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History of the Second United States Cavalry

Part 1: 1836 to 1842, Formation and Florida

"An Act authorizing the President of the United States to accept the services of volunteers, and to raise an additional regiment of dragoons or mounted riflemen...

Sec. 6. And be it further enacted, That there shall be raised and organized, under the direction of the President of the United States, one additional regiment of dragoons or mounted riflemen, to be composed of the same number and rank of the officers, non-commissioned officers, musicians, and privates composing the regiment of dragoons now in the service of the United States, who shall receive the same pay and allowances, be subject to the same rules and regulations, and be engaged for the like term and upon the same conditions, in all respects whatsoever, as are stipulated for the said regiment of dragoons now in service.

Sec. 7. And be it further enacted, That the President of the United States may disband the said regiment whenever, in his opinion, the public interest no longer requires their service; and the sum of three hundred thousand dollars, required to carry into effect the provisions of this act, is hereby appropriated out of any money in the Treasury not otherwise appropriated...

Approved May 23, 1836".

With these words, and the the requisite $300,000.00, a new regiment, the Second Regiment of Dragoons is formed on paper.  Appointments made David E. Twiggs Colonel, Williams S. Harney Lt. Colonel, and 30 Captains, Lieutenants, and 2nd Lieutenants for the 10 new companies. Three companies were to be recruited each in Missouri, Virginia, and New York.  The tenth company (D) transferred from the first regiment from whom they were detached and already serving in Florida.  The regiment's first hostile action came on July 19, 1836 when this company, commanded by Capt. Ashby, repulsed a Seminole attack on the supply train they escorted.  Casualties included Private Holmes killed and ten men wounded. Through the privations typical of the whole Florida campaign, this company was reduced by exhaustion and sickness to 1 officer and 19 men by the end of 1836.

Orders in December that year called for forming the recruits into the 10 companies of 60 men each.  On Christmas Day companies E, F, G, and H sailed from New York to Charleston where company I joined them.  They soon proceeded under Lt Col. Harney to Florida, arriving in January.  Just 2 days after arriving at Ft. Mellon (Feb 8), that post and companies E, F, G, and H along with some artillery crew received a 3 hour series of attacks by 200 Seminoles.  The attacks were repeatedly repulsed, resulting in significant casualties on both sides including the death of Capt Mellon, 2nd Artillery, and wounding 6 enlisted Dragoons and 8 artillerymen.

In April 1837 the remaining companies (A, B, C, and K) and the regimental headquarters moved to the new training facility at Jefferson Barracks under Colonel Twiggs. "As fast as the green horses were received they were introduced to their future proprietors -- equally verdant, in many instances -- whose ambitious 'mounting in hot haste' frequently resulted in a dismount, for quickness of time and variety of motions unparalleled in the tactics." Orders in August set in motion the first of many extraordinary overland marches by the 2nd Dragoons.  Col. Twiggs and his detachment left St Louis on September 5, and arrived at Jacksonville Florida after a march of 1200 miles in just 55 days.  The local newspaper reported that "We were surprised to witness the fresh and healthy appearance of this body of officers and men...  The condition of the horses, at the same time struck us forcibly as evidencing a high state of order and attention."

The campaigns seemed to go on and on and on.  The following poem explains:

Ever since creation,
By the best calculation,
The Florida war has been raging;
And 'tis our expectation
That the last conflagration
Will find us the same contest waging.

The campaigns meant repeated scouts, skirmishes, pitched battles and lengthy marches through an equatorial swamp.  Their adversaries were intelligent, skilled, illusive, and determined.  While in many instances the Dragoons were successful, the campaign did not completely subdue the Seminole nation.

In the midst of all this, part of the regiment got a break.  Companies A, E, G, H, I, and K left Florida in late May, 1839 enroute to a newly organized camp of instruction. They passed through Fort Columbus NY and landed at Fort McHenry, Baltimore harbor.  While in Baltimore and later Trenton NJ, the "...Corps of Dragoons now quartered at Ft McHenry is said to have attached to it a band of musicians which for number and masterly performance is not exceeded by any other in the country." - Baltimore American.

After a summer and early fall spent in recruiting, equipping, and drilling, the "right wing" of the regiment was reviewed by Inspector General Wool who reported, "It affords me the pleasure to say that the Second Dragoons, under arms, appeared extremely well, and the rank and file as fine-looking men as I have ever inspected in the service of the United States..."

On November 10, these companies left once again for Florida, arriving before the year was out. During this period, an explanation is found for the Army's "Hoo-ah" phrase of greeting, ascent, and celebration.  A Seminole leader, Coacoochee, visiting the Garrison at Ft Cummings for a meeting with the U.S. officials, inquired about the brief greetings the officers used before drinking.  After an explanation was given "the chief with great dignity lifted his cup, and elevating it above his head, exclaimed in a deep, [triumphant] voice, Hough!"  Our regiment's history indicates the word at once became adopted by the officers of the Eighth Infantry and Second Dragoons, and it's use spread rapidly through the whole army.

"Hough!, boys, hough -- hough! boys, hough.
Let the soldiers toast be ever, Hough!"

After further campaigning, Companies A, D, E, F, and G were ordered out of Florida on October 17 1841. These troops proceeded to Forts Jesup in Louisiana and Towson in Arkansas.  The remaining companies continued on campaigning until orders issue May 29, 1842 sent them towards Baton Rouge Louisiana.  While waging the war in Florida, the Second Dragoons lost two officers and 20 enlisted killed in action.  Additionally, five officers and 192 enlisted died of the effects of the climate or disease. 

(editors note: this period of American history is particularly difficult, considering the tragedy suffered by the American Natives at the hands of the ever growing immigrant population from around the world.  Soldiers are the tools of their society.  Society sometimes makes grave errors in using their soldiers.  Thank God we are a democracy founded upon, and growing ever successful at living by principles that minimize these errors.)