Cavalry (United States)

Cavalry (United States)

Infobox Military Unit
unit_name= United States Army: Cavalry

caption=Captain Charles A. May's squadron of the 2d Dragoons slashed through the enemy lines in an attack that climaxed the opening campaigns of the Mexican War. 2,500 American soldiers shattered the Mexican force of 6,000. May's attack order was simple and effective: "Remember your regiment and follow your officers."
dates= November 17, 1775–1951
country= United States
branch= Regular Army
type= Cavalry
role= Cavalry, Reconnaissance, Assault
size= Varied

The Cavalry of the United States Army has its origins and traditions as a horse-mounted cavalry force that existed in various forms, in its horse mounted form, between 1775 and 1943, although the Regular Army did not maintain cavalry between the Revolution and shortly before the Mexican War. The U.S. Cavalry played an important role in extending American governance into western North America.

The 1st Cavalry Division is the only presently existing division of the United States Army that retains the "cavalry" name and the division retains one detachment of ceremonial horse cavalry for morale and ceremonial purposes. The division is otherwise divided into four armored brigades and one air cavalry brigade, both of which contain subordinate units that perform traditional cavalry tasks.

The last horse cavalry charge by a horse Army cavalry unit took place against Japanese forces during the fighting in the Bataan Peninsula, Philippines, in the village of Morong on January 16, 1942, by the 26th Cavalry Regiment of the Philippine Scouts. Shortly thereafter, the besieged combined United States-Philippine forces were forced to slaughter their horses for food and the 26th Regiment fought on foot or in whatever scarce vehicles were available until their surrender. Having said that, the mounted reconnaissance unit of the 10th Mountain Division, which was often referred to within that unit as being cavalry, which it technically was not, is reported to have conducted a mounted charge as late as 1945 in Austria.

Starting before World War II the Army commenced experimenting with mechanization, and had partially mechanized some cavalry regiments, such as the Wyoming National Guard's 115th Cavalry Horse-Mechanized. During World War II, many of the Army's cavalry units were mechanized with tanks and reconnaissance vehicles while other's fought dismounted as infantry. Some units were converted into other types of units entirely, some of which made use of the cavalry's experience with horses. The Mars Men of the China Burma theatre give such an example.

The distinct cavalry branch ceased to exist when it was absorbed into the Armor branch in 1951, during the Korean War. Other regiments of both armored and air cavalry exist in the Army. The patches on 1st Cavalry Division helicopters that served in Vietnam retained the symbol of a horse, symbolizing the mobility that characterized the original horse cavalry. In spite of the formal abolishment of the branch, however, the recognition of it continues on within the Army's armor branch, where some officers choose cavalry branch insignia over the very similar armor branch insignia.

Chief, the cavalry's last horse of the original tactical horses, died in 1968 at the age of 36.

There is still one Army Military Occupational Specialty that is active and has been since the early Cavalry days: 19D Cavalry Scout.


The cavalry is classically employed in Western movies as a force that comes to save the day, typically against hostile Indians. They are often accompanied by a bugle call, and the cry "Charge". [ [ Bugle Calls ] ] The cry "Charge" is today also commonly used at United States sporting events with the same bugle call. It is one of the most instantly recognizable tunes in American culture, film and television, especially 1950s and 1960s Western shows.


The cavalry, much like any other military force, has its own unique traditions and history. Among these traditions include the Order of the Spur commonly called "Spur Ride", cavalry Stetson, Saber Arch, Fiddler's Green poem, the song/rallying cry Garryowen, and the Order of the Yellow Rose. Units in the modern Army with cavalry lineage often unofficially adopt Black Stetson's as unofficial semi dress headgear, recalling the black felt campaign hats of the Frontier Era.

American Revolutionary War

During the American Revolutionary War, certain factors limited creation and deployment of dragoon units in Continental and local militia Patriot forces. General George Washington and his staff had little experience with dragoons and cavalry in warfare and did not understand or appreciate how to use them effectively. American geography was arguably unsuited to mounted warfare, or at least different from the typical European battlefield. Some officers with egalitarian ideals may have been prejudiced by the elite nature of mounted troops, and their cost and maintenance requirements were obstacles given the empty coffers of rebel treasuries. Washington himself, however, provided the impetus to create dragoon units in the Continental army.

