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.
Upon arrival of the regiment at the new stations in Louisiana and Arkansas, Colonel Twiggs began a strenuous schedule of training. Captain William J. Hardee, later the famous Confederate lieutenant general, had just returned from a tour of observation of European cavalry, and was made executive officer, supervising the tactical exercises and mounted drill of the regiment. Four companies at Fort Jesup were armed with lances for a short time and became very proficient with this weapon. The other companies were armed with the curved saber, and all companies were also issued the carbine and horse pistols.
After the termination of hostilities in Florida, Congress began the usual retrenchment. Most of our wars have begun with a tremendous burst of patriotism and extravagance on the part of our law making body. Large bodies of untrained citizens are called out, who are of no use as soldiers for many months to come. Having enlisted the men and appropriated the money, the members of national legislature then wonder why the war is not won at once. After war has been won with much unnecessary expense and loss of life, it appears to them there is no further use for soldiers.
Discussions began in Congress at once about abolishing the Second Dragoons now that the Seminoles had been transported to Arkansas. By August, 1842, an act had been passed to retain the regiment in service but to dismount it and convert it into a regiment of riflemen. Under G.O. No. 22, W.D., March 13, 1843, the horses were to be turned over to the First Dragoons, some to be transferred to other posts, and the rest to be sold. The same order specified that the Second Dragoons would now be the Regiment of Riflemen, but would retain the old organization except for farriers and blacksmiths, who would be discharged.
ACT OF CONGRESS CONVERTING SECOND DRAGOONS INTO A REGIMENT OF RIFLEMEN
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled:
That, hereafter, and so soon as the reduction can be effected as herein provided, each company of dragoons shall consist of the commissioned officers as now provided by law, and of four sergeants, four corporals, two buglers, one farrier and blacksmith, and fifty privates, and the SECOND REGIMENT OF DRAGOONS, now in service, shall be converted, after the fourth day of March next, into a regiment of riflemen … and that no recruits shall be enlisted for the dragoons, artillery, or infantry, until the numbers in the several companies shall be reduced by the expiration of the term of service, by discharge, or other causes, below the number herein fixed for the said companies respectively. Provided: That nothing in this section shall be construed to prevent the re-enlistment of non-commissioned officers whose terms of service may expire before the army shall be reduced to the number heretofore established….
Approved August 23, 1842.
In view of the number of uniforms now on hand the organization was allowed to retain the one in use. This uniform was a blue jacket trimmed with yellow lace, a flat forage cap with a wide yellow band, and sky blue trousers with a wide yellow stripe up the outside seam. The dress uniform was a short blue coat trimmed with yellow and a high dress cap surmounted by a long, drooping white horsehair pompon. The dress trousers were the same as for the service uniform. The dragoon officers wore a sash of silk net of an orange color, and the noncommissioned staff and first sergeants one of yellow worsted.
In his report for 1842, the Secretary of War noted that very little money was saved by dismounting the regiment. He called attention to the extended frontier in the west being subject to Indian invasions. He stated many of the plains tribes were mounted and it was necessary to pursue them with a mounted force. One regiment of dragoons was not enough to accomplish this purpose. He recommended that the regiment of riflemen be remounted and continued as the Second Dragoons. Petitions from the legislatures of Missouri and Louisiana were presented to Congress asking that the regiment be mounted. A bill was introduced for this purpose in January, 1843, and in March it became a law.
There was much rejoicing among the officers and enlisted men of the garrisons when it was found that the horses were coming back. A holiday was declared and an extra gill of whiskey issued the men. After a variety of amateur performances upon the occasion at Fort Jesup, it was decided by the officers to fire a salute. They moved in a body to the parade ground where stood the cannon which was daily fired at reveille and retreat. It was now loaded for the evening salute. Two officers mounted the gun in order to ride while it was being fired. In the scuffle for a place on it, one officer was forced almost over the vent hole. When the gun was fired he went several feet in the air and came down with his clothes afire, and had to be rolled over in the grass in order to put out the flames.
Apropos of liquor, it was decided to modify army regulations at this time in order to permit post commanders to sell spirits in sutlers’ stores to those men who could be trusted to use it moderately. It was believed that the open sale of it in small amounts would be more conducive to sobriety than if it were forbidden altogether. After three months the post commanders were to make a report, stating whether drunkenness had been reduced. At Fort Jesup, the Surgeon was very proud of his record. He reported as follows:
Since January 1, 1844, but thirty cases of delirium tremens have occurred in a command of seven companies of dragoons. Some of these were incorrigible drunkards, and a majority of them were but just returned from furlough.