotly contested fight, utterly routed the rebels and prevented them from reaching the trains of the Union Army, which they hoped to capture. Custer had two horses shot under him in this fight. Hardly had the battle concluded when he was sent to attack the enemy's train, which was trying to force its way to the Potomac. He destroyed more than four hundred wagons. At Hagerstown, during a severe engagement, he again had his horse shot under him. At Falling Waters, shortly after, he attacked with his small brigade the entire rebel rear guard. The Confederate commander General Pettigrew was killed and his command routed, with a loss of 1,300 prisoners, two cannons, and four battle flags.

For some time after this fight Custer was constantly engaged in skirmishing with the enemy, and during the Winter which followed in picketing the Rapidan between the two armies. He participated in the battle of the Wilderness in 1864, and on 09 May, under General Sheridan, he set out on the famous raid toward Richmond. His brigade led the column, captured Beaver Dam, burned the station and a train of cars loaded with supplies, and released 400 Union prisoners. Rejoining Grant's Army on the Pamunkey, he took an active part in several engagements. After the battle of Fisher's Hill, Custer was placed in command of the 3rd Cavalry Division on 30 September 1864. He saved the day at Dinwiddie Court House in March 1865. At the Battle of Five Forks on 01 April 1865, he picked up the fallen colors and leapt over the enemy earthworks with them in hand, overrunning Picket's command.

At the ever memorable battle of Cedar Creek his division was on the right, and not engaged in the rout of the morning, so that when Sheridan arrived on the field, after a twenty mile ride, he found at least one command ready for service. His immediate order was "Go in Custer!" The brave young General only waited for the word, he went in and never came out until the enemy was driven several miles beyond the battlefield. Nearly one thousand prisoners were captured, among them a Major General. Forty five pieces of artillery were also taken. For this service, in April 1865, Custer was promoted to Brevet (a commission giving a military officer higher nominal rank than that for which pay is received) Major General of Volunteers. Sheridan, as a further mark of approbation, detailed him to carry the news of the victory and the captured battle flag to Washington.

From this time on his fortune was made, and he continued steadily to advance in the esteem of his superiors and of the American people. When the rebels fell back to Appomattox, Custer had the advance of Sheridan's command, and his share in the action is well described in the entertaining volume entitled; "With Sheridan in His Last Campaign". The book in question says: "When the sun was an hour high in the west, energetic Custer in advance spied the depot and four heavy trains of freight cars; he quickly ordered his leading regiments to circle out to the left through the woods, and as they gained the railroad beyond the station he led the rest of his division pellmell down the road and enveloped the train as quick as winking. Custer might not well conduct a siege of regular approaches; but for a sudden dash, Custer against the world." At Appomattox, Custer received Lee's surrender. After the signing of the documents of surrender at Wilmer McClean's house, General Sheridan paid twenty dollars for the table upon which the document was written, and gave it to Custer as a reward for his many years of service.

With the Civil War coming to an end, the necessity of pulling together a divided nation became a prime priority. Custer was given his first post war assignment to join General Sheridan in Texas who had been given command of the cavalry division of the Military District of the Southwest. Custer was charged with conducting an expedition to Texas 1): to force Confederate General Edmund Kirby-Smith to surrender, 2): to provide an occupation force in Texas and 3): to display a show of force against the French adventurers in Mexico. In May 1865, Custer departed Washington

Custer's Headquarters - Austin, TX
In addition to his wife (known to all as "Libbie"), the entourage was comprised of his Civil War Staff, including his brother, Tom, and his father. on the payroll as a forager. They traveled down the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers to Alexander, Louisiana, where Custer took command of his old volunteer division. They then proceeded to march into Texas. The first stop of the expedition was at Hempstead, Texas. Soon they moved on to Austin to establish a more permanent Headquarters for Custer and his staff. Custer readied his forces to march into Mexico to drive Emperor Maximilian and his cohorts out, but no orders were issued. Custer stayed in Texas solely to impose order.

At the end of the War, the need for command officers was no longer there and many, to stay in service, accepted demotions to a lower rank and paid the wages of rank now held, but was always given the respect and the title of the higher rank previously held. On 01 February 1866 Custer's volunteer commission expired and he was reduced in rank to Captain, 5th Cavalry, He then entered the painstakingly slow promotion process that was customary in the small regular army. That's why Custer was always referred to as "General Custer". On 04 February 1866, Custer was recalled to Washington to present his official report to the Joint Committee on Reconstruction.

