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.
During this same month Company G was defending the Union in the new territory of New Mexico. Under the strange events of war this company was undergoing some unusual experiences. Left practically to shift for itself, it was commanded by four different officers from other branches in five months time. Finally it was assigned to duty with a battery of light artillery October 8, 1861. This battery of six guns, commanded by Captain Alexander McRae, Infantry, was made up of Company G, Second Cavalry, and one company of the Third Cavalry.
Preceding the battle of Val Verde, the force concentrated at Fort Craig, New Mexico, consisted of parts of the Fifth and Seventh Infantry, Company G, Second Cavalry, one company of the Third Cavalry, and two regiments of New Mexican volunteers under Kit Carson. Leaving the post February 21, 1862, under Brigadier General E.R.S. Canby, it marched north along the east bank of the Rio Grande River. At 6:00 a.m. the light battery received orders to move to the front, and going forward at a gallop, it crossed the river and took a position opposite a Rebel battery about four hundred yards distance. Here it remained during the morning, when it dislodged the opposing battery, enabling the infantry to cross to the opposite bank. At noon it crossed to the east bank and for some time fired occasional shots at the enemy cavalry. Later, the battery was advanced to the front and on the left of the line of battle. Soon after arriving here it was found they were within one hundred yards of two enemy batteries which were masked behind a hill. These Texas batteries soon did great damage to them, and followed this cannonade with a charge of their infantry. The New Mexican volunteers fled, leaving a few Union troops to repulse the charge, which was gallantly done. The Texas troops soon charged again, led by General Henry H. Sibley, formerly a captain in the Second Dragoons. There followed a severe hand-to-hand fight resulting in many casualties to both sides. General Canby ordered a withdrawal to the east bank and after a short time the whole command fell back to Fort Craig. The casualties in G Company were nine men killed, eight wounded, and two missing. Colonel Joseph MacBell has this to say of the cavalrymen who were now artillerymen:
“Too much praise cannot be given to the companies of the Second and Third Cavalry, manning the battery, for the part they took in the fight. Failing in no duty, regardless of themselves, and having in view the honest performance of all that was to be done, they bore themselves as men of courage throughout the day.”