In his annual report for the year 1855, the Secretary of War - The Honorable Jefferson Davis stated that "The four additional regiments authorized by the act of 03 March, 1855, have been recruited and organized. Seven companies of the 1st Cavalry have recently returned from an expedition into the Sioux country and the regiment will winter at Fort Leavenworth, where it will be in position for interior operations in the spring."
When the two regiments of cavalry were authorized to be formed in 1855 it was with the understanding that all the field-officers and one-half of the company officers should betaken from the army, while the other half of the company officers should be taken from civil life. The military fitness of those selected for the 1st (later redesignated as the "4th") Cavalry is indicated by the high commands to which many of them rose:
In August, 1855, the regiment which had been organized at Jefferson Barracks
was ordered to Fort Leavenworth. By the middle of September it was engaged in
an Indian expedition in which no fighting occurred, but which kept the troops
in the field until the fourth of November. In 1857 the regiment was split with
half taking up new quarters at Fort Riley, Kansas and the rest maintaining
small garrisons scattered throughout the state. On 03 March 1861, Colonel
Robert E. Lee assumed command of the 1st Cavalry only having to resign his
commission a month later to lead the Confederate States Army in the Civil
On 12 April 1861, the attack of Fort Sumpter off the coast of Carolina by Confederate forces started the hostilities of the Civil War. As many cavalry units were being sent east for the war, the 1st Cavalry was initially kept on the frontier until militia type units were raised to protect settlers against Indian raids. On 22 June, 1861 George McClellan now a Major General, requested "A" Company and "E" Company of the 4th Cavalry to serve as his personal escort. Since 1854 it had been advocated to redesignate all mounted regiments as cavalry and to renumber them in order of seniority. This was done on 03 August 1861. As the 1st Cavalry was the fourth oldest mounted regiment it was redesignated as the 4th Cavalry Regiment.
The balance of the, now the 4th, Cavalry Regiment was committed to action in Mississippi and Missouri as "A" and "E" Companies saw action in the Bull Run, Peninsula, Antietam and Fredericksburg campaigns, and did not rejoin the Regiment until 1864.
In the first phases of the war for the other companies of the 4th Cavalry, they saw action in the Missouri, Mississippi and Kentucky campaigns, the seizure of Forts Henry and Donelson and the Battle of Shiloh. On 31 December 1862 a two-company squadron of the 4th Cavalry attacked and routed a brigade of the Confederate Cavalry near Murfreesboro, Tennessee. In 1863 - 64 companies of the 4th Cavalry saw further action in Tennessee, Georgia and Mississippi. On 30 June 1863 another squadron of the Regiment charged a six-gun battery of Confederate artillery near Shelbyville Tennessee, capturing the battery and took three hundred prisoners.
During the early years of the Civil War Union commanders scattered their cavalry regiments throughout the army conducting company, squadron (two company) and battalion (four company) operations. The 4th Cavalry was no exception with its companies scattered from the Mississippi River to the Atlantic coast carrying out traditional cavalry missions of reconnaissance, screening and raiding.
By the spring of 1864, the success of the large Confederate cavalry corps of Jeb Stuart had convinced the Union leadership to form their own cavalry corps under General Phillip Sheridan. The 4th Cavalry was ordered to unite as a regiment and on 14 December 1864 joined in the battle for Nashville, Tennessee as part of the cavalry corps commanded by General James Wilson. In the battle the 4th helped turn the Confederate flank, sending them in retreat. As the Confederate forces attempted a delaying action at West Harpeth, Tennessee an element of the 4th Cavalry led by Lt. Joseph Hedges charged and captured a Confederate artillery battery. For his bravery, Lt. Hedges received the Medal of Honor, the first to be bestowed on a member of the 4th Cavalry.
In March 1865, General Wilson was ordered to take his cavalry on a drive through Alabama to capture the Confederate supply depot at Selma. General Wilson had devoted much effort in preparing his cavalry for the mission. It was a superbly trained and disciplined force that left Tennessee led by the 4th Cavalry. It was more than a traditional cavalry raid rather it was an invasion by a cavalry army, a preview of the blitzkrieg of World War II. As the column moved south into Alabama it encountered the famed Confederate cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest. The Union force was too strong and defeated the Confederate cavalry allowing the Union forces to arrive at Selma the next day.
On 02 April 1865, the attack on Selma, Alabama was led by the 4th Cavalry in a mounted charge. A railroad cut and fence line halted the mounted attack. Dismounting the Regiment pressed the attack and stormed the town. Selma's rich store of munitions and supplies were destroyed along with the foundries and arsenals.
General Wilson next turned east to link up with General Sherman. His force
took Montgomery, Alabama; Columbus, Georgia and had arrived in Macon, Georgia
when word came of Lee's surrender and the end of the war on 09 April, 1965.
The Regiment remained in Macon as occupation troops.
