2nd Stryker Cavalry Regiment
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment (Light)
2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment
The birth of the regiment can be traced to 23 May 1836 when to respond to the increasing trouble in Florida during the Second Seminole War, President Andrew Jackson issued an executive order on 23 May 1836 forming the Second Regiment of Dragoons. Congress appropriated $300,000 to for the Regiment, and the headquarters were established in June 1836 in Washington, DC.
Colonel David Emmanuel Twiggs was the First Colonel of the Regiment. Nicknamed "Old Davey" or the "Bengal Tiger," his troops claimed that he could "curse them right out of their boots." Lieutenant Colonel William Selby Harney was second in command, and later became the Second Colonel of the Regiment. His temper was as fiery as his flaming red hair, and although brutal on the field of battle, his imaginative and conscientious leadership helped to shape the character of the Regiment. Twiggs and Harney set the initial tone of the Regiment and fostered many of its enduring qualities.
Recruiting began immediately. Companies A and I were organized in the Fort Myer Virginia area. Company B obtained recruits in Virginia and Louisiana, Harney's home state, while Company C recruited from Tennessee. Companies B and C were not listed on the Regiment's active returns until April 1837. Company D was organized from a detachment of the First Dragoons in Florida and saw service there immediately. Companies E, F, G, and H recruited mostly from New York, and Company K was recruited from New Orleans and activated in March 1837.In April 1837, the Regimental headquarters was moved to Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, where a "School of the Trooper" was organized for the remaining companies, numbering over 400 new recruits. The new troopers were excited to get their training under way. As fast as the "green" horses were received they were introduced to their new riders, equally "green" at horsemanship. It was said that their "ambitious mounting in hot haste" frequently resulted in their immediate dismounting. Veterans noted that their "quickness of time and variety of motions" were unparalleled in mounted tactics.
Even before the arrival of the Regiment for its first assignment, the men who became Company D had their first encounter near Micanopy, Florida. They drew "first blood" as members of the Regiment in July 1836 in a spirited engagement at Welika Pond, near Fort Defiance, Florida, on 10 June 1836.
In December 1836, the first four companies sailed from New York to Charleston, South Carolina, for immediate service in Florida. Company I joined them in Charleston, and Harney took command. The Regiment arrived at the mouth of the St. John's River, Florida, in January 1837 and marched to Fort Mellon on Lake Munroe, arriving on 6 February. This post fell under attack only two days later, embroiling the companies almost immediately in the war.
On 9 September 1837, three companies of the Second Dragoons and two of Florida volunteers surrounded an Indian village. At first light, the force captured the village, including the important chief, King Phillip.
This action represented a shift in tactics. Garrisons had previously waited in forts and responded when attacked, only to find that the Seminoles had melted back into the Florida Everglades. Though some experts doubted the wisdom of employing mounted troops in that terrain, the Second Dragoons pioneered the practice of taking the battle to the enemy. The Indians responded by signing what would be a short-lived peace treaty.
Harney would go to any length to defeat the enemy. In March 1838, the Regiment took delivery from Samuel Colt of 50 Patterson Patent revolving carbines. Legend has it that Harney purchased these weapons with his own money. Fifty selected troopers were equipped with this new carbine and formed a Regimental corps of sharpshooters. Some say that the sharpshooters were so successful that Harney bought 50 more carbines in 1839. Thus, the Regiment earned its reputation both for daring new tactics and the use of new technology.
The Regiment earned one red and black battle streamer for its participation in the Seminole War.
As the war with the Seminoles began to wind down, the Regiment was repositioned in Louisiana, which formed part of the eastern frontier of the Louisiana Purchase. This was the Regiment's first posting in the state of Louisiana. In October 1842, Companies A, D, E, F, and G were ordered to move to Fort Jessup, Louisiana, and Fort Towson, Arkansas. The remaining companies worked to improve their positions and to scout for the last band of hostile Indians in Florida. Upon completion of their tasks in Florida, these companies went to Louisiana, where the entire Regiment assembled. Headquarters were at Fort Jessup and additional postings were to the Arkansas Territory and Baton Rouge, Louisiana.In August 1842 Congress passed a resolution to dismount the Regiment as a cost-saving measure, and it was reconstituted as a Regiment of Riflemen. The Secretary of War noted in his report of 1842 that dismounting the Regiment saved very little money. It was also pointed out that the distances along the frontier and the mounted Indian tribes of the area necessitated more mounted formations. In March of 1843 the Regiment was re-mounted and again designated as the Second Dragoons. Fort Jessup was home to the Dragoons for four years.
They patrolled the border between the United States and the Republic of Texas while providing security along the famous El Camino Real, which took travelers from Natchitoches, Louisiana, to Nacogdoches, Texas. Life for the Regiment at Fort Jessup was a nice change from the deprivations of service in Florida. Twiggs established a steam-powered sawmill at the fort to begin an extensive building program. (Visitors to the historic site of Fort Jessup, six miles east of Many, Louisiana, can see some of the original buildings of this frontier post.)Following a period of temporary duty in Europe, one Captain William J. Hardee briefly armed several of the dragoon's companies with lances. An Inspector General's report said at the time that the unit was the "best drilled" outfit in the entire Army.In 1836 the Republic of Texas was established after fighting for its independence from Mexico. For the next decade, Mexico refused to recognize Texas's independence and made sporadic attempts to recover its lost province. The country along the border was in constant turmoil as a result of these extremely ruthless raids. On March 1, 1845, Congress resolved to admit Texas into the Union. The Mexican Government promptly broke off diplomatic relations with Washington.
