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.
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
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
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.
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.
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.
|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.
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
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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