US Cavalry in Belgium WWI?

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Pat Holscher
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https://scontent-a-sea.xx.fbcdn.net/hph ... 3541_n.jpg

From the International Museum of the Horse Facebook page.


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The only Cavalry from the U.S. that were mounted was the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. Their duty were confined to Guarding field trains, depots, and very little Scouting or screening missions. A Lt. Harmon ( Later General) led a patrol that captured a German staff car.
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rayarthart wrote:The only Cavalry from the U.S. that were mounted was the 2nd Cavalry Regiment. Their duty were confined to Guarding field trains, depots, and very little Scouting or screening missions. A Lt. Harmon ( Later General) led a patrol that captured a German staff car.
There's some threads on the 2nd on the forum. I know that they served in France, but did they get to Belgium?

While the information we have isn't really clear, we do know that some cavalry served organically in Infantry divisions. This was patterned on the French model of the time, in which cavalry formations were reduced in number as independent formations, but assigned to infantry divisions as organic cavalry. One fellow who posts on the WWI List who is extremely knowledgeable on US forces in WWI insists that not only did every infantry division have organic cavalry on paper, but that they also did in reality, but that seems to be a bit of an open question to me. As organic cavalry in this type of organization would have been a relatively small part of the division, this may in fact be correct. It does seem that Pennsylvania's Guard cavalry did contribute at least one troop to an infantry division in this fashion.
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i bumped up some related threads, and at least one of them would indicate that organic cavalry was not widespread in actuality, which is what we'd generally think to be the case. Having said that, if I could find it there is a thread on a troop of PA National Guardsmen being assigned to a division in that fashion, if I could find it.

I wonder if this photo linked in above is cavalry at all. It's common to assume any mounted solder is a cavalryman in photos of this vintage, but these troops might well be something else.
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There was a Headquarters Troop of cavalry assigned to each Division Headquarters. As I understand it, their duties were mostly limited to use as runners, provost, and misc. I once saw a "TO&E" for these troops, and they were meant to be partially horse mounted, and partially mechanized (motorcycles and trucks). Although there was very little cavalry operating in traditional roles in the AEF, the 2nd Cav and 6th Cav being two exceptions, I believe that there were quite a few mounted cavalrymen running around in the service of Division staff rats. The Penn NG has been mentioned. NJ's Essex Troop served as HQ Troop for the 29th Division.

The photo may or not be Cav related. It could be a cavalry escort detached from Division. It could very well be Trains. I see a wagon of some sort in the background. The second man back has an armband on (medic?).
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Brian P. wrote:There was a Headquarters Troop of cavalry assigned to each Division Headquarters. As I understand it, their duties were mostly limited to use as runners, provost, and misc. I once saw a "TO&E" for these troops, and they were meant to be partially horse mounted, and partially mechanized (motorcycles and trucks). Although there was very little cavalry operating in traditional roles in the AEF, the 2nd Cav and 6th Cav being two exceptions, I believe that there were quite a few mounted cavalrymen running around in the service of Division staff rats. The Penn NG has been mentioned. NJ's Essex Troop served as HQ Troop for the 29th Division.

The photo may or not be Cav related. It could be a cavalry escort detached from Division. It could very well be Trains. I see a wagon of some sort in the background. The second man back has an armband on (medic?).
Thanks for that addition. I know we have a thread on that somewhere, but I'm not finding it right now.

Here's an item from another thread I just bumped up that relates to that to a degree:
Pat Holscher wrote:That's really interesting!

Last night, after you posted this, I did a quick search and ran across an interesting item, that looked to be pretty well documented, that noted that Troop A of the same KS cavalry unit was deployed as the 35 Division's Headquarters Troop.

This means that Troops A, B, C, and D were all used in the 35th Division. At least Troop A remained mounted.

I really think that there's a lot to your observation of "hidden" cavalry. I suspect the story of U.S. Army cavalry in WWI is nearly as missed as the story of American mounted troops in WWII, except that it might be the case that there was quite a bit more mounted deployment than we realize.

Placing it in context, it seems to be not so much the case that the cavalry was regarded as obsolete, and therefore not used, as it was that the war in Europe was regarded as static warfare, and therefore the cavalry was used differently. Cavalry continued to be deployed as cavalry along the Mexican Border, which I'd argue was WWI service, even though the border troubles were not part of WWI. All service there was highly mobile, so cavalry was deployed for a mobile role.

In Europe, the U.S. Army seems to have looked at the war, and determined to model the American division on the French division, and to disregard the British model. So we adopted a square division, in which cavalry had a reconnaissance role. That's how the French used their cavalry, and that's how the German's used theirs. We didn't do much to keep a mobile cavalry reserve, outside of some units of the 2d Cavalry, but as noted before there was some suggestion that if a big cavalry force was needed, the French could provide it.