By the summer of 1866, it became apparent in Washington that the Army, even at full strength, was not large enough to perform all its duties. Consequently, on 28 July Congress authorized 4 additional cavalry regiments and enough infantry companies to reorganize the existing 19 regiments- then under two different internal organizations- into 45 regiments with 10 companies each. After this increase there were 10 regiments of cavalry, 5 of artillery, and 45 of infantry.

On 28 July 1866. one of the new authorized cavalry units was constituted in the Regular Army as the 7th Cavalry Regiment. Recruits for the regiment of cavalry were concentrated at Fort Riley, Kansas, in August, 1866. On 10 September, the work of organization was inaugurated by Major John W. Davidson of the 2nd Cavalry.

With the organization of the new 7th Cavalry on 28 July 1866, Custer was offered a commission in the unit as Lieutenant Colonel. In August he was invited by President Johnson to accompany him on a tour around the nation. They made stops in Buffalo, Erie, Cleveland, Detroit, Chicago, Springfield, St. Louis, and back to Washington.

On 21 September 1866 the 7th Cavalry Regiment was organized at Fort Riley, Kansas and Andrew J. Smith, a veteran of the Mexican War, who had been a distinguished cavalry leader in the Army of the West during the Civil War, was promoted to colonel and assigned command. Meanwhile the party of President Johnson continued its tour and it was not until November 1866 that the picturesque cavalryman, George A. Custer, one of Sheridan's most trusted division commanders, finally reported to Fort Riley to take up his new position as lieutenant colonel.

Fort Riley, Kansas
The conclusion of the Civil War in 1865 emphasized the importance of Fort Riley, Kansas in providing protection to the railroad lines being built across Kansas. Evidence of this occurred in the summer and fall of 1866 when the Union Pacific Railroad reached Fort Riley and the 7th Cavalry Regiment was organized at the fort, commanded by Colonel Andrew J. Smith. The regiment's ranks were filled with a hard bitten crew of trappers, veterans from the Civil War and frontiersmen who presented an organizational challenge for Brevet Major General George Armstrong Custer, appointed to the vacant Lieutenant Colonel position, who had arrived in November to take charge of the new regiment.

In 1867, one of Custer's first official acts with the Seventh Cavalry was to organize a regimental band. The reason that "Garryowen" was adopted as the regimental song, as the story goes - one of the Irish "melting pot" troopers of the 7th Cavalry, under the influence of "spirits", was singing the song. By chance Custer heard the melody, liked the cadence, and soon began to hum the tune himself. The tune has a lively beat, that accentuates the cadence of marching horses. Soon the tune was played so often that the 7th Cavalry became known as the "Garryowen" Regiment. "Garryowen eventually became the official song of the 1st Cavalry Division at Fort Hood, Texas in 1981.

George Armstrong Custer, Portrait
In March 1867, when Indian attacks became more and more violent in the high plains of western Kansas and eastern Colorado, Custer and the 7th Cavalry was given their first opportunity to see what fighting Indians was all about. Under the command of General Hancock, they marched from Fort Riley to Fort Larned, Kansas where they were joined by 6 infantry companies and a battery of artillery, creating a task force consisting of over 1,400 men.

In April 1867, a meeting was held between the Army and a few chiefs of the Plains Indians. Due to a misunderstanding, when the Army moved their troops closer to the Indian encampment, the Indians feared an attack and they fled under the cover of night. Custer and the 7th Cavalry, given the task of tracking the Indians down, spent the entire summer in the attempt to find them. The only contact they made with the Indians were with small war parties which constantly harassed the troops.

During this campaign, Custer later left his command in the field and traveled back to Fort Riley to visit his wife. Upon arrival there, Custer was placed under arrest for being Absent With Out Leave. On 15 September 1867, Custer was court-martialed and found guilty. He was sentenced to one year suspension from rank and pay. He went home to Monroe, Michigan where he waited out his suspension.

On 24 September 1868, Custer's court martial was remitted and he rejoined his troops on Bluff Creek (near present day Ashland, Kansas.). Almost immediately upon his arrival, the Indians attacked the camp. Custer and his troopers gave chase and followed the Indians' trail back to Medicine Lodge Creek, but found no Indians. Custer returned to his camp on Bluff Creek where, he and General Sheridan planned a Winter Campaign. Then heavy snows of winter would slow down the warriors, and their ponies would be weak and could not travel far. If the Indian villages were hard hit and their supplies destroyed, the Indians would have to return to the reservation or starve. They knew that during the winter months, the Indians would stay at one location which had good water and a source of firewood for heat; all they had to do was - to find it!

