The men of the Second Cavalry went to Texas to fight Indians.
Then they returned home to fight each other. The creation of the Second Cavalry in 1855 was a watershed event in the history of the United States Army. Ordered to engage the Native American tribes whose persistent raids were slowing the settlement of the West, the officers of the Second were unwittingly preparing to fight each other. Established by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, the Second and its officers were assigned-disregarding Army tradition-on the basis of merit and not seniority. Davis's innovation proved sound: Half of the full generals in Davis's Confederate army had served with the Second Cavalry prior to the outbreak of the Civil War.Texas's western frontier was their battleground, and the warriors of the Comanche tribe were their foes. Forsaking the infantry's rustic stockades that had merely served as detour signs for fleet raiding parties, the Second Cavalry developed innovative tactics to address a novel situation, thereby showing the army how to complete the conquest of the West. Led by men such as Robert E. Lee (in his first independent combat command), John Bell Hood, and George Thomas, the troopers of the Second Cavalry schooled themselves in the tactics and strategies of mobile desert warfare, tutored by a skilled and tireless adversary.Drawing upon a wealth of military documents, archival materials, period newspapers, and personal journals, Arnold adds a new and insightful chapter to the history of the U.S. Army and the men who shaped it.
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Published September 27, 2000