THE subject of this sketch first came into existence by virtue of an act of Congress entitled "An Act to increase and fix the military peace establishment of the United States," approved July 28, 1866. To the six regular cavalry regiments then in service, this Act added four additional ones, "two of which shall be composed of colored men, having the same organization as is now provided by law for cavalry regiments." The organization of the colored regiments was modified in a few particulars, notably, by including a regimental chaplain, whose duties were enlarged to include the instruction of the enlisted men. Up to this time all chaplains had been appointed in the army, designated to posts, and known as post chaplains.
The original vacancies in the grades of first and second lieutenant were to be filled by selection from among the officers and soldiers of volunteer cavalry; two-thirds of the original vacancies in the higher grades by selection from among the officers of volunteer cavalry; and one-third from among officers of the regular army. It was further provided that to be eligible for selection, an active service of two years in the field during the War of the Rebellion was necessary; also that applicants should have been distinguished for capacity and good conduct.
Another enactment considerably affecting the composition of the regiment, and which, because its requirements have been so enlarged by recent legislation as to embrace nearly the entire commissioned force of the regular army, may be deemed of particular interest, is that referring to the examination of officers prior to appointment. It directed that no person should be commissioned in any of the regiments authorized by the Act, until he had passed a satisfactory examination before a board to be composed of officers of the arm of the service in which the applicant was to serve. This board was to be convened by the Secretary of War, and was to inquire into the service rendered during the war by the applicant, as well as into his capacity and qualifications for a commission in the regular forces. Appointments were to be made without reference to previous rank but solely by a consideration of present qualifications and past meritorious services.
On August 3, 1866, Major General Philip H. Sheridan, then commanding the Military Division of the Gulf, at New Orleans, Louisiana, was authorized to raise, among others, one regiment of colored cavalry to be designated the 9th Regiment of U. S. Cavalry, which was to be enlisted within the limits of his own command. Men serving in volunteer colored regiments who desired to enlist in regular regiments were authorized to be discharged from the volunteer organizations. This class of men was desired and many took advantage of the opportunity to join the regular service, and later proved of some value as non-commissioned officers.
The mustering officer at New Orleans was directed to take temporary charge of the recruiting, and shortly afterwards it was transferred to Major Francis Moore, 65th U. S. Colored Infantry. The men obtained by Major Moore formed the nucleus of the enlisted strength, and were principally obtained from New Orleans and its vicinity. A little later in the autumn recruiting was established in Kentucky, and all the men for the new regiment were obtained from that State and Louisiana. The horses were obtained at St. Louis, and proved to be an excellent mount.
About the middle of September all recruits were assembled in New Orleans, and preparations made for organization. Empty cotton presses were used as barracks and the ration was cooked over open fires. In the latter part of September an epidemic of cholera caused the camp to be moved to Greenville, and later, for other reasons, it was moved to Carrollton, both of which places are suburbs of New Orleans.
During the winter of 1866-67, every effort was made to bring about an efficient state of drill, discipline and organization. The orders regarding stables and the performance of that duty were especially strict. Few officers had as yet joined, and the number on duty with the regiment was so small, that a scheme of squadron organization was resorted to so that at least one officer might be present with each squadron for every drill or other duty. The entire enlisted strength was woefully ignorant, entirely helpless, and though willing enough to learn, was difficult to teach. By assiduous labor and constant drilling much headway was made, however, and by the end of March, 1867, a change of station was determined upon. The middle of this month found the regiment with nearly its full strength, the return at that time showing a total of 885 enlisted men, or an average of over 70 to a troop.
The regiment, now practically organized yet still far from being in anything approaching a perfected state, was ordered to proceed to San Antonio, where it arrived early in April and formed a camp of instruction. Troops L and M, however, proceeded direct to take station at Brownsville, Texas, near the mouth of the Rio Grande, where they remained several years. This command was under 1st Lieutenant J. M. Hamilton (now a major of the 1st Cavalry), then an officer in the 9th U. S. Colored Infantry, he being one of a number of volunteer officers who had been temporarily continued in their volunteer commissions for the purpose of assisting in the organization of the new regiments until the arrival of the regularly appointed officers. Upon these officers much heavy work fell during the winter of 1866-67, as the regular officers arrived slowly until after the camp at San Antonio was established, when they began to report rapidly.
