The Second Cavalry at St. Mihiel

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

WWIVictoryBy Captain Ernest N. Harmon

The strength of the squadron at this time, September 8th, 1918, was fourteen officers and four hundred and four enlisted men. The squadron had no staff or demolition outfit; it was simply four line troops under the command of the senior Captain who had only one and a half years of commissioned service. On September 8th Lieutenant Colonel O. P. M. Hazzard took over command. On September 9th orders came detaching Troop “B” from the squadron and ordering the troop to proceed to Menil-la-Tour for courier and liaison duty with the 1st, 42nd, and 89th Divisions. The troop arrived at Menil-la-Tour on the 10th. From this point detachments were sent to the headquarters of the 1st, 42nd and 89th Divisions under the command of N.C.O.’s. These detachments performed hard and perilous duty on the roads, keeping traffic open and carrying messages under harassing shell fire from the enemy. On the 13th the headquarters of the troop was established at St. Benoit. This position which was in advance of the 42nd Division Artillery position was heavily shelled during the night. On the 14th the troop headquarters moved to Pannes.

Pannes had been a German supply base and large quantities of stores were taken by the troop, including an abundance of potatoes, cornmeal, and some American made Ivory soap and evaporated milk.

On the 15th the troop sent out the usual patrols and detachments. The troop continued on this work until the 19th when it received orders to march to Rarecourt-en-Argonne.

On September 9th orders also came for the remainder of the squadron to proceed by night marching to a certain wood called Rangeval Forest, about ten kilometers behind the front line trenches. The distance to be covered was about thirty kilometers. The night was dark, the roads were full of traffic and no one was familiar with the roads.

The first march we made toward the front on the evening of September 9th taught us many lessons and many new ideas as to march discipline at night when hostile aeroplanes are hovering about. The formation taken was a column of troops on either side of the road with a distance of fifty yards between platoons. This formation naturally caused the command to be strung out greatly with the result that upon our first halt, by the time order to halt had reached the rear of the column the head was ready to resume the march. This of course had to be corrected by better liaison from front to rear. The night was pitch dark and no noises or whistles were allowed. These precautions were unnecessary at that distance from the lines, but we were to approach closer and it was necessary to start early and impress the men. No smoking was allowed as the spark from a cigarette has often revealed to a low flying plane the whereabouts of a body of troops on the road causing them to be bombed or machine gunned. The roads were choked with traffic and it was necessary to get the horses well off the roads during the halts. Marching at night, while apparently not fatiguing to the horses, was greatly fatiguing to the men and constant watch had to be kept by all N.C.O.’s and officers to prevent slouching in the saddle and straggling. On the way from Toul to a position in rear of the lines there were many interesting and startling sights and sounds. We passed beside narrow gauge railroad trains hauling ammunition and men. Every now and then the sky in our direct front was illuminated by star shells and a constant shower of very light signals seemed to be in the air all the time. Twice we heard the sinister interrupted hum of “Boche” planes, and it was not necessary to caution silence and all lights out. It began to rain in torrents about 2 a.m. We reached our camp, a grove of trees about one and a half miles behind the front line at 4 a.m. Between flashes of lightning we strung lariat lines from tree to tree and tied our horses, removing the equipment in the blank darkness and piling it on the ground in rear of the horses. Everyone was weary and miserably wet and cold yet all dropped down in the rain and slept. Our wagons and kitchens lost the way but finally reached our camp about 8 a.m. when breakfast was soon after served. Everyone had to remain under cover of the wood and the smoke from our kitchens was well screened from aerial observation. Our horses lost many shoes extra fitted were carried and the blacksmiths were kept busy getting the animals in shape for the coming “D” day. “D” was the code letter of the day of the attack, and “H” was the hour of commencement of the attack.