The British abandoned Boston in March, 1776, and General Washington, while pursuing them to New York, incorporated some militia cavalry troops from New York and Connecticut into his operations, but used them only as screening forces, where they were useless to deter the crushing defeats on Long Island and the subsequent retreat through New York.

Washington saw the intimidating effect of the small force of British 17th Light Dragoons that panicked his militia infantry at White Plains, and he appreciated the ability of the 5th Regiment of Connecticut Light Horse Militia under Major Elisha Sheldon to gather intelligence during the subsequent retreat of Continental forces into New Jersey. He asked the Continental Congress for a light cavalry force in the Continental army, and in late 1776 Congress authorized Washington to establish a mounted force of 3000 men, although the total number of available troopers probably never exceeded several hundred. In December, 1776, Congress converted Elisha Sheldon's militia regiment into the Regiment of Light Dragoons. In the Spring of 1777, Washington formed four dragoon regiments from existing units and newly recruited horsemen as part of the Continental Line. The 1st Continental Light Dragoon Regiment consisted of the Virginians under Major Theodorick Bland that Virginia transferred to the Continental army at the request of Congress, some of which had earlier been serving near Philadelphia. The 2nd Continental Light Dragoon Regiment, commanded by Col. Elisha Sheldon, consisted mostly of Connecticut men who had joined his cavalry. The 3rd Continental Light Dragoon Regiment formed under the command of Col. George Baylor in Morristown, New Jersey, and consisted mostly of troopers from Virginia and Maryland. The 4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment organized under Col. Stephen Moylan in Philadelphia and Baltimore, and consisted of horsemen from several rebel colonies.

Many problems faced the dragoon regiments, including the inability of recruiting to bring the units to authorized strength, shortage of suitable cavalry weapons and horses and their forage, and lack of uniformity among troopers in dress and discipline. Washington and his staff believed the proper role of dragoons was reconnaissance, not combat, but Congress appointed the Polish revolutionary and professional soldier Count Casimir Pulaski to train them as an offensive strike force during winter quarters of 1777-8 at Trenton. Pulaski's efforts led to friction with the American officers, resulting in his resignation, but Congress authorized Pulaski to form his own independent corps in 1778, following the model of the first partisan corp assembled by the Saxon baron, Major Nicholas Detrich, in 1776. Pulaski's Legion consisted of dragoons, riflemen, grenadiers, and infantry. Another independent corps of dragoons joined Pulaski's in the Continental Line during 1778 when a former captain in Bland's Horse, "Light Horse Harry" Lee, formed Lee's Corps of Partisan Light Dragoons, which specialized in raiding British supply lines. Colonel Charles Armand Tuffin, a French marquis, raised a third corps of infantry in Boston, called the Free and Independent Chasseurs, which later added a troop of dragoons.

In 1779, Washington ordered the 2nd and 4th Dragoons equipped temporarily as infantry, and deployed the 1st and 3rd Dragoon Regiments and Pulaski's corps to the South to join local militia cavalry and to oppose the new British strategy for controlling that area. Battle engagements in South Carolina largely rendered the 1st and 3rd Regiments ineffective during 1780, and the remnants tried to regroup and reconstitute in Virginia and North Carolina. In August, 1780, Tuffin's Legion was with General Gates at the disastrous Battle of Camden.

Washington decided by January, 1781, to fix the many problems of the dragoons by reconfiguring them as Legionary Corps, in which mounted dragoons were mixed with dismounted dragoons armed as infantry, an organization that persisted until war's end.

The most important engagement of the war for American dragoons during the Revolution was the Battle of Cowpens in January, 1781. Southern theater commander General Nathanael Greene reorganized part of Lee's Legion and elements of the shattered 1st and 3rd dragoons in Charlotte and they joined the force commanded by General Daniel Morgan at Cowpens, charged the advancing British lines at a calculated moment, broke their ranks, and secured a crucial victory. Later, the 3rd Legionary Corps participated in Greene's maneuvers across North Carolina and fought Cornwallis's army well at Guilford Courthouse.

