ONE HUNDRED YEARS WITH THE SECOND CAVALRY
By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.
The regiment, less the first squadron and E Troop, left Genicart, near Bordeaux, in southern France, by train on April 11, 1918, for Gondrecourt. While en route for this place, Troops F, G, H, I, K, and L were detached, leaving only Headquarters, Supply, Machine Gun, and M Troops to arrive at that place. All except Troop M remained here in the Toul Sector from April 14-24. On the 23rd Troop M was sent to the south of France to secure horses. The Headquarters, Supply, and Machine Gun Troops entrained the next day for Valdahon, where they arrived on the 25th and were utilized to manage a remount depot. This camp, situated about twenty miles from the Swiss border, was also an artillery range.
Troops F and G arrived at Baccarat in the Toul Sector April 14. They were attached to the Forty-Second Division as a reserve with orders to be ready to go into the trenches when called for. While in this sector, they were billeted in the town of Badmenil. After remaining here until May 7, they joined the regiment at Valdahon.
Upon leaving Camp Genicart, Troops H and I were sent to Souilly in the Toul Sector, where they arrived April 14 and were attached as divisional cavalry of the Second Division. Horses were obtained on the 18th and mounted training started at once. Troop H left to rejoin the regiment at Valdahon on May 6, and Troop I left May 1 for Selles sur Cher where it remained on remount duty until July 29, when it was again ordered to the front.
After the regiment left Bordeaux April 11, it traveled together to La-Sur-Tille, where the train divided, Troops K and L, under Major Charles B. Amory, going to Toul, as they were to be attached to the Twenty-Sixth Division. The two troops proceeded from there on a narrow gauge railway to Menil la Tour, which was the advance base of the Twenty-Sixth Division. At Tours the men witnessed the shooting down of German airplanes and at Menil la Tour the artillery at the front could be plainly heard. They were loaded in trucks at this place and proceeded along a camouflaged road for eight miles to the village of Jouy sous les Cotes, where they reported to the Fifty-Second Brigade, Twenty-Sixth Division. As the men had neither gas masks nor steel helmets, these were issued at once, since the area was under sporadic artillery fire. It was decided to train the men of the two troops as bombers, since no horses as yet had been obtained. The training in throwing the grenades took place in a field which was concealed from the Germans by a wood. When the enemy airplanes were attracted to this vicinity by the activity, the men ceased training and fled among the trees. After two weeks of intensive training, the two troops were ready to enter the trenches and were told to await instructions.
Everyone was disappointed to receive orders April 29 placing the two troops on remount duty. Troop K left the next day for La Celle Bruere, Captain Victor M. Whitside in command, where they found a remount station overcrowded with horses in poor condition. After about two months of hard work, the depot was made into a clean, attractive place with well-conditioned horses being sent to the front and others being received. One detachment from the troop was sent to Valdahon with 248 horses in May, and they remained there at the headquarters of the regiment for two months. Troop L left Jouy sous les Cotes on the same day as Troop K but with the destination of Bellac, Captain Vernon L. Padgett commanding. The troop headquarters and twenty-two men entrained at Bellac for Valdahon May 14, and other detachments which had been sent out to gather horses joined it here later in the month. The portion of the organization at Bellac under Lieutenant Thomas Brady rejoined the troop on July 17. Troop L left Valdahon, the headquarters of the regiment, on August 2 and moved to Bourges for duty at the remount station. The troop remained here until September 13, when it transferred to Gievres for similar duty. Troop K, in the meantime, remained at La Celle Bruere until November 2, when it entrained and joined Troop L at Gievres on the 4th. At the time of the Armistice the two troops were under orders to join the Second Army Corps near Metz.
Troop M returned with horses from southern France in May and was stationed at Valdahon with the headquarters of the regiment. On July 12 the troop was transferred to Neufchateau and continued on remount duty with the Fourth Army Corps. It was transferred to Pagny sur Meuse August 1, where training continued until the 30th of the month in preparation for the St. Mihiel offensive. On the latter date it moved to Toul, still under the Fourth Army Corps, where it was assembled in the Jeanne d’ Arc Barracks along with Troops B, D, F, and H until September 10. At this place Troop M received horses and engaged in a short period of mounted training. During the St. Mihiel drive, September 12-16, the troop guarded German prisoners and evacuated wounded horses from the front. It moved to Sanzey, near Toul, on September 19 and continued the work of evacuating wounded horses, but at the same time carried out mounted training, until the Armistice.