Sheridan's plan involved three columns: Colonel Andrew W. Evans with six troops of the 3rd Cavalry and two companies of the 37th Infantry were to travel down the South Canadian River. The second column consisted of seven troops of the 5th Cavalry under the command of Major Eugene A. Carr. They marched southeast from Fort Lyon, Colorado, and connected with Captain William H. Penrose and his column of five troops of cavalry. Then they scouted at Antelope Hills, along the North Fork of the Canadian River. The third column was to march from Fort Dodge under the command of General Sully and George A. Custer.

Washita River, Oklahoma
General Sheridan selected the 7th Cavalry, commanded by George Armstrong Custer, to take the lead. They were to move southward, and engage the Indians. This column was made up of eleven troops of the 7th Cavalry and five companies of the 3rd Infantry. Setting out in a snowstorm, Custer followed the tracks of a small Indian raiding party to a Cheyenne village on the Washita River. At dawn he ordered an attack. It was Chief Black Kettle's village, well within the boundaries of the Cheyenne reservation. Nevertheless, on 27 November 1868, nearly four years after the battle of Sand Creek, Custer's troops charged, and this time Black Kettle could not escape. In a subsequent battle of the Winter Campaign, the 3rd Cavalry under the command of Colonel Andrew W. Evans, struck another Comanche village at Soldiers Spring on Christmas Day. The Winter Campaign had been waged successfully against the Cheyenne in the Oklahoma Territory. The scattered remnants of the Cheyenne were decisively defeated.

Afterwards, most of the Cheyennes, Comanches and other tribes still on the plains returned to the agencies. In March 1869, the Comanche-Kiowa agency was relocated to Fort Sill, a new fort constructed in the Indian Plains Territory, and the Cheyenne-Arapaho agency was relocated to Darlington. Only the Kwahada were still on the Staked Plains. The Kiowa and other Comanches were on the reservation, but by the fall of 1869 small war parties were occasionally leaving to raid in Texas.

In September 1871, the 7th Cavalry was distributed by squadrons and company over seven Southern States to enforce federal taxes on distilleries and suppress the activities of the Ku Klux Klan. Custer was assigned to Elizabethtown, Kentucky where his chief duty was to inspect and purchase horses for the Army.

In February 1873, Custer got the good news that the 7th Cavalry was being reunited and being sent north to Fort Rice in the Dakota Territory. His mission was to protect settlers in the region and the engineers of the Northern Pacific Railroad who were surveying a rail route across the Yellowstone River from the Sioux Indians.

In the last week of March 1873, the 7th Cavalry assembled at Memphis, Tennessee where they boarded steamboats for Cairo, Illinois. At Cairo, the regiment changed to overland rail and headed into the winter weather of the northwest. On 09 April 1873, traveling on the Dakota Southern Railroad from Sioux City, Iowa, the Seventh Cavalry Regiment arrived at Yankton, the Dakota Territorial Capital. They camped at Yankton, three miles south, on the Santch Creek for a number of weeks while preparing for their long march north to Fort Rice.

During their encampment in Yankton, a ball was given in honor of the general and his officers. The leader of the band was a lithe, trim, thirty-nine year old Italian named Felix Vinatieri, a Civil War Veteran, who led the band with gusto. General Custer thought the music sophisticated for a wilderness town and asked to meet the band leader. The General quickly took a liking to Felix Vinatieri and that night, offered him the position of Chief Musician of the 7th Cavalry Regiment.

On 07 May 1873, the Regiment rode out of Yankton for Fort Rice. On a lead horse, was a proud Felix Vinatieri. The journey to Fort Rice was completed in a 300 mile march, arriving on 10 June 1873. Following his arrival at the fort, Felix Vinatieri travelled to St. Paul, Minnesota, to enlist for a three year period as Bandleader of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment.

