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.
Even before the arrival of the Regiment for its first assignment, the men who became Company D had their first encounter near Micanopy, Florida on 10 June 1836. They drew “first blood” as members of the Regiment in July 1836 in a spirited engagement at Welika Pond, near Fort Defiance, Florida, on 19 July 1836.
In December 1836, the first four Company’s sailed from New York to Charleston, South Carolina, for immediate service in Florida. Company I joined them in Charleston, and Harney took command. The Regiment arrived at the mouth of the St. John’s River, Florida, in January 1837 and marched to Fort Mellon on Lake Monroe, arriving on 6 February. This post fell under attack only two days later, embroiling the Company’s almost immediately in the war.
On 9 September 1837, three Company’s of the Second Dragoons and two of Florida volunteers surrounded an Indian village. At first light, the force captured the village, including the important chief, King Phillip.
This action represented a shift in tactics. Garrisons had previously waited in forts and responded when attacked, only to find that the Seminoles had melted back into the Florida Everglades. Though some experts doubted the wisdom of employing mounted troops in that terrain, the Second Dragoons pioneered the practice of taking the battle to the enemy. The Indians responded by signing what would be a short-lived peace treaty.
Chiefs Coacoochee and Osceola, however, did not sign the document and persuaded the rest of the members to return to the Everglades and continue the fight. This pattern of warfare would be repeated so often that a poet wrote:
“And yet – tis not an endless war,
As facts will plainly show,
Having been ended forty times,
In twenty months or so.”
Harney would go to any length to defeat the enemy. In March 1838, the Regiment took delivery from Samuel Colt of 50 Patterson Patent revolving carbines. Legend has it that Harney purchased these weapons with his own money. Fifty selected troopers were equipped with this new carbine and formed a Regimental corps of sharpshooters. Some say that the sharpshooters were so successful that Harney bought 50 more carbines in 1839. Thus, the Regiment earned its reputation both for daring new tactics and the use of new technology.
The Regiment earned one red and black battle streamer for its participation in the Seminole War.