President James K. Polk continued to hope that the situation could reach a negotiated settlement. Not only did he wish to resolve the issue of the annexation of Texas, but he also wished to purchase additional Mexican territory extending all the way to the Pacific Ocean. Negotiations were further complicated by a long unresolved dispute regarding the southern border of Texas. Spain and Mexico maintained that the southern boundary was the Neuces River, while the Texas and the United States claimed that the Rio Grande River was the international border. In anticipation of hostilities, Brevet Brigadier General Zachary Taylor assembled an "Army of Observation" at Fort Jessup.
In July of 1845, General Taylor's force began moving to Texas. Most of his force embarked from New Orleans bound for Corpus Christi, Texas. The Second Dragoons were the exception, choosing to proceed over land from Fort Jessup to Corpus Christi. They made the 501-mile march in 32 days, and reported to General Taylor in fine shape, contrary to some predictions from others outside the command. In March of 1846 General Taylor was ordered to move his force to the Rio Grande River in order to repel any invasion. General Taylor's force departed Corpus Christi to establish a base of operations at Point Isabel. The vanguard of his force, led by a squadron from the Second Dragoons and Major Ringold's Flying Artillery, subsequently moved to establish Fort Texas along the Rio Grande River. This position was directly across from the Mexican city of Matamoras, near what is now Brownsville, Texas.
The dragoons began an aggressive schedule of mounted patrols along the Rio Grande. Acting as the eyes and ears for General Taylor and maintaining security along the flanks, the Regiment became well acquainted with the area and some of the local ranchers. On 25 April 1846 General Taylor received word that the Mexican Army was crossing the river above and below his position. Two companies of dragoons moved to the lower crossing while Companies C and F went to reconnoiter the upper crossing. The next day one of the Company's native guides returned to camp claiming that the units had been attacked by a large force of Mexicans near La Rosia and that "all had been either cut to pieces or captured." The two companies of dragoons, numbering 60 men, were surrounded and ambushed by over 500 Mexican cavalry. They sustained nine dead and two wounded. Thornton was pinned to the ground when his horse was shot dead in mid-air as he cleared an eight-foot wall of chaparral in an attempt to charge through the enemy. The entire command, now under Captain William Hardee, was captured and taken to Matamoras. This battle gave President Polk the excuse he needed to invade Mexico.
During a counter-attack at Palo Alto on 8 May 1846, the Regiment was largely responsible for forcing the enemy to the east and exposing its left flank. The next day at Resaca de la Palma, General Taylor ordered Captain Charles A. May to silence a battery of Mexican cannons that had been blocking the Matamoras Road. May said, "I'm going to charge them," as he led his squadron (Companies D and E) through the American infantry lines and into the fire from the Mexican artillery. May overwhelmed the battery and captured a Mexican general. May's order of the day, "Remember your Regiment and follow your officers," has become the Regiment's motto.
Another hero of the Mexican war was Sergeant Jack Miller, whose small patrol was ambushed by a force five times its number near Monclova in November 1847. The dragoons were going for their carbines when Miller shouted: "No firing, men! If 20 dragoons can't whip 100 Mexicans with the saber, I'll join the Doughboys and cart a fence rail all my life." The Dragoons charged and killed six Mexicans, wounded thirteen, and captured seventy. Casualties in Miller's unit were limited to only one man wounded and three mounts lightly scratched.
On 29 June 1846, Colonel Twiggs, the First Colonel of the Regiment, recently promoted to Brigadier General after ten years in command, passed command of the Regiment to his successor, Colonel Harney. Harney remained in command for the duration of the Mexican War. Congress later awarded Twiggs a sword with a jeweled hilt and a gold scabbard as a tribute to his gallantry at Monterey. The Regiment's service proved invaluable in every major campaign of the war, and it is one of perhaps two regiments in the Army to have had elements participate in every battle. The Regiment added 14 green and gray campaign streamers to the Regimental standard during the war with Mexico.
After the Mexican war, the Regiment moved west to secure the country's newly acquired territories for the influx of settlers. In June of 1849 troopers from Company F under the command of Major Ripley Arnold established an encampment along the banks of the Trinity River in Texas, which they named Fort Worth in honor of General William J. Worth, whom the Regiment had served with during the final years of the Seminole War. This area is now known as "the fort that became a city," Dallas/Fort Worth.
The Regiment spent the pre-Civil War period fighting Indians and securing the routes that brought settlers into the new territories of the United States. In 1854, the Second Dragoons took part in a campaign against the Sioux Indians and soundly defeated a sizable Brule Sioux force near Ash Hollow, Nebraska, without incurring a single loss. This action forced the Sioux to sign a peace treaty.
In late 1857, in response to reports of harassment and abuse of Federal officials from Mormon settlers in Utah, a battalion formed from the Regiment was sent to put down Mormon resistance to U.S. authority as part of a 2,500 man expeditionary force. Expecting a confrontation, the Mormon leader and Utah governor, Brigham Young, mobilized the Utah militia, but agreed to terms just before the expeditionary force reached the state. This long and arduous winter march is immortalized in the Don Stiver print, "Never a Complaint."
On 14 June 1858, Harney was promoted to Brigadier General and Philip St. George Cooke was appointed the Third Colonel of the Regiment. During this time Colonel Cooke published the definitive manual on cavalry tactics, which was used by both sides in the Civil War.