Custer's Black Hills Expedition
The completion of the overland railroad link provided an easy means of transportation for gold seekers and farmers to come to the area. As the migration continued, trouble with the Sioux increased. On 20 June 1873 an expedition was ordered to move into the Black Hills of Dakota to provide protection for railroad construction parties. The expedition consisted of 1,451 troopers, 79 officers, and 275 wagons. As a focal point of scouting activities, a permanent encampment was established at Fort Abraham Lincoln in the Yellowstone Territories. From 1873 to 1876, Custer commanded the Seventh Cavalry at Fort Abraham Lincoln south of Mandan. In 1874, he led his troops south into the Black Hills, which six years earlier had been set aside as part of the Great Sioux Reservation. When Custer reported finding gold, the government offered to buy the land from the Sioux, but they refused to sell. The Army then allowed gold prospectors to come into the Reservation's hills by the thousands. The Army's action prompted many Sioux to leave their North Dakota reservations and join with other Sioux in Montana led by Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, who were resisting white government control.

In 1875, the regiment escorted a railroad survey party into the Yellowstone Valley. This expedition brought the regiment into regular contact with the Indian raiding parties, however no serious battles or encounters occurred until the fateful expedition of 17 May 1876. General Alferd H. Terry was in overall command of an Army campaign to relocate the Sioux and Cheyenne Indians from the open plains to reservations. The 7th Regiment rode out of Fort Lincoln on 17 May 1876, with Custer along with the Arikara and Osage scouts leading the way, followed by 1,200 men and 1,700 horses and mules. The 7th Cavalry Band played "The Girl I Left Behind Me".

The intent of General Terry was to trap the Indians between Custer and Major General John Gibbon in the Little Big Horn Valley. Custer had been ordered to move a band of Indians toward the large cavalry force. Custer was to pass all the way down the Rosebud Creek and cross over to the Little Big Horn Valley and move north, in a blocking maneuver to prevent the Indians from escaping south. Custer marched with approximately 700 soldiers, moving south for several days, identifying Indian camp signs all along the way. After making visual contact with the Indians on 23 June, Custer ordered the column to turn west and march toward the Little Big Horn Valley. On 24 June, the Arikara and Osage Indian scouts identified a party of Sioux following them. The Sioux fled when approached and Custer did not want any of the members of the Sioux encampment to escape. On the evening of 24 June, Custer outlined the battle engagement plan for the next day.

Custer's Last Stand
When the Custer's regiment reached the Sioux encampment on 25 June 1876, he made a decision to attack and fight the Cheyenne and Sioux Indians. One of the most chronicled tragic battles in the military history of the American West was the famous Battle of the Little Big Horn, otherwise known as Custer's Last Stand. Traveling up Rosebud Creek, at 12:07 Custer split his command into three battalions. Major Reno, in command of companies "A", "G", and "M", was directed to attack the southern most end of the village in the valley. Captain Benteen, in command of companies "D", "H", and "K", was directed to explore the area in a southwesterly direction and to "pitch into anything that he might find". Captain McDougall was assigned with "B" Company to guard the pack train. Custer took the five companies of "C", "E", "F", "I", and "L" to make a frontal attack on the encampment.

Within a short period of time, Custer and his troops were annihilated by the full might of an estimated 5,000 Sioux Indians who were led by Chief Sitting Bull and Chief Crazy Horse. Four days later, the other two battalions of the regiment were rescued by supporting cavalry troops under the command of Generals Terry and Gibbon.

Comanche - Sole Survivor
In the search for survivors of Custer's forces, not one of the 264 troopers under Custer's command was found alive. Five members of the Custer family were killed at the Battle of the Little Big Horn; the General, his brother Captain Tom Custer, brother-in-law Captain James Calhoun, younger brother Boston, and nephew Autie Reed. Both Boston and Autie were civilians. Only one horse, with seven arrows in his body, was found in a thicket. The horse, named Comanche, was a gelding ridden by Captain Keogh, one of Custer's officers.

The sixteen members of the band were spared, as Custer had left orders with band leader, Felix Vinatieri, that the band was not to engage in battle, but to remain on the supply steamboat, "Far West", moored on the Powder River. Subsequently, the Far West served as a floating hospital with all of the band members assisting in transporting and loading the wounded on the boat. They served as medics as the Far West turned around and headed back for the fort at Bismarck, making the journey in fifty-four hours.

(Author's Note) - There has always been some speculation as to the names of the participants (supporting and engaged) in the Battle of the Little Big Horn. The roster of troopers and civilian personnel assigned to the 7th Cavalry Regiment, as of 25 June 1876, has been researched and compiled by James W. Savage, 7th Cavalry Regiment. The results of his study be viewed "on-line" at The 7th US Cavalry (Garryowen) Home Page.

