The 17th Cavalry Regiment was organized under the provisions of the National Defense Act of 1916 at Ft Bliss, Texas on June 30,1916 and constituted on 1 July 1916. General Pershing had taken his columns into Mexico only a short time before and the need of cavalry troops was pressing. Thirty-two officers and seven hundred ninety-one veterans from the lst, 3rd, 6th, 8th and 14th Regiments were transferred as the nucleus of the new regiment. Many of these were recalled from the Punitive Expedition and since all were experienced troopers, little time was spent in whipping the organization into shape. The Regimental Commander, Colonel Williard A. Holbrook, assumed command on 9 July 1916, on which date the men from the 8th Cavalry joined the regiment. Colonel Holbrook held command until he was promoted to the rank of Major General. Colonel Holbrook went on to become the Chief of Cavalry for the United States Army.
The 8th Cavalry Regiment was in garrison at Ft. Bliss, Texas at the time of the formation of the new regiment. The men from the 14th Cavalry arrived on July 10th. The two contingents were combined and on July 13, 1916, the regiment, with 13 officers and 512 enlisted men present, established the 17th Cavalry Camp, on the Ft. Bliss Military Reservation just south of the post proper and east of the G.H. & S.A. pumping plant. The several troops (15) were organized and the regiment entered upon its duties as such. Men from the 6th Cavalry arrived on July 12th and those from the lst Cavalry arrived between the 14th, 15th and 17th of July. Remounts were received as follows: July 24th - 120; July 25th - 490; July 26th - 369. Mules were received as follows: July 17th - 28 (Supply Troop); July 24th - 24 (Machine Gun Troop); July 25th - 68 (Supply Troop); and one on July 26th (Supply Troop). During the remainder of the summer of 1916 the regiment completed its organization, the time being devoted to the training of remounts, adjustment of administrative matters, completion of equipment and a multitude of details connected with the organization of a mounted command.
Total troopers transferred:
In honor of the cavalry regiments that contributed officers, men and experience to the formation of the 17th Cavalry Regiment, the regimental shield shares much from the coats of arm of those units. Orange is from the lst Cavalry and was the official color that has historically represented dragoons. The color green was taken from the 3d Cavalry. Their uniforms contained green facings in honor of the 3d Cavalry's first engagement at Vera Cruz, and its contribution throughout the campaign of 1847 to the capture of Mexico City. Upon entering the city, it hoisted the Stars and Stripes over the national palace and displayed the regimental standard from the palace balcony, which drew from General Scott the statement, "Brave Rifles! Veterans! You have been baptized in fire and blood and have come out steel." The 3d Cavalry's shield contains a green tower representing the fortified Mexico City. The Regiment chose the unicorn from the 6th Cavalry Regiment, which represents the knightly virtues and, in the rampant position, a symbol of fighting aggressiveness, combined with speed and activity. The demihorse, in honor of cavalry mounts, was taken from the shield of the 8th Cavalry Regiment. The diagonal line, being the traditional military symbol of cavalry, came from the 14th Cavalry.
The first mounted formation of the regiment was held on August 4th, 1916 and consisted of all fifteen troops and the wagons of the supply Troop. Horse training, together with instructions in the new cavalry drill, were continued during the month of August. On August 31st, 1916, a mounted review, inspection and muster were held. The regiment as nearly equipped for the field as the equipment on hand would allow, passed in review at a walk, trot, and gallup for the first time! The months of September and October were spent in horse training, together with regular routine of drills, inspections and camp duties.
In the fall of 1916, the 17th Cavalry was ready to take the field. The regiment took part in a practice march of a provisional War Strength Cavalry Regiment from 15 November to 22 November, 1916. The 17th Cavalry Regiment was supplemented by a sufficient number of officers and enlisted men from the 8th Cavalry and officers of the Militia to make up the necessary complement. The spirit of the regiment was given its first test. The march was primarily attempted to test the various assignments of wagon transportation. It was not determined at the time how many vehicles were necessary for the use of each organization.