In July 1860, the President of the United States ordered Harney to St. Louis to take command of the Department of the West. Once there, however, the combination of the onslaught of political events and his own political naiveté ruined him. Although he was a brilliant cavalryman, Harney, as a political neophyte, could not negotiate the tangle of political affairs in Missouri. Suspected of Southern sympathies by the powerful Blair-Benton faction in Missouri, local politicians demanded his removal, and President Lincoln relieved him of his command in May 1861. On 1 August 1863, Harney was placed on the retired list. He was promoted to brevet Major General on 13 March 1865 in recognition of his long and faithful service. President Lincoln later admitted that Harney's removal was one of the biggest mistakes of his administration. Harney went on to serve several Indian commissioners and became known as "the nation's greatest Indian expert." He died in Orlando, Florida, on 9 May 1889. In his honor, the Sioux gave him a title he would have cherished, "Man-Who-Always-Kept-His-Word." A single thread runs through all that he did and tried to do - a fierce desire to serve. His epitaph in Arlington Cemetery captures his humility and dedication to the Regiment. It reads simply, "Harney, Second Dragoons." In 1985 Fort Leavenworth named its new gymnasium after this distinguished cavalryman.
At the opening of the Civil War, now Brevet Major General Twiggs surrendered all Union forces and stores in Texas to Confederate General Ben McCulloch. Twiggs was promptly dismissed from Federal service, and on 22 May 1861 received an appointment as a Major General in the Confederate Army. At that time, he was the senior general officer in the Confederate service, but the former dragoon was too old to take the field.
Both the Union and Confederacy thought that Colonel Cooke would support the Southern cause. His son, John R. Cooke, became surgeon general of the Confederate Army and the husband of his favorite daughter was no less than J.E.B. Stuart. Some even said that he "may pull a Twiggs," referring to the surrender of the Union forces. Still, his loyalty to the Constitution remained steadfast. In November 1861 he was appointed Brigadier General and placed in command of a cavalry brigade in Washington. During the Peninsula Campaign, he commanded the cavalry reserve, a division consisting of two brigades.
In 1861 the Second Dragoons were recalled to the east to fight in the Civil War. Because of the continuous turmoil on the plains, the Regiment was full of combat veterans. Thomas John Wood was appointed as the Fourth Colonel of the Regiment, and was almost immediately promoted to Brevet Brigadier General and placed in charge of a Brigade of Volunteers. Wood fought the entire war with the Army of Tennessee, seeing action at Chickamauga and Missionary Ridge outside of Chattanooga. Many illustrious company grade officers commanded the Regiment, most notably Captains Wesley Merritt and Theophilus Rodenbough.
The dragoons' designation was changed to Second United States Calvary Regiment on 3 August 1861. Company C was the last unit to fight as dragoons during the Battle of Wilson's Creek, Missouri. The Second Calvary fought as part of the First Calvary Division of the Army of the Potomac and participated in numerous campaigns in Virginia and the battles of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Fredericksburg, Gettysburg, Manassas, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor.
During the battle of Fredericksburg, Sergeant Martin Hagan and a handful of troopers held off a Confederate cavalry brigade belonging to J.E.B. Stuart's corps, allowing the Union Army to withdraw across the river. Hagan accomplished this mission without the loss of a single man, horse, or major item of equipment, and for his gallant action he was awarded the first Medal of Honor of the Second Dragoons.
Many historians point to Stoneman's Raid in 1863 as the resurgence of the Union cavalry. Troopers of the Second Cavalry who were on the raid would no doubt agree. General George Stoneman, who had been with Colonel Cooke during the "Mormon Expedition," led this successful raid deep into the rear of General Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. This action proved ill-timed and a major strategic error for General Joseph Hooker. The absence of these troops as a cavalry screen at Chancellorsville allowed Confederate General Thomas "Stonewall" Jackson to fall upon the unsuspecting flank of the Union Army with disastrous results.
A generally better mission was the advance of the Union cavalry under General Alfred Pleasanton to attack the Confederate cavalry of J.E.B. Stuart at Brandy Station. Pleasanton, who had been a young lieutenant with Captain May at Resaca de la Palma, and a major in charge of the Regiment at the Battle of Yorktown in 1862, was the newly appointed Chief of Cavalry for the Army of the Potomac. The Regiment, commanded by Captain Wesley Merritt, led a charge against the Confederate cavalry at Kelly's Ford during this historic battle. This was the first time that the Union cavalry had dared to take on J.E.B. Stuart's forces head-to-head. This action gave Stuart a "black eye" in the Southern press and may have influenced his actions over the next three weeks prior to the epic battle of Gettysburg.
The First Cavalry Division, Army of the Potomac, led by former Second Dragoon, Major General John Buford, fought a steady recon and counter recon battle with Stuart's cavalry as Lee's forces moved from Virginia into Maryland for their invasion of the North that ended at Gettysburg. General Buford established the battlefield area of operations by deploying his cavalry division as dismounted skirmishers and began to engage Lee's forces as they moved into the town in search of shoes. His successful stand against a vastly superior force, until the Union Army could be brought forward, ensured that the Union Army would hold the high ground of Cemetery Ridge. Buford's action remains the classic example of an advance cover operation.