Lieutenant Colonel Hazzard called Captain Harmon, commander of F Troop, and Lambert, commander of H Troop, and explained to them that the squadron was to be at a certain point, the coordinates of which were given on the map, at 12:50 p.m., September 11th. They were directed to proceed to this point by daylight and carefully reconnoiter the ground so that they could lead the squadron to the point in the darkness. The spot designated was some four kilometers distant. The point was over a thousand yards behind the front line trenches and about five hundred yards west of Beaumont. There was an open field located here covered with telephone lines, barbed wire, and intersected by numerous ditches. The importance of locating the place exactly was understood, as the woods were full of troops ready for the attack on the St. Mihiel Salient and each organization had its own parking space. After satisfying themselves that they knew the road and the designated point, the Captains returned and made their report to the Squadron Commander. The night of the eleventh and twelfth was dark and rainy, much to our advantage. “D” day was September 12th and “H” hour was 1 a.m. Our squadron started from its hiding place to march to its appointed place about 8 p.m. with a distance of only three miles to go at the most. Our wagon train had its instructions to meet us the next day at a designated place. All sick or lame horses, and also men, were left with the wagon train. Each trooper carried two days reserve rations for himself and two feeds of grain for his horse.

The roads were narrow and muddy. The night was inky black, and rain began to fall at 10 p.m. The traffic was terrible. The roads were seething with humanity, material, and horses; infantry, artillery, ammunition, wagons, trucks, and military equipage of all sorts seemed to move from their hiding places along the roads and move up the road. Trucks got stuck in the mud. Horses reared and plunged, and all was dark and the air was full of confusion. The squadron went forward in column of troopers with a distance of fifty yards between platoons. There were many cross roads and to avoid the danger of becoming lost, this distance was reduced. At times it was impossible to move forward. The road ran through swamps and it was impossible to skirt around a jam. Captain Harmon, who had reconnoitered the afternoon before, led the column. It was a most fatiguing march. Our column would creep forward a little way and then stop while traffic was cleared ahead. The road was used as a two way road and the congestion was frightful. If the “Boche” only knew how this road was choked and dropped a few shells, he would have taken an awful toll of lives and spread great confusion. Although two troops lost liaison all troops finally reached their appointed place, the last platoon arriving at 12:55. The squadron was formed in platoon mass with about a hundred yards between troops and seventy-five yards in depth between platoons in the troops.

The bombardment was to begin at 1:00 a.m. and all men stood by their horses’ heads ready to control them in case of fright. Guns were placed all around us, we could here the clang of the breech locks as they were being loaded at 12:55. It was plain we were in our proper place and that there was one, and one spot only reserved for us. At 12:58 a.m. two signal guns were fired. The rain fell gently, the night was so dark that you could not see the horses from one platoon to another. At exactly 1:00 a.m. all guns opened up. It seemed as if Hell had broken loose. The sky became light as day from the discharges. The horses didn’t seem to mind after the first few minutes of the discharge, even though some of the guns were as near as two hundred yards from our position. The bombardment was to continue until 5:00 a.m. when a rolling barrage was to be laid down and the infantry were to go over the top. The horses were ordered unsaddled and the equipment was placed in front of them. The men tied the reins to their legs, laid down, and in spite of the frightful din and bombardment nearly everyone dropped into a heavy sleep, so exhausted were the men from marching and the confusion.

At 5 a.m. a drum-fire barrage was thrown in front of our advancing infantry. So many guns were in action that one could scarcely distinguish between reports. The large guns increased their range and began firing on the cross-roads in rear of the German lines, doing great execution among the retreating German forces as we found the next day.

We watered our horses in mud holes nearby, saddled and made ready for instant duty. About 11:30 a.m. we received orders to move up to Seicheprey. This was a town situated on the front line trenches which had long since been battered to ruins. We passed through batteries of 155’s and heavier pieces. The horses didn’t seem to mind the discharges. On our way we passed along files of German prisoners freshly captured and lines of ambulances filled with wounded. We crossed the ruins of the trenches with great difficulty. At 2:15 p.m. we received orders to proceed to Nonsard. This town was situated some nine kilometers behind the original front lines and had been reached by our infantry at noon. The infantry had established outposts and rested at this point. The road was choked with artillery and ambulances and we were forced to pick our way through barb wire entanglements and trenches. Our tanks had plowed their way through the wire in many places which helped greatly our advance. For the first time we saw the effects of war. Dead men, both American and German, were lying all around and many silent groups told of a bitter struggle. Our mission was to proceed and reconnoiter towards Vigneulles, a town some four kilometers north of Nonsard and to intercept the railroad line and communication between Heudicourt and Vigneulles.

Again our unpreparedness was painfully evident, should we succeed in making a dash across to the railroad line we had no demolition outfit for blowing it up. We possessed a few hand grenades only. A thick wood lay between Nonsard and Vigneulles with the main road running through it, crossed, at right angles, by several wood and military roads.

