History of the Second United States Cavalry
Part 2: 1843 & 1844, Louisiana & Arkansas
In June 1842 the House of Representatives - and in August the Senate - amended and passed a bill to reduce the army for the sake of economy, resulting in the dismounting of the 2nd Dragoons. Unaware though they were, they would become riflemen effective March 4 1843. The regiment had divided among several posts: Companies H and I at Fort Washita Arkansas to defend the Chickasaws from other tribes in the Southwest, G company at Fort Towson, with B and K companies at Baton Rouge. The remainder formed the garrison for Fort Jesup. Captain William J. Hardee, having recently returned from service in Europe, directed the mounted and saber exercises for the regiment, and provided lance exercises for two companies at Fort Jesup with lances constructed there. All too soon, news of the impending change to foot status arrived, causing "mingled emotions of rage, chagrin, and regret among the dragoons. Threats of resignation and desertion, both loud and deep were freely uttered..." Apparently, duty was attended to anyway, albeit with less "Úlan" then had been the custom Happily, movement to rescind the decision was afoot with in a short time. Major General Scott indicated in his annual report that, "the near prospect of dismounting the Second Dragoons is deeply to be regretted". On March 8 1843, however, orders were issued making the prescribed changes. The horses were distributed to the First Dragoons. The summer passed somewhat more easily since the regiment was allowed to keep their Dragoon uniforms for a time.
On November 30, the Secretary of War made his annual report and agreed with General Scott about the need for more mounted troops on the growing frontier. Finally, after petitions from the legislatures of Missouri and Louisiana in December, Congress passed a bill on March 7, 1844 to reorganized and remount the Second Dragoons. The following, from our regiment's history, explains the resulting reaction: "If men can ever be called 'hysterical', such would be the term to describe the frantic and excessive rejoicing which took possession of the garrison at Fort Jesup". An extra "gill" of whiskey, immunity from extra duty, and an apparent loose rein were prescribed for the enlisted men. Also apparently, many extra gills were doled out sparking much hilarity. The following explains: "...two of the soberest of the party, Captains G--- and M--- were exhorted to the parade [ground] and with much ceremony mounted upon a six-pounder howitzer which, already loaded with blank cartridge awaited the hour when it was wont to salute the setting sun. The frolicsome dragoons, astride the gun, began to contend for the honor of pulling the lanyard, and after some playful gymnastics, G--- was forced almost over the vent hole when, p--f! bang! a cloud of smoke, a brief pause, then a slight swear, almost drowned in shrieks of laughter, which greeted poor G--- as he emerged from the ordeal of saltpeter, with his best stable-jacket in flames and the reinforce of his light blue breeches not so apparent as it had been."
The regimental history writer assures us with over two pages of testimony that this episode of "liquid" induced frivolity was an aberration in the behavioral history of the Second Dragoons. We're only too happy to believe him.
The November 28 1844 report of the Secretary of War closes this section of our history by saying, "The remounting of the Second Regiment of Dragoons will enlarge the very best force for military service on the prairies -- an indisputable duty now devolving on the Government". Amen to that.
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