Cavalry School

By Joseph I. Lambert, Major, Second Cavalry
Copyright 1939 Commanding Officer, Second Cavalry, Fort Riley, Kansas
Capper Printing Company, Inc.

blackhorse-dragoonsThe history of the Second Cavalry is closely connected with the post of Fort Riley and consequently with the Cavalry School. Troops B, E, H, and K first passed through there October 1, 1854, en route to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, for station. The next year the headquarters of the regiment was moved there October 16 after the termination of the Sioux Expedition. Troops A, B, C, G, and I had already been transferred to that post in September, and other troops followed in the next two years. From then on, part of the regiment was stationed there at many different times. Before the Spanish-American War Troops A, C, D, F, G, and H were located there as school troops and were considered to be the best-trained squadron in the cavalry. Since the World War, the entire regiment has claimed it as the home station until the present year of 1936.

After the War Department decided to locate a military post at the junction of the Smoky Hill and Republican Rivers, a board of officers, headed by Captain E. A. Ogden, was sent there in the fall of 1852 to locate definitely the site. They were escorted by Company B, First Dragoons, under the command of Captain R. H. Chilton. Having decided upon the present location, the board named it Camp Center, as it was so near the geographical center of the United States.

On May 17, 1853, Captain C. S. Lovell, with Companies B, F, and H, Sixth Infantry, arrived there and established the post. Some buildings of a temporary nature were erected this year. After the death in 1853 of Major General Bennett Riley, it was named Fort Riley in his honor.

Kansas Territory was organized May 30, 1854, and the capitol was located at Pawnee, now a part of the Fort Riley military reservation. This capitol town site was founded by an association which included some army officers, among whom was Major W. R. Montgomery, the commanding officer of the post. When the survey of the reservation was made that year, the proposed capitol site was excepted from the boundaries of the government land. The town was started and the legislature met there July 2, 1855, but later adjourned to Shawnee Mission, near Kansas City. The Secretary of War, Jefferson Davis, extended the boundaries this same year to include the town of Pawnee. The inhabitants were ordered to leave, and when they refused, were driven out by the soldiers, and their houses torn down. Major Montgomery was tried and dismissed from the army, but this was probably done for political reasons rather than for unethical conduct on his part.

An executive order of May 5, 1855, declared the Fort Riley reservation to be established for military purposes. When Kansas was admitted to the Union in 1861, the federal government failed to retain jurisdiction of Fort Riley. The state legislature corrected this error by an act in 1889, but retained for the state the right to serve civil or criminal process. An acre of ground surrounding the old territorial capitol at Pawnee was turned over to the state by an act of Congress in 1908, and the building was repaired by the Kansas State Historical Society.

In July, 1855, permanent construction at Fort Riley was started under the supervision of Major Ogden after an act of Congress appropriated the money. The materials were brought by boat to Fort Leavenworth and from there delivered to Fort Riley by wagon. During this year cholera broke out and Major Ogden and about 100 others died of the disease. When the remaining workmen rioted and demanded their pay so that they could leave, the trouble was ended largely through the efforts of P. P. Lowe, a wagonmaster.

The post of Fort Riley was neglected from the time the permanent buildings were constructed until after the Civil War. During the year 1866 the Union Pacific Railroad was built as far west as the reservation and this made it easier to reach the post with supplies. We find the headquarters and Troops E, F, G, H, I, and L at Fort Riley in 1865 and 1866 previous to the dispersing of the Second Cavalry to the many frontier posts in the Indian country. The Seventh Cavalry was organized here in 1866, with Colonel George A. Custer as second in command. The War Department tried unsuccessfully in 1869 to establish a school for light artillery at the post.

For several years the post was garrisoned by very few troops, partly because the frontier had moved on and the troops were out in the Indian country. When an effort was made in Congress in 1884 to sell the reservation of Fort Riley, General Philip H. Sheridan stated in his annual report that it was his intention to enlarge the post and make it the headquarters of the cavalry. He planned also to use the post as a horse breeding center for the military service.

