8th Cavalry Regiment
Historical Missions
"Honor and Courage"

"Legacy of the Cavalry"
The 8th Cavalry Regiment, constituted 28 July 1866 and organized on 21 September 1866 at Camp Reynolds, Angel Island, California, was one of four cavalry regiments by which the military peace establishment was increased by an Act of Congress dated July 28th of that year. By General Order No. 92, A. and General Order, 1866, the first field officer who accepted an appointment was Colonel John I. Gregg, who joined the unit for duty at Camp Whipple, Arizona, in December, 1866, assuming command of the regiment and the District of Prescott, Arizona. The other field officers were Lieutenant Colonel Devin and Major Price, who joined the unit in January 1867.

The enlisted personnel were composed chiefly of men enlisted on the Pacific Coast, and included many of the class styled "Forty-niners"; men who had worked months or years in the mines and were typical specimens of the roving order of citizens. Many of them were wild characters who enlisted in the same spirit of adventure which led them to the frontier, and typically had difficulty in adapting themselves to the conformity of a military life. Many desertions occurred; the percentage rose to 41 by the end of 1867.

The officers assigned to the regiment were all veterans of the Civil War, and came to duty with the experience which that involved.

The early part of the year 1867, the Companies relocated to more permanent stations which they were to occupy for some time:

During the year 1867, "B", "I", "K" and "L" Companies had been sent to posts in Arizona, and the Companies of the regiment remained separated at posts in Oregon, Nevada, Idaho, California, and Arizona, until 1870, when ordered to New Mexico. In the subsequent early years, the regiment performed escort missions for the western bound immigration of wagon trains and the frontiersmen who had ventured into the hidden rough country to search for gold. In carrying out its mission, the 8th Regiment established guard details at strategic locations throughout the Pacific Northwest, in areas beyond railroad communications.

During December 1867, and January 1868, the headquarters was en route from Camp Whipple, AZ, to Churchill Barracks, NV, which became the headquarters of the District of Nevada. In May, headquarters was moved to Camp Halleck, NV, where it remained till 05 May 1870, when it was moved to Ft. Union, NM, by rail, via Cheyenne and St. Louis, MO. In the Southwest, in the early 1870's the Comanches and Kiowas longed for the old life and began to roam from their reservations. The inevitable clashes, killings, and raiding on travelers and settlers began to occur, and the army was directed to solve the problem.

Indian Scouts (and their families) Attached To The 8th Cavalry Regiment

The several troops took stations at Ft. Union, Ft. Craig, Ft. Selden, Ft. Wingate, Ft. Bascom, Ft. Stanton, in New Mexico, and Ft. Garland, in the Colorado Territory. The duties during this period were of almost continuous field service by troops or detachments, scouting after Indian depredators, furnishing guards and escorts.

Fort Selden, NM - circa 1875
From October 1870 to July 1874, "C", "G", "I" and "K" Companies of the 8th Cavalry were stationed at Ft. Selden, New Mexico, a territorial fort established on the Rio Grande at the present site of Radium Springs, New Mexico. Their primary mission was to protect the settlers and travelers of the Mesilla Valley and San Augustine Pass from the marauding Gila and Mescalero Apaches. The location of the fort was an ancient Indian campground and a crossing point for Spanish caravans headed across the Jornada del Muerto ("Journey of Death"). The commander of the post established several remote picket posts in order to extend the range and areas of surveillance. Covering the Northern Sector, one picket post was located at Aleman Station, a halfway point on the Jornada del Muerto, which served as a stage station, post office, and later a telegraph office. In the South-East Sector, another picket post was located at San Augustine Pass, a gap in the San Andres Mountains which linked Las Cruces and White Sands. The nearest town was a rough place called Leasburg (still existing) which had saloons, nice friendly ladies, and a bad reputation for violence. It was soon placed off limits to the soldiers.

