Horse Cavalry Detachment

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One winter morning many years ago, I was driving into work at Fort Hood Texas in a very dense fog.  It was about seven AM and still pretty dark.  I was coming in the eight lane main gate; traffic was very light and going slow because of the fog when a single horseman appeared out of nowhere in the middle of the eight lanes of traffic.  He was on an excited and jittery mount but was keeping  him under control with short pulls on the big army curb bit.  The horseman was in full Indian wars era winter cavalry field regalia:  long medium blue overcoat with cape thrown back and the yellow cavalry lining revealed; blue trousers with a yellow cavalry stripe tucked into tall black boots; dark Stetson with a yellow cavalry cord; black horse equipment including McClellan saddle, saddle bags, bed roll; and a saber and carbine hung from the saddle. 

The trooper held up his gauntleted arm signaling the traffic to stop and we all slowly came to a halt.  I was stopped at the head of the traffic line as the fog continued to swirl around us and the trooper settled his horse and watched the traffic impassively.  Suddenly, to our right, an entire detachment of cavalry came out of the fog in column of twos.  An officer and bright red and white guidon led the unit as it moved through the fog at a trot.  They quickly and noisily clattered across the hard surface road –about twenty troopers followed by a covered wagon drawn by four mules.  In a few seconds they were across the road and lost to sight in the fog and darkness.  Before I could reflect on what I had just seen, the road crossing guard, who was the trooper stopping the traffic, spun his horse and followed the trail of the column.  He too disappeared into the fog as quickly and suddenly as he had appeared.  It was a surreal introduction to the U.S. Army’s ceremonial 1st Cavalry Division Horse Cavalry Detachment at Fort Hood Texas. 

The Horse Cavalry Detachment is a ceremonial unit that represents the Army’s cavalry tradition.  They recreate the cavalry as it appeared on the American plains in the 1870s and 1880s.  Though their look is somewhat “Hollywood,” as opposed to the authentic living history of many reenactor groups, they are very effective at evoking the spirit of the horse cavalry.  They are also unique in that they are all full time soldiers who train, maintain, and care for their horses and equipment on a full time basis very much in the time-honored tradition of horse cavalry.  It’s a positive statement of the value of tradition and history to U.S. Army that the unit continues to operate given the operational deployment tempo of the army.  In the last few years the 1st Cavalry Division  has completed three one year deployments to Iraq.  The detachment has a pretty nice website up and running which explains their purpose, equipment, and the variety of ceremonies in which they participate.

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5 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. This must have been a very impressive experience as if, lost in the fog, you crossed an invisible gate into the 19th century.

  2. Diana,

    Thanks for commenting on my blog. You are exactly right… that’s how I felt though I knew exactly what was happening. I’m convinced moments like that, rare though they are, mean something.

  3. Lou:

    Must have been quite a sight. Years ago, I did a ride into Ft Bowie. Most of the ride was over what was once part of the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach Route. There were times on that ride, when I felt the ghosts, of the troopers, riding with me. Topping the ridge, and seeing what was left of the old fort, was a sight I will remember for a long time.

  4. HI,
    I was wondering if this is a picture of you here and if so may I have permission to use it for our units (4/4 CAV Fort Riley) spur ride certificate background? It will be in negative form or blacked like a shadow, but so far it’s the most distinctive image I’ve located.
    Thanks

  5. Thanks for the great read! Im currently in the 1CD HCD! Have been out to see us lately?

    Dustin


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