100-Year History of the Sixth Cavalry

One of the oldest regimental traditions of the colorful 6th Armored Cavalry is the reading of the 100-year history of the unit.

The custom, dating back to the Civil War era, is traditionally performed by the most newly assigned second lieutenant in the regiment.

John J. Pershing, second lieutenant, Cavalry, USA, newly arrived from the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, for duty at Bayard, N.M. in 1886 was the junior officer of the regiment at the time of its 25th Anniversary and it can be -presumed that, when the Sixth Calvary paused during the Indian campaigns to celebrate its Organization Day, young Pershing performed the traditional reading of the regiment’s history.

**This was printed in the May 5, 1961 issue of “Inside the Turret, Fort Knox, Kentucky, ”which was dedicated to the Centennial Anniversary of the United States Sixth Cavalry.” (There is no byline.)

[divider top=”0″]

Organizing the Sixth Cavalry

The 6th Cavalry was organized by an act of Congress on May 4, 1861 at the beginning of the Civil War, and took the field in August, 1861. It’s most brilliant feat of arms was performed at Fairfield, PA (Battle of Gettysburg), where it completely neutralized two brigades of Confederate cavalry, thereby saving the supply train of the Union Army. The regiment threw itself into this fight with the dash and spirit of self-sacrifice which characterizes ideal cavalry action, and the mission was accomplished at great cost – the regiment was literally cut to pieces. The unicorn on the regimental coat-of-arms symbolizes the qualities displayed in this action by the Sixth.

Another distinguished performance of the Sixth was its attack on the Confederate entrenchments at Williamsburg. The regiment was almost continually engaged throughout the war until the surrender at Appomattox, at which three officers and 100 men were present as General Sheridan’s body-guard.

From 1866 to 190 it underwent arduous service, first in Texas and Oklahoma, assisting the civil authorities in establishing law and order, and afterwards in New Mexico and Arizona, where it had an important share in the pursuit and subjection of the Apache Indians. It was during this period that the late Lieutenant General Chaffee and General of the Armies Pershing served with the regiment. In the fall of 1890 it was dispatched to South Dakota, where it took part in the Wounded Knee campaign against the Sioux Indians.

At the outbreak of the Spanish War it was dispatched to Cuba, where it took part in the battles of July 1-3, 1898. At the formal surrender of the Spanish forces at Santiago, the Sixth Cavalry Band played the National Anthem at the hoisting of the United States Colors.

[divider top=”1″]

Duty in Phillippines

In July, 1900, the regiment sailed from San Francisco for duty in the Philippines, but only one squadron went there directly, the other two being diverted to China to take part in quelling the Boxer Rebellion. Of these, one remained at Tien-Tsin with British, French, Russian and Japanese troops to keep the port open. It took part in the several engagements, while the other squadron passed forward to Pekin under General Chaffee, where it helped to raise the siege of the embassies and was the first body of troops to enter the Forbidden City.

The regiment was united at Manila in December, 1900. The next two years were spent in guerilla warfare against the insurgent Filipinos, culminating in the surrender of General Malvar. The Sixth then went into garrison duty in the islands of Luzon and Cebu. In 1903 it returned to the United States, two squadrons being stationed at Fort Meade, S.D., and the third at Yellowstone Park and Fort Keogh, Montana. In 1907 the regiment again left San Francisco for the Philippines and took station in the southern islands, where it remained until December, 1909. During this latter year it was engaged in the fight on Patian Island, where the Moro outlaw, Jakiri, and his entire band were exterminated, and three officers and an enlisted man won the Congressional Medal of Honor.

Arriving in the United States in January, 1910, the entire regiment was stationed at Fort Des Moines, Iowa from whence they were hurried in April, 1911, to Arizona to guard the Mexican border during the Madero revolution. They remained there until January, 1912. In February, 1913, they turned their backs upon Fort Des Moines for the last time, and proceeded to Texas City, near Galveston, Texas, for what was supposed to be an immediate advance into Mexico.

They remained there under canvas, however, for two and a half years, except for the absence of two troops at Vera Cruz during the eight months occupation of that city by United States troops. In August, 1915, the Texas City camp was demolished and many lives lost in the hurricane and high tide of that month, and the regiment was sent to patrol the Brownsville district of the border with headquarters at Harlingen.