Through the efforts of General Sheridan and others, Congress passed a law in 1887 providing the sum of $200,000 for construction at Fort Riley in order to provide facilities for a School of Instruction for Cavalry and Light Artillery. The school was established by General Order Number 9, Headquarters of the Army, February 9, 1887. Construction began at once and continued for several years.

Colonel James W. Forsyth, Seventh Cavalry, finally organized the school in 1891 and was the first commandant. Under General Order Number 17, War Department, March 14, 1892, there were two divisions of instruction, one for the cavalry and one for the field artillery. The last half of the school year was devoted to combined work of the two branches. Instruction was not given to individual officers and enlisted men. Rather it was given to organizations which were supposed to be sent to the school in rotation. Colonel Forsyth thought the best plan was to send one or two troops from each regiment to the school for instruction. The purpose of the instruction was to offer facilities to the different regiments for the best information available, mostly in drill and tactics.

To carry out this policy Troops A, C, D, and F, Second Cavalry, were transferred to Fort Riley in 1894, under Major W. A. Rafferty, and Troops G and H were added in 1896. These troops remained here until the coming of the Spanish-American War caused them to be transferred to the South. Major Rafferty’s squadron, consisting of Troops A, C, D, and F, distinguished themselves in Cuba when they operated as the only mounted cavalry in the war.

Although the school was based on lines of practical instruction, some theoretical work was required until General Order Number 102 was issued in the year 1902 establishing post schools for officers. When Colonel C. C. Carr, Fourth Cavalry, became commandant in 1901, he decided to change the policies of the school. The effect of General Order Number 102 and Colonel Carr’s policies changed the whole character of the school. The horse became the raison d’ etre of the institution.

Beginning in the school year 1903-1904, permission was obtained from the War Department to conduct a one-year course for officers of the cavalry and field artillery of less than ten years’ service. The work included what was formerly given in the garrison schools and added special instruction on the horse. Subjects taught included minor tactics, drill regulations, topography, hippology, horseshoeing, equitation, and horse training. During this same school year the School for Farriers and Horseshoers was established under the direction of Captain Walter C. Short. The name of the institution was also changed to School of Application for Cavalry and Field Artillery.

A Training School for Bakers and Cooks was established in 1905 by Captain M. S. Murray. The course lasted four months and the men were rotated so that new ones came each month. This course is still conducted today with very little change.

It was decided, in the school year 1904-1905, to extend the course for officers to three years inasmuch as the troops on duty at the school remained at the post three years before being rotated. In the following school year the recent graduates of the United States Military Academy were sent there for a one year course. The most radical change in 1906-1907 came when the policy was adopted of ordering individual officers to the school for one year. To carry out this policy seventeen selected officers came from cavalry and field artillery regiments and twenty-one officers from the post. This same year a short series of lectures and map maneuvers was introduced. Troops E, F, G, and H arrived at Fort Riley March 7, 1906, to take their turn at the school.

The name was changed to the Mounted Service School during the school year 1907-1908. In the summer of the latter year all of the Second Cavalry attended maneuvers at the post, except Troops A and L, which remained at Fort Des Moines. At this time the horses were placed in five classes for training. The first-year colts were taught the use of the cavesson and longe and to carry the rider quietly while simple turns were made. With the second-year mounts, the work was carried on to completion as officers’ chargers. The jumpers were a class of horses which were ridden for general use and to give the officers practice in riding many different horses. The service mounts were used for equitation and assigned permanently to the students. Polo ponies were used for instruction in this sport.

The school continued to specialize in horsemanship, and other subjects were somewhat excluded. From a mediocre beginning it gradually grew in prestige until by 1913 the effects on the cavalry and field artillery service was distinctly felt. In this year the War Department detailed a class of noncommissioned officers for a course of six months. These students were taught equitation, hippology, and horseshoeing.

As the school was not organized to meet conditions in the World War, it was discontinued except for some of the enlisted men’s courses.