The end of the Civil War brought a new surge of westward migration. Indian nations were determined to hold on to the lands they had taken back during the Civil War. In Texas the situation was acute with the Cheyenne and Arapahoe roaming at will in the north and the Comanche, Kiowa and Mescalero Apache controlling western Texas and eastern New Mexico. The 4th Cavalry was ordered into Texas to confront these formidable foes. The Regiment was filled with skilled Civil War veterans from both armies and outfitted with the latest and best equipment. On War Department records of that day, the 4th Cavalry was rated the best cavalry regiment in the US Army.
By November 1865 the Regiment had transferred to Fort Sam Houston, Texas. From there the 4th pacified the San Antonio area and conducted campaigns against Indians along the Mexican border. On 15 December 1870 twenty-nine year old Colonel Ranald Slidell Mackenzie, US Cavalry assumed command of the Regiment. A brilliant leader, he commanded a Union cavalry corps at the age of twenty-four. He would command the 4th Cavalry for twelve years, leading it on some of its most famous campaigns.
On 01 April 1873, the Regiment moved to Fort Clark, Texas, located close to
the Mexican border, to put a stop to cross-border raiding by Kickapoo and
Apache Indians living under the protection of the Mexican government. Colonel
Mackenzie was ordered by President Grant to ignore Mexican sovereignty and
attack three co-located Indian villages near the town of Remolino some
fifty-five miles south of the border from which the cross-border raiding
originated. With utmost secrecy Mackenzie began training and preparations for
|4th Cavalry Soldiers on Parade Grounds at Ft. Clark, Texas|
On 17 May 1873, six companies of the 4th ("A", "B", "C", "E", "I" & "M") crossed the Rio Grande under cover of darkness and headed to Remolino. It was a difficult night march over unfamiliar terrain but by dawn they were in position and on Mackenzie's signal six companies of the 4th Cavalry in a mounted charge attacked the three villages. Mackenzie had planned the attack to be met by stiff resistance. But unknown to him, many of the warriors had recently departed on a hunting expedition. Consequently the 4th met little resistance resulting in a quick victory losing one trooper killed and two wounded while the Indians suffered nineteen killed.
The few surviving warriors present in the villages along with some 40 women and children mounted on captured Indian horses were brought with the 4th Cavalry in its grueling ride back across the Rio Grande, reaching American soil at dawn on 19 May. The 4th Cavalry had covered a total distance of 160 miles, fought a battle and destroyed three Indian villages, all within some forty-eight hours. With their villages destroyed and their families were placed on a reservation in the Indian Territory (now Oklahoma). The remaining Kickapoo warriors in Mexico were allowed to rejoin their relatives on the reservation thus ending the threat of further cross- border raids.
In August 1874, with the border pacified, the 4th began a major campaign against the Comanche nation in northern Texas. On 27 September 1874, the Regiment located the Comanche in the Paladuro Canyon of the Red River. Two companies drove off the large pony herd of 1,200 while other companies attacked the camp driving off the warriors and then burning it. The Comanches made their way on foot to Fort Sill to surrender.
Successfully accomplishing their pacification mission in Texas, the Regiment was stationed in what is now the state of Oklahoma when it received orders to march north, with General Crook to avenge the massacre of General George Custer and five companies of the 7th Cavalry. On 24 November 1876, the 4th Cavalry located Chief Dull Knife and his northern Cheyenne band. The Regiment rode all night to reach the Indian camp. At dawn, the 4th Cavalry charged the village killing many of the Indian warriors, destroying their lodges and capturing 500 horses. The survivors soon surrendered. In 1880 and 1881 the Regiment was busy relocating Indian tribes in Utah and Colorado.
In 1883 the War Department redesignated all cavalry companies as troops. The designation squadron was given to a group of four troops and the cavalry no longer used the designation battalion. Since 1862 the US Cavalry had used guidons similar in appearance to the United States flag to better distinguish Union from Confederate cavalry. On 04 February 1885, the War Department ordered a return to the traditional red and white cavalry guidon used before the Civil War with one specific change. On the upper red half instead of displaying US in white the regimental numeral would be displayed and as before the troop letter would be displayed in red on the white lower half.
In 1884 the 4th Cavalry was ordered to Arizona to combat the Apache. By 18 May
1884, the Regimental headquarters was located at Fort Huachuca along with "B",
"D" and "I" Troops. The rest of the Regiment was stationed at army posts
throughout the eastern half of Arizona. In May 1885, 150 Apaches led by
Geronimo left the reservation and cut a wide swath of murder and robbery
throughout southern Arizona as they headed for Mexico.
General Miles and Captain Lawton escorted Geronimo and his band to Fort Bowie. They were immediately put on a train and sent to Florida accompanied by "B" Troop, 4th Cavalry. After delivering Geronimo to the authorities in Florida, "B" Troop was ordered to Fort Myer, Virginia to serve as an honor guard. With the capture of Geronimo the 4th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Walla Walla, Washington in May 1890. For the next eight years it performed routine garrison duties.