American dragoons, both Continental and militia, participated in many battles, large and small, from their inception until the withdrawal of British forces. They engaged in battles as diverse as Saratoga and Yorktown, but despite inspired cavalry officers such as Sheldon, Pulaski, Lee, Armand Tuffin, Col. Francis Marion (The Swamp Fox), Col. William Washington, and others, the dragoons of the Revolution were unable to bring a sudden, terrifying, and decisive violence to the extended battlefield that mounted units of the United States Army (and of the rebel armies of the Confederate States) would later realize. The last Revolutionary dragoons were mustered out by November, 1783, and their formations disbanded.

Early Federal Period and War of 1812

The United States formed its first dragoon unit under the Congressional act of March 5, 1792, as a squadron of four troops commanded by Major Michael Rudolph, later reduced in 1796 to two troops commanded by Major William Winston. In 1798, Congress authorized six new troops which, with the two previously constituted troops, formed a Regiment of Light Dragoons commanded by Lt. Col. Jonathan Watts, but this unit was reduced to two troops in 1800 and disbanded altogether in 1802 during a wave of Jeffersonian optimism and frugality. The Congressional act of April 12, 1808, authorized a Regiment of Light Dragoons consisting of eight troops, commanded by Colonels Wade Hampton and later Leonard Covington and Jacint Laval, and the act of January 11, 1812, authorized another Regiment of Light Dragoons, commanded by Colonel James Burn, respectively known afterwords as the First and Second United States Dragoons. The Congressional act of March 30, 1814, combined these two regiments, which could not meet their authorized strength, into one Regiment of Light Dragoons, which was disbanded by the act of March 3, 1815, and its officers and men retained were folded into the Corps of Artillery by June 15, 1815, when all others were discharged. Elements of these Regiments fought Indian, Canadian, and British forces during the War of 1812, playing crucial roles in the Mississinewa River campaign and battles such as Stony Creek and Lundy's Lane.

Westward expansion and the Indian Wars

Westward expansion and the Indian Wars revived the functional importance of dragoons as an ideal combat force, and the Congressional act of March 2, 1833, constituted the Regiment of Dragoons in March 1833. This unit was renamed the First Regiment of Dragoons when the second regiment was formed in 1836. Known as the Black Hawks, the First Dragoons served in the Black Hawk Wars and the Mexican War, where they helped decide the Battle of Resaca de la Palma. Under the title 1st United States Cavalry it fought in virtually every campaign in the east during the American Civil War. Shortly before the outbreak of the Civil War the U.S. dragoon regiments were re designated as "Cavalry", losing their previous distinctions. The change was an unpopular one and the former dragoons retained their orange braided blue jackets until they wore out and had to be replaced with cavalry yellow.

Recent and Contemporary Development of Dragoons in the U.S. Army

The 1st and 2nd Battalion, 48th Infantry were mechanized infantry units assigned to 3d Armored Division from 1963 to 1992. Along with the 1st Battalion, 33d Armor, they comprised the maneuver elements of the Division's 2d Brigade, stationed Coleman Kaserne, in the city of Gelnhausen, Federal Republic of Germany. The Battalions served as part of NATO forces guarding the Inner-German Border against the Warsaw Pact, and later with the 3rd Armored Division in Desert Storm. The unit crest of the 48th Infantry designated the unit as Dragoons. They are descended from National Guard units which trained for the First World War, and Armored Rifle Battalions which served with the US 7th Armored Division during WWII. The 48th Armored Rifle Battalion, along with 1st Battalion, 40th Armor, in particular fought a tough battle in Vielsalm, Belgium, holding off the German V Panzer Corps for three days at the crossing of the Salm river, during the German Ardennes Offensive (Battle of the Bulge).

