“A man afoot is half a man.”
– A Texas Civil War cavalryman
The history of Texas is the history of cavalry. The Texas Army National Guard traces its lineage back to the year 1822 and the Republic of Mexico’s Militia Act organizing two militia districts along the Brazos and Colorado Rivers. In 1823 Stephen F. Austin, the Father of Texas, issued a call for mounted volunteers to “range” the colonies for local defense.
With the onset of the Texas Revolution, the Texas Permanent Council in Nov-Dec 1835 reorganized and expanded the existing militia companies into a regular infantry and artillery regiment, a cavalry battalion and auxiliary forces. During the revolution, Texas Cavalry units fought at Gonzales, Bexar, The Alamo, Goliad, and San Jacinto (the decisive battle of the war).
After the independence of Texas, Comanche raids along the Republic’s frontier in 1841 resulted in congressional authorization of “Minute Companies” manned by individual volunteers under the county judge’s jurisdiction. The Texas congress additionally authorized the creation of regular troops and the 1st Cavalry Regiment was organized. The 1st never reached full authorization and probably remained at battalion strength. During the republic era, Texas Cavalry, both regular and militia, fought at Plum Creek, Salado, and numerous Indian campaigns and with the Mier and Santa Fe Expeditions.
With Texas’ annexation to the United States and the threat of war with the Republic of Mexico, U.S. Major General (Brevet) Zachary Taylor called upon the governor of the new state of Texas to provide volunteers. Texas raised eight cavalry regiments and battalions, most notably the 1st and 2nd Regiment’s of Mounted Rifles. Texas Cavalry fought in the Texas, Monterey, Buena Vista and Mexico City campaigns.
During the 1850s, Texas mounted forces participated in numerous expeditions, along with the regular US Cavalry, against the Comanche and Kiowa.
In 1861 Texas seceded from the United States and contributed 129 Cavalry organizations to the Confederacy andtwo for the Union. In the Civil War, the Texas Cavalry fought in every campaign in the Western and Trans-Mississippi theatres. Over 60,000 Texans served in the Confederate military. The monument to Texas’ Confederate soldiers on the capital grounds in Austin has a simple monogram upon it; “Died for States’ Rights.” Inscribed upon a monument to fallen Confederate soldiers in Richmond, Virginia is the following epitaph:
Not for fame or reward, not for place or rank,
Nor lured by ambition or goaded by necessity,
But in simple obedience to duty as they understood it,
These men suffered all, sacrificed all, endured all and died.
With the defeat of the Confederate States of America and Texas’ occupation by United States’ reconstruction forces, all state military organizations were disbanded.
After reconstruction and the withdrawal of US occupation forces from Texas, new militia organizations were created. From 1876 to 1879 a new regiment of Texas Cavalry was raised, the 1st Texas Cavalry. Company A, “Gillespie Mounted Rifles,” was headquartered at Fredericksburg; Company B, “Prairie Rangers,” at Oyster Creek; Company E, “San Bernard Mounted Rifles,” at Brazoria; Company G, “Montel Guards,” at Montel; Company H, “Heads Prairie Guard,” at Heads Prairie; Company I, “Dimmit Rangers,” at Carrizo Springs and Company K, “Frio County Volunteer Guard.” The unit moved and was reorganized many times during the 19th Century and never exceeded squadron level strength.
In January 1918, the US Secretary of War authorized Texas to organize two brigades of cavalry, to replace the US Army’s 15th Cavalry Division patrolling the US-Mexican border. The 15th Division was needed in France. During this mobilization, the Armistice ending WW I was signed and the Texas units were returned to state control.
In December 1920, the 1st Texas Cavalry BDE (Houston) was reorganized as the 56th Cavalry BDE and the six Texas Cavalry regiments consisting of; the 2nd Cavalry Regiment (San Antonio), 3rd Cavalry Regiment (Brenham), 4th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Amarillo), 5th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Dallas), 6th Texas Cavalry Regiment (Texarkana), and the 7th Cavalry Regiment (Houston), were reorganized into the new 1st Texas Cavalry Regiment. The 1st Texas Cavalry Regiment was re-designated the 112th Cavalry Regiment, which together with the 56th Machine Gun Squadron (Texas) and the 111th Cavalry Regiment (New Mexico) made up the 56th Cavalry BDE. The original 1st Cavalry Regiment dating back to post-Civil War Texas was deactivated, never to return.
In March 1929, the Machine Gun Squadron and the 2nd Squadron of the 112th Cavalry Regiment were re-organized into the 124th Cavalry Regiment. 124th Cavalry Regimental HQs was in Austin, the 1st Squadron in Ft. Worth (A and B Troops, formerly E and G Troops/2nd Squadron, 112th Cavalry Regiment) and the 2nd Squadron in Houston with E Troop at Brenham and F Troop at Mineral Wells. The regimental Band was also at Mineral Wells, with the Machine Gun Troop in San Antonio. All elements of the 124th Cavalry Regiment were federally recognized 20 March 1929. This action released the 111th Cavalry back to New Mexico’s control and made the 56th Cavalry BDE an all Texas organization.
