This next series of entries will examine the paths taken by each of the different regiments from January 1st, 1861 to their first battles. Consolidation of the regiments themselves will likely be discussed at a later date, as I know of at least one of the initial five that didn’t have all of its companies together until the battle of Middleburg in June, 1863.
As states seceded and the likelihood of war increased, the nation’s cavalry and infantry regiments were thinly spread on small posts throughout the west. The only regular army units east of the Mississippi at the beginning of 1861 belonged to the artillery. As one looks at the distribution of the various regiments below, it is important to note that regimental commanders did not necessarily command their entire regiment. The authority of the department commander superseded that of the regimental commander. The two companies of the 2nd Dragoons in New Mexico, for example, belonged to the Department of New Mexico commander, not to Colonel Cooke. Colonel Cooke at the time commanded both the 2nd Dragoons and the Department of Utah. Both dragoon regiments were spread across three departments, and the others were each contained within one.
The 1st Dragoons were stationed primarily in the far west, with regimental headquarters and four companies in the Department of Oregon. Companies C, E and I were at Fort Walla Walla, Washington, and Company H was relatively nearby at Fort Dalles, Oregon. Four more companies (A, B, F and K) served in the Department of California. Companies B and K were at Fort Tejon, California and Company F served at Fort Crook, California. Company A was located at Fort Churchill, Utah (which is within 100 miles of Reno, Nevada). The Department of New Mexico commanded Companies D and G, who were both stationed at Fort Breckinridge, New Mexico (I’m still looking for this one).
The Department of Utah was headquartered at Camp Floyd, Utah. Colonel Cooke changed the name to Camp Crittenden on February 6, 1861. Three companies of the 2nd Dragoons (B, E and H) were stationed there with him. Companies G and I served in the Department of New Mexico at Taos. The remaining four companies served in the Department of the West, which comprised roughly the ground between Independence, Missouri and the Rockies. Companies C and K were stationed at Fort Scott, Kansas (later Nebraska). Companies D and F served at Fort Laramie, Nebraska (later Wyoming), with Company A at Fort Kearny, Nebraska.
The entire Regiment of Mounted Rifles served in the Department of New Mexico. Four companies were at Fort Union (D, E, H and K), with two each at Fort Craig (A and F) and Albuquerque (G and I). Company B served at Fort Stanton, and Company C at Hatch’s Ranch.
The 1st Cavalry occupied only four posts in Kansas, Arkansas, and the Indian Territories (modern day Oklahoma). Four companies (F, G, H and K) and the regimental headquarters were at Fort Wise, Kansas. Companies D and E served at Fort Smith, Arkansas. The other four companies were stationed in the Indian Territories, with a squadron of cavalry each at Fort Arbuckle (A and B) and Fort Washita (C and I).
Last in seniority was the 2nd Cavalry, which served entirely within the Department of Texas. A squadron each served at Fort Mason (A and F) and Camp Cooper (D and H), with the rest on company-sized posts. Company B was stationed at Camp Colorado, Company C at Fort Inge, and Company K at Camp Wood. Company E occupied Camp Hudson, Company I Camp Ives, and Company G served at “Camp on the Rio Grande.” This regiment was the first to move east in its entirety, as they were forced to depart rather summarily when Texas seceded.