Branch United States Army
|Country United States|
Nickname(s) Fighting Sixth
|Type Cavalry (American Civil War–Vietnam War)
Air Cavalry (Vietnam War–present)|
Motto(s) Ducit Amor Patriae (Led By Love of Country)
The 6th Cavalry ("Fighting Sixth'") is a historic regiment of the United States Army that began as a regiment of cavalry in the American Civil War. It currently is organized into aviation squadrons that are assigned to several different combat aviation brigades.
- Civil War
- Battle of Fairfield
- Post Civil War
- From World War I to World War II
- World War II
- Cold War
- War on terrorism
- Current status
- 6th Cavalry group
- 6th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron Mechanized
- 28th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron
- 6th Armored Cavalry Regiment
- Notable members
The 6th U.S. Cavalry was organized in August 1861, where it took to the fields of the Eastern Theater as part of the Union Army of the Potomac. The regiment took part in sixteen major and minor campaigns and their related battles during the Civil War including; the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, battle of Antietam part of the Maryland Campaign, Campaign at Fredericksburg, the 1863 Second Battle of Winchester, Battle of Fairfield which were part of the Gettysburg Campaign, Chancellorsville (in Stoneman’s raid to the rear of Lee’s army), the 1864 The Wilderness, Siege of Petersburg, The Shenandoah Valley, Richmond Raid—also known as Sheridan's raid, Trevilian Station, the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House & the Battle of Cold Harbor part of the Overland Campaign and the final 1865 Appomattox Campaign.
Battle of Fairfield
During the Gettysburg Campaign, and overseen by