5th Cavalry Regiment
On 3 March 1855, the 5th Cavalry Regiment, originally designated as the 2nd Cavalry, was activated in Louisville, Kentucky with troops drawn from Alabama, Maryland, Missouri, Indiana, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Ohio and Virginia. The regiment soon became a crack outfit with some of the best horsemen and soldiers in the mounted service. Each company rode mounts of one color; a colorful sight during regimental dress parades. Company "A" rode grays; Company "B" and "E" rode sorrels; Company "C", "D", "F" and "I" had bays; Company "G" and "H" rode browns and Company "K" rode roans.
Fort Belknap, Texas
On 27 September 1855, after training at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, the regiment, under the command of Colonel Albert Sydney Johnston, received orders to ride southwest to Fort Belknap, Texas. The line of march of the 700 men with 800 horses carried them through the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, through Arkansas and into Indian Territory. The long hard march of the regiment depended on the resources of the surrounding country for meat, flour and forage. On 27 December, the entire regiment arrived at the post during a severe blizzard. The temperature dropped below zero, ice froze six inches thick and horses on the unprotected picket line died from the extreme exposure. Established in 1851, Fort Belknap was one of the largest posts in North Texas prior to the Civil War. It was built to protect early settlers, travelers moving on west and was a stop on famous Butterfield Overland Mail Route. Upon arrival at Fort Belknap, Colonel Johnston received orders to set up Headquarters along with Companies "B", "C", "D", "G", "H" and "I" at Fort Mason, Texas. On 2 January 1856, Johnston's group negotiated the icy waters of Clear Fork, the Pecan, the Colorado and the San Saba Rivers in their journey to Fort Mason. On 14 January, they arrived at their assigned station, which had been abandoned for nearly two years. The troopers were soon put to work repairing old buildings and constructing new ones. By late spring, a new Fort Mason flourished atop Post Hill. On 22 February 1856, Company "C" of the 2nd Cavalry, under the command of Captain James Oaks, engaged the Waco Indians in their first battle just west of Fort Terrett.
General John Bell Hood
In July 1857, LTC Robert E. Lee arrived at Fort Mason to take command of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. In the same month, Lieutenant John Bell Hood led his company of the 2nd Cavalry on a dramatic foray in Texas. Spotting a band of Indian Warriors, Hood moved ahead to parley, stopping nearly 30 yards from five Indians who were holding a white flag of truce. At this point, the Indians dropped their flag of truce and set fire to rubbish, which they had previously collected to provide a smoke screen. Thirty Indians, hiding within 10 paces of the troops, began an attack on their flank with arrows and firearms. The troopers charged and a hand-to-hand battle ensued. Outnumbered two to one, the troopers withdrew, covering their retreat with revolver fire. Wounded in this action, Lieutenant Hood recovered and later, went on to join his old 2nd Cavalry Commander. For the next four years of service in the southwest, the regiment fought some 40 engagements against the Apaches, Bannocks, Cheyennes, Comanches, Kiowas, Utes and other fierce tribes along with the Mexican bandits. The old frontier policy of passive defense against the Indian aggression was quickly abandoned as the regiment rode patrols, pursued and attacked. On 15 February 1858, Major Hardee was instructed to proceed from Fort Belknap with Companies "A", "F", "H" & "K" to Otter Creek, Texas and establish a Supply Station. On 29 February, they came upon a large encampment of Comanche Indians near Wichita Village. On 1 October, the troops made a charge against the Indians and after a two hour hand-to-hand fight; soldiers of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment routed the enemy, and were able to inflict the greatest single defeat against the Comanches.
Fort Mason, Texas
On 13 February 1861, Colonel Robert E. Lee left Fort Mason, the last command that he held under the United States flag to resign his commission and join the confederate Army. With Colonel Lee gone and Major Van Horn committed to the confederate cause, the command of the 2nd Cavalry and Fort Mason went to Captain Richard Johnson. On 29 March 1861, the day set by the Committee of Public Safety (Texas) for Fort Mason to be turned over to the Texas Confederate Authorities, the 2nd Cavalry, with Captain Johnson in command, moved off Post Hill and headed south along the Fredericksburg Road. The Confederates guaranteed safe passage for the regiment on their leaving. Thus ended the most important and most interesting phase of the history of Fort Mason - the era of the 2nd Cavalry Regiment.