The camp near San Antonio was continued for some three months, and the time spent there was profitably employed in completing and perfecting the organization and drill, already well under way from the efforts of the preceding winter. The officers of the regiment were now nearly all appointed, and during the summer of 1867 they were as follows:
Colonel Edward Hatch.
Lieutenant-Colonel Wesley Merritt.
Majors James F. Wade, George A. Forsyth, and Albert P. Morrow.
Chaplain John C. Jocobi.
Captains J. S. Brisbin, Wm. Bayard, G. A. Purington, J. M. Bacon, G. H. Gamble, Henry Carroll, A. E. Hooker, W. T. Frohock, J. C. De Gress, T. A. Boice, F. S. Dodge, and E. M. Heyl.
First Lieutenants Michael Cooney, J. F. Moffatt, J. G. Birney, Charles Parker, J. L. Humfreville, Francis Moore, F. W. Smith, L. H. Rucker, Byron Dawson, J. S. Loud, Patrick Cusack, F. S. Davidson, D. H. Cortelyou, G. B. Bosworth, and W. B. Brunton.
Second Lieutenants I. W. Trask, F. R. Vincent, I. M. Starr, F. P. Gross, E. D. Dimmick, W. W. Tyler, G. W. Budd, T. C. Barden, and J. C. Edgar.
It is difficult now-a-days fully to appreciate all the work and labor devolving upon the officers in those early days. The men knew nothing, and the non-commissioned officers but little more. From the very circumstances of their preceding life it could not be otherwise. They had no independence, no self-reliance, not a thought except for the present, and were filled with superstition. To make soldiers of, such material was, at that time, considered more of an experiment than as a fixed principle. The Government depended upon the officers of those early days to solve the problem of the colored soldier.
The colonel of the regiment was Edward Hatch, a young man full of energy and enthusiasm. He went right manfully to work, determined to succeed, and in this he was ably seconded by his officers. They were all equally enthusiastic in proving the wisdom of the experiment of colored soldiers, and in forcing the issue to a successful solution were compelled, not only to attend to the
duties that naturally attach to the office of a troop commander and his lieutenants, but, in the endeavor to make finished individual soldiers of the negro and to feel that the troop, taken as a unit, was an independent fighting force, well drilled, well clothed, well fed, suitably armed and equipped, and thoroughly able to take care of itself in garrison or campaign, they were forced to enter into the minutest details of military administration, and personally to assume nearly all the duties of the non-commissioned officer. For some years the latter, from lack of education, were such only in name, and the process of moulding them into a responsible and self-reliant class was a slow one. Troop officers were in fact squad commanders, and it took both time and patience to teach the men how to care for themselves.
The amount of writing devolving upon officers during the earlier years of the regiment is not to be passed over lightly. Fully to appreciate this, it must be borne in mind that the enlisted men were totally uneducated; few indeed could read and scarcely any were able to write even their own names. It is related that but one man in the entire regiment was found able to write sufficiently well to act as sergeant-major. It was not an uncommon thing for a captain to assist his first sergeant in calling the roll, and every record, from the morning report to the monthly return, was prepared by an officer. In time the simpler reports were mastered, but it is only in later years that troop clerks are found, and even now considerable difficulty is experienced at times in finding reliable men of sufficient education to conduct properly the routine clerical work pertaining to a troop.
Early in June the regiment was ordered into western and southwestern Texas to assist in opening up once more that vast territory, extending from Fort Clark to El Paso, and from the Rio Grande to the Concho. By this time the regiment was deemed sufficiently well organized, equipped and disciplined, to be sent to the extreme frontier, and capable of undergoing the long and trying march into the wild and unsettled country that lay before it.