In parallel to the encampment at Ft. Selden, Regimental Headquarters and three companies of the 8th Cavalry were assigned to Ft. Union, New Mexico, under the command of Major William R. Price. A campaign was organized to enter the Llano Estacado, the Staked Plains area of the Texas Panhandle, a favorite haunt of the warring bands of Comanches and Kiowas. Departing into the field in August 1874, the 8th Cavalry campaigned into the early months of 1875 before the troops finally returned to garrison. The Southern Plains were finally considered free of Indian threat and Ft. Union, settling into a period of reservation watching, held its troops in readiness for future troubles. The regiment remained in New Mexico, then far beyond railroad communications, performing the same duties till July, 1875, when it marched to Texas.

"Fort Clark, Texas
On 08 January 1876 headquarters took station at Ft. Clark, TX, During the period between 1875 and 1888, the regiment remained in Texas, with troops at different times being stationed at posts and camps from Ft. Brown, TX, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, to Ft. Hancock, near El Paso, TX. Border patrolling was the main duty for the years that followed.

One of the permanent stations for the 8th Cavalry was at Ft. Concho, Texas which was established in 1867. Ft. Concho was located on 40 acres just across the Concho River from San Angelo, TX. Their mission was to protect stagecoaches and wagon trains, escort mail deliveries, and map the new territories between the United States and Mexican border towns of the New Mexico-Texas Territory. Ft. Concho is now a national historic landmark recognized as the largest and best-preserved US Army fort of the 19th century.

Construction at Ft. Keogh, 1889
In May 1888, the regiment prepared for the longest march ever taken by a cavalry regiment. With the increased number of settlers moving to the Northwest United States, the regiment was ordered to march more than 2,600 miles to its new regimental headquarters located at Ft. Meade, South Dakota and station at Ft. Keogh, Montana. Some of its march was along the famous Santa Fe Trail in New Mexico, near which carvings on large boulders and trees still gives mute testimony of the troops on the longest of all trails.

Units of the regiment soon saw action again, in Arizona as well in Oregon. In December of 1890, the 8th Cavalry Regiment joined key regiments in the history and development of the 1st Cavalry Division, the 7th and 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 concluded, the 8th Cavalry turned their attention to patrol the far southwestern frontiers.

At the outbreak of the Spanish-American war in 1898, the 8th Regimental Headquarters and six troops went by rail to Camp A. G. Forse, Alabama and sailed from Savannah, Georgia for the Island of Cuba for a four year tour of duty to secure the peace. Their duties were varied and included protection of American citizens and their property.

Fort Riley, Kansas
Returning to the States in 1902, the Regiment was transferred to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri and subsequently to Ft. Riley, Kansas, where it remained on duty for three years. Ft. Riley had been established in the fall of 1852 when a surveying party under the command of Captain Robert Chilton, First Regiment of Dragoons (the original cavalry unit to become the roots of the 1st Cavalry Division), who selected its location.

In 1905, the Regiment was ordered to the Philippines with the assignment of defending the islands from Philippines guerrillas terrorist activities. In addition, they patrolled supply and communications lines and sources of water on the islands of Luzon and Jolo.

In 1907, with the completion of the assignment to the Philippine Islands, the Regiment was ordered back to the United States. Headquarters, 1st and 3rd Squadrons took station at Ft. Robinson, Nebraska, Troops "E" and "H" were stationed at D. A. Russel, Wyoming and "F" and "G" Troops were stationed at Ft. Yellowstone, Wyoming. During 1907, 1908, 1909 and 1910 the regiment was spread all over Arizona, Nebraska and Wyoming.

Philippine Scouting Team
In 1910, the 8th Regiment returned to the Philippines for their second tour of Pacific duty. This time the troopers fought the rebellious tribesmen on the island of Mindanao and in the Sulu Archipelago. In the battle of Bansak Mountain in June 1913, a total of 51 members of the 8th Cavalry's "H" Troop joined other soldiers in a violent battle with hundreds of Moro warriors on Jolo. The American force, lead by John J. Pershing, killed an estimated 300 Moro while suffering only light losses. Oddly this lopsided victory assisted Pershing in his job as Governor of Moro Province. This helped lead to more peaceful times in that region of the Philippines.