Immediately following the war the Second Cavalry arrived at Fort Riley in 1919, where it has since been stationed. The regiment started at that time to demonstrate principals taught in the school and has continued on that work to the present day.

To designate the change in the school after the war, the name became the Cavalry School. Colonel George H. Cameron was the first commandant, being especially fitted for the job as he had spent many years at the school before the war and was deeply interested in the new policy of a balanced course. He was ably seconded by Colonel Hamilton S. Hawkins. The departments at this time were Tactics, Horsemanship, Weapons, and General Instruction, with the work divided so that the Horsemanship Department got about one-half of the hours devoted to instruction. At this time there were the Basic Course for officers first coming into the service, the Troop Officers’ course for those of several years’ service, the Field Officers’ course, a special advanced equitation class, the class for national guard and reserve officers, and several enlisted men’s courses, and other short courses too numerous to mention.

The Department of Horsemanship conducted work in training remounts and riding jumpers and schooled horses. Other activities in this department were animal management, horseshoeing, pistol and saber, and cavalry drill. The Department of Weapons covered work in musketry, machine guns, field fortifications, rifle marksmanship, and military bridges and pioneer duties. The Department of General Instruction taught the subjects of map reading and aerial photography, military history, riot duty, training management, and the National Defense Act. The Department of Tactics covered lectures, demonstrations, conferences, map problems, map maneuvers, tactical rides, and terrain exercises. Later, the Department of Publications and Correspondence was instituted and handled the preparation and correspondence courses, the editing of all text books, the supervision of the library, the editing of the mailing list, and supervision of the Rasp, a student annual.

Many alterations took place in the following years. Courses were changed or dropped and others added. The Basic Course was discontinued in 1922, but the others have been kept up substantially as they were begun after the war. In 1927 the Departments were redesignated into Training, Employment of Cavalry in Combat, Employment of Cavalry in Security and Information, Other Arms, Cavalry Weapons, Horsemanship, and Publications and Correspondence Courses.

The subjects taught are constantly changing to meet new developments in modern armies. A tendency toward too much specialization as it occurred in the Mounted Service School has been avoided. Today, all important phases of military art which can reasonably be covered in one year are taught. The Departments now are Tactics, Weapons and Material, General Instruction and Publications, and Horsemanship. The need for general knowledge of radio and motor vehicles was recognized and a course in these subjects has been instituted.

The missions of the Cavalry School have been understood as follows: To develop and perfect the tactics and technique of the cavalry arm; to develop and standardize methods for the training of officers; to teach officers the tactics and technique of the cavalry arm and to obtain a working familiarity with those of associate arms; to provide competent leaders and staff officers for all units of the cavalry branch; to provide instructors for the Army of the United States, the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, and the Citizens’ Military Training Camps; to train selected enlisted men for duties as instructors in specialist work in their respective units.

In order to put into practice the teachings of the school, certain regiments and parts of regiments are stationed there. The field artillery is represented by the first battalion of the Eighty-Fourth, and there is a squadron of the air corps and a company of engineers, besides other miscellaneous troops. The cavalry arm was represented by the Second and Thirteenth Cavalry until the latter regiment was transferred to Fort Knox, Kentucky, in 1936, to be mechanized. The Second was then greatly enlarged and took over the demonstrations of both regiments.

To carry on the training of the command and at the same time to fulfill the demands of the Cavalry School, places a heavy burden upon the officers and men. But the tasks are undertaken and executed with pride and enthusiasm by this regiment which has such an enviable history for one hundred years, and has been referred to as “The Second Cavalry, Second to None.”

6 thoughts on “Cavalry School”

  1. My father was in the Second Cavalry. Did the performances and shows. I was born there at Ft.Feily. Very proud of my Daddy. Thanks for your information.

  2. My father was in the Second Cavalry. Did the performances and shows. I was born there at Ft.Feily. Very proud of my Daddy. Thanks for your information.

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