The Captain of Troop F, Captain Harmon, was ordered to form the advance guard, to march on Vigneulles, with this troop. Specific instructions were given to march rapidly and have a covering detachment on the left flank. The Captain wanted to cover both flanks but was refused, the reason being given that our infantry would advance soon and it would be unnecessary. The point consisted of a sergeant and four men. At a distance of seventy-five yards came the advance party of about twenty men in column of troopers on each side of the road. The remainder of the troop was stretched out over the road in groups of about eight men, each group under an N.C.O. The rear platoon was led by Lieut. Dockler. There were about one hundred yards between groups. Two flank patrols were sent out under command of sergeants, covering about two hundred and fifty yards to the left flank as the country was densely wooded. The formation on the road of isolated groups was made to minimize the danger of losses by machine gun or artillery fire. Captain Harmon rode between the point and the advance party. Each group leader was given all the information possible about the direction of march and our mission.

The point encountered a German immediately upon entering the wood. He was dismounted and upon discovery of our men started to run. One private tried to shoot him with his automatic but after two unsuccessful shots slid off his horse and kneeling on the ground took careful aim with his rifle and fired, hitting his man between the shoulders, killing him instantly. The woods were full of German horses, stables, piles of hay and everything to indicate the presence of a supply base. Our first prisoner was captured by Captain Harmon in the following manner. The Captain, riding between the point and advance party, accompanied by his trumpeter, turned off the main road and started down a small wood road leading off to the left. About three hundred yards down this road could be seen one of the flanking parties halted in the road. As the Captain rode down to find the reason for the halt, a German mounted, rode out from the thick brush on the side of the road and stood in the middle of it. The incident was a complete surprise to both parties. The Captain had his pistol at raise pistol and immediately fired point blank at the German. Although the distance between the two enemies was barely twenty-five yards, yet the shot was a total miss due to the excitement of the moment. Before a second shot could be fired the German slid from his horse, held up his hands and was taken prisoner. His horse, being a very good mount, was taken over in the troop.

Believing that a short cut to the railroad might be found by following this road, the Captain reconnoitered some distance, finding horses hitched to wagons of supplies and everything indicating a most hurried departure, or the enemy still to be in the immediate vicinity. Hurrying back to the main road, the Captain found the whole formation at a halt on the road. Upon inquiry the sergeant in command of the point informed him that word had come up from the rear from Lieut. Colonel Hazzard, in command, to halt until further orders. This situation was embarrassing at this particular moment as there had been no enemy in sufficient numbers to warrant any halt and it was getting late and much had to be accomplished. Colonel Hazzard had not ordered a halt but some soldier had passed up the word on his own account. The Captain sent his orderly to the rear at a gallop to get further instructions. At this moment Troop H, the second troop in column in the squadron, broke out of the woods from the left and swung into the main road between the advance party and the support of the troop acting as the advance guard. This troop had covered the left flank of the column and was forced in toward the column by the nature of the terrain. Both Captains agreed that it was a very bad mix-up, especially under the confused order to halt from the rear. The road at this point was up grade and the crest was some seventy-five feet ahead.

The two Captains rode to the crest and looked down the opposite slope. In the hollow beyond the crest a military road crossed the main road at right angles and across the main road, moving on this military road, was a continuous stream of German troops, artillery, wagon trains and mounted men. The first thought that entered the minds of both Captains was to bring up the two auto rifles in the possession of the troops and turn them loose on the column of troops crossing the road. The rifles were put in position on the crest of the road and the troops in the road were led off the road to the right with the idea of cutting in on the column above the cross road by a pistol attack. The head of the column started to move off the road as the auto rifles opened up. The road below was instantly cleared of German soldiers, although some casualties were inflicted as was discovered the next morning in passing this particular point. The Germans held up their progress across the road and troops could be seen deployed from their column on both the right and left of the road. At this moment our men were fired on from the front, right and left by rifles and machine guns. Three horses went down with their riders. It was impossible to see the enemy due to the thick bushes and trees. Captain Harmon, remembering the cross road about two hundred yards in rear, and believing the best way to meet to meet this enveloping attack was to dismount and form a line until reenforcements could support the troops, gave the command for fours “rightabout” “trot” and signaled to turn off the main road into the cross road. The men and horses were behaving very well, and falling back to the cross roads was being made in excellent order, when a machine gun nest on the right, our unprotected flank, opened up on the center of our column. The men opened up with pistols and confusion reigned. Our untrained horses bolted and the horses in the rear started to gallop and soon the entire column took it up. A machine gun nest on the left, which evidently had laid low and let us pass, now began to fire on the column. Both of these machine gun nests were put out of commission by the pistol fire of the men as they passed. The gun crews of both guns were found dead by infantry scouts about an hour later. The German aim was very poor, most of the shots going low, hitting the horses in the legs. Captain Harmon succeeded in rallying the men, and under cover of the woods, got them into formation. At this point Sergeant Carson, Troop F, of the flank patrol arrived with nine prisoners having reconnoitered to Heudicourt and found the town full of German troops. His prisoners were loitering on the edge of town and were captured.

