9TH U.S. CAVALRY
9th U. S. CAVALRY
FORT DAVIS, TEXAS
Researched and written by the interpretive staff of Fort Davis National Historic Site, Fort Davis, Texas
The 9th regiment of cavalry was organized in September 1866 in Greenville Louisiana. It was first comprised mostly of men from the New Orleans vicinity. Later that autumn recruiting was conducted in Kentucky so that all of the enlisted men in the newly-formed regiment were from Louisiana or Kentucky. In March 1867, when the regiment was ordered to San Antonio, it numbered 885 enlisted men or approximately 70 men per troop.
Early in June, 1867, the regiment was ordered into West Texas and on July 1, 1867 Companies C, F, H and I, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Wesley Merritt, officially reoccupied Fort Davis, the post having been abandoned since 1862. Merritt and his 9th Cavalry troopers had a sizeable job ahead of them. In addition to building a new post, they had the Apache and Comanche Indians to contend with. It was their responsibility to protect the San Antonio - El Paso road as mail and stage traffic on it had resumed following the Civil War. Enlisted men at Fort Davis were detailed on scouts and patrols. Small detachments were also stationed as guards at the stage stations of Barilla Springs, El Muerto, and Van Horn's Wells.
For the most part, the scouts were only successful in checking Indian activities, as their tracks were often the only visual signs the troops had of the Indian presence in the area. In September 1868, a detachment from Fort Davis composed of troopers from Companies C, F and K, 9th Cavalry, under the cormnand of 1st Lieutenant Patrick Cusack, met with more success. In pursuit: of a band of about 200 Apaches, who had been raiding near Fort Stockton, the lieutenant and his men came upon the Indians in Camp just north of present day Big Bend National Park. Two of Cusack's men were wounded in the attack. Indian casualties numbered between 20 and 25 warriors with as many wounded. The soldiers captured over 200 head of stock and all of the Indians' provisions and epuipment.
In 1869, Colonel Edward Hatch, 9th Cavalry replaced Merritt as post commander of Fort Davis. During his brief stay at the post, he ordered three separate expeditions against the Mescalero Apaches in the Guadalupe Mountains. All three expeditions involved 9th Cavalry troopers from Fort Davis. Lieutenant Colonel William (Pecos Hill) Shafter, in the summer of 1871, led three companies of the 9th Cavalry from the post on an expedition which led them into the previously unscouted region of the southern Staked Plains. Although Shafter failed to encounter any Indians, he did capture a Mescalero squaw who, through an interpreter, gave much valuable information on Indian activities in the region. In addition, he proved that the Army could successfully survive in an area that was almost void of surface water. In October of the same year, Shafter again, committed to the thesis that the Indians would not stay in a threatened area, led an expedition of 9th Cavalry troops into the Big Bend. Again no Indians were confronted, but the knowledge gained of area terrain proved invaluable to subsequent patrols and scouts.
In September 1875, the 9th U. S. Cavalry was transferred to the District of New Mexico with headquarters in Santa Fe. The eight years the regiment spent in Texas and at Fort Davis in helping to successfully open the region to peaceful travel and settlement can be looked back at with pride and ad-miration. Under the command of energetic officers, these black enlisted men of the 9th U. S. Cavalry developed their unit into a first-rate regiment and amassed an impressive record on the western frontier.
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