The Headquarters, Supply, Machine Gun, and H Troops remained at Valdahon on remount duty until August 7, when all except the Machine Gun Troop left for Gievres, the large supply base. Assembled at this camp for a few weeks were also Troops B, D, F, and H, all of which were engaged in constructing a large remount depot. The Machine Gun Troop joined the others at this place September 29 and remained there until the Armistice. Headquarters Troop also remained at Gievres doing remount work until the end of the war.
The first squadron, Troops A, B, C, and D, arrived at Traveray in the St. Mihiel sector on April 15. Troops A, B, and C remained there until April 25, when they entrained for La Courtine, where they ran a large remount depot. Troop D left for Angers on the 24th, where it remained a few days then proceeded to La Courtine to join the rest of the squadron. At this place the duty consisted of constructing stables, caring for wounded and sick horses, and clearing them for the front lines.
Troops A and C left La Courtine July 17 by rail for duty with the First Army Corps at La Ferte sous Jouarre and made camp at Marcie Farm not far from Chateau Thierry. The work consisted in escorting prisoners of war and conducting reconnaissance patrols. When time permitted, they practiced a great deal with the saber. This work was kept up, with also a great deal of military police duty, when the two troops moved to Bezu des Freres in another part of the same sector on July 29. While on military police patrols toward the front, the first casualties occurred August 1. Captain Frank P. Stretton, commanding Troop A, and Captain George W. Gay, commanding Troop C, were both severely wounded by enemy artillery fire. The former never again joined Troop A, but Captain Gay joined Troop C in the Argonne Forest November 7. After the loss of the officers, the two troops were commanded temporarily by First Lieutenant Benjamin Lufkin, an officer of Troop C. Following the advance in the Ourcq River, the two troops continued the same work in the vicinity of Fere-en-Tardenois until August 13, when they returned to Marcie Farm.
Troop A left that place August 25 and marched to Liverdun, where it performed traffic control duty with the First Army Corps from September 1 to 10. Captain Frank Nelson assumed command of the troop September 5 and remained with it until the end of the war. During the St. Mihiel offensive September 12-16, the troop was at Saizerais, where it established a prisoner of war cage. After this service, it marched to the Argonne, where it arrived at Vraincourt September 30. During the month of October it was divided into fourteen detachments operating within a radius of five miles from this town performing traffic control duties and escorting prisoners of war. The detachment at Varennen also guarded an ammunition dump. On November 1 the troop arrived at La Four de Paris, where it performed traffic control and conducted a straggler line. It marched to Chatel Chehery on November 3 in four detachments which combed the country in search of stragglers. The next day it marched twenty-five miles to Harricourt, being annoyed much of the day by enemy planes which dropped bombs and fired machine guns at the column. Here the troops regulated traffic and conducted a straggler line until the Armistice.
Troop C was also attached to the First Army Corps from July 17 to November 11. Leaving Marcie Farm August 20, the troop moved by rail to Vignory and encamped near this place at Grammit le Pere until the 25th. An overland march was made from here to Liverdun, where it arrived August 30. Captain Vernon L. Padgett joined the troop September 5 and commanded it until the Armistice. From September 1 to 16 the troop was taking part in preparations for and later the execution of the St. Mihiel offensive. The men were on duty as military police along the roads leading to the front lines.
Immediately after this battle, Troop C started to the Argonne September 17 to take part in a greater engagement than the one just completed. It arrived at Les Islettes on the 24th and was placed on duty as military police maintaining a straggler line from Le Laon to the front. The men on this duty were undergoing almost the same privations and dangers as the men in the trenches, but it was hard to convince them that this work, in the whole scheme of the battle, was just as important as the actual fighting. The troop continued at this place until October 19, when it marched to Charlepaux and continued the work as military police. Private Allen T. Westcott became separated from the troop on the night of October 21 and attached himself to an infantry company. He was later decorated with the Distinguished Service Cross for extraordinary heroism at this time.