It was now nearly dark. A consultation was held, and Colonel Hazzard decided not to attack dismounted as the First Division was to renew the attack at 7 p.m. We fell back to Nonsard and made camp just outside the town. The First Division captured five hundred prisoners in that stretch of woods and had some harsh skirmishing in reaching Vigneulles. Our losses included one man killed, one man missing, afterward found to have been captured when his horse had been shot from under him. Three men were wounded and two horses were killed and five wounded. A total of ten prisoners were captured and six German machine gunners were killed by our fire as we fell back. No protection was given to our right flank, and worst of all, there was confusion of orders at a very critical moment. As it turned out the woods were very strongly held in order to cover the railhead above, and it is doubtful if our small force had the slightest chance of success.

Here was demonstrated the lack of liaison and discipline in the men, for under the severe test of a surprise fire a few bolted and the rest followed or were unable to control their untrained mounts. To the credit of the men and officers a great effort was made to prevent a riot, and the fire on the machine gun nests was effective and saved the entire column. It was found that from the position of one of the machine gun nests in a ditch, the proper elevation could not be given to the piece, thus saving us many casualties. The officers felt badly about the incident. It was our first taste of fire and we were practically surrounded on three sides for the time. Everyone agreed that Captain Harmon did the only thing possible to save the command under the circumstances and all regretted that the column could not have turned down the side road, and thus been out of the fire on the main road and under a brief shelter, could have formed a plan of defense. The officers were at the head of the column and when the order to the rear was given, were at the rear of the column and nearest the enemy and the column, unled, simply dashed by the cross road.

The horses had one feed of grain left and were grazed as much as possible. The men still had reserve rations left. Shelter tents were pitched and the squadron camped about three hundred yards south of Nonsard for the night. It was well the camp was made away from the town as the town was shelled during the night, but we received no casualties.

The men were awakened at three a.m. and each man grazed his horse. The only two feeds of grain had been carried and our wagon trains had not arrived, due to the great jam in traffic in rear of the drive, this grazing was all the feed the horses got to start the day’s work. At five a.m. we packed our saddles and moved out in column toward Vigneulles, H Troop leading, and D Troop bringing up the rear. We passed through the woods, the scene of our conflict the night before. Here beside the road were our dead horses with the equipment strewn about over the ground. Our work with the auto rifles was evident at the crossroads from the horses and dead Germans lying about. Vigneulles was receiving some shelling from the retreating enemy which had for its purpose to delay our advance. The town had been captured about eight p.m. of the night before by an assault made by the 16th Infantry. At the cross roads, about six hundred yards east of the town our column divided. Troops H and D moved west and spent the entire day until eight p.m. scouring the country west and south of Vigneulles for stragglers of the retreating German troops. These two troops covered an area which was heavily wooded and characterized by high, steep hills and deep ravines. All dugouts were entered. It was expected that many Germans would be found in the pocket formed by the salient and the line of troops through Vigneulles. Few prisoners were found, but the work was most fatiguing, and the two troops by their mobility covered a large territory.

In a small patch of woods fifty machine guns were found and collected by Troop H. So close was our advance upon the heels of the enemy that the fires in the grates in the houses were still burning. Forage was found in the German stables. French Cavalry was met at Heudicourt about 3 p.m., and the French officers were greatly chagrined to find our Cavalry had beat them in following the enemy by a full day’s operations.