What's really surprising in this is that this is at least the second time we've found a division that truly did have organic HQ cavalry. We know that at least one troop of the PA cavalry was used this way in another division. One of the authorities on American divisions on the WWI list maintains that every American division had organic HQ cavalry. I really had doubted that, but now I suspect that's correct. So, as it turns out, we see less cavalry, but we see cavalry in every division. This would work the same way for the French, and the Germans. Indeed, this is how it worked for the Germans in WWII.

Beyond that, we are really seeing that the surplus cavalry was being used for other roles they easily fit into. More artillery (it seems to me) was being used in the square division that normal, and cavalrymen were used for some of that. As artillery was a mounted force, that makes sense. We also know that cavalry was used for some Remount duties.

The MP use is really interesting. I would not have guess that. I wonder if they were mounted in that role?

It's also interesting to note that the use of National Guard cavalry in this fashion fits into the modern pattern. We've seen a lot of use of National Guard troops in the current war in Iraq where they've been deployed in infantry or MP roles outside of their regular duties. A Wyoming NG artillery unit was used that way in Iraq. Here we see Kansas cavalry busted up, deployed in the same division, and partially used for MPs. It makes sense, as they were trained troops filling in a role that needed to be filled, but for which there were not other troops to do it.

Very interesting. I hope we learn more on this.
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The U.S. used the arguement that it would cost too much to send it's Horse Cavalry overseas with it's equipment. The U.S used the same excuse in 1941 also. Most of the mounts used by the U.S. Cavalry units were horses that were either locally obtained or were shared by European Cavalry Regiments that were dismated by combat earlier.
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rayarthart wrote:The U.S. used the arguement that it would cost too much to send it's Horse Cavalry overseas with it's equipment. The U.S used the same excuse in 1941 also. Most of the mounts used by the U.S. Cavalry units were horses that were either locally obtained or were shared by European Cavalry Regiments that were dismated by combat earlier.
Pershing argued for large scale commitment of U.S. cavalry to Europe during World War One, but there were material factors that operated against it which he ultimately had to accept. Cavalry was regarded as expensive in its era and it was in terms of material resources needed to equip and maintain a cavalry force in theater. The US had a fairly difficult time transporting a largely infantry based force to Europe during World War One and it never really succeeded in coming up to strength in Europe. The US Army really imagined a fully capable field force existing in 1919, not 1918, and so when the 1918 fighting developed the way it did, the U.S. Army in the field was much less than it would have been, even as big as it was. Even at that, the Army had to rely on French equipment fairly extensively.

Given that, the ability to equip and maintain a significant amount of cavalry in the field in World War One didn't really exist for the US, and ultimately the plan was just to rely on the French model of the division and, if cavalry was otherwise needed, to rely on French or British cavalry. Even at that, the 2nd Cavalry was mounted on horses drawn from a French veterinary hospital, which shows how tight resources were. The demand for horses was simply too high, really, to equip any sort of large scale mounted force outside of artillery units. Even as it was, there were a lot of horses in any one division (divisions were just divisions then, as opposed to infantry divisions, etc.). So, in spite of Pershing's desire, the ability just wasn't there. That three cavalry regiments ended up being used as cavalry to some extent was probably about as good as could be done, with additional cavalry being incorporated with troops in the square divisions.

Another factor which isn't considered much, but which was real, is that the US basically had a cold war going on with Mexico at the time that was completely cavalry dependent. We recall the Punitive Expedition here a fair amount, but not too many people otherwise do in the context of World War One. But the U.S. Army had to. Border tensions with Mexico ran right through WWI and in into the 1920s, and U.S. forces occasionally crossed into Mexico in the 1920s. With huge expanses to cover, it was the cavalry that had the job. If a lot of cavalry had been sent to Europe, it would have required the raising and equipping of new cavalry regiments, although that probably could have been done just by keeping the National Guard cavalry as cavalry. If that approach had been taken it would probably have been politically necessary to deploy the Guard cavalry to Europe as cavalry and keep the Regular Army cavalry on the border, as the Attorney General of the US had issued an opinion that National Guardsmen could not be deployed outside the US, an expediency which had been solved by drafting the entire National Guard for World War One. That rational might have been theoretically applicable to the Mexican border, but the Administration had already taken the position that the Guard could serve on the border but could not cross it into Mexico, which is something that the Administration probably wouldn't want to have reversed during the war.

