David.Gettman October 16th, 2008
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.
In the frontier posts the soldier found his time occupied by many duties. First of all he must be well drilled, then he must learn to be a good marksman. In the smaller posts guard mounting was the only form of ceremony, and was the main event of the day in the soldier’s life. Those going on guard spent much time getting ready, as they must clean and polish their rifles, brush their clothes, and clean their shoes. In addition to their military duties, the enlisted men often chopped the wood, repaired the buildings, and carried on most of the labor necessary to run the post. In addition to the administrative and fatigue duties, the troops were expected at a moments notice to be able to perform duties in the field. On the frontier the men were escorting, patrolling, scouting, and occasionally engaging in a campaign or expedition against the Indians.
The cavalry was often called upon to do escort duty. It might be an escort for the paymaster who visited the post every two months, or for a military train which brought supplies, or an Inspector General or Commanding General. Other escort duty was for surveyors, stages, and emigrant and freight trains. At many cavalry posts this duty was so common that it became monotonous.
The size of the escort varied from three or four men for a mail carrier to several companies for a large supply train. On the road the escort was scattered along the train to prevent surprise and stampeding the animals. If they were escorting horses, there was a constant struggle to prevent the wily savage from stealing their animals. The hour when most attacks occurred was just before dawn. It was necessary for the commander to be especially alert from this time until the train started on the march. When the Indians tried to stampede the animals, they rushed into camp flapping buffalo robes, dragging hardened hides behind their ponies, and yelling in a most weird fashion. If the herd guard was alert, very little damage was usually done, but sometimes the savages succeeded in driving off all or part of the horses or mules.
In patrolling, the troops marched back and forth along the routes of travel, keeping them open. This work was more interesting to the soldiers, as they were not tied down to a wagon train. Usually the presence of troops along a road prevented Indians from committing hostile acts. This work gave the soldiers more opportunity for fighting Indians, hunting buffaloes, and other adventures. Continue Reading »