The regiment was distributed as follows: Headquarters and Troops A, B, E and K, General Hatch commanding, at Fort Stockton; Troops C, D, F, G, H and I, Lieutenant Colonel Merritt commanding, at Fort Davis. Troops L and M had previously been sent to Brownsville.
The principal duty of the command in western Texas was to open up and protect the mail and stage route from San Antonio to El Paso; to establish law and order in the country contiguous to the Rio Grande frontier, which had been sadly interfered with by Mexicans as well as Indians during the Civil War; to prevent marauding by Indians and to capture and confine to their reservations all roving bands; in fact, to help pave the way for the western advance of civilization, and to add their part in the great work of opening to settlement the vast resources of the great West.
Having landed the regiment in this far away part of the country, a word or two of every-day garrison life during those early days, when the nearest railroad was six hundred miles distant, may be of interest. In many respects the every-day life of the men in garrison was similar to that of the present time. There was the same drill, stables and parade; the amount and kind of fatigue bore a strong resemblance to that of to-day; there were logging teams for the saw-mill and special details for the garden; men mixing mud for adobes and burnishing brasses for orderly; but guard duty, though no more tedious than now, was spiced with an element of danger which added zest to the duty. Strict orders prohibited all persons from leaving the immediate limits of a garrison, except in small parties, and they were enjoined always to carry their carbines. Heavy herd guards were detailed, and lookouts were posted on high ground during grazing hours.
The appliances for the personal comfort of the soldiers were few, and should the improvements now surrounding them be suddenly exchanged for what they had then, there would be such a skurrying off of recruits that I doubt if the whole State of Kentucky could furnish satisfactory material to fill the depleted ranks. Ashen slats on bunk irons and a bedsack filled with straw made a very good bed for its fortunate possessor, while the less favored ones were often at their wits' end to improvise a comfortable resting place out of two blankets. Sheets, pillows, white shirts, linen collars and barrack shoes, were not dreamed of, and bath tubs were unknown, for the water system was limited to a huge tank on wheels, with eight mules and a surly driver.
The stomachs of the men, even more than their bodies, were subject to a Spartan simplicity' and the numerous delicacies now supplied them could not then be found on officers' tables. The commissary kept only the component parts of the regular ration, and the pound of fresh vegetables was not a part of it.
The banishment from the gentler influences of settled communities and separation from the varied society of large cities was keenly felt by officers, and the exiles' life they were forced to lead caused a few to give up in disgust and resign; but the majority continued in service, fighting bravely against the hardships surrounding them. Of luxuries they had none, of comforts, few; but the canvas homes and outdoor life furnished good digestions and hearty appetites for the limited bills of fare presented at the mess Nearly all were bachelors, with the careless habits this class of army officers are noted for, though the presence of an occasional lady served to check in part the familiarity engendered by lack of privacy and constant association, serious objections to any long continued camp.
Horse-back riding on pleasant days was almost the only outdoor amusement, but the danger from Indians so contracted the safety limits, that all ground was soon visited, and only the hope of a shot at a stray wolf or coyote, or the rare advent of some visitor to be entertained, kept up interest in this kind of outing. A great event was the distribution of the mail, and whether weekly, semi-weekly, or daily, the hour of its arrival was looked forward to by all, and, as the cloud of dust in the distance heralded its approach, the entire garrison, from the commanding officer to the latest recruit, hastened to the post office where they formed an eager crowd, anxious for the latest news from the States, or in happy anticipation of the expected letter from sweetheart, wife or mother.
The regiment remained in Texas for eight years, spending the greater portion of the time in the field, patrolling the vast stretches of prairie in innumerable scouts after depredating Indians, and gradually freeing the, country from this scourge of settlers. There is not space to describe minutely even the more important of these expeditions, and I shall only summarize the following:
October 1, near Howard's Wells, Texas, two men killed while escorting the mail; December 5, Eagle Springs, Texas, one man killed; December 26, Camp Lancaster, Texas, Troop K persistently attacked for two days by a large force of Indians who were finally driven off, three men killed.
