Call up the Cavalry!

When you or your unit is down, out-numbered and out-gunned, when you absolutely have to get out of a jam, when you absolutely have to win, you call in the Cavalry.

The U. S. Army carries that tradition on with several cavalry units to this day. Sure, the game has changed, helicopters and tanks replaced the horses, but the tradition of the Cavalry lives on, and I like that. I’m an old Infantry guy, but I enjoy researching and reading about the traditions that are Cavalry. Actually, that’s not quite correct. I’m a Signal person that was assigned to an Engineer Battalion within an Infantry Division. Hope that makes sense. But I digress. I got to talking about the Cavalry recently to a friend and wanted to investigate the traditions of the Cavalry further.

This mission to find out more about the Cavalry started in my quest to find a Cavalry hat.

I did some research, and found out that they are Stetson hats with a gold braid and usually has the unit badge on the front. , the Official Stetson® US Cavalry Hat preferred by Cav Troopers, is available in a complete package! This 100 percent 3X Fur Felt Stetson comes with the Cavalry Crossed Sabers stamped into the headband inside. The crown is 4 1/4 inches, and the brim is 3 inches. Comes with chin strap. Also included in the package is your choice of hat cord and crossed sabers!

So with the cost of this hat going around 150.00, I’m going to put this on my wish list to someday get this. They look pretty neat too. By the way, the color isn’t blue or gray, they are black.

In addition to the Stetson, the cavalry troops also wore spurs, but that I can live without. Even though it’s a Cav tradition, it’s kind of hard to wear spurs to work.

So let’s see what other traditions we can find with the Cavalry.

Does anyone remember Robert Duvall in this famous scene?

Today’s Cavalry has many kinds of units. There is the Air Cavalry, Armored Cavalry, and support units that help them achieve their missions.


You just can’t begin to talk about the Cavalry without noting traditions that go back in American history. Let’s take a look at some great traditions:

The 7th Cavalry Regiment is a United States Army cavalry regiment, whose lineage traces back to the mid-19th century. Its official nickname is “Garryowen”, in honor of the Irish drinking song Garryowen that was adopted as its march tune.

The regiment was constituted on July 28, 1866 in the regular army as the 7th Cavalry. It was organized on September 21, 1866 at Fort Riley, Kansas as part of an expansion of the regular army following the demobilization of the wartime volunteer and draft forces. From 1866 through 1871, the regiment was posted to Fort Riley and fought in the Indian Wars, notably at the Battle of the Washita in 1868.

Throughout this period, the cavalryman was armed with Colt Single Action Army .45 caliber revolvers and single shot Springfield carbines, caliber .50–70 until 1870 and caliber .45–70 until 1892. Sabres were issued but not carried on campaign. The Seventh was the only US cavalry regiment of the period to have a band, as the infantry regiments did. The band adopted “Garry Owen” as their favorite tune and thus gave the Seventh their nickname among the rest of the Army.

Although the Seventh is best known for its catastrophic defeat at the Little Bighorn under General George Custer, the regiment also participated in at least one victory: the capture of Chief Joseph’s Nez Perce at the Battle of Bear Paw in 1877. The Regiment perpetrated the Wounded Knee Massacre on December 29, 1890, the end of the Indian Wars.

The 7th Cavalry Regiment continued to train as horse cavalry right up to World War II, where they dismounted on February 28, 1943, and started packing up for deployment to the Pacific Theater, still part of 1st Cavalry Division.

After WWII, The 7th Cavalry fought in the Korean War’s bloodiest battles. When the 1st Cavalry Division attacked north, the 7th Cavalry was in front, smashing 106 miles behind enemy lines in a historic 24 hours. Three more Presidential Unit Citations were added to the colors. After the Korean War, 7th Cavalry was used mainly in a reconnaissance role. It received the M14 rifle, along with various other new weapons and equipment (including the Patton tank). Also, a few OH-13 recon helicopters were used by the reconnaissance squadrons.

Three battalions, the 1st, 2nd, and 5th served during the Vietnam War as the 3rd Brigade of the 1st Cavalry Division,  often referring to themselves as the “Garryowen Brigade”. These troopers were armed with the new M16 rifle, the M203 grenade launcher replacing the M79 grenade launcher. Claymore mines, and Bell UH-1B helicopters were also used extensively. Seven men earned the Medal of Honor while serving with the 7th Cavalry in Vietnam.

Symbol of Mobile Warfare

Of the many fine artists who turned their talents to portraying the great American West, Frederic Remington came
perhaps closest to being the United States Cavalry’s own. The noted artist contributed materially to the enduring historical record of our western frontier and the Cavalry was a major subject of his pen and brush.

This facet of his work brought Remington single recognition from the mounted fraternity during the 1890’s when the United States Cavalry Association, a professional society of the mobile arm, and the publishers of the famous Cavalry
journal awarded him a life membership.