The condition of the Regiment at midnight, December 31, 1916, was:
On January 28, 1917, orders were received instructing the regiment to proceed to Brownsville, Texas for station. Camp was broken, regimental freight and baggage loaded and the troops were made ready for the march to the train, when at 1700 HRS on February 4, 1917, orders were received which countermanded former instructions and the regiment was returned to its tents amid the Ft Bliss sand and dust. During this month General Pershing came out of Mexico and-his troops were stationed temporarily at Ft Bliss. This reservation was also the center of a large number of National Guard units and parades and reviews in the city of El Paso were frequent. The 17th Cavalry participated in many of these with the 5th, 7th, 8th, llth and 13th Cavalry Regiments.
On May.14, 1917, new orders were received for a change of station and this time they proved definite. Past disturbances along the border in the vicinity of Douglas made necessary, the immediate establishment of other outposts in the vicinity of Douglas. Trains left El Paso on the 17th of May and arrived at Douglas, Arizona, the destination of the regiment, in the mid-afternoon of the 18th. Troops B, C, D, E, F, I, K, HQ, Mg, and Supply went into camp at "Camp Harry J. Jones, Douglas Arizona. Troops G and H proceeded by rail and went into camp next to the town of Naco, Arizona which is on the border about 30 miles west of Douglas. Troop A was marched to the big Cand A (C & A) Copper Smelter, west of town. Troop L proceeded by marching to Forrest Station, Arizona and Troop M left for station at Slaughter's Ranch, about 13 miles east.
The cavalry organization of seventeen regiments, in effect when the United States entered the war against Germany, was based upon the National Defense Act of 1916. In May 1917, emergency laws called for an immediate increase to full strength authorized by the National Defense Act, and organization of the remaining eight new cavalry regiments began at once.
To speed up the process, certain units in June 1917, transferred two-thirds of their men to the new regiments. These new regiments were numbered the 18th through the 25th. War preparations began in earnest in the 17th Cavalry. During April and May recruits began to flock to the colors, and a total of 278 joined the regiment. During the call for personnel to fill the new regiments, the 17th Cavalry was only required to provide 32 men, all of whom were ultimately given commissions.
Early in July 1917, trouble in the copper mining districts of Arizona became quite serious. Union (IWW) agitators and radicals became unmanageable and regular troops were called for. On July 5th a provisional squadron, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel White, consisting of Troops E, F, I and K, and the Machine Gun Troop with a detachment of the Supply Troop, marched to Globe, Arizona, for strike duty. Troop L was dispatched to Forest Station, a few miles west of Douglas, where an outpost was established. A second call for assistance by the civil authorities was received later in the month, when forest fires in Mormon Canyon (Turkey Creek) had gotten beyond control of the forest rangers, and a detail of fifty men under 2nd Lieutenant Arthur S. Harrington, was sent to their assistance.
17th Cavalry troopers were certainly interested in European developments, however with the advent of highly mobile armor forces on the battlefield coupled with the growing unrest in the west, the regiment settled on performing its mission stateside.
After a year's service with the regiment, during which time he saw it grow from modest beginnings to a first class fighting unit, Colonel Holbrook relinquished his command on August 17, 1917. Lieutenant Colonel James J. Hornbrook assumed command of the 17th Cavalry Regiment on August 18th, 1917. Colonel Holbrook was immediately promoted to Brigadier General, Infantry, USA and left Douglas, Arizona on August 19th, 1917.
During the months of August and September, Troop C was relieved from its Smelter guard by Troop A, and proceeded to Slaughter's Ranch, relieving Troop M, Troop L was recalled from its post at Forest Station. Troop H was ordered in from Naco. Troops E and F left Globe and took station in Miami, Arizona. Late in September, Troops L and M were selected for a practice march to Deming,, New Mexico, for the purpose of testing the relative merits of different kinds of cavalry equipment: the McClellan saddle and various turn of the century military innovations. They were gone from September 21 to October 5, averaging 25 miles a day during that time. Animals and men were in excellent condition when they pulled into Douglas, although the new equipment found little favor with the troopers who had used it.
Late in Nov , Troop H was again ordered to Naco. Troop L relieved Troop K at Globe, both organizations marching the entire distance. On the 4th day of December, 1917, the 17th Cavalry was finally tasked to provide personnel fillers for units preparing for combat. 163 trained men of the regiment left for assignment to the 5th Regular Army Division, which later had a distinguished record in France. But by the end of 1917, the regiment had again attained full strength and was in splendid condition.