In the subsequent campaigns of 1876, troopers of the 5th Regiment rode after the Sioux to avenge the death of their comrades. While Sitting Bull was pursued into Canada, Crazy Horse and the Cheyennes traveled about, comparatively undisturbed. In July 1877, he was finally prevailed upon to come to Fort Robinson, Nebraska on the distinct understanding that the government would hear and adjust their grievances, many of which are still unresolved today.

The 7th Cavalry soon had a new foe, Chief Joseph of the Nez Perce Indians. Known by his people as In-mut-too-yah-lat-lat (Thunder coming up over the land from the water), was best known for his resistance to the US Government's attempts to force his tribe onto reservations. In 1855, Chief Joseph's father, Old Joseph, signed a treaty with the U.S. that allowed his people to retain much of their traditional lands. In 1863, another treaty was created that severely reduced the amount of land, but Old Joseph maintained that this second treaty was never agreed to by his people. A showdown over the second "non-treaty" came after Chief Joseph assumed his role as Chief in 1877. After months of fighting and forced marches across hundreds of miles of territory, Chief Joseph too, finally surrendered in 1877. Many of the Nez Perce Indians were sent to a reservation in what is now Oklahoma.

On 24 November 1890, troops of the 7th Regiment left Fort Riley and traveled by rail to join key regiments in the history and development of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 8th Cavalry the 9th Cavalry Regiments and the 6th Cavalry Regiment at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. On 29 December 1890, the last major campaign to put down the last great Indian uprising; The Ghost Dance War, was initiated. As the Indian campaigns was concluded, the Cavalry continued to patrol the far western frontiers.

On 22 December 1892, a significant agreement which allowed troops to cross the international border in pursuit of savage Indians was made with the Mexican Government. In support of the southwest missions, in 1895, the majority of the 7th Cavalry changed their stations to Fort Bayard, New Mexico and the Arizona Territories. Scouting missions were directed at bands of Indians who continued to terrorize the areas.

Implications of the political intervention in Cuba in 1898, caused the Governor of Arizona to request Washington to place a special emphasis on security of the Arizona border to protect the infiltration of Mexicans who sympathized with the Spanish Government. However this action did not impact the departure of elements of the 7th Cavalry who departed Savannah, Georgia on the transport "Manitoba" on the 13 and 19 January 1899, for Havana, Cuba. Permanent stations were taken at Camp Columbia. Their duties included scouting and the maintenance of security throughout the island. In April 1902, the withdrawal from Cuba was initiated by the 1st Squadron changing stations to Chickamunga National Park, Georgia.

Philippine Scouting Team
General Order No. 176, 1904 ordered the regiment for its first tour of duty to the Philippines. On 02 May, the advanced group of the 7th Regiment left San Francisco, California and arrived in Manila on 01 June. After a series of temporary stations, a permanent duty station was established at Camp McGrath, Batangas Province. The first tour of duty ended in 1907, allowing the regiment to return to their original station, Fort Riley, Kansas were they were stationed for the next three years.

Picking up again, the troops left for San Francisco to initiate a second tour of duty in the Philippines. On 04 March 1910, the regiment disembarked at Manila and settled in camp at Fort William McKinley, Rizal. On 30 March, the 7th and 8th Regiments were designated as "Colonial Regiments" for services in the Philippines. In November 1915, the regiment began to pack in preparation for return to the United States.

Arriving in the States, the regiment returned to the southwest and on 23 December 1915, was stationed at Camp Henry J. Jones, Arizona. In 1916 the regiment joined the Mexican Punitive Expedition to battle Pancho Villa's Villistas following his raid on Columbus, New Mexico on 09 March. Recent findings of historians indicate that Villa may have initiated the raid for financial support of the Mexican revolution from German agents operating in Mexico who wanted to keep tensions high between Mexico and the United States. Germany did not want the United States to side with the allies in the war. Joining the 10th Cavalry Regiment under the command of General Pershing, the Expedition crossed the Mexican border at 0:30 hours 16 March, and marched 25 miles in the dark to Geronimo Rock. In the most significant action of the Mexican Punitive Expedition, the 7th Cavalry led by Colonel George A. Dodd, surprised and inflicted heavy losses on a group of Villistias.