Lieutenant Colonel Hazzard gave F Troop the following mission: To proceed north along the main line of railroad running from St. Mihiel toward Metz, to gain contact with the enemy; locate his new line of resistance and to procure, if possible, liaison with the French who were expected to come through from the west side of the Salient.

Our infantry advanced and halted on the ridges just outside of Vigneulles. It was unfortunate that all three troops could not have gone north together as the mission to be performed was typical of the work expected of Cavalry. The country to the north was an open plain flanked by a continuous high ridge running north and south on the left. The main road followed the single tracked railroad at about five hundred yards distance from the foot of the ridge. The country to the right of the railroad was flat or gently rolling with patches of woods here and there.

Flank patrols were sent out on both flanks, keeping abreast of the head of the column. The patrol on the right, due to the open country, kept well over from the road, that on the left kept at the foot of the ridge with scouts on the ridge. Realizing that much valuable information could be obtained by even a small unit as a troop and anxious to redeem our first brush with the enemy, the troop moved out at a brisk trot in the regular formation of point, advance party, and main body, in column of troopers on either side of the road. The advance led through town already ablaze, left burning by the German retreat. To go through the towns keeping on the main road was a reckless proceeding, as a few machine guns well posted could do us great damage but to circle around would lose time and Captain Harmon, desiring to get back information quickly, took the chance and kept up a fast trot going north on the main road. The men were instructed that if in passing through the towns, machine gun fire was encountered, to leave the road from the right and left and get between the houses under cover. The first town passed through was Hattonville, about two kilometers north of Vigneulles. This town was deserted but was all afire, the flames scorching us as we passed through.

Our point was fired upon from a stable on the right near the outskirts of the village. From the fire it was very easy to see that not more than two or three Germans were located there. The advance was not halted but a squad turned out of the column, dismounted, and surrounded the barn, killed one German and took the other occupant prisoner. All along the road were wagons of loot and supplies left in the flight, the drivers evidently unhitching the horses and mounting them. The next town, Vieville, was in flames and apparently deserted. The troop kept up its advance, not stopping to search the town. The next town, Billy, six kilometers north of Vigneulles, was on fire and here we found a battery of Artillery being limbered up by about twenty of the enemy. They were taken by surprise and offered no resistance to being captured, in fact seemed greatly shaken in nerve. The prisoners were sent to the rear under escort and the advance was continued. St. Maurice is now reached. This town was of considerable size and many Germans were seen running about in the streets upon our approach. The road forked to the right here. The troop charged into the town, the advance party and the point establishing a temporary outpost on the road north of the town, while the right flank patrol was placed on the road leading out of the town to the right toward Jonville. Patrols were hurriedly scattered to reconnoiter the town, the main body of the troop being formed at the crossroads for action of any sort.

A German Staff officer, mounted on a large black horse, was discovered leaving a side street. He was captured and his horse was turned over to the Captain who immediately mounted him, his own having gone lame during the advance. About twenty-five stragglers and wounded men left behind, were captured and sent down the road toward Vigneulles under escort. Messages were sent from each town describing our progress and the information available. The villagers all came out to see us and were very enthusiastic. The men were hungry and it was with difficulty that the civilians were kept away from the men. To their credit, however, it must be said that the men behaved splendidly, realizing that they must keep good order and be ready for anything, as we were ten kilometers from any supporting troops. Our best information came from the former Mayor of the village. Captain Harmon, being able to speak French, talked with him and got very valuable information. A German officer had told the old French Mayor where the new line of defense was to be established, namely on the line formed by the towns of Champlon, Doncourt, Jonville and Chambley. This information was sent back in a message for what it was worth and with St. Maurice as a base, patrols were sent out toward Champlon, Doncourt, and Jonville. The patrol toward Champlon was under Lieut. Dockler; to Doncourt under Sergeant Carroll and to Jonville under First Sergeant Robinson, both soldiers of long experience. The Captain remained at St. Maurice to handle any situation. The patrol toward Champlon on the road going north, sent back word of seeing a strong force of the enemy coming from the west. The Captain, knowing that the French were expected from that direction, sent word to Lieut. Dockler to reconnoiter carefully and watch out for the French and not to fire upon anyone unless certain. From a distance the French uniform of blue and the German of dark green is hard to distinguish between.