In June 1864, the Regiment charged the Confederate lines at Louisa Court House smashing the Confederate cavalry. Captain T.F. Rodenbough, at the time in command of the Regiment, was awarded the Medal of Honor for his outstanding valor during this brief but violent clash. Though severely wounded, Rodenbough exhibited leadership that ensured a brilliant victory. Returning to duty in September 1864, he participated in the Battle of Winchester, where he led a desperate charge against the Confederate artillery at Opequon Creek. During an immediate follow-on attack by the entire First Cavalry Division, Confederate fire again severely wounded Rodenbough, and he lost his mount and his right arm. In the midst of the confusion, Sergeant Conrad Schmidt of K Company picked up the badly wounded captain and, under heavy fire, moved him to the rear.
For bravery in the face of the enemy in saving his captain's life, Schmidt was awarded the Medal of Honor. The annual Regimental award presented to the most outstanding senior NCO is named in honor of First Sergeant Schmidt. The famous Don Stiver print, "Sergeant's Valor," vividly depicts Schmidt's heroic act and shows two of the Regiment's Medal of Honor recipients in the same action.
In October 1864, General Sheridan applied the torch to the Shenandoah Valley. During this campaign, Confederate cavalry continually harassed Sheridan's troops to such an extent that Sheridan ordered General Tolbert of the First Cavalry Division to, "either whip the enemy or get whipped yourself." On 9 October 1864, the divisions of Generals Wesley Merritt and George A. Custer, along with a reserve brigade including the Second Cavalry, attacked the flanks of the Confederate line. The Confederates, overwhelmed by superior numbers, broke and fled southward for ten miles past Woodstock, Virginia. During the charge, Private Edward R. Hanford of Company H captured the battle flag of the 32nd Virginia Cavalry. For his bravery during the charge and for the capture of an enemy battle flag, Hanford was awarded the Medal of Honor. In all, the Regiment was awarded 14 battle streamers and five Medals of Honor during the Civil War.
With the end of the Civil War, the Second Cavalry Regiment returned to the western frontier and its campaign against the Indians, who had grown bold in the absence of "the long knives." The Regiment was scattered over several states and territories, with often only a single troop occupying a post.
On 15 May 1870, Sergeant Patrick Leonard and four men from C Troop were searching the Little Blue River in Nebraska for stray horses when a war party of about 50 Indians suddenly surrounded the detachment. Quickly racing for cover, Leonard dismounted his men and discovered that, in the rush for cover, Private Thomas Hubbard and two mounts had been wounded. The Indians charged twice and the troopers repelled them, with one Indian killed and three wounded. Leonard then slaughtered the two wounded horses to form a breastwork just in time to repulse a third attack in which the cavalrymen killed two more Indians and wounded four others. Within the hour, the Indians retreated. Leonard had to withdraw his patrol on foot because the Indians had killed all the horses during the attack. Leonard then took a settler's family of two women and a child under his charge. While moving to the next settlement, the Indians did not renew their attack. Leonard safely arrived at C Company's bivouac at 2300 hours with his entire patrol and the civilians relatively secure.
For gallantry in action, Leonard and Privates Canfield, Himmelsback, Hubbard, and Thompson were awarded the Medal of Honor. This has long been considered Leonard's second medal, since he won his first when he was a corporal in the 23rd Infantry. The Medal of Honor Historical Society, in a 1985 publication, revealed that there were in fact two Sergeant Patrick Leonards. Only through a review of their widows' petitions for benefits did the society discover different middle names and backgrounds. The annual Regimental award for the most outstanding junior NCO is named in honor of the Sergeants Leonard.
One battalion of the Second Regiment nearly joined Custer before his last stand. In June 1876, Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer of the Seventh Cavalry was offered the use of the "Montana Battalion" of the Second Regiment, but he declined the offer. On 25 June Custer stumbled into a force of 5000 Sioux warriors who killed every officer, soldier, and civilian in Custer's wing of the Seventh Cavalry. Two days later, the Montana Battalion discovered the evidence of Custer's fate.
By April 1877, most of the cavalry Regiments of the United States was engaged in warfare with several small bands of Indians. The Cheyenne surrendered in December. Although Sitting Bull escaped into Canada, Crazy Horse surrendered in April of 1878. This left only a chief named Lame Deer and his warriors on soil claimed by the U.S. government, but the U.S. Cavalry, including the "Montana Battalion" of the Second Cavalry, was in pursuit. Marching day and night with only short breaks, the cavalrymen reached the area of an Indian encampment near Little Muddy Creek, Montana, on 6 May.
At 0100 hours, 7 May 1877, after only a few hours' rest, the troopers broke camp and marched for the remainder of the night. At dawn they surprised Lame Deer's warriors. Company H charged through the village and stampeded the horses, and then the other cavalry troops charged, thoroughly routing the Indians. The village was one of the richest Indian encampments ever captured. The soldiers found many artifacts of Custer's Seventh Cavalry, including uniforms, guidons, and weapons. At the height of the battle, Private William Leonard became isolated from his command and defended himself for over two hours against the Indians from a position behind a rock before he was rescued. For gallantry in action, Privates William Leonard of L Troop and Samuel D. Phillips of H Troop were awarded the Medal of Honor.
In August 1877, elements of the First and Second U.S. Cavalry had been following Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians for almost two weeks. Suddenly, the Indians turned back on their pursuers at Camas Meadows in Idaho and disrupted the chase before escaping into Montana through what is now Yellowstone Park.