Several years later, Remington took occasion to show his appreciation of this honor. In his gesture lies the story spanning half a century and holding elements of genuine interest for the collector, the historian, the artist, and
the soldier.

In 1898 Remington visited the camp of the 3rd Cavalry at Tampa, Florida where the regiment was staging for the Santiago campaign . The artist, on his way to cover the war in Cuba for Harper’s Weekly, was a close friend of Captain Francis H. Hardie, commanding  G Troop of the 3rd Cavalry at the time.

During his visit, Remington’s attention was drawn to one of the troops noncommissioned officers, Sergeant John Lannen. A superb rider and an imposing figure, Lannen impressed Remington as the epitome of the cavalryman. With
Hardie’s approval, the artist made several rough sketches of the white-haired, white-mustached noncommissioned officer in front of the troop commander’s tent.

From these roughs Remington later executed the now famous drawing portraying a cavalryman mounted on his horse and with a carbine cradled in his arms. This he presented to the Cavalry Association in 1902. In January 1903, this drawing first appeared on the cover of the Cavalry Journal. And there it stayed for forty years.

Always a branch of great esprit, and highly conscious of history and tradition, the Cavalry took the Remington
masterpiece to its heart. Somewhere through the years it picked up the label “Old Bill” and became a sort of symbol, so that, although it was shouldered off the front cover of the Cavalry Journal in mid 1942, and was displaced in turn from the back cover of the successor Armored Cavalry Journal in late 1948, it appears to this day on the masthead page of ARMOR- continuation magazine of the mounted arm- as a trademark of mobility in war.

What of the man who served as model for the Remington sketch? At the time he posed, Sergeant John Lannen was approaching thirty years of service and anticipating retirement. The blue-eyed, ruddy-complicated soldier was held in
high esteem by his officers as an outstanding noncommissioned officer-loyal, a stern disciplinarian, but with unfailing good humor under trying conditions. Hardie pictured him a “strikingly handsome soldier, a gallant man and a
non-commissioned officer of the old-fashioned kind whose orders were always obeyed.”

Frederic Remington certainly has captured all of this in “Old Bill” and the result is an effective personification of the mounted soldier. Fate was not to grant Sergeant Lannen the opportunity to enjoy a well deserved retirement, nor would it be his destiny, when his time arrived, to fall gloriously on the field of battle. At the end of a campaign and of the eve of his retirement, he succumbed in Cuba , along with many of his comrades, to yellow fever.

But if the manner of the veteran non-commissioned officer’s passing was something of less that heroic, he left a legacy in compensation. Everything he represented a man, a soldier, a service-lives on after him, immortalized in the
work of Frederic Remingtion.

So there you have it. Sort of a brief snapshot of the honored Cavalry.

I’ll leave you with this one last Cavalry tradition.

Fiddler’s Green

Halfway down the trail to Hell,
In a shady meadow green

Are the Souls of all dead troopers camped,
Near a good old-time canteen.

And this eternal resting place
Is known as Fiddlers’ Green.

Marching past, straight through to Hell
The Infantry are seen.

Accompanied by the Engineers,
Artillery and Marines,

For none but the shades of Cavalrymen
Dismount at Fiddlers’ Green.

Though some go curving down the trail
To seek a warmer scene.

No trooper ever gets to Hell
Ere he’s emptied his canteen.

And so rides back to drink again
With friends at Fiddlers’ Green.

And so when man and horse go down
Beneath a saber keen,

Or in a roaring charge of fierce melee
You stop a bullet clean,

And the hostiles come to get your scalp,
Just empty your canteen,

And put your pistol to your head
And go to Fiddlers’ Green.


Fiddler’s Green is the legendary afterlife imagined by Cavalrymen. Its origins are obscure, although some point to the Greek myth of the “Elysian Fields” as a potential inspiration.

Its first known appearance in published form was in a 1923 Cavalry Journal. Its concept was also popular among 17th and 18th century sailors and soldiers in Europe, who knew that they would not qualify for Heaven, but trusted that a merciful God would agree with their motto that, “To live hard, to die hard, and to go to Hell afterwards would be hard indeed.”

According to the Cavalry Journal, “Fiddler’s Green” was inspired by a story told by Captain “Sammy” Pearson at a campfire in the Medicine Bow Mountains of Wyoming. Having mentioned Fiddler’s Green and found that no one appeared to have heard of it, Pearson indignantly asserted that every good cavalryman ought to know of Fiddler’s Green.

Another legend has it originating in the 1800’s and was composed as a song sung by the soldiers of the 6th and 7th Cavalry.

It is still used by modern cavalry units to memorialize the deceased. The name has had other military uses. Today, in the heart of the Helmand River Valley, in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, the U.S. Marine Corps operates a firebase (FB) named Fiddler’s Green. Fiddler’s Green was an artillery Fire Support Base in Military Region III in Vietnam in 1972 occupied principally by elements of 2nd Squadron, 11th Armored Cavalry.

Give em hell Cavalry!


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