Army of the Potomac Scouts/Guides
Arriving at their destination of Carlisle Barracks, Pennsylvania, the 2nd Cavalry Regiment was rebuilt with new officers and recruits and was assigned to the Union "Army of the Potomac" that was organized under General George McClellan. The regiment fought its first battle of the Civil War and its last designated as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment, at the first Battle of Bull Run (1st Manassas) on 21 July 1861. By an act of congress dated 3 August 1861 and a general order dated 10 August 1861, the 2nd U.S. Cavalry Regiment was redesignated as the 5th U.S. Cavalry Regiment. During the Civil War the regiment fought valiant battles at Gaines Mills, Fairfax Courthouse, Falling Waters, Martinsburg, the Wilderness, Shenandoah Valley and numerous others. In the end, superior manpower and supplies of the Union won out. On 27 June 1862, the most memorable feat of the regiment came at Gaines Mill when they charged a Confederate Division commanded by a former comrade in arms, General John Bell Hood. This charge against a numerically superior force, stopped Hood's division and saved the artillery of the Army of the Potomac from capture. On 09 April 1865, troopers of the 5th Cavalry sat astride their horses as an honor guard at Appomattox, Virginia as their former commander, General Lee, surrendered to end the Civil war. In September 1868, the regiment received orders to prepare for duty against hostile Indians in Kansas and Nebraska. In the following years the 5th fought many skirmishes and battles with the Sioux, Cheyenne, Arapaho and Apache Indians. After General Custer and 264 of his men perished at Little Big Horn, troopers of the 5th rode after the Sioux to avenge their deaths. In the next few years the principal engagements in which the regiment took part were with the 2nd and 3rd Cavalry were the prolonged Big Horn and Yellowstone Expeditions.
5th Regiment at Camp Ganado, Arizona
In 1901, the regiment, minus the 2nd Squadron, sailed to the distant Philippine Islands to help put down the bloody insurrection. In 1902, the 2nd Squadron proceeded to the Philippines to join the main body of the regiment. Dismounted, they battled in the jungles of the Pacific to end the Moro Insurrection. In March 1903, back in the United States, troopers of the 5th Regiment found themselves spread throughout Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico and Utah. Some of them fought Navaho Indians in small rebellious battles located in Arizona and Utah. The regiment remained fragmented for 5 years. In January 1909, Headquarters and the 1st and 3rd Squadrons were reassigned to Pacific duty strengthening the U.S. military presence in the new territory of Hawaii. Although there was a small Army population on Oahu, the first deployment of cavalry troops provided the need to start a permanent Army post. By December, Captain Joseph C. Castner had drawn up the plans for the development of today's Schofield Barracks. The 2nd squadron arrived in October 1910, to help in the completion of the construction. In 1913, border threats to the United States brought the regiment back to the deserts of the Southwest, stationed at Fort Apache and Fort Huachuca, Arizona. In 1916, the regiment was dispatched to the Mexican border to serve as part of the Mexican Punitive Expedition. Under "BlackJack" Pershing, the 5th Regiment crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico and was successful in stopping the border raids conducted by bandits of Pancho Villa. The regiment remained with the Punitive Expedition in Mexico, until 5 February 1917. After several relocations, in October, the regiment moved into Fort Bliss, relieving the 8th Cavalry Regiment. In 1918, airplanes and tanks emerged from World War I as the premier weapons of the future. By contrast, the long history of the Cavalry was not yet finished. The cavalry remained the fastest and most effective force for patrolling the remote desert areas of the Southwest and Mexican boarders. Airplanes and mechanized vehicles were not reliable enough or adapted for ranging across the rugged countryside, setting up ambushes, conducting stealthy reconnaissance missions and engaging in fast moving skirmishes with minimal support. In many ways, it was just the beginning of a new era. The cavalry was about to be transformed and revitalized - by the activation of the 1st Cavalry Division. The regiments that were soon to become part of the 1st Cavalry Division were far from idle. Troopers were getting into frequent, small-scaled combats with raiders, smugglers, and Mexican Revolutionaries along the Rio Grande River. In one skirmish in June 1919, four units, the 5th and 7th Cavalry Regiments, the 8th Engineers (Mounted), and 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse) saw action against Pancho Villa's Villistas. On 15 June, Mexican snipers fired across the Rio Grande and killed a trooper of the 82nd who was standing picket duty. In hot pursuit, the troopers and the horse artillery engaged a column of Villistas near Juarez. Following a successful engagement, the cavalry expedition returned to the United States side of the border.