General O.O. Howard, who would later accept the surrender of Chief Joseph's Nez Perce band, ordered L Troop of the Second Cavalry back to Fort Ellis for provisions on 25 August. From there, they would later join Howard. On 18 September, a force of approximately six hundred men, including Troops F, G, and H of the "Montana Battalion" of the Second Cavalry marched northwest in an effort to prevent the Indians from reaching Canadian territory and discovered that Chief Joseph had made camp on Eagle Creek along the eastern part of the Bear Paw Mountains. Three troops of the Second Cavalry were immediately dispatched to attack the Indians' rear and drive away their pony herd. In the meantime, the Seventh Cavalry attacked the Indian positions but were repulsed. Another assault - this one with the aid of infantry - also failed.
White Bird and several other Indian Chiefs were making a run for Canada with the pony herd when Lieutenant Edward J. McClernand and Company G caught up to them. In a brief engagement, McClernand captured the Indians and the pony herd intact. For his skill and boldness, McClernand was awarded the Medal of Honor. It became apparent that the Nez Perce would only be starved out of their entrenchments. After a four-day siege, Chief Joseph surrendered to General Howard on 4 October 1877.
During the Nez Perce campaign, Captain Norwood's L Troop of the "Montana Battalion" was part of a force under General Howard. On 20 August 1877, the Nez Perce turned on their pursuers, driving off their pack train and managing to escape with it. Dangerously low on supplies, Howard dispatched L Troop and an additional two troops of the First Cavalry to recover the supplies. After eight miles of hard riding, the detachment overtook the Indians, and heavy fighting ensued. Corporal Garland, although wounded in the hip and unable to stand, continued to direct his men until the Indians withdrew. For gallantry and bravery in action, four men of L Troop received the Medal of Honor: First Sergeant Wilkers, Corporal Garland, Farrier Jones and Private Clark. The annual regimental award for the most outstanding trooper is named in honor of Farrier Jones. The farrier was a cavalry unit's combination medic, veterinarian, and blacksmith.
In the autumn of 1878, Second Cavalry elements were attached to two newly established forts in the Department of Dakota named Fort Custer and Fort McKeogh. The dragoons spent most of this year waiting for Sitting Bull to return from Canada. It was also a year without pay for the cavalry, as Congress had failed to appropriate pay for the Army.
As winter approached, the Cheyenne Chiefs Dull Knife and Little Wolf led their bands from the reservations in Oklahoma, moving north towards Canada. U.S. soldiers intercepted Dull Knife and the Indian chief surrendered at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.
A month later, however, Little Wolf and his band of Indians reached Wyoming and fled into the Sand Hills. Lieutenant William P. Clark, who had developed a special rapport with the Indians, was sent after Little Wolf with troops E and I of the Second Cavalry. On 25 March 1879, Clark located Little Wolf's encampment at Box Elder Creek, Montana. After negotiations, Clark persuaded the chief and his band to return under escort to Fort McKeogh. The Army enlisted several of them as scouts, allowing them to stay in the north.
On 5 April, during the march back to Fort McKeogh, a small band of Indians escaped and attacked two soldiers. Sergeant Glover and ten men in his charge from Company B, Second Cavalry, charged the Indians and, though outnumbered, surrounded them forced them to surrender. For gallantry in action, Sergeant Glover was awarded the Medal of Honor.
In the winter of 1886, the Regiment was kept busy by groups of Indians who were following the buffalo herds south from Canada and occasionally attacking settlers and stealing their stock. During the summer and fall, most of these bands surrendered at Fort McKeogh, Montana. At this time, the only large group of Indians on the northern plains who had not been placed on a reservation was Sitting Bull's band of Sioux Indians in Canada.
In early March 1887, a large band of Sioux crossed the border into Montana without warning. C Troop from Camp Stambaugh, Wyoming, and E Troop from Fort Sanders, Wyoming, were quickly dispatched into Montana. The Second Cavalry pursued the Sioux for over 150 miles, finally surprising their camp at O'Fallon's Creek, Montana. In fierce fighting, the cavalry killed many braves and killed or captured 46 horses. It was this loss of horses that forced the band to break up and flee back toward Canada.
Captain Eli L. Huggins was awarded the Medal of Honor for his action at O'Fallon's Creek, where he surprised the Indians in their stronghold and boldly fought them with great courage. Captain Huggins became the 12th Colonel of the Regiment. The annual Regimental award for the most outstanding junior officer is named in honor of Huggins.
Second Lieutenant Lloyd M. Brett was awarded the Medal of Honor for his fearless conduct and dashing bravery in scattering the Indians' pony herd. Brett became the commander of the Third Cavalry Regiment in 1927. For actions against the Indians, the Regiment earned 13 more red and black battle streamers, while troopers of the Regiment earned 15 medals of honor.
The Spanish-American War in 1898 found the Regiment in Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico. They were assembled in Georgia as all Regular Army Units and several hundred thousand volunteers began to assemble in the southern United States. This was the first time that the entire Regiment had been together since the Civil War. They moved to Mobile, Alabama, in preparation for movement to Cuba. Troops A, C, D, and F boarded transports with their horses, and the remainder of the Regiment moved overland to Tampa, Florida, where the rest of the forces were being assembled. Due to a lack of transports, the remainder of the Regiment did not board ships, but instead gave up its wagons to assist the movement of Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders" to the ships.
The four troops that arrived in Cuba found that they were the only horse-mounted cavalry available for the campaign. They worked primarily for General Shafter, the commander of troops in Cuba, doing a variety of jobs. Teddy Roosevelt observed that "the Second Cavalrymen are everywhere. All day long you see them. All night long you hear their clattering hooves."
