THE CIVIL WAR 1861-1865

By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

CWAt the beginning of the unfortunate conflict of the Civil War, our cavalry was scattered over the vast new territory in the west just acquired from Mexico and Britain. Some of it was in the great plains west of the Missouri River protecting the ever westward moving frontier settlements against Indian depredations. We have seen how the Second Dragoons was located in several different states of the frontier at this time. Like most of the regular army, this regiment began concentrating in the east. However, by the time Bull Run was fought, only one of the companies, K, had arrived at Washington. It left Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, July 2, 1861, and went to Arlington Heights, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from the capitol.

When the Army of the Potomac under McDowell moved south from Arlington to meet the Rebels, it contained only seven companies of cavalry, under Major Palmer. These were Company K, Second Dragoons, and two companies each of the First, Second and Fourth Cavalry regiments. Captain Francis C. Armstrong commanded Company K at Bull Run, but he resigned soon after the battle and later became a brigadier general in the Confederate Army.

2 Replies to “THE CIVIL WAR 1861-1865”

  1. Gentlemen:

    I’m searching for history of Lt. Charles H. Tompkins’ Company B, Second US Cavalry. They raided Fairfax Court House, VA on June 1, 1861. Also on June 8, 1861 to rescue two prisoners. This must be a different 2nd US Cavalry as your site says that Co. K was the first to arrive at Washington, and that they arrived on July 2, 1861. Can you give me any guidance on this? I’ve been all over the web looking for something on Co. B, 2nd US Cav. The raid on Fairfax is in the OR, Series I, Vol. 2, p 59-64

    Many thanks,



    1. Hello Ed,
      Thanks for your inquiry. I’ll try not to lose you during my explanation because it may be a little hard to follow.

      In the spring of 1861 there were several mounted regiments in the US Army: 1st Regiment of Dragoons (1833), 2d Regiment of Dragoons (1836), Regiment of Mounted Riflemen (1846), 1st US Cavalry (1855), and 2d US Cavalry (1855). At this time it was decided to designate all mounted units in the US Army as Cavalry. 1st Dragoons (1833) became 1st Cavalry, 2d Dragoons (1836) became 2d Cavalry, Mounted Riflemen (1846) became 3rd Cavalry, 1st US Cavalry (1855) became 4th Cavalry, and 2d US Cavalry (1855) became 5th Cavalry. 2d Regiment of Dragoons (1836) remain active today as the 2d Stryker Cavalry Regiment, currently deployed to Afghanistan, and are the oldest continuously serving regiment in the US Army.

      Though there were three Tompkins that served in the officer corps of the 2d Cavalry (Dragoons), none were during the Civil War period and none were named Charles. I also could not find the Fairfax Court House raid on the list of battles and engagements for the 2d Dragoons. Must have been the ‘other’ 2d Cavalry (1855). Hope this helps.

      Dave Gettman
      2d Cavalry Association


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