The 1st Dragoons was reformed in the Vietnam era as 1st Squadron, 1st U.S. Cavalry, and continues to this day in the Iraqi War as the oldest cavalry unit, as well as the most decorated unit, in the US Army. Today's modern 1-1 Cavalry is a scout/attack unit, equipped with M1A1 Abrams tanks and M3 Bradley CFVs.

Another modern United States Army unit informally known as the 2nd Dragoons is the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (Stryker). This unit was originally organized as the Second Dragoon Regiment in 1836 until it was renamed the Second Cavalry Regiment in 1860, morphing into the 2d Armored Cavalry Regiment in the 1960s. The regiment is currently equipped with the Stryker family of wheeled fighting vehicles.

Cavalry unit distribution

American Revolution Era US Cavalry Regiments

*Philadelphia Light Horse (1774)(mustered into Federal Service} now Troop A, 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment Pennsylvania National Guard
*1st Continental Light Dragoons (See Henry "Light Horse Harry" Lee)
*2nd Continental Light Dragoons aka (Sheldon's Horse-see Lemuel Cook and Elijah Churchill)
*3rd Continental Light Dragoons (See Baylor's Massacre)
*4th Continental Light Dragoons (See William Washington)
*Pulaski's Legion (1778-1780)
*Armand's Legion (1778-1783)
*Lee's Legion aka Lee's Partisan Corps
*Ottendorf's Corps part of which became Von Heer Provost Unit-see under Light Dragoons of the List of Continental Forces in the American Revolutionary War

1832/1833 and subsequent Cavalry Units

The American Civil War

* Cavalry in the American Civil War

The First World War

The 2nd Cavalry Regiment formed a provisional squadron which participated in mounted combat in the Saint Mihiel and Meuse-Argonne operations.

The Second World War

Thirteen mechanized cavalry (regimental) groups deployed to Europe:
*2nd (2nd and 42nd Squadrons)
*3rd (3rd and 43rd Squadrons)
*4th (4th and 24th Squadrons)
*6th (6th and 28th Squadrons)
*11th (36th and 44th Squadrons)
*14th (18th and 32nd Squadrons)
*15th (15th and 17th Squadrons)
*16th (16th and 19th Squadrons)
*101st (101st and 116th Squadrons)
*102nd (38th and 102nd Squadrons)
*106th (106th and 121st Squadrons)
*113th (113th and 125th Squadrons)
*115th (104th and 107th Squadrons)
*117th Squadron (Seventh Army in Southern France)
*91st Squadron (Fifth Army in Italy)
*56th mechanized cavalry troop (U.S.A)
*302nd mechanized cavalry troop (with the 1st Cavalry Division in the Pacific Theatre).

*1st Cavalry Division fought dismounted as infantry
*2nd Cavalry Division
*56th Cavalry Brigade:112th and 124th Cavalry Regiments (Texas National Guard) fought dismounted as infantry
*26th Cavalry Regiment (Philippine Scouts; fought mounted)

The Cold War

The Global War on Terror


Regular Army

*1st Cavalry Division (Active)
*2nd Cavalry Division (Inactive)
*3rd Cavalry Division (Inactive)
*15th Cavalry Division (Inactivated with assets used to form 1st & 2nd Cavalry Divisions)

National Guard

*21st Cavalry Division; New York; New Jersey; Pennsylvania and Rhode Island Army National Guards.
*22nd Cavalry Division; Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia and Wisconsin Army National Guards.
*23rd Cavalry Division; Alabama, Massachusetts, New Mexico, North Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Wisconsin Army National Guards.
*24th Cavalry Division; Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming Army National Guards.

Army Reserve.

*61st Cavalry Division; New York and New Jersey.
*62nd Cavalry Division; Maryland, Virginia, District of Columbia, and Pennsylvania.
*63rd Cavalry Division; Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Colorado.
*64th Cavalry Division; Kentucky, Massachusetts, Vermont, and New Hampshire.
*65th Cavalry Division; Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
*66th Cavalry Division; Nebraska, Missouri, Utah, and North Dakota.