After the seizure of Manila during the War with Spain by Admiral Dewey, American ground forces were called on to defend the Philippines. As the Spanish American War dragged on into the summer, and it became obvious that a sizeable force of troops would possibly be needed to take Manila, portions of the 4th Cavalry were ordered to the Philippines. Of the 4th Cavalry, "C", "E", "G", "I", "K" and "L" Troops were sent to the Philippines. "D" and "H" Troops remained at Fort Yellowstone, Wyoming, while the Headquarters staff and "B" and "M" Troops remained stationed at the Presidio, in San Francisco, California.
The portions of the unit sent to the Philippines became part of the Fourth
Philippine Expedition, which was under the command of General E. S. Otis. They
were accompanied by two batteries of the 6th Artillery, five companies of the
14th Infantry and several detachments of recruits. All told, the expedition
consisted of 42 officers and 1,640 men. On 15 July 1898, the expedition
shipped out of San Francisco on the transports PERU and CITY OF
PUEBLO. The expedition arrived in the Philippines on 21 August, 1898.
The fighting against the Spanish had effectively ended about a week before their arrival. On August 13, Manila had fallen, while simultaneously halfway around the world, an armistice with Spain was reached. News of the armistice did not reached the Philippines in time for the Spanish to retain Manila, which actually fell after the armistice was declared. The Americans drove the Filipinos from the city and began a campaign to capture the insurgent capitol of Malolos. Because of a mix-up, the 4th Cavalry's horses had been unloaded in Hawaii. "E", "I" and "K" Troops, mounted on Filipino ponies participated in the Malolos campaign. The dismounted squadron consisting of "C", "G" and "L" Troops participated in the capture of Santa Cruz. From the fall of Manila until the end of the war, an uneasy peace between the Spanish, Americans and Philippine forces remained in effect. The Spanish American War ended with the signing of the Peace Protocols on December 10, 1898.
In February, 1899, the Philippine-American War broke out, and the 4th Cavalry took part in that war. By August 1899, the rest of the Regiment had arrived in the Philippines. In the fall of 1899 the 4th Cavalry moved north under General Lawton to capture the insurgent President Aguinaldo. Severe fighting took place and in the small town of San Mateo and General Lawton was killed in action.
In January 1901 the Regiment was assigned pacification duties in the southern
part of Luzon. On 31 September 1901, the tour of duty in the Philippines ended
for the Regiment. The 4th Cavalry had participated in 119 skirmishes and
battles. The Regiment's three squadrons were reassigned to Fort Leavenworth
and Fort Riley, Kansas and Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, the birthplace of the
regiment. In 1905 the 4th returned once again to the Philippines and
participated in the Jolo campaign on the island of Mindanao.
The reorganization of cavalry regiments, under the 1920 act took place in 1921. By then, lack of funds and reduced personnel authorization for the Army had cut the mounted arm to less than half of its former strength. The number of cavalry regiments was pared from seventeen to fourteen by inactivation of the 15th, 16th, and 17th. The remaining regiments were reconstructed to consist of a headquarters, a headquarters troop, a service troop, and only six lettered troops. The troops, designated as "A" through "F", were grouped into two squadrons of three troops each.
In 1925 the 4th Cavalry was transferred to Fort Meade, South Dakota. Regular duties were performed with practiced marches and annual maneuvers held in Wyoming. In 1926, the March King John Phillip Sousa, impressed with the reputation of the 4th Cavalry, wrote an official march for the regiment entitled "Riders For the Flag." The 4th Cavalry Band and the Black Horse Drill Team of "F" Troop participated in many civic functions throughout the Midwest.
The unit organizations effected in 1921 lasted seven years, major changes not coming until February 1928. At that time, lettered troops of the regiments were decreased from six to four. Troops "A" and "B" of each regiment formed the 1st Squadron, and "E" and "F" formed the 2nd Squadron. Also, separate machine gun squadrons and troops were eliminated, and the machine gun troop was returned to the regiment.
The organizational structure planned for the new mechanized cavalry regiment
in 1932 was similar to the horse regiment. With an authorized strength of 42
officers and 610 enlisted men, the mechanized regiment was divided into a
covering squadron, a combat car squadron, a machine gun troop, and a
headquarters troop. Like the horse regiment, it had four lettered troops but
was equipped with combat vehicles instead of horses. Its covering squadron was
divided into an armored car troop and a scout troop, while the combat car
squadron had two combat car troops. The mechanized regiment had thirty-five
combat cars (light, fast tanks), which were about equally divided among the
troops of the combat car squadron and the scout troop of the covering
As World War II, became more eminent, the horse-mechanized principle had been applied to two cavalry regiments, the 4th and 6th Cavalry. In those units large vans were used for transporting horses to keep pace with the mechanical elements. The horses could be unloaded quickly and employed in mounted actions to supplement operations of the mechanized cavalry. With the 4th and 6th Cavalry already partially mechanized and the 1st and 13th Cavalry under the Armored Force, ten horse cavalry regiments remained. Of these, the 5th, 7th, 8th, and 12th were organic elements of the 1st Cavalry Division, and by late 1941 the 2nd, 9th, 10th, and 14th were in the 2nd Cavalry Division. Only the 3rd and 11th Cavalry were nondivisional mounted regiments.
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