[divider top=”1″]

Enter Mexico

Immediately after Villa’s raid on Columbus, New Mexico, in April 1916, the Sixth was sent to join General Pershing’s punitive expedition into Mexico, and marched as far as Casa Grandes, where it remained until ordered back to patrol the Big Bend district in the southwestern corner of Texas. This duty continued for 17 months, when it was order to San Antonio, and marched a distance of 455 miles in 20 marching days,

After recruiting and equipping for Foreign Service there, the regiment sailed for France, via England, on March 16, 1918, and on arrival was split up into detachments and assigned to military police duty until the end of October. It was then reassembled for immediate duty at the front, but the signing of the armistice caused its delay, first at Gieveres, then at Vendome, until its return to the States in June1919,. On July 4, it arrived at Fort Oglethorpe, and remained at that post for 23 years – the longest stay in its history.

In 1933, the Sixth furnished officers and men to organize and instruct the newly-formed CCC companies. In 1935, 1936 and 1937, the Regiments again participated in annual maneuvers at Fort Benning and exemplified the cavalry, especially its shock action and mobility, to thousands of infantry commanders. In 1938 the Sixth formed President Roosevelt’s guard of honor at Gainesville, Georgia and Chattanooga, Tennessee during the president’s visits.

On February 16, 1942, the Regiment moved to Camp Blanding, Florida, leaving behind the last vestiges of the horse cavalry, where it was reorganized and re-equipped. In November 1942, the Sixth was alerted.. As it stood by to move out, a German submarine attack off New York sank the ship loaded with equipment consigned to the Regiment.

[divider top=”1″]

Known As 6th Cavalry Group

Finally, in September 1943, advance elements of the Regiment disembarked from the “Queen Mary” at Greenoch, Scotland, and proceeded from there to Northern Ireland. The remainder of the Sixth arrived the following month. After much intensive training, transfer to England, followed by more training, the regiment landed on Utah Beach in France on July 9, 1944, assigned to the Third Army – Patton’s.

The Sixth Cavalry Group, as the regiment was then designated, saw much fierce fighting in the five campaigns of Normandy Northern France, Ardennes, Rhineland and Central Europe.

On May 8, 1943, when hostilities ceased, the Sixth Cavalry Group found itself on the Czechoslovakian-German border. As a regular Army unit, it was selected to remain in Germany for occupation duty. Soon after hostilities ceased, two squadrons marched to Berlin for a four-month period. Upon returning to Bavaria, their main duties included maintenance of road blocks, motor patrols, and the guarding of various U.S. installations within their area of responsibility.

On December 20, 1948, with the first phase of the occupation completed, the Sixth was again reorganized, re-equipped, and redesigned as the 6th Armored Cavalry. Armored cars and motorcycles gave way to light and medium tanks and jeeps. Squadrons and troops became battalions and companies. The organization and equipment became substantially the same as the regiment has today.

In 1949, the regiment participated in five large scale field training exercises and maneuvers. With the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, the tension and training increased. Grafenwohr, Camp de Munsingen and Hohne became as familiar as the home stations of Deggendorg, Landshut, Straubing and Regensburg.

Although faced by 172 rugged mountain miles of border to patrol, the regiment found time to assist the German people. During the terrible floods of the Danube River each spring, troops worked around the clock on mercy missions.

[divider top=”1″]

Honored By Bavarian Government

War and hatred faded as the years rolled by and friendship grew. On a cold rainy day in February, 1957, as the Sixth staged its final review before returning to the United States, it was presented a large silver shield by the Bavarian Government. The shield bears the inscription “To the Sixth Armored Cavalry Regiment ‘The Shield of Bavaria’ For Its Outstanding Service in Bavaria, 20 November 1948- March 1957, Dr. William Hoegner, Minister President of Bavaria.: It symbolized the Army’s friendship, which had arisen during the post-war years between the regiment and the people it helped conquer and remained to protect. This is the only known official recognition given to an American unit by a state of Germany since prior to World War II.

Thus the Fighting Sixth” ended its tour on “the easternmost outpost of democracy” as it again exchanged duty stations for the third time with the 11th Armored Cavalry under ”Operation Gyroscope.” After an absence of almost 14 years, the regiment returned to American soil aboard the USNS Geiger and the USNS Buckner, arriving in New York late in March 1957. Fort Knox, Kentucky, is its present home.

[divider top=”1″]