RSBUD-567D 3 United States Cavalrymen
As settlers spread westward across North America after 1780, armed conflicts increased in size, duration, and intensity between settlers and various Indian and First Nation tribes.
In 1875, the Great Sioux War of 1876-77 erupted when the Dakota gold rush penetrated the Black Hills. The U.S government decided to stop evicting trespassers from the Black Hills and offered to buy the land from the Sioux. When they refused, the US government decided instead to take the land and gave the Lakota until January 31st, 1876 to return to reservations.
A United States cavalry regiment in 1876 consisted of 12 companies. A cavalry company, at full strength had 3 officers and 70 enlisted men.
The US cavalry of 1876 used Lt. Col. Emory Upton’s Cavalry Tactics, which was a unified system of drill, which was compatible among the cavalry, infantry and artillery. This meant an officer could move from one branch of service to another. Upton’s tactics incorporated a “set of fours” as the basic, or smallest, cavalry unit or squad. This was designed to simplify operations, increase speed, and eliminate cumbersome manoeuvres.
Dismounted skirmishing became the main cavalry mode of engagement with the enemy, which facilitated the dispersal of men on a firing line. On campaign and in battle, cavalrymen did not always perform as mounted skirmishers but rather served as mounted infantry. By dismounting and kneeling under fire, the trooper presented a much smaller target for the enemy and could take aim much more accurately.
The preparatory command “to fight on foot”, followed by “As skirmishers”, required each cavalryman to dismount and deploy along a firing line at 5yd intervals, with 15yd gaps between each set of four men. Odd numbered skirmishers in each set of four fired a round on command and then reloaded as even numbered skirmishers fired on order. Each man then continued to fire roughly in an odd-even sequence without regard to the others until “Cease fire” command was given. Skirmish tactics could be employed by the platoon, company, battalion or even at regimental level. Dismounted skirmishing required one of every four men, designated as a horse holder, to remain with the horses of the other three. Horse holders retired to a safe position in the rear.