In September 1914, the regiment returned to Camp Stotsenberg, Philippine Islands and performed the usual garrison duties. On 21 September it joined with the 7th Cavalry Regiment to form a Provisional Cavalry Brigade.

On 12 September 1915, the regiment returned to the States and was stationed at Ft. Bliss, Texas. Troops were dispatched along the border town for the purpose of subduing the activity of Mexican bandits who were giving the ranchers a great deal of trouble. Responding to a border raid at Columbus, New Mexico by Poncho Villa, an expedition lead by Pershing was launched into Mexico on 15 March 1916. Destiny rode with the punitive expedition in yet another way. One young cavalry officer at Pershing's side was a man especially fond of pistols. First Lieutenant George Smith Patton, Jr. an officer of the 8th Cavalry Regiment, and a brash believer of action, had become one of Pershing's aids-de-camp. Impatient with the slow progress of the expedition, Patton personally rode out in search of Villa. He did not find the elusive Mexican raider. However, he did track down Villa's body guard, Julio Cardenas, in the town of Miguel and killed him in a shootout.

In mid 1917, troopers of the 8th Cavalry Regiment were transferred to Camp Marfa in the big bend country of Texas. The mission sector encompassed four hundred and twenty miles of river line, divided into patrol assignments from forty five to sixty miles for each troop. It covered fourteen thousand square miles, an area greater than the states of Massachusetts and Connecticut together, with terrain features varying from rugged mountain peaks, of which one hundred ninety six ranged from 4,000 feet to 7,000 feet in elevation, to rolling grassy plains and scorching deserts. It was a routine mission to clash with bands of Mexicans that crossed the Rio Grande to steal cattle or create other problems. The 8th regiment, lead by Colonel George T. Langhorne, also skirmished with members of various Mexican Revolutionary groups that conducted raids across the border.

In one unusual occurrence that may have foretold the future of the 1st Cavalry Division, the troopers of the 8th were called upon to quickly reinforce the garrison at Presidio, 68 miles away, after a large Mexican force had crossed the border. The cavalrymen climbed into automobiles driven by citizens of Marfa and covered the distance in a speedy three and a half hours. They came in sight of the fleeing raiders, followed them to Rim Rock in the automobiles and made them drop the larger part of their plunder.

Fort Bliss, Texas
On 13 September 1921, with the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Ft. 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. In subsequent years, the 12th Cavalry Regiment would be assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division on 03 January 1933, relieving the 1st Cavalry Regiment.

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.

Base Camp at Alamito - Part I
Base Camp at Alamito - Part II

The first video (Part I) of 1st Cavalry Division units, the 7th and 8th Cavalry Regiments, are returning to their base camp at Alamito, following a long, hard day of military exercises in the Marfa-Shafter-Alamito area of the Big Bend District, Texas. Moving in orderly columns along the dusty paths of the desert terrain, commanders, flag and guidon bearers ride at the head of each cavalry unit. Troopers, assigned as handlers, skillfully guide the pack mules carrying extra supplies and ammunition

The second video (Part II) of 1st Cavalry Division units, the 7th and 8th Cavalry Regiments, in mouinted formation, returning along with their support functions to their base camp at Alamito. The film clip opens with a series of views across the Base Camp. Note the many tents for personel accomodation, some motor vehicles, and several more semi-permanent structures. Military transport trucks are located near the camp. Units of the 82nd Field Artillery (Horse) Battalion are shown, in the desert on a dusty road leading to the Base Camp. Their teams of horses haul field artillery pieces and caissons. Numerous horse-drawn ambulances are seen flying red cross flags. A motorized ambulance and a staff car are also noted. Numerous horse-drawn supply wagons bring up the rear.

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."

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 Ft. 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 8th 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 Ft. Bliss from the 3rd Army Louisiana readiness maneuvers in October 1941, the 8th 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 18 Jan '13 SpellChecked