1st US Cavalry
By 1855, the US Government acknowledged that they needed more mounted servicemen than what was provided by the First and Second Dragoon Regiments or the Mounted Riflemen. So by order of Congress in March of 1855, the 1st and 2nd US Cavalry was formed. Prior to the Civil War, the units were mainly stationed in the West at several frontier outposts in the form of peacekeepers and protectors of the settlers from Amerindian reprisal.
Cavalry Sergeant Dress Uniform
In the beginning, one of the forms of organizing the various companies was by sorting them in horses of distinctive colors for both the purpose of Parade as well as finding ones' company in the heat of battle. Company A had sorrels, B had grays; C had sorrels; D had bays; E had roans; F had sorrels; G had blacks; H had bays; I had sorrels; and K was given bays. The buglers had white horses, while the officers had the luxury of two horses each of whatever color they preferred. At the same time, officers were required to provide their uniforms, equipment, and horses.
After a time of training at Jefferson Barracks in Missouri and Fort Leavenworth in Kansas, the 1st US was assigned to keep the peace in Kansas while the citizens attempted to decide on being a slave or free state, a conflict usually known as "Bloody Kansas." For even the commanders of the regiment it was a divided issue since the Colonel - Edwin Vose Sumner - who later became a Brigadier General of the Union, whereas the Lieutenant Colonel was Joseph E. Johnston, who later became a prominent General for the Confederacy.
By 1857 the mission of the 1st US also encompassed the protection of settlers against Cheyenne Amerindians rightfully indignant at the invasion of their hunting and living territory. Sumner ordered a wide encirclement of the Cheyenne as they hunted in the summer of May 1857. Finally meeting near the Solomon River, Sumner ordered the drawing of sabers as the two groups met each other at a full gallop, one of the first uses of sabers in the West. Prior to the battle, the shamans of the Cheyenne had provided protective magic to the Amerindian warriors that would supposedly protect against carbines, so it was much to the surprise and terror of the Cheyenne warriors as they saw the glint of steel and the hiss from many scabbards. They pivoted their horses and for over seven miles were chased by the cavalrymen before their faster horses allowed them to escape. However, there was some fighting in this chase, and several troopers of the 1st US were killed or wounded, including the wounding of another well-known figure of the Civil War J.E.B. Stuart.
The rest of the Cheyenne campaign remained uneventful as larger fears loomed to the East as political tensions rose. By August of 1861, the 1st US Cavalry continued to patrol and take part in campaigns of the Western front, but several companies were also sent East to join the Army of the Potomac in several engagements. It was common practice for Generals to break up cavalry in this manner, either in individual companies, as squadrons of two companies, or battalions of four companies, to be used in reconnaissance, raiding, and screening of other branches. In either case, the men of the 1st US showed continued resolve and bravery in several engagements across the entirety of the conflict. In the West, several companies took part in the siege of Forts Donelson and Henry, and in 1862 were able to break an entire Confederate cavalry brigade with just two companies near Murfreesboro, TN. A different squadron in 1864 was able to charge a battery of Rebel cannon and completely take it, along with 300 prisoners.
The successes of their Confederate counterparts under a previous member of their unit - J.E.B. Stuart - Union commanders were convinced of the necessity of reforming their cavalry and the ways they were implemented by the middle of 1864. With this reorganization, the 1st US was again reformed as a whole unit with their companies to the East recalled, and they instead led in counterattacks through Tennessee and Alabama against Nathan Bedford Forrest. While earlier efforts at Union cavalry forces were plagued by lack of supply for basics from saddles to sabers, not to mention lack of horsemanship in their green troopers, by 1865 the forces had become superbly trained and equipped, and that along with sheer numbers allowed them to overwhelm and rout Forrest's forces.