The next message received from Lieut. Dockler was that he had made a junction with the advance point of the French Infantry at Hannonville, three kilometers north of St. Maurice. The message was sent back to the rear, thus accomplishing one part of our mission.

The Lieutenant’s patrol was ordered back to St. Maurice, as the territory above Hannonville was being reconnoitered by the French. Covering the road out of St. Maurice by our two auto rifles and a dismounted firing line, the remainder of the troop was led into an orchard near a supply storehouse, where oats, hay, beer and hard bread were found in great quantity. The horses and men were fed and all grain bags were filled, the men relieving the ones on guard on the east edge of town. Shortly after the Lieutenant’s report a message came from the patrol toward Doncourt, stating that they had come under machine gun fire on approaching the town, having one horse wounded. Word was sent back to reconnoiter thoroughly and to return and report his patrol. Two hours later this patrol returned, having established the fact that the enemy were entrenched in and about the town and had wire entanglements across the road. An interesting incident occurred on this patrol. The patrol was fired on from a shell hole in an open field. The patrol, except three men, dismounted, and opened fire on the shell hole. Suddenly the firing ceased and a solitary German was seen to emerge from the crater barefooted, and to race away as fast as he could go. One of the mounted men took after him with his horse and soon captured him. A dead German was found in the shell hole and the other man, slipping off his boots, evidently decided to run for it. At this time a message came from the patrol toward Jonville stating that a large force of Germans were approaching St. Maurice from that direction. Everything was put in readiness for a hurried departure in case of a counter attack, as our force was too small and too far from our base to meet a counter attack of any size. A second message corrected this error and the Captain rode out and met the patrol. At Woel, four kilometers east of St. Maurice toward Jonville, the patrol had been fired upon from a church steeple. The patrol brought back five prisoners, one of whom was badly wounded in the stomach by a “45”. In order to reconnoiter Jonville, it was necessary to clear Woel and being convinced it contained only a few stragglers and a weak rear guard, the Captain ordered all patrols to feed their horses and men and after a half-hour interval, proceeded with fifty men to attack Woel. This force was led up a dry creek bottom to the edge of the town where it was dismounted under cover of the brush. The Captain, with the dismounted men worked up the main street of the village and was fired on from the church. The church was surrounded and five prisoners were taken. The party returned to their horses and were mounting when an aeroplane swooped down on them. However, no damage was done as the circles on the wings soon showed it was one of our planes sent out to locate us, as was afterward found. A patrol was sent to Jonville and brought back the report that it was fired upon, and from his field glasses the sergeant could distinguish wire entanglements about the town. It was now seven p.m. and our mission having been accomplished the troop was assembled and began its march back to Vigneulles. Everyone was greatly fatigued and the horses were jaded as they had been going at fast gaits all day. However, it was felt that we had successfully accomplished our missions and everyone was in good spirits. On our way back we met our Infantry advancing and digging in for the night to hold the ground.

Great quantities of stores were found by the Infantry and they were rolling barrels of beer down the road and through the streets. The troop was halted and the willing doughboys gave each of our men a sack of German hardtack and three bottles of beer, a very acceptable ration after our long absence from our wagon train. We arrived at Vigneulles at nine p.m. Here we found the rest of the squadron in camp, in a field, and to our joy, saw the rolling kitchens and the wagons ready with a hot supper. The Mess Sergeant of H Troop, Sergeant Rock, by his push and pluck had gotten his wagon train through the jam of traffic and had the rations ready.

The horses were groomed and the backs looked into, for a hard march on the following morning was in order.

Second Cavalry Detachment,
Memil la Tour, 17th Sept., 1918.
From: C.O. 2nd Cavalry Detachment.
To: Commanding General, 4th Army Corps.
Subject: Report of operations of Cavalry with First Division from September 11th to September 14th, 1918.

1. The detachment of 2nd Cavalry consisting of Troops D, F, and H, reported to the Commanding General First Division on the night of 10/11 September.

2. During the night of 11/12 September we were moved to a position in the reserve just south of Beaumont. About 11:30 a.m., 12 September, we were moved to a position on the north side of Seicheprey. At 2:15 p.m. the same day, received orders to proceed with all speed to Nonsard, reconnoiter towards Vigneulles and intercept the railroad line and communications between Heudicourt and Vigneulles.