The troops from the Second Calvary fought at El Caney, San Juan Hill, Aquadores, and around Santiago Cuba. Troop B was committed to the Puerto Rican campaign in July and August. In 1899, the entire Regiment began pacification duty on Cuba and remained there for three years.
From 23 January to 18 July 1905, the Regiment broadened its experience by participating in the Cavite Campaign, Philippine Islands. On 14 February 1910, the Regiment fought in the battle of Tiradores Hill near Pindar on Mindanao. The Regiment followed this up with several clashes with the Moros: one at Mount Bagoak, Jolo, on 3 December 1911, and another near Mount Vrut, Jolo, 10-14 January 1912.
Back in the United States in June 1912, the Second Cavalry took the mission of enforcing the neutrality laws along the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. "I should consider myself fortunate to again have your splendid Regiment as part of my command," General Pershing wired Colonel West (the 15th Colonel of the Regiment) when the Second had left Jolo Island, Philippines, in 1912. The section of the international border between the United States and Mexico assigned to the Regiment gradually extended from El Paso to Presidio, Texas, a distance of 262 miles. This operation represented the first "border surveillance" and "border security" mission for the Regiment - a precursor of future missions later in the century.
The Regiment departed Fort Bliss, Texas, in December 1913 for Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont, for training and maneuvers. These field exercises, often in conjunction with the National Guard units of the northeastern states, were often under the personal direction of General Leonard Wood.
The year 1914 culminated with the Regiment's Horse Show Team representing the Army in the annual horse show at Madison Square Garden in New York. Representing the Army in national competition would be a task the Regiment excelled in for many years. The beautiful silver trophies awarded to the Regiment are still used to commemorate excellence within the Regiment. The Dragoon Lightning Trophy was originally awarded to the Regimental horse team in 1914. One of the award-winning team members was First Lieutenant George Brett, the son of Medal of Honor winner Lloyd Brett.
As the nation began to think about involvement with the European war, the Army recognized a need for a pool of trained leaders. General Wood led the drive to train business leaders and professionals for the future needs of the Army. The Second Cavalry established training camps in Plattsburg, New York, to train business leaders from New York City and Philadelphia in the rudiments of Army life. This was so successful that the Regiment established a second camp in Fort Ogelthorpe, Georgia, near the Civil War battlefield of Chickamauga. The Regiment, under the command of Joseph T. Dickman, the Seventeenth Colonel of the Regiment, trained over 13,000 of these men in five provisional regiments. This program of training a pool of leaders ready to respond during times of national emergency became the Reserve Officer Training Corps (ROTC). Dickman commanded the Third U.S. Infantry Division during the "Great War." His leadership at the second battle of the Marne River would forever mark the Third Infantry Division as "The Rock of the Marne."
World War I was another chapter of American history in which the Second Dragoons distinguished themselves. In April 1918, a scant three weeks after leaving the United States, the Second Cavalry found itself landed in France in the Toul sector. After being initially deployed to perform military police duties and to manage horse remount depots, the Regiment was the only American unit used as horse cavalry during the war. A provisional squadron formed by Troops B, D, F, and H was the last element of the Regiment ever to engage the enemy as mounted horse cavalry.
General Pershing's words were again realized half a world away when, with 31 dragoon troopers Headquarters Troop as his escort, he landed first in England and then at Chaumont, France. The commander of Pershing's headquarters element was Captain George S. Patton, Jr.
The Second Dragoons fought in the Aisne-Marne offensive from 18 July to 6 August 1918, where the American First and Second Divisions penetrated the western flank of the German Marne salient at Soissons. Detachments from the Regiment also took part in the Oisne-Aisne offensive from 18 August to 11 September. The greatest commendations the Regiment received in the war came for its part in the reduction of Saint Mihiel Salient. From 12 to 16 September, Troops A, B, C, D, F, G, and H fought magnificently under Lieutenant Colonel D.P.M. Hazzard's command.
At this time in the war, General Pershing massed six divisions on an 18-mile front. The First Division jumped off, bypassing Mont Sec (which the French had assaulted in vain for years), and reached the German line of Heudocort-Nosard. From there, the Second Cavalry passed through the forest of La Belle Oziere, Nosard, and Vigneulles, and scouted the open country as far as the Heudicort Creue, and Vignuelles. They would eventually advance all the way to Saint Maurice, Woel, and Jonville to pursue the enemy.
The final Allied offensive, the Meuse-Argonne campaign lasted from 26 September to 11 November 1918. The Second Cavalry was attached to the American 35th Division, playing an important role as the left flank element of eight divisions and later as the main effort between the Meuse River and the Argonne Forest. The plan of the American First Army was to bypass the strong points of Montfaucon and Romagne on both sides. Then the forces would seize the high ground at Barricort with a converging effort that was designed to shatter all German positions before Sedan.
The 35th Division spearheaded the assault on the left with an engagement in which the troops of the Second Cavalry fought bravely during a six-day battle between 26 September and 2 October 1918. The battle started at Vauquois and wound through Bois de Rossigy, Quvrage D'Aden, Cheepy, Charpentry, Baulny, Bois de Montre Beau, and Exermont. The men from the Regiment were commended for "...accomplishing their tasks with fearlessness, courage, and disregard for danger and hardship." Three rainbow colored campaign streamers were added to the Regimental standard during World War I.
With the Germans driven across the Meuse at Sedan, the stage was set for the Armistice on 11 November. The Second Cavalry remained with the Army of Occupation in Germany at Koblenz until August 1919.