Meanwhile in Washington, a major who years later would become a key figure in the combat history of the 1st Cavalry Division was issuing press releases on the progress of Pershing's expedition. Douglas A. MacArthur had a long special affinity for the cavalry. Years later, in World War II and Korea, he would repeatedly single out the 1st Cavalry Division for important assignments.

Obregon, Pancho Villa and Pershing
With rising political pressure on both sides of the border, Pershing was ordered to turn the force around in January, after leading his men 400 miles into Mexico. Returning from Punitive Expedition the 7th Regiment completed a 215 mile march from Mexico, arriving at Fort Bliss on 24 May 1917. Throughout the remainder of the year the troops performed garrison duty, outpost and patrol duty along the Rio Grande with occasional penetration into Mexico to search for bandits.

Cavalry units saw minimal action in World War I. The only units assigned to the massive American Expeditionary Force for action overseas was a provisional squadron of 4 Troops - the "B", "D", "F" and H", of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment under the command of Lt. Col. O.P.M. "Happy" Hazzard.

The regiments that were soon to become part of the 1st Cavalry Division were far from idle. Troopers were getting into frequent, small scaled combats with raiders, smugglers and Mexican Revolutionaries along the Reo Grande River. In one skirmish in June 1919, four units, the 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments, the 8th Engineers (Mounted) and 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse) saw action against Pancho Villa's Villistas. On 15 June, Mexican snipers fired across the Rio Grande and killed a trooper of the 82nd who was standing picket duty. In hot pursuit, the troopers and the horse artillery engaged a column of Villistas near Juarez. Following a successful engagement, the cavalry expedition returned to the United States side of the border.

Fort Bliss, Texas
On 13 September 1921, with the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Fort Bliss, Texas. The first unit of the 1st Cavalry Division, the famous 1st Cavalry Regiment, had been preassigned to the 1st Division on 20 August 1921, nearly a month before the formal divisional activation date. Upon formal activation, the 7th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were assigned to the new division. Other units initially assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921, included 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse), the 13th Signal Troop, the 27th Ordnance Company, Division Headquarters and the 1st Cavalry Quartermaster train which later became the 15th Replacement Company. Major Robert L. Howze was assigned as the first division commander. The 5th Cavalry Regiment was assigned on 18 December 1922, relieving the 10th Cavalry Regiment. The 12th Cavalry Regiment would join the 1st Cavalry Division on 03 January 1933, relieving the 1st Cavalry Regiment.

Shortly after the new division was organized, the War Department issued a directive for submissions of possible designs for the 1st Cavalry's "shoulder sleeve". The regulations for the submission required; 1) that the patch could only have 2 colors 2) that it be easily recognizable sign around which men could reassemble during or after battle and 3) it would bring men together in a common devotion. The design chosen, a distinctive bright-yellow Norman knight's shield with a diagonal stripe and a horse's head, was submitted by Colonel and Mrs. Ben H. Dorcey. At the time, Colonel Dorcey was commander of the 7th Cavalry regiment at Fort Bliss, Texas. His wife, Gladys Fitch Dorcey, later would be hailed as the "official mother" of the 1st Team.

The Line Of March Covered The Harsh Terrain Of The "Big Bend" District

In the fall of 1923 the 1st Cavalry Division assembled at Camp Marfa, Texas to stage its first divisional-level maneuvers since its organization. The maneuvers were held in the Marfa-Shafter-Alamito area of the Big Bend District, Texas. The line of march was Fabens, Ft. Hancock, Sierra Blanca, Hot Wells, Lobo Flats, and Valentine. The wagon trains, all drawn by four mules (no motorized vehicles yet), seemed endless. Terrain covering an area of 900 square miles was obtained through the generosity and public spirit of ranch owners. The enormous tract was mapped and marked by a detachment from the 8th Engineer Battalion.

The actual maneuvers consisted of both one-sided and two-sided problems with brigade against brigade and included the entire division as a whole. The 12th Obvervation Squadron participated in maneuvers with the Division. The use of aircraft allowed the maneuvers, in every detail, to conform with actual war conditions. (It was during this period, from 1922 to 1923, that Captain Claire Chennault, of later "Flying Tiger" fame, served with the 12t has aviation engineer officer.) Since this was the first major United States Army training exercise since WW I, the maneuvers were attended by representatives of several foreign governments.

