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 now went into winter quarters at Mitchell’s Station a few miles south of Culpeper Court House. During the remainder of the winter it was on provost duty and guarding the fords of the Rapidan River. Large log huts were built for the men and officers of the regiment around a rectangle. On one side were the officers’ quarters and on the other, and along the short sides, were the barracks for the men, and the store houses. In these buildings, constructed by the troops themselves, the Second was quite comfortable until the next campaign started in May, 1864.
The cavalry was now armed with the saber, Colt’s revolver, and Sharp’s carbine, which was a breech-loading weapon with paper cartridge and cap or primer. The regiments were drilled in double rank in accordance with the regulations of 1841, which were largely taken from the French. Following the lead of the Southern cavalry, the men were taught not only to fight mounted, but also to fight dismounted. In doing this numbers 1, 2, and 3 of both front and rear ranks dismounted. Numbers 1 and 2 then linked their horses, while number 3 turned his reins over to number 4, who remained mounted. While the horses moved off to cover led by number 4, the other three men of each four formed line with the rest of the company and were then deployed in extended order at an interval of about one yard.
General Grant was placed in command of the armies of the United States on March 12, 1864, and he left General Meade in command of the Army of the Potomac. General Pleasanton was relieved from command of the cavalry corps because of some differences with General Meade. He was replaced by General Philip H. Sheridan, who Grant brought with him from the West. The First Cavalry Division was now commanded by General Torbert, who soon became ill and was replaced by General Merritt again from the Reserve Brigade of which the Second Cavalry was a part.
Sheridan noticed that the horses of the cavalry were in a run-down condition because they were used on constant picket duty on a line of about sixty miles. He recommended to Meade that his corps be relieved from this duty and concentrated in order to destroy the enemy cavalry. Meade did not see how the front and flanks of the army could be protected under these conditions but he relieved most of the horsemen from picket duty.