Fort Bliss, Texas
On 13 September 1921, with the initiation of the National Defense Act, the 1st Cavalry Division was formally activated at Fort Bliss, Texas. The first unit of the 1st Cavalry Division, the famous 1st Cavalry Regiment, had been preassigned to the 1st Division on 20 August 1921, nearly a month before the formal divisional activation date. Upon formal activation, the 7th, 8th and 10th Cavalry Regiments were assigned to the new division. Other units initially assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division in 1921 included 82nd Field Artillery Battalion (Horse), the 13th Signal Troop, the 27th Ordnance Company, Division Headquarters and the 1st Cavalry Quartermaster train which later became the 15th Replacement Company. Major Robert L. Howze was assigned as the first division commander. The 5th Cavalry Regiment was assigned on 18 December 1922, relieving the 10th Cavalry Regiment. In 1923, the 1st Cavalry Division assembled to stage its divisional maneuvers since WWI at Camp Marfa, Texas. The 5th Cavalry participated and the line of march was Fabens, Fort Hancock, Finley Sierra Blanca, Hot Wells, Lobo Flats, and Valentine. The wagon trains, all drawn by four mules (no motorized vehicles yet), were endless. Over the next four years, elements of the division were stationed at Camp Marfa, Fort Bliss, and Fort Clark. The early missions of the division were largely a saga of rough riding, patrolling the Mexican border and constant training. Operating from horseback, the cavalry was the only force capable of piercing the harsh terrain of the desert to halt the band of smugglers that operated along the desolate Mexican border. The depression of the 1930's forced thousands of unemployed workers into the streets. From 1933 to 1936, the 3,300 troopers of the 1st Cavalry Division provided training and leadership for 62,500 people of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) in Arizona-New Mexico District. One of these worker's significant accomplishments was the construction of barracks for 20,000 anti-aircraft troops at Fort Bliss, Texas. When World War II broke out, many of those who had been in the CCC were well prepared for the rigors of military training. The entire Army was expanding and acquiring new equipment. Faster and lighter medium tanks were assigned to both, cavalry and infantry units. The mobile 105mm howitzer became the chief artillery piece of the Army Divisions. There was also a new urgency being expressed by Washington. Japan, which invaded Manchuria in 1931, continued to expand conquests into China. Nazi Germany annexed Austria and was threatening to seize Czechoslovakia. In 1938, against the background of international tensions, the 5th Cavalry Regiment joined in with the 1st Cavalry Division at its second divisional maneuvers in the mountains near Balmorhea, Texas. New units, including the 1st Signal Corps, the 27th Ordinance Company, and the 1st Medical Squadron joined the 1st Cavalry Division.
War Declard in Europe
In October 1941, after returning to Fort Bliss from the 3rd Army Louisiana readiness maneuvers, the 5th Cavalry Regiment was trained and ready for action. Isolationist politics was still strong in Congress. Major priorities were placed on building up the industrial capacity to supply equipment to the Allies in Europe. Many officers and men took leave or returned to civilian life. Other, more dedicated members of the 1st Cavalry Division began to prepare for battle. They had no way of knowing that their first combat engagement would not be for more than two and a half years.