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 Stivers print, “Never a Complaint.”
On 14 June 1858, Harney was promoted to Brigadier General and Philip St. George Cooke was appointed the 3rd 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 naivete 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.