January, Fort Quitman, Troop F attacked sixteen times by a large band; August, Fort Quitman, Troop H attacked, Indians driven off without loss; September 12, Horsehead Hills, Texas, Lieutenant Cusack with 6o men surprised a large party of Indians, killing 25 and capturing all their horses, ponies and supplies. But one man was wounded in this affair, which was reported as a very brilliant and successful coup against the wandering bands.
June 5, Johnson's River, Texas, Troop L, no loss; June 7, on Pecos River, Texas, 32 men of Troop G under Captain Bacon; September 15, on the Brazos River, Troops F and M under Captain Carroll, had a skirmish, and again on the 20th and 21st, the same command being augmented by detachments from Troops B and M, engaged the same band of Indians; October 28 and 29, Troops B, E, F, G, L and M had a running fight of 40 miles at the head waters of the Brazos River, killing a number of Indians. This is the affair to which the late General Sherman so often referred with his quizzical inquiry as to which way Bacon ran; November 29, head of Llanos River, Texas, Troops L and M under Captain E. M. Heyl had a desperate fight and this officer was seriously wounded; December 25, five men of Troop E defeated a band of 20 Indians which attempted to surprise the mail coach.
January 6, Guadaloupe Mountains, Texas, Troop H ; January 11, Lower Pecos River, Troop L; January 16, Troop G and detachment of L, under Captain Bacon, surprised an entire village, capturing 83 head of stock and all supplies; January 21, a command of Troops C, D, I and K, under Captain Dodge engaged in a skirmish in the Guadaloupe Mountains; April 3, 15 men of Troop H, under a non-commissioned officer, ran into some Indians near San Martin's Springs, killing one; April 25, Crow Springs, Texas, 50 men from Troops C and K. under Major Morrow, captured 30 horses and the supplies of a village; May 19 and 20, at Kickapoo Springs, Texas, Sergeant Emanuel Stance with five men of Troop F, surprised and attacked a small village, wounding four Indians and capturing two white boy prisoners and 15 horses; May 29, Bosaler Cañon, Texas, Troop I.
April 20, Howard's Wells, Troops A and H, Lieutenant Vincent killed.
I have only mentioned the affairs in which an actual engagement took place. The many scouts, long marches, the weeks and months spent in campaign are omitted, but during the eight years of duty in Texas, as well as afterwards and until the regiment was sent to the Department of the Platte, more time was spent in campaign than in garrison, and the troops covered thousands of square miles of territory.
In the latter part of 1875 the regiment was transferred into New Mexico, with headquarters at Santa Fé, and the troops scattered all over that territory and even beyond. The general duty was about the same as in Texas, and during the time the regiment remained there, various troops and detachments were employed in capturing and returning to their reservations innumerable roving bands of the wily and treacherous Apache tribes, the more important of which were those headed by Nana and Victoria. During the five years spent in this section the more important affairs were as follows:
April 15, in the Florida Mountains, Troop F, one Indian killed and 11 horses captured ; September 2, in the Cuchillo Negro Mountains, detachment of Troops C and E, under Lieutenant Wright, small camp captured and number of lodges destroyed.
January 23, Florida Mountains, nine men under Lieutenant Wright killed 5 Indians and captured 6 horses; January 28, Sierra Boca Grande Mountains, Mexico, detachments of Troops C and A captured a
August 6, Dog Cañon, N. M., Troop H was engaged.
January 15, Troop A under Lieutenant Day, was engaged and captured a number of horses and mules; March 8, Ojo Caliente, Troop I; May 28, in the Black Range, Troops C and I under Captain Beyer captured a camp and 16 horses, losing one man killed and 2 wounded; September 4, Ojo Caliente, four men were killed; September 8, West Las Animas River, 24 men of Troop G under Lieutenant Hugo were engaged losing one man; September 18, Las Animas River, Troops A, B and C, one man killed and 2 wounded; September 29 and 30, on the Cuchillo Negro River, parts of Troops B, C, E and L, under Major Morrow, 2 men killed; October 2 and 3, at Milk River, Colorado, Troop D went to the relief of Thornburg's command and succeeded in reaching it, losing all its horses; October 27, in the Guzman Mountains, Mexico, Troops B, C, G and H, under Major Morrow were engaged, losing one man and one scout.
