SECOND UNITED STATES CAVALRY – A HISTORY
Compiled, edited and published by Historical Section, Second Cavalry Association
Maj. A. L. Lambert and Cpt. G. B. Layton, 2d Cavalry
The Second Dragoons made their mark in this war as in no other, and the reader can judge the part they played in overcoming the handicap of our nation’s initial unpreparedness.
American forces, 4,000 strong, under Brigadier General Taylor, were stationed in South Texas near the mouth of the Rio Grande River, when on 8 May 1846, the Mexicans crossed to the Texas side and attacked with superior forces at Palo Alto. The Americans repulsed the attack and on the following day, 9 May, they attacked the Mexican force, still on Texas soil, at Reseca de la Palma. Here an inspired charge by Captain C. A. May’s Squadron of the Second Dragoons broke the enemy line and drove him back across the Rio Grande. A citation reads, “During the charge Corporal McCauley (E Company) and four men passed through the lines, killed the Mexican Lieutenant and put the rest to flight”.
Some nine months later at Buena Vista, after defeating the Mexicans under General Ampudia at Matamoros, Monterey and Santa Rosa Pass, General Taylor’s force of 4,757 Americans was attacked by the Mexican Army of 14,000 under General Santa Anna on 23 February 1847.
General Taylor’s reserve was six miles to the north when Santa Anna attacked, and consisted of Davis’ Mississippi Volunteers, an Infantry Regiment and May’s Squadron of the Second Dragoons (the rest of the Regiment was in convoy en route to make an amphibious landing under General Scott at Vera Cruz on March 9th).
On this occasion pressure from the superior Mexican forces began to crack the American line on the left and in the center, which fell back toward Buena Vista. At this Taylor arrived on the scene with May’s Cavalry and most of Davis’ Volunteers. These troops were at once deployed and another battle line was drawn up, which effectively checked the Mexicans temporarily. The American’s were so out numbered and had so long a line to hold, that the Second Dragoons had to attack first on one sector, then another, as the Mexicans enveloped the American positions; but such was their training and discipline that this was practical and several Mexican advances in various parts of the field were thus checked. By a brilliant piece of work an American artillery battery under Bragg was rushed into a commanding position and poured a tremendously effective direct fire on Santa Anna’s reserve division, causing it to break up. The small force of the Second Dragoons seized this opportunity to charge and pursue vigorously the now broken enemy forces. Edward Smart and James Williamson of Company E were cited in WD General Orders for their performance in this action.
Far to the south at Vera Cruz, General Scott’s complete force of 12,000 was landed on the afternoon of March 9th, 1847 in flat bottomed craft of the New England Dory type, and commenced to drive to Mexico City. The Second Dragoons were outstanding in the battles of Cerro Gordo, Molino del Rey and Chapultepec, in recognition of which General Scott chose them as his escort for the entry into Mexico City. Following the Mexican War the Second Dragoons fought the hostile Indians in the southwest in actions such as the 26 day battle near Laguna, New Mexico in February 1852, and the busy October spent in 1860 near the Cold Springs, Navajo Country, New Mexico, with the result that the year 1861 and the outbreak of the Civil War found the Second Dragoons still composed of combat veterans.