Had the means been available, and Pershing got his wish, it's interesting to ponder what deployment of U.S. cavalry on the same scale as the British committed cavalry in World War One might have meant. Cavalry probably really resumed its full battlefield importance in late 1918, by which time there wasn't very much of it. Had there been a lot of it, the war may have wrapped up a little quicker, although probably not a great deal more quickly.
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Brian P. wrote:The second man back has an armband on (medic?).
That's interesting. I hadn't noticed that until you posted it.
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The thread on HQ Troops:

viewtopic.php?f=3&t=7151
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Apparently the 37th Division, made up of Ohio Guardsmen, including their HQ Troop, entered Belgium late war and in fact the HQ Troops, amongst other units, participated in escorting King Albert into Brussels.
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Pat Holscher wrote:https://scontent-a-sea.xx.fbcdn.net/hph ... 3541_n.jpg

From the International Museum of the Horse Facebook page.
All three men are wearing Sam Browne Belts which were reserved for officers. I suspect they are leading a column of field artillery.
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Good eye, Philip! Now that you mention the Sam Brownes, I see the braid on their sleeves. I'm still intrigued by the arm band on officer #2 - Medical Officer? What is behind their left shoulders? Do they have their helmets slung there somehow?
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The photo in the Punitive Expedition thread of Gen. Bell reminded me of this pic of him inspecting the 33rd Division Headquarters troop in France. (Note: he is still wearing his trademark whiskers!)

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Brian P. wrote:The photo in the Punitive Expedition thread of Gen. Bell reminded me of this pic of him inspecting the 33rd Division Headquarters troop in France. (Note: he is still wearing his trademark whiskers!)

Image

That is a great picture!
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By the way, am I only the only one who thinks General Bell bears a disturbing resemblance to Col. Sanders?
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Brian P. wrote:The photo in the Punitive Expedition thread of Gen. Bell reminded me of this pic of him inspecting the 33rd Division Headquarters troop in France. (Note: he is still wearing his trademark whiskers!)

Image
What model is that saddle? Note the safe.
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Good eye, Couvi, regarding the safe on the nearest saddle. I suspect that saddle started life as a first pattern MODEL 1904, and was converted to the second pattern by having the solid quarter straps cut at the bottom edge of the sidebars, and then the addition of the halter squares and the fully buckle adjusted quarter straps. There would be no need to replace the rectangular safes during that conversion. I suspect this type conversion was done throughout the time period from about 1906 up to the WW1 period, as I have never, repeat never, seen a second pattern Model 1904, Rock Island Arsenal marked saddle dated before 1917. I suspect all the 2nd pattern saddles during the lead up to WW1 were conversions to the newer patterns. I have asked on more than one occasion on this forum if anyone has observed an RIA manufactured 2nd pattern saddle dated between 1906 and 1917 (girth safes don't count!). I have yet to hear or see one.

On an aside, when these saddles started to be converted, the arsenals (and probably the saddlers in the field who were doing conversions) used up old parts on hand first during the conversions. I've got a second pattern saddle with iron halter squares utilized from old stock, and also have a such a saddle with the bronze/brass squares, which is typically seen. The fun part is that I also have a conversion saddle that has two iron squares, and two bronze squares! Talk about using up old stock.

I find this period to be very interesting because of the continuing change and updates of the equipments, including several experimental items of horse equipments. It is also a period that is severely overlooked by collectors and historians, for whatever reasons.

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Rick Throckmorton wrote:Good eye, Couvi, regarding the safe on the nearest saddle. I suspect that saddle started life as a first pattern MODEL 1904, and was converted to the second pattern by having the solid quarter straps cut at the bottom edge of the sidebars, and then the addition of the halter squares and the fully buckle adjusted quarter straps. There would be no need to replace the rectangular safes during that conversion. I suspect this type conversion was done throughout the time period from about 1906 up to the WW1 period, as I have never, repeat never, seen a second pattern Model 1904, Rock Island Arsenal marked saddle dated before 1917. I suspect all the 2nd pattern saddles during the lead up to WW1 were conversions to the newer patterns. I have asked on more than one occasion on this forum if anyone has observed an RIA manufactured 2nd pattern saddle dated between 1906 and 1917 (girth safes don't count!). I have yet to hear or see one.

On an aside, when these saddles started to be converted, the arsenals (and probably the saddlers in the field who were doing conversions) used up old parts on hand first during the conversions. I've got a second pattern saddle with iron halter squares utilized from old stock, and also have a such a saddle with the bronze/brass squares, which is typically seen. The fun part is that I also have a conversion saddle that has two iron squares, and two bronze squares! Talk about using up old stock.

I find this period to be very interesting because of the continuing change and updates of the equipments, including several experimental items of horse equipments. It is also a period that is severely overlooked by collectors and historians, for whatever reasons.

Rick T.
So, the old "until existing supplies are exhausted" scheme is nothing new? No point in replacing still serviceable safes with the new model at that point. :think:
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We had this photograph up on another thread, although the link is now apparently dead. Anyhow, this is of the Ludlow Coloroado strike and I believe that Rick identified this M1904 as also having a square safe:

http://cdm15330.contentdm.oclc.org/cdm/ ... 9243/rec/5
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