Early Cavalry Maneuvers - Marfa
This first video of the 1st Cavalry Division, conducting a day of field maneuver training in 1923, was filmed in the open, rough, desert terrain surrounding Marfa, Texas. This historic document begins with a scene of the 7th Cavalry Regiment deploying for the attack. As soon as the Regiment establishes its "attack" starting location, and before the exercises started, troopers from the supporting 82nd Field Artillery Battalion drove their mobile "French" 75mm (rapid fire) field artillery pieces to a strategic sighting and fire location.

Published results of the exercises of the 1st Cavalry Division attracted the interest of other cavalry organizations, nationally and international, which placed emphasis on the incorporation of additional realism in successive exercises. From a Time Magazine article dated Monday, 10 October 1927: "Not since the Civil War had US cavalry engaged in maneuvers on the scale of those conducted last week on 120 square miles of terrain in and about Marfa, Texas. Some 280 officers, 4,000 men, 3,200 horses and 1,500 mules were deployed over gulches, hillocks and sagebrush plains - the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Fort Bliss) playing "Brown" army to the "White" army of the 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (Fort Bliss) and 1st Cavalry Regiment (Marfa). Tanks, cannon, airplanes, Red Cross ambulances and every appurtenance of real war, right down to hot weather, secrecy and red tape, accompanied the show."

In the following years, the missions of the division were largely a saga of rough riding, patrolling the Mexican border and constant training. Operating from horseback, the cavalry was the only force capable of piercing the harsh terrain of the desert to halt the band of smugglers that operated along the desolate Mexican border.

7th Cavalry Parades at BigHorn
On 16 June 1926, a Provisional Squadron (Headquarters Detachment, Troops "C", "E" and "F") from the 7th Cavalry Regiment departed Ft. Bliss by rail for the Crow Indian Agency, Montana to participate in the Semi-Centennial celebration of the Battle of Little Big Horn. The Provisional Squadron returned to Ft. Bliss on 01 July, having traveled 1,800 miles.

On 09 April 1929, advance parties of the 7th began transitioning to the south and southwest area as part of the 8th Corps Area Troop Order to protect the Mexican border. Temporary quarters were established at Camp Henry J. Jones near Douglas, Arizona to await the remainder of the regiment. On 25 April the entire regiment moved to Naco, Arizona to establish a permanent base of operations. On 14 May, with the cessation of local border problems the regiment returned to Fort Bliss. There they continued the mission of border patrol, maintenance of training and extensive maneuvers around the Fort Bliss area.

The depression of the 1930's forced thousands of unemployed workers into the streets. From 1933 to 1936, the 3,300 troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division provided training and leadership for 62,500 people of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Arizona-New Mexico District. One of these workers significant accomplishments was the construction of barracks for 20,000 anti-aircraft troops at Fort Bliss, Texas. When World War II broke out, many of those who had been in the CCC were well prepared for the rigors of military training.

The entire Army was expanding and acquiring new equipment. Faster and lighter medium tanks were assigned to both, cavalry and infantry units. The mobile 105mm howitzer became the chief artillery piece of the Army Divisions. There was also a new urgency being expressed by Washington. Japan, which had invaded Manchuria in 1931, continued to expand conquests into China and Nazi Germany had annexed Austria and was threatening to seize Czechoslovakia. In 1938, against the background of international tensions, the 7th Cavalry Regiment joined in with the 1st Cavalry Division at its second divisional maneuvers in the mountains near Balmorhea, Texas. New units, including the 1st Signal Corps, the 27th Ordnance Company and the 1st Medical Squadron joined the 1st Cavalry Division.

War Declared in Europe
The staging of the third divisional maneuvers near Balmorhea, Texas was made even more memorable and intense by their timing. The starting of the maneuvers, 01 September 1939, coincided with the invasion of Poland by Germany, who used the most modern and deadly military force of its time. Failing to influence Hitler of the grave consequences of his actions, both Great Britain and France initiated a declaration of war on 03 September 1939.

Having returned to Fort Bliss from the 3rd Army Louisiana readiness maneuvers in October 1941, the 7th Cavalry Regiment was trained and ready for action. Isolationist politics was still strong in Congress. Major priorities were placed on building up the industrial capacity to supply equipment to the Allies in Europe. Many officers and men took leave or returned to civilian life. Other, more dedicated, members of the 1st Cavalry Division began to prepare for battle. They had no way of knowing that their first combat engagement would not be for more than two and a half years.

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Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 01 Jan '12 SpellChecked