Units and individuals of the Regiment were on duty under Martial Law at Borger, Texas, when In 1929 it became necessary to supplant the civil authority in that oil town. The regiment was also deployed to Sherman, Texas in 1930 due to a race riot and to the East Texas Oil Fields when the entire 56th BDE Brigade was moved to enforce the Railroad Commission’s Oil Production Regulations in 1931. Some troopers remained on this assignment for over six months. Production and production control measures on oil and gas were enacted by the Texas Legislature as a result of the East Texas Martial Law control.
Prior to World War II, the 124th Cavalry Regiment was complete with all three squadrons and the 112th Cavalry forming the 56th Cavalry Brigade. In October 1940 the 56th Cavalry Brigade had the only purely “Horse Regiments” left in the National Guard. All other National Guard Cavalry Divisions and Brigades were inactivated and their regiments converted to Field Artillery, Coast Artillery, and Horse and Mechanized Regiments. Of the nine National Guard Brigades from which to choose, the 56th survived and entered active Federal Service. This decision was based on the caliber and training of the Brigade men and officers. The former 56th Cavalry BDE, in 2001, serves as 2nd BDE, 49th Armored Division.
On November 16, 1940, President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed Executive Order No. 8594, ordering certain units of the National Guard of the United States into active service of the United States. The order was effective November 18, 1940, and included the 56th Cavalry BDE. Members were to be inducted for a one-year period only.
Officers and men were given 10 days to sever civilian ties before moving by train to Fort Bliss, Texas, near El Paso, their first training station as members of the Army of the United States. Early in February 1941, the Brigade received orders to change stations with the 1st Cavalry Division stationed at the lower border posts. The 56th Cavalry Brigade Headquarters and moved to Fort McIntosh at Laredo, Texas. The 112th Regiment relieved the 5th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Clark, Texas. The 124th relieved the 12th Cavalry Regiment at Fort Brown in Brownsville and Fort Ringgold at Rio Grande City, Texas. The troops were becoming acquainted with barracks life when the Brigade was ordered back to Fort Bliss for desert maneuvers in June 1940, with the 1st Cavalry Division in Texas and New Mexico. The largest review of Horse Soldiers since the Civil War took place while at Fort Bliss, made up on the 1st Cavalry Division and the 56th Cavalry Brigade — some 13,000 mounted men. Major General Innis P. Swift stated, “Of all the regiments participating, the 124th was the most outstanding, both in appearance and performance.” Just seven months earlier they had been weekend civilian soldiers.
The 124th was sent to Fort Brown in Brownsville, Texas where it remained, patrolling the border. On May 10, 1944, the 124th Regiment moved by train from the border posts to Fort Riley, Kansas, taking all horses and horse equipment. At Fort Riley, the Regiment received an A-2 Priority Rating for procurement of controlled Items of equipment. Personnel adjustments were made, and they received new men and officers in order to be “combat ready.” On July 7, 1944, the Regiment departed Fort Riley via rail for Camp Anzio, California, a port of embarkation near Los Angeles, California. Prior to departure, the Regiment turned in its horses to the Quartermaster at Fort Riley, but loaded all saddles and other mounted equipment for shipment overseas.
On July 25, 1944, the Regiment boarded the U. S. Ship General H. W. Butner, a troop transport, bound for India and the ChinaBurma India (CBI) theatre of war. The voyage ended in Bombay, India on August 26, 1944. From Bombay, the unit moved by wide gauge rail across the country to the Ramgarh Training Center in the Province of Bihar, India, some 150 miles West of Calcutta. Here the Regiment learned that it would be dismounted, but would retain its Cavalry designation. Orders were received to reorganize into a long-range penetration unit; and the unit was re-designated the “124th Cavalry (Special).” Mounted equipment was stored and dismounted type items of clothing were issued.
The Regiment departed Ramgarh, India for Burma on October 20, 1944. Transportation was on primitive railroad and river steamer up the Brahmaputra River to Gauhatti, India, then by narrow gauge rail through the Assam Valley to Ledo; from Ledo to Myitkyina, Burma by C-47 aircraft, then to Camp Landis by truck. The Regiment arrived in Burma on October 31, 1944. It was here that the Mars Task Force was formed. This organization contained the 124th Cavalry, the 475th Infantry, a Chinese Combat Team, two Battalions of Field Artillery, some Quartermaster mule pack troops, and medical and other miscellaneous units needed in a combat force of such magnitude.
The Mars Task Force was given the mission of clearing Northern Burma of Japanese forces and opening the Burma Road for truck traffic to China. In order to accomplish this mission, the force moved more than 200 miles by foot over the most hazardous terrain in Burma, over mountainous jungles, steep trails, swift streams and rivers on hot days and cold nights, in rain and mud, coupled with the ever fear of mite typhus. This was all done while being cut off completely from friendly forces and having to depend entirely upon air supply. The 124th established contact with the enemy on January 19, 1945, and fought continuously for 17 days. With the objective secure, an administrative bivouac was declared around February 15, 1945.