Finally, as the war drew to a close, the 1st US joined the army of General Sherman in his "March to the Sea," helping to take Montgomery, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia, the latter being the last battle of the Civil War prior to their receiving news of the surrenders of Lee and Johnson. They also happened to assist in the capture of the Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
* As the most mobile of branches used during the Civil War, the cavalry is an effective tool and support for the more rigid infantry or almost completely stationary artillery, able to plug gaps or find threats before they become a problem for the others. The majority of our version of the 1st US is dismounted, though depending on the venue we also have the option to include horses in our impressions. To ensure a correct impression, see tack requirements below the main uniform and personal equipment requirements. As always, ensure that you speak with your unit guide or commander prior to purchasing any equipment to ensure you are not wasting money on an incorrect piece.
Take a look here for a list of acceptable sutlers to get the gear below.
* Kepi, Forage Cap, or Slouch Hat
The Slouch Hat is not to be confused with a stereotypical cowboy hat or Stetson. Ask your unit guide for particulars.
Unlike the infantry, hat brass like the crossed sabers was issued to the troops but was often not seen being used by the troopers, so it is up to you to wear it or not.
* Shell Jacket with yellow trim and/or plain sack coat
* Muslin or homespun shirt
* Sky blue mounted-pattern trousers
* Thick socks, preferably wool
* Knee-high boots preferable, brogans also acceptable
* M1858 Sword Belt w/enlisted eagle buckle and silver wreath, with shoulder and saber straps
* Cap Box, shield style
* Revolver holster of black leather, worn on the right side
* Canteen (VERY important), with a wool cover, cotton sling
* M1860 or "Sharps" Carbine Cartridge Box
* Black Tarred Haversack
* Leather Carbine Strap
* Leather saber knot
* M1860 Light Cavalry Saber with steel scabbard. (Not initially needed, if at all. Talk to your unit guide.)
* M1852 Sharps Carbine
* M1860 Colt Army Revolver or M1858 Remington Revolver. The 1st US was historically issued the former, but many
soldiers preferred the latter.
Camping and other Necessities:
* A-tent or Shelter/Dog Tent (full or half)
* Period-looking seat of some sort, whether stool or full chair
* Mess kit; tin or steel plate and cup, and knife, fork, and spoon.
* Blanket, preferably the 1851 Gray blanket with dark gray end stripes, or the 1862 Brown blanket with dark brown
end stripes, or a period-style quilt.
* Cotton dress gloves
We must note here that any other necessities will depend on your style of camping. Some prefer to have a cot while some prefer to sleep on the ground with a period ground cloth and plenty of blankets for comfort and heat. The inside of the tent is up to you and is not a public space unless you want it to be. Add to this list based on your own needs.
Extras (not needed immediately if at all)
* Mounted-pattern Overcoat
* For added padding, especially if on horseback, period white drawers are recommended
* Several cloth poke sacks or pouches for putting niceties in.
* A pack of cotton balls for earplugs or flesh-colored modern earplugs
* Cavalry white or off-white gauntlets
In regards to below, it is again up to you to perform your role as a dismounted or mounted trooper. There are only a few events in our area that will allow the admittedly destructive after-effects of horse riding. But if you wish, you can find the required and period-accurate tack below:
* Majorly solid-colored aside from stripes, socks, etc. but no Paints, Appaloosas or other breeds with stand-out colorings and markings. Preferred breeds include Quarter, Morgan, and Canadian.
* M1859 McClellan Saddle with iron hardware, including jappaned or blued iron bar buckles
* Blue wool web girth and surcingle with iron rollers
* Breast straps (not an issued item, but important for safety today. Black leather without any brass heart or ornament.)
* Leather-hooded wood stirrups
* Saddlebags with iron buckle closure
(Later purchase) A reproduction Y-back curry comb, brush, and hoof-pick
* Carbine Socket with pinched or "wasp" waist
* US issue black leather halter and bridle, latter of three to six buckles, without rosettes on browband
* M1859 bit, low port
* Leather reins sewed to bridle and in the middle.
* Canvas nosebag either round or flat-bottomed
* Blue Cavalry Blanket with orange stripes and sewn "US" insignia
Any other type of saddle padding unnecessary and highly discouraged. Great pains should be made to find out the correct fit between horse and saddle to prevent discomfort to the horse.
* (Optional, but suggested) Picket Pin and Lariat