Regular Army

*1st Cavalry Brigade; Currently designated as [ 1st Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division]
*2nd Cavalry Brigade; Currently designated as [ 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division]
*3rd Cavalry Brigade; Currently designated as [ 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division]
*4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division []
* [ 4th Cavalry Brigade (inactive?)] Note: There is no historical link between the 4th Cavalry Brigade and the 4th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division
* [ 5th Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division (inactive)]
* [ 6th Cavalry Brigade (inactive)] Note: There is no historical link between the 6th Cavalry Brigade and the 6th Cavalry Regiment.
* [ 21st Cavalry Brigade {Air Combat Training}]

National Guard

*51st Cavalry Brigade; New York Army National Guard.
*52nd Cavalry Brigade; Pennsylvania Army National Guard.
*53rd Cavalry Brigade; Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin Army National Guards.
*54th Cavalry Brigade; Kentucky and Ohio Army National Guards.
*55th Cavalry Brigade; Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, and Tennessee Army National Guards.
*57th Cavalry Brigade; Iowa and Kansas Army National Guards.
*58th Cavalry Brigade; Idaho and Wyoming Army National Guards.
*59th Cavalry Brigade; Massachusetts and New Jersey Army National Guards.



*1st US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment {Raised Spanish-American War; see Rough Riders}.
* [ 3rd US Volunteer Cavalry Regiment" (South Dakota National Guard-Raised Spanish AMerican War)aka "Grigsby's Cowboys"] .
*Regular Army
*1st Cavalry Regiment "US Regiment of Dragoons" founded 1832. Changed to the 1st Cavalry Regiment in 1861.
*2nd Cavalry Regiment "2nd Regiment of Dragoons" founded 1836. Changed from 2nd Dragoons to the 2nd Cavalry in 1861.
*3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment "Regiment of Mounted Riflemen" founded 1846
*4th Cavarly Regiment Regiment; founded 1855; also see Ranald S. Mackenzie.
*5th Cavalry Regiment formerly 2nd Cavalry Regiment formed 1855. Changed to 5th Cavalry in 1861
*6th Cavalry Regiment Founded 1861
*7th Cavalry Regiment Founded 1866
*8th Cavalry Regiment Founded 1866
*9th Cavalry Regiment Founded 1866-see [ B Troop 9th Cavalry]
*10th Cavalry Regiment see also Buffalo Soldiers. Founded July 28, 1866
*11th Armored Cavalry Regiment Founded February 2, 1901
*12th Cavalry Regiment Founded February 2, 1901
* [ U.S. 13th Cavalry Regiment] -see 2nd Cavalry Division (United States); also Pancho Villa. Founded February 2, 1901. Later changed to the 1st Battalion/13th Armor.
* [ U.S. 14th Cavalry Regiment] -founded February 2, 1901
* [ U.S. 15th Cavalry Regiment] -founded 1901; refounded 1987.
*17th Cavalry Regiment founded 1916.
*24th Cavalry Regiment later changed to 82nd Field Artillery Regiment (United States) of the 1st Cavalry Division
*26th Cavalry Regiment{Last Cavalry Charge of US Army in 1941}
* [ 27th Cavalry Regiment] U.S. 2nd Cavalry Division inactivated 1951-see Buffalo Soldiers
* [ 28th Cavalry Regiment] U.S. 2nd Cavalry Division inactivated 1951-see Buffalo Soldiers
* [ Squadron, 40th Cavalry Regiment (Airborne)] 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 25th Infantry DivisionArmy National Guard