After its service in the Army of Occupation, the Regiment returned to the United States for duty at Fort Riley, Kansas. There it remained from 1919 to 1939, performing peacetime duties as a school training regiment. This Cavalry School prospered under the guidance of a host of visionary men destined to be general officers in World War II. The list includes such revered names as Patton, Truscott, Keyes, and Mattox, among many others.
At Fort Riley the Regiment experimented with the first armored cars, and in 1936, as more money became available for maneuvers, it participated in the first armored and cavalry maneuvers. In 1936 the Second Cavalry celebrated its first centennial, marking 100 years of devoted service to the nation. In 1938, two armored regiments, the 1st and the 13th, and an augmentation of artillery and light airplanes joined the Regiment for maneuvers. Then, as now, the Regiment was leading the Army in the development of a combined arms organization and tactics.
The invasion of Poland by the blitzing German panzers in 1939 accelerated the movement to mechanize American forces and led to the first extensive mechanized maneuvers in 1940. By 1941, the Second Calvary was participating in similar large-scale maneuvers in Louisiana. The headquarters for the Louisiana Maneuvers were in the Bentley Hotel in Alexandria, Louisiana. In January 1942, the Second Cavalry served a period on border duty at Tucson, Arizona.
Since the emphasis in the Army was shifting to armor, the Regiment, still a horse outfit, returned to Camp Funston, Fort Riley Kansas for refitting. It was there on 15 May 1942 that it was redesignated and refitted to form the Second Armored Regiment of the Ninth Armored Division. It was this outfit that spawned specific armored units composed initially of men and equipment from the Second Cavalry. These units, the Second Tank Battalion, the 19th Tank Battalion and the 776th Tank Battalion, would distinguish themselves in combat through the European and Pacific Theaters of Operation.
In June 1943, the Regiment was renamed the Second Cavalry Group, Mechanized. Colonel Charles Hancock Reed became the 31st Colonel of the Regiment. In December the Regiment was again reorganized, its elements being Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, Second Cavalry Group, Mechanized, and the Second (now First Squadron) and 42nd (now Second Squadron) Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadrons, Mechanized.
Elements of the Regiment landed in Normandy in July 1944 and immediately distinguished themselves as part of General Patton 's Third Army. The Regiment performed such daring reconnaissance missions that it became known to the German High Command as the "Ghosts of Patton's Army," seemingly materializing at different points behind the German lines.
On 17 September 1944, German Army Group "G" was preparing to make a major armored effort against the Nancy salient to stabilize the line along the forts of Belfort, Epinal, Nancy, and Metz. Prominent armored units among the enemy Army Group included the 2nd and 11th Panzer Divisions, and elements of the 16th Panzer Division, the 130th Panzer Lehr Division, and the 111th Panzer Brigade. This armored force, though under strength, was still a formidable enemy. Holding the point of the Nancy salient was the Second Cavalry. What the first scouts reported as "six Tiger tanks with infantry support" became a major clash that sent the Regiment reeling. It became apparent that the Regiment was bearing the brunt of the 5th Panzer Army's attack.
As a result of the accurate and timely reporting of the Regiment and the valuable time gained by its vigorous delaying action, the German attack ground to a halt far short of its objective. The key city of Luneville remained secure and under the control of the Second Cavalry Regiment. The Germans suffered irreparable damage in the battle and were unable to mount another offensive until the Ardennes campaign three months later.
While Patton's Third Army was poised to continue offensive operations to the east into Germany, Hitler's war machine had secretly assembled a large force for what would become Germany's last counter-offensive in the West. The Germans massed 25 divisions in a thinly manned, "quiet sector" along the Ardennes region of Belgium and Luxembourg. Before daylight on 16 December 1944, the Germans attacked along a 60-mile front. The American units in this sector were either full of inexperienced soldiers or depleted from earlier combat. All were stretched thin.
The German offensive gained ground quickly and a "bulge" within the American lines formed. This characteristic gave the combat its name, "The Battle of the Bulge". Though cut off and surrounded, many small units continued to fight. These pockets of resistance seriously disrupted the German timetable and bought precious time for the American and British forces to reinforce the area to stop the penetration. Many of these actions were conducted by the Second and 19th Armored Battalions of the Ninth Armored Division, which trace their lineage to the Second Cavalry. The Second Armored Cavalry Regiment (Second Tank Battalion), cited, would earn the Presidential Unit Citation for their heroic efforts in the early part of the battle. The Fourth Infantry Division holding the southern shoulder of the bulge, bent but did not break. This would be key to the successful operations of the Third Army as they moved to relieve the beleaguered forces in the bulge and the surrounded town of Bastogne.
The Third Army was oriented east as they prepared to move north to hit the penetration and drive through to Bastogne to relieve the 101st Airborne Division. After breaking contact with the enemy, the Regiment screened the movement of the Third Army as General Patton made good on his promise to have his army redirected and in the new battle within 48 hours. This rapid shift and change of direction of attack from the east to the north was one of the most noteworthy instances during the war of the successful employment of the principle of maneuver. The Second Cavalry Group moved into positions along the southern shoulder of the Bulge, relieving those elements of the Fourth Infantry Division holding onto this key terrain. Elements of the Third Army drove through the German formations to reach the encircled forces at Bastogne. The 37th Tank Battalion, lead by Lieutenant Colonel Creighton Abrams, officially relieved the 101st on 26 December 1944. Abrams later became the 38th Colonel of the Regiment.