January 12, on the Rio Percho, Troops B, C, D; F, H and M, under Major Morrow, were again engaged, losing one man; January 17, in the San Mateo Mountains, Troops B, C, F, H and M, under Major Morrow, were again engaged, losing one officer (Lieutenant French) killed, and one man , wounded; January 30, in Caballo Mountains, detachment of Troops B and M, under Captain Rucker, loss 3 men wounded; February 3, in the San Andreas Mountains, Troops B, C, F, H and M, under Major Morrow, were engaged, losing 4 men wounded; February 28, and again on April 5, in the San Andreas Mountains, Lieutenant Conline with Troop A was engaged, losing one man and one citizen wounded; April 6, in the same mountains, Troops A, D, F and G, under Captain Carroll, were engaged, Captain Carroll and 6 men being severely wounded; April 7, Major Morrow with Troops H and L continued this affair; May 14, near old Fort Tolerosa, Sergeant Jordan with 25 men repulsed a force of more than a hundred Indians under Victoria; June 5, Cook's Cañon, Troop L, loss 2 men; May, in the San Francisco Mountains, Troop C and detachment Scouts, 2 men killed and one wounded; June 11 and 12, near Fort Cummings, Troop B; September 1, in the Sacramento Mountains, 11 men of Troop G, 2 men wounded.
In February and again in April, a detachment under Lieutenant Maney, 15th Infantry, was engaged in southern New Mexico, one man wounded; July 25 at White Sands, July 26 in the San Andreas, and August 3 at Santa Minica, 20 men of Troop L were engaged.
In August there were a number of engagements:In Carizo Cañon, 19 men of Troop K, under Captain Parker, 2 men killed; in the San Mateo Mountains, detachments of Troops B and H, under Lieutenant Taylor; in Cuchillo Negro Mountains, Troop I, Lieutenant Valois, 2 men wounded; in Cavilare Pass, detachment of Troops B and H, Lieutenant Smith, 3 men and one citizen killed, 3 men wounded.
October 4, in the Dragoon Mountains, Troops F and H, 3 men wounded.
November 5, Crow Agency, Montana, Troops D and H.
December 30, Troop D, under Captain Loud, was attacked while escorting a wagon train near Pine Ridge Agency, South Dakota, losing one man killed. Later in the same day Troops D, F, I and K, under Major Henry, were engaged near the Drexel Mission, S. D., no casualties.
In June, 1 881, the regiment was moved from New Mexico to Kansas and Indian Territory, where it remained until 1885. Most of these years were spent in garrison, though the intruders upon the Oklahoma Territory which at that time was not open for settlement, kept a number of troops busy moving over that country and patrolling the northern portion of Indian Territory and southern Kansas.
In the summer of 1885 the regiment was moved to the Department of the Platte, where it has since remained enjoying a well-earned rest after the many scouts and campaigns of the preceding eighteen years. The only campaign worthy of mention is that of 1890-91, during the uprising of the Sioux, when the regiment was the first in the field in November, and the last to leave late in the following March, after spending the winter, the latter part of which was terrible in its severity, under canvas.
At present (February, 1895) the regiment is commanded by Colonel James Biddle and eight troops garrison the post of Fort Robinson, Neb. Troops B and F, under Major Randlett, are at Fort Duchesne, Utah; while Troops L and M are continued with a skeleton organization.
Every effort is made to keep the regiment in a high state of efficiency, and with nearly all its officers present for duty,with the ranks filled to the authorized strength,with an excellent and ample mount,the Ninth Cavalry stands ready to-day for any service it may be called upon to perform, filled with a just pride in its past achievements and anxious again to seek "the bubble reputation even in the cannon's mouth."