*16th Cavalry Regiment
*1st Squadron, 18th Cavalry Regiment, 40th Infantry Division, CA ARNG []
*31st Cavalry Regiment
*61st Cavalry Regiment
* [1st Squadron, 82nd Cavalry Regiment, 41st Infantry Brigade Combat Team] (IBCT), 40th Infantry Division, OR ARNG
*89th Cavalry Regiment
*1st Squadron, 94th Cavalry Regiment, 1st BCT, 34th Infantry Division, MN ARNG
*1st Squadron, 101st Cavalry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division (Mechanized), NY ARNG
*1st Squadron, 102nd Cavalry Regiment, 50th BCT (RSTA), NJ ARNG
*1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 55th BCT, 28th Infantry Division, PA ARNG
*2nd Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 56th BCT, 28th Infantry Division, PA ARNG
*1st Squadron, 105th Cavalry Regiment, 32nd Brigade Combat Team, WI ARNG
*106th Cavalry Regiment (United States)|2nd Squadron, 106th Cavalry Regiment, 33rd BCT, IL ARNG
*2nd Squadron, 107th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 28th Infantry Division, PA ARNG
*1st Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, 48th IBCT, GA ARNG
*2nd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, 256th BCT, LA ARNG
*3rd Squadron, 108th Cavalry Regiment, 560th BfSB, GA ARNG
*1st Squadron, 113th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd BCT, 34th Infantry Division, IA ARNG
*2nd Squadron, 116th Cavalry Regiment, 116th Cavalry Brigade, ID ARNG
*5th Squadron, 117th Cavalry Regiment, 42nd Infantry Division, NJ ARNG
*1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, TX ARNG
*3rd Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment, 36th Infantry Division, TX ARNG
*1st Squadron, 150th Cavalry Regiment, WV ARNG (1-150th Cav is part of 30th BCT, NC ARNG)
*1st Squadron, 151st Cavalry Regiment, AR ARNG (1-151st Cav is part of 39th Infantry BCT, AR ARNG)
*1st Squadron, 153rd Cavalry Regiment, 53rd Infantry BCT, FL ARNG
*1st Squadron, 158th Cavalry Regiment (RSTA), 58th BCT, 29th Infantry Division, MD ARNG
*1st Squadron, 182nd Cavalry Regiment, MA ARNG, 26 BCT, 29th Infantry Division
*2nd Squadron, 183rd Cavalry Regiment (RSTA), 116th BCT, 29th Infantry Division, VA ARNG
*1st Squadron, 192nd Cavalry Regiment, 92nd BCT, PR ARNG
*1st Squadron, 263rd Cavalry Regiment, 218th Infantry BCT, SC ARNG
*278th Armored Cavalry Regiment, TN ARNG
*1st Squadron, 279th Cavalry Regiment, 45th Infantry BCT, OK ARNG
*1st Squadron, 299th Cavalry Regiment, 29th Infantry BCT, Hawaii ARNG

Army Reserve

*7th Squadron, 6th Cavalry Regiment, 11th Theater Aviation Command

Notable United States Cavalrymen

*Adna Chaffee, Jr.
*Adna R. Chaffee
*Edgar Rice Burroughs
*Forrest Tucker
*Francis Marion
*George Armstrong Custer
*George S. Patton
*Hal Moore
*Harry A. "Paddy" Flint
*Henry Lee III
*J.E.B. Stuart
*John Hunt Morgan
*John J. Pershing
*John P. Lucas
*Lucian Truscott
*Luke Short
*Nathan Bedford Forrest
*Phillip Sheridan
*Robert E. Lee
*Ronald Reagan
*Samuel P. Carter
*Stephen W. Kearny
*Theodore Roosevelt
*Thomas Custer
*Wesley Merritt
*Wild Bill Hickok
*William Cody

ee also

*Buffalo Soldier African American cavalrymen


* [ 5th and 2/12th US Cavalry, Vietnam]

External links

* [ Horse Detachment, 1st Cavalry Division]
* [ Society of the Military Horse]
* [] 5th and 2/12th US Cavalry, Vietnam
* []

Recommended reading

*cite book|title=History of the United States Cavalry: From the Formation of the Federal Government to the 1st of June 1863, ...|first=Albert G.|last=Brackett|date=1865 reprinted 1968|pages=337|publisher=Greenwood|location=New York City
*cite book|title=Record of service of Connecticut men in the I. War of the Revolution, II. War of 1812, III. Mexican War|first=|last=Connecticut Adjutant General's Office|date=1889|pages=959|publisher= Case, Lockwood & Brainard|location= Hartford, Connecticut
*cite book|title=Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army, From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to March 2, 1903|first=Francis Bernard|last=Heitman|date=1903 reprinted 1968|location=Baltimore|publisher=Genealogical Publishing Co.|pages=890|volume=I

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