Colonel Reed led the Regiment in the deepest American penetration of the war, all the way into Czechoslovakia. Under Colonel Reed's leadership, the Second Dragoons rescued the world famous Lippizaner stallions in a daring raid through German lines to an area that was to be the Soviet Zone of Occupation. Colonel Reed defied Soviet threats and herded the Lippizaners safely back to Germany. In 1960, Walt Disney Productions released a full-length (though historically flawed) motion picture entitled "The Miracle of the White Stallions" that captured the drama of these events.
As significant as this raid has become to all the horse lovers of the world, the real reason for the raid may have been to capture key intelligence from a senior officer of the German intelligence service. Concurrently, a force from the Second Dragoons moved to a POW camp near by to rescue American and Allied prisoners. Not only was the rescue of the Lippizaners a success, but the Regiment also secured the surrender of the 11th Panzer Division. This ended the wartime relationship between the 11th Panzers and the Second Dragoons and began the peacetime relationship that continues to this day.
On 8 May 1945, Germany surrendered. The Second Cavalry had driven well into Czechoslovakia when orders came to occupy a restraining line. The objective had been the capture of Prague, but for political reasons the Soviets were to capture the city. The Russians also had orders to take Pilsen, which was already in American hands. Even though the Soviets knew the American disposition, they were determined to continue their march on Pilsen. On 11 May 1945, Soviet Major General Fomenich of the 35th Tank Brigade told Colonel Reed to move the Second Cavalry aside -- his forces were moving forward. Colonel Reed, then under orders to hold his present line, told the Soviet commander, "If you go forward, remember, our guns are still loaded." Fomenich gave no response. That night, the Regiment received a message from Corps to begin movement back to the U.S. zone, and the Second Cavalry eventually left Czechoslovakia on 14 May without incident. Colonel Reed exemplified the cavalryman's will and determination in this prelude to the Cold War.
Not only did the Regiment participate in the European Theater, but elements of the Regiment, designated as the 776th Amphibious Tank Battalion, also took part in amphibious operations throughout the Pacific. These elements earned a Philippine Presidential Citation and battle streamers in Leyte and the Ryukyus campaigns for island-hopping and jungle warfare efforts. This unit, an amphibious reconnaissance force equipped with 75mm pack howitzers, mounted on amphibious tracked vehicles (AMTRAC's) often spearheaded the landings of the Seventh Infantry Division. Once ashore, their guns were used for close artillery support to the vanguard elements of the division.
In all, the Regiment earned five brown campaign streamers for actions in Europe and two yellow streamers for battles in the islands of the Pacific. The Presidential Unit Citation for Bastogne is represented by a blue embroidered streamer.
When the war ended, the Second Calvary became part of the Army of Occupation in Europe. In May 1946, the Regiment was redesignated the Second Constabulary Regiment, undergoing special training and reorganization. Their mission was to "win the peace" in Europe and maintain control over the U.S. zone of occupation within Germany. Under a common occupation policy developed principally in conferences at Yalta and Potsdam in 1945, the Allied Powers assumed joint sovereign authority over Germany. American, British, Soviet and French forces occupied separate zones.
The Regiment was still under the command of Colonel Reed and worked for the Third Army under General George S. Patton, who was the Military Governor of Bavaria. The Regiment provided security force and performed police functions as they assisted with the round-up of war criminals and weapons caches. It also maintained order within the displaced persons camps and the area of southern Germany. The Regiment's contribution to winning the peace in Germany was not only significant, but foreshadowed future missions now referred to as "Peace Support Operations."
One of the most interesting changes to the Regiment's Table of Organization and Equipment was the re-introduction of the horse. This modification was due to the fact that even the venerable jeep could not patrol through some of the areas due to the battle damage and rubble. During a review of troops before General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Colonel Reed proudly passed in review with the Regiment handsomely mounted. "Ike" expressed displeasure at the horses, stating that he thought that he had gotten rid of all the horses in the Army. The various commanders, including Colonel Reed, had to report to the general and explain the change to the authorized equipment list of the Constabulary. The mission of the Constabulary remained into the early 1950's, though the name of the Regiment changed to the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment in 1948.
In 1955, the Regiment was ordered back to Fort Meade, Maryland, under a "gyroscope" rotational plan with the 3d Armored Cavalry Regiment. It "gyroscoped" back to Germany in 1958 reestablishing Regiment headquarters in Nuremberg at Merrell Barracks.
The Regiment's mission was to train for war and conduct border surveillance. The 2d ACR conducted gunnery training at Grafenwoehr, maneuver training at the Combat Maneuver Training Center at Hohenfels and participated in numerous REFORGER (Return of Forces to Germany) exercises. It also rehearsed its portion of the NATO war plan on the German countryside. During its tenure in Germany, the 2d ACR saw the pendulum swing both ways for the Army in Europe, from the neglect of the post-Vietnam era to the vast improvements in equipment and facilities in the Eighties. The Regiment stood steadfast on the border.
Families played an important role in Germany. Volunteer and family support groups provided aid and sponsored family activities that permeated through the entire unit. The 2d ACR and its squadrons also held family days and open houses so that both its family members and the German populace could understand the soldiers' jobs and the mission of the Regiment. To assist in this effort, the Regiment published its own newspaper The Dragoon, which circulated from 1976-1991. The Dragoon was printed monthly and served as the Regimental Commander's personal conduit to pass his policies and messages directly to the soldiers.
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