3. We arrived at Nonsard at 4:00 p.m. and found that our Infantry had reached that objective that noon, but had not advanced beyond it. We at once moved forward with a line of patrols covering the entire part from Nonsard-Vigneulles road. To the Nonsard-Heudicourt road, about four kilometers out, machine gun fire was encountered on all roads, by Troop F and H. Two of our Browning Automatic Rifles were brought into action and severe losses were inflicted upon the enemy. The roads were very dense with underbrush and going was impossible for mounted men, except along the roads. As the roads were covered by machine guns we found it a very difficult proposition except by dismounted action.

4. The forces on the Nonsard-Vigneulles road reached a point about two kilometers south of Vigneulles. We killed and wounded a considerable number, took seven prisoners and captured two horses. Our losses were one enlisted man killed, three wounded, one injured by the fall of his horse, two horses killed and three wounded.

5. On account of the late hour and a heavy storm, it became quite dark in the woods, and, as a number of machine guns were brought into play in the woods in our rear, we withdrew to Nonsard.

6. During the day, between the arrival of the Infantry at noon at Nonsard and our arrival the enemy had been given time to reorganize and establish his machine guns. It was unfortunate that the Cavalry was not ordered to follow in close proximity to the advance Inf. line. This could have been without risks as there was practically no fire from the enemy’s artillery.

7. During the night of Sept. 12, the Inf. was sent forward to the north edge of the Vigneulles woods beyond which was open country. We passed through the Inf. lines the next morning, entered Vigneulles and after questioning a few prisoners, sent out Troop F to gain contact with forces retreating northward, and Troop H to Chaillon and Hendicourt, to intercept any troops coming from the south, and to search for those hiding in the various woods.

8. Troop F, sent north, surprised the enemy at Vieville and caused him to abandon a four-gun battery of heavy guns, and prevented him from burning part of the town. In St. Maurice it engaged a rear guard of mixed troops, mounted and dismounted. A number were killed and several prisoners were taken, including a Major with a very good horse. From St. Maurice patrols were pushed out to Hannonville, where liaison was established with the French troops, and to Woel where a force of the enemy was encountered without loss. From Woel patrols were sent forward to Doncourt and to within a kilometer of Jonville. As a result of the day’s work the Cavalry secured early news that the enemy had completely withdrawn from the St. Mihiel salient and that he was reforming on the line Champlon-St. Hilaire and Jonville. In all about three hundred prisoners and three horses and a large amount of arms and ammunition captured. The enemy was either of poor quality or badly demoralized and surprised by the rapidity of the American advance. If a regiment of Cavalry well mounted and well trained had been sent through the line of the First Division about noon of the 12th, it is my opinion that a large number of prisoners would have been taken.

9. The work of all three troops was very good especially so considering the fact that they have not previously functioned as Cavalry since their arrival in France. I believe there will be many such opportunities in the future for the legitimate use of Cavalry as combat troops. It must be well mounted and thoroughly trained in dismounted action. Each troop should be equipped with six (6) light Browning Automatic Rifles and six led horses with improvised packs on the service saddle to carry ammunition. Fifty men in each troop should carry one hand grenade in each saddle pocket. Each troop should have either a pack mule or an improvised pack on the saddle of the led horse to carry light demolition outfits, capable of destroying a railroad track or small bridge.

10. The Browning gun and extra ammunition will of course start sore backs but as the advance of the Cavalry in front of our Infantry will seldom last more than one or two days before encountering the enemy’s established line, there will be ample time between drives for the horses to recover from the slight damage done to their backs.

11. Cavalry cannot be expected to keep in efficient condition for combat service if employed between times for traffic control and prison guard. It is impracticable to properly care for the animals or feed them when they are scattered beyond the immediate control and supervision of the Troop Commander.

12. In this particular operation, several horses were forcibly taken away from our couriers by line and Staff officers, leaving the troopers without a mount or with an unserviceable one.

Lt. Col., Cavalry.

2 thoughts on “The Second Cavalry at St. Mihiel”

  1. lois wheelock lowe

    Looking for informastion
    Alma Florence Wheelock reg. nurse
    Went over seas with a Vermont Ethan Allen troop 1917

  2. lois wheelock lowe

    Looking for informastion
    Alma Florence Wheelock reg. nurse
    Went over seas with a Vermont Ethan Allen troop 1917

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