The only Medal of Honor awarded for ground action in the CBI Theater was presented posthumously to Lt. Jack Knight for heroic action in battle. Lt. Knight was commanding “F” Troop of the 124th Cavalry at the time of his death. The hill on which he was killed was named Knight’s Hill by order of Admiral Louis Mountbatten.
The Regiment departed the combat zone for Lashio on February 28, 1945; and after a short stay in Lashio was flown over “The Hump” to Kunming, China, completing the move on May 14. On June 11, orders were issued for inactivation of the Regiment, and on July 1, 1945, the 124th Cavalry Regiment (Special) was deactivated.
With the onset of World War II, to meet the demand for increased anti-armor capabilities, the 36th (TEXAS) Division organized the 636th Tank Destroyer Battalion (TD) from the antitank and antiaircraft elements of the 131st, 132nd and 133rd Field Artillery Regiments in December 1941. The 636th TD fought in the Mediterranean, Italian and European Theaters of War with the 36th (TEXAS) Division. Following the war, the 636th TD was reorganized and redesignated the 136th Heavy Tank Battalion. In 1959 the battalion was reorganized into HHT/1st-124th Cavalry Regiment. Today, HHT carries with it the lineage and honors of both the 124th Cavalry and the 636th TD, as evidenced by the silver campaign bands and citations on the troop’s guidon staff and the Presidential and Meritorious Unit Citations worn by HHT’s troopers.
Following WWII, numerous reorganizations occurred in the Texas Army National Guard with the 124th fulfilling both cavalry and armor roles and serving in both the 36th (TEXAS) and 49th Divisions. In 1959, the US Army’s regimental system was modified and all but three active Cavalry Regiments (2nd, 3rd and 11th ACRs) were reorganized into multiple battalion level organizations. The former A TRP/124th Cavalry Regiment was reorganized into the current 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment. Should there be a need to mobilize more squadrons of the 124th Regiment, the pre-1959 troops would be activated and expanded to form subsequent squadrons, i.e., B TRP/124th Cavalry Regiment would from 2nd SQD/124th Cavalry Regiment, etc. In the event of full-scale mobilization, this will allow each former army regiment to produce up to fifteen battalion level organizations from the original unit. The 1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment was reactivated and reorganized in 1973 and headquartered in Waco. In 2001, the Brigade Reconnaissance Troops (BRT) were activated for each BDE in the 49th Armored Division. These troops (G, H, and I/124th Cavalry Regiment) proudly fly the 124th guidon, carrying with them the same lineage and honors of the original regiment.
1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry Regiment was assigned with HHT, A and B Troops in Waco, C Troop in Corsicana and Athens, and D, E and F Troops in Austin. The Squadron’s equipment consisted of M1 tanks, M3 cavalry fighting vehicles, AH1 Cobra attack helicopters, and OH58 scout helicopters. The Squadron had an authorized strength of 793 troopers making it the second largest lieutenant colonel command in the 49th Armored Division. As a cavalry squadron, its historical mission remained unchanged: to perform security, reconnaissance and economy of force missions for the division commander. The Squadron uses its economy of force, lethality, mobility and audacity to overcome superior numbers and report enemy positions, strengths and intentions.
In early 2004, 180 troopers were mobilized in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. They conducted one year of operations in and around Camp Ashraf, Iraq and returned home with no loss of life. They were awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation for their service and were the first troopers to earn the newly created Texas Cavalry Medal. These troopers are also the only members of the old 49th Armored Division to be authorized to wear that patch as a Former Wartime Service – Shoulder Sleeve Insignia (aka the combat patch). This patch was also recently approved by the Institute of Heraldry for wear as a Combat Service Identification Badge.
In September 2005, the Squadron was once again mobilized, this time in support of the Multi-National Force and Observer mission on the Sinai Peninsula in the Arab Republic of Egypt.
1st Squadron, 124th Cavalry, along with D/949, was mobilized in the summer of 2008, and deployed with the 56th IBCT to Iraq in direct support of OIF 09-11. Troop A and HHT provided Force Protection for the Victory Base Complex (VBC) and Troop B provided Force Protection for the International Zone (aka the IZ or “Green Zone”). Troop C was tasked with running the Joint Visitors Bureau and providing personal security to VIPs. The Squadron returned home from their tour in August 2009 and was awarded the Meritorious Unit Citation and the Governor’s Unit Citation. They sustained one non-combat casualty. SGT Christopher Loza died on 10 April 2009. He was a member of 2nd Platoon, Troop A, 1-124th Cavalry.
The Squadron is now part of the 36th Infantry Division following the reflagging of the 49th Armored Division in 2004. In 2006, the Squadron was converted from a Division Cavalry Squadron to a Recon Squadron for the 56th IBCT. As a RSTA (Reconnaissance, Surveillance, and Target Acquisition) Squadron, it is currently configured with two motorized Troops (A and B Troops), one dismounted Troop (C Troop), one Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, and an attached Forward Support Company (D Company, 949 FSB).