In October 1917, Lieutenant Colonel Hornbrook was appointed Colonel Cavalry and detailed on duty at Office of the Department Inspector with station at Fort Sam Houston, Texas and relinquished his command in October, 1917. Captain Olan C. Aleshire, appointed Major Signal Corps and commanding the regiment during the month of November, 1917. Colonel E. S. Wright was attached to and assumed command of the 17th Cavalry Regiment on 23 December, 1917. On December 31st, 1917, the strength of the regiment was: 34 Officers and 652 Enlisted men.
In March 1918, the regiment was brigaded with the lst and 15th Regiments in the 3rd Brigade of the newly formed 15th Cavalry Division. The division had three brigades of three regiments each; it was made up of nine of the crack cavalry regiments of the Army. This was the only cavalry division in the Army at the time and was formed for overseas service. No explanation for designating it the 15th has been found. The 15th Cavalry Division packed up and left, the 3rd Brigade was under orders and the 17th lived in daily anticipation of the welcome permission to entrain. The next eight months went by, the armistice was signed, and the troops had nothing to do, but bear it philosophically. Like the divisions organized during previous emergencies, the life of the 15th was short. Actually, a full division organization was not completed, and it was discontinued in May 1918.
Since the first of the year (1918), the regiment was commanded successively by Colonels E.S. Wright; Alfred E. Kennington and George H. Morgan. Colonel John D.L. Hartman assumed command on June 23, 1919, retaining command until his promotion to Brigadier General in October.
The principal noteworthy events of the year cam in August. A Mexican attack at Nogales, Arizona, on troops of the 35th Infantry and a portion of the 10th Cavalry, necessitated the sending of the entire forces of the 10th Cavalry from Ft Huachuca, Arizona, to their assistance. The First Squadron of the 17th Cavalry was ordered to make a forced march to Ft Huachuca to relieve the 10th Cavalry. Orders were received at 1100 HRS, August 28 and at 0200 HRS on the 29th, the march began. The trip of 76 miles was covered without the loss of a horse or man in 16 hours. The remainder of the regiment was ready to go at a moments notice, but the action died down and the squadron immediately returned to Douglas on September 3rd.
Colonel Morgan again assumed command of the regiment in October and retained command until his retirement, shortly before the Armistice was signed. The efficiency of the troops can be realized from the statement of Colonel Morgan, when he last reviewed the regiment. He announced that he had never seen a finer cavalry organization in all his long and distinguished service as a cavalry officer.
During the first three months of 1919, the splendid organization was rapidly depleted. After orders for station in Hawaii were received, all the men who had enlisted for World War One were transferred to other cavalry regiments, and destined for an early discharge. Their places were partially filled with long-term men and reservists from other regiments. When the Regiment left Douglas, early in April, approximately 900 men went with it. Fully half of these came from nearly every other cavalry regiment in the Army. A number were transferred to the 17th Cavalry from the infantry.
Colonel Hartman, upon being returned to his regular rank from Brigadier General was reassigned to command the regiment in March 1919, and had the task of reorganization and bringing the regiment to its new station. On April 5, 1919, the 17th Cavalry sailed from San Francisco, crossing on the U.S.A.T. Sherman to Honolulu, where the regiment arrived on April 13th, and immediately proceeded to Schofield Barracks.
The demobilization of the National Guard of Hawaii followed the end of World War I. As a result the 17th Cavalry was the only mobile line organization in the Hawaiian Department. The regiment, strengthened by various recruit contingents which joined during the summer of 1919, furnished the garrison at Ft Shafter and Schofield Barracks, until the fall of 1920, when the arrival of additional troops relieved the cavalry of some of their duties. The arduous task of building up a trained organization from personnel composed almost entirely of recruits and at the same time furnishing the necessary details for the routine duties of one of the largest posts in the Army, was compensated for by the excellent barracks, fine stables, turf drill grounds, and the frequent local festivities, horse shows, and athletic event in which members of the regiment participated.
The covering of approximately one hundred miles of rugged coast line with one regiment of cavalry, so organized as to repel effectively any attempted landing of troops from transports pending arrival of reinforcements, was one of the many problems faced by officers of the regiment during many maneuvers on the island of Oahu. With the exception of the sector in and around the city of Honolulu and Pearl Harbor, the entire coast line of the island was left to the 17th Cavalry Regiment. Good solid cavalry doctrine during training resulted in implementation of the latest technical systems of liaison and intelligence and routine features of cavalry maneuvers were little changed. Command posts were placed, at advantageous points, and sectors of defense were organized, so that a complete liaison existed over the entire hundred miles from post to post. An intricate system of shielded lights and telephone lines provided means for command and control as well as reporting. Camps were placed in locations that provided excellent cover and concealment from the air or sea. The question of supply and rapid deployment of troops was solved by efficient utilization of the good system of roads on the island as well as easy availability of motor transportation. Reliance on motor vehicles were paramount since there was a shortage of horses. Though there were obvious advantages to motorized transportation, the regimentís ability was limited over rough terrain.
The regiment tested a new feature of the cavalry organization: the infantry machine-gun cart. The Machine Gun Troop was issued 17 of these carts. Under extensive training the carts were found to be unsatisfactory. Especially since they bounced about in every direction while being transported, resulting in damage to the weapons system as well as loss of ammunition. Off of the roads they were almost helpless. Narrow trails and rough terrain practically reduced movement to that of a snail's pace.
In the Departmental Small Arms Competitions the regiment made a good showing, both in 1919 and 1920. The regimental rifle team, won second place both years. The pistol team took first place in 1920 and the Machine Gun Troop finished second in its event. Many officers and enlisted men of the regiment won individual prizes at the Individual Competition.
Major General Holbrook, the present Chief of Cavalry, while commanding the regiment upon its organization in 1916, presented a cup for annual regimental competition among the officers of the 17th Cavalry that became an annual event and was aggressively challenged. The test consisted of a ten-mile cross-country ride containing two series of four jumps each, followed by two series of five jumps each and a fifteen-foot water jump. The competition continued while stationed in Hawaii. Winners names were engraved upon the cup, and though remaining the property of the regiment, it cannot be found today.
On January 1, 1921, Colonel J.D.L. Hartman, Regimental Commander, had little indication that this would be the last year of the regimentís active service. The regiment was attached to the Hawaiian Division on March 1, 1921. During the month of May the three squadrons continued with business as usual. They each conducted numerous training exercises throughout the islands and participated in the Memorial Day parade at Honolulu.
Colonel Hartman left for the General Staff College, Washington, D.C. on July 5th. Command was passed to Colonel Joseph E. Cusack who only commanded through July 18, when he was detailed on duty as the Special Post Property Auditor, Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. Colonel George F. Hamilton, Cavalry assumed command through September 1, on which date Colonel Cusack returned to duty with the regiment and again assumed command.
While the eight new cavalry regiments that were added in 1917 had been redesignated as artillery, reorganization in 1921 resulted in the number of cavalry regiments being pared from seventeen to fourteen, by inactivation of the 15th, 16th and 17th. Lack of funds, reduced personnel authorization, and serious doubts that "the mounted combat of large bodies of cavalry is probably a thing of the past." The new regimental organization was designed to reduce overhead, increase firepower, and retain mobility. It provided for easy expansion to war strength and retained for cavalry regiments, if required to take the field at peacetime strength, the capability of delivering powerful and flexible firepower. Many famous old cavalry units were dangerously near being lost to the Army because of these organizational changes. But the policy of retaining surplus units on the rolls of the Army in an inactive status was established, permitting units to be preserved for future use rather than being disbanded or redesignated.
The 17th Cavalry unfortunately was inactivated September 26, 1921 at Presidio of Monterey, California. General Orders Number 32 and 33, War Department, 1921, placed the 17th Cavalry on the inactive list of the Army with the llth Cavalry designated as the parent organization. Ordered to Monterey by General Orders Number 35, Headquarters Hawaiian Department, 1921, and General Orders Number 17, Headquarters Ninth Corps Area, 1921. The regiment left Schofield Barracks by truck for Honolulu on September 16 and embarked on the U.S.A.T. Buford the same day. September 25th marked the arrival of the regiment at Monterey. The officers and enlisted men were transferred to the llth Cavalry on September 26th, and the regiment was placed on the inactive list. Historically, the llth Cavalry went on to have a much respected lineage from campaigns in Europe during WWII and particularly in Vietnam. The Blackhorse Regimentís fine record was undoubtedly enhanced through its, accession of troopers from the 17th Cavalry Regiment.
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Last Updated 1 June 1997