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.
Major General Winfield Scott had been placed in active command of all the American forces in the field. In January, 1847, he arrived at the mouth of the Rio Grande and proceeded to organize the Vera Cruz expedition largely from troops of Taylor’s forces. Companies A, B, C, F, I, and K, under Colonel Harney, left Agua Nueva, twenty miles south of Saltillo, on January 9, and marched via Monterey and Matamoras to Camp Page on the left bank of the Rio Grande near its mouth. They arrived January 27 after a march of 356 miles, and reported to General Scott. At this time Companies D and E marched south to Victoria, Tamaulipas, as a part of the army of occupation. They returned to Monterey and continued on to Saltillo, arriving there February 2. These two companies remained with Taylor during the rest of the war. Company H left Camargo where it had been doing guard duty, and joined the troops at Camp Page January 22. Later it was again ordered to join Taylor at Monterey, where it arrived March 18, and stayed with his army for the duration of the war along with Companies D and E. Company G was on recruiting duty at Baltimore and took no further part in the hostilities.
General Scott ordered Colonel Harney to turn over his regiment to Major Sumner and report back to General Taylor to command the two companies with his force. The colonel promptly refused to comply with the order, saying he was entitled to command the bulk of his regiment. He was placed under arrest and tried by court martial for disobedience of orders, and convicted. When the papers reached the President, the findings were disapproved, General Scott was reprimanded for his arbitrary act, and Colonel Harney restored to his proper command.
The six companies of the Second Dragoons started embarking near the mouth of the Rio Grande February 28, 1847, in small coastwise vessels. A terrific storm came up March 14 while they were off Anton Lizardo and caused much damage to the fleet. The company suffering most was K, for the vessel in which it was being transported was stranded on a reef and all the horses except ten were lost. By the 20th the dragoons had landed at Vera Cruz and taken their places in the trenches as dismounted troops.
A group of Mexican Cavalry had assembled at Medelin a few miles south of Vera Cruz and were harassing the American lines about that city. General Scott sent Colonel Harney on March 25, with Thornton’s squadron, under Major Sumner, and fifty dismounted dragoons under Captain Ker to dislodge them. At the first onset the Mexicans killed a corporal and wounded two men. Colonel Harney sent back for artillery and was soon joined by Captain Hardee with forty dismounted men, three companies of Tennessee volunteers, and two guns. Upon the arrival of the artillery the enemy was soon dislodged and the troops charged the bridge, clearing it. The dismounted enemy fled into the woods, but the lancers retreated toward Medelin. The mounted dragoons pursued them along the road for six miles and either dismounted or sabered many of them.
The garrison at Vera Cruz, including the fortress of San Juan d’ Ulloa in the harbor, surrendered March 20. Company A, Second Dragoons, was the first to enter the city as the advance guard of General Worth’s division. Both Colonel Harney and Major Sumner were complimented by General Scott for their good work with the regiment. The casualties included Lieutenant Neill, wounded severely by a lance at Medelin, three men killed and four wounded.
Various expeditions were now sent out near Vera Cruz to quell the opposition and to secure supplies, especially mules. On April 2, 1847, a force consisting of Companies F and I, Second Dragoons, under Major Sumner, a section of artillery, and seven companies of the Seventh Infantry, all under Colonel Harney, proceeded to Antigua. The Mexicans barricaded the streets of Antigua, but upon the approach of the dragoons they fled, pursued by the latter. The Americans captured one lieutenant, eight soldiers, twenty-five horses, and some cattle, but no mules were found.