Cavalry Domination of the U.S. Army :)

Recently, while working on a project on the Philippines I came across this comment by historian Stuart C. Miller: 

“The president was enormously biased in favor of the cavalry and even took time from his busy schedule to rehash tactics and training for horse-borne soldiers with his new chief of staff.”

The president was Theodore Roosevelt and the chief of staff of General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young.  Young began his army career during the Civil War where he served in the infantry.  After the war he was commissioned in the 8th Cavalry and ultimately as a colonel commanded the 3rd Cavalry.  He became the chief of staff of the Army in 1903.  There followed a string of cavalry chiefs of staff.  Roosevelt appointed five chiefs and four were cavalrymen.  In total, by the time Marshall became Chief of Staff, 7 of 15 army leaders could be considered cavalrymen.  The list follows:

Samuel Baldwin Marks Young, Cavalry, 1903

Adna Romanza Chaffee, Cavalry, 1904

John Coalter Bates, Infantry, 1906

James Franklin Bell, Cavalry, 1906

Leonard Wood, 1910, Medical Corps (Cavalry), 1910 *

William Wallace Wotherspoon, Infantry, 1914

Hugh Lenox Scott, Cavalry, 1914

Tasker Howard Bliss, Artillery, 1917

Peyton Conway March, Infantry, 1918

John Joseph Pershing, Cavalry, 1921

John Leonard Hines, Infantry, 1924

Charles Pelot  Summerall, Artillery, 1926

Douglas MacArthur, Engineer, 1930

Malin Craig, Cavalry, 1935

George Catlett Marshall, Infantry, 1939

During most of this period the cavalry never made up more than about 1/3 of the army’s regiments; and in WWI a considerably smaller portion of the the total force.  Such a huge number of cavalry officers commanding the army could not but help having a strongly influence on the way the army organized and fought for many years –including World War II.

 *Note:  I count Leonard Wood as a cavalryman even though he was offically carried on the regular army rolls as a medical officer: He won his Congressional Medal of Honor while serving as a line troop officer with the 4th Cavalry, and was promoted to brigadier general of volunteers based on service as the commander of the 1st Volunteer Cavalry Regiment, and as a cavalry brigade at Santiago.

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  1. This is an understudied topic. I have been looking at this for awhile and believe that the influence of the cavalry branch was very much apparent in the Army, even past WW II. Many young officers of the prewar army became high ranking commanders during the war and continued to serve after in positions of doctrine development and command. A quick list of some high profile officers would include: Adna Chaffee, Terry Allen, George Patton, Creighton Abrams, Lucian Truscott, Bruce Palmer Jr., Hamilton Howze, Benjamin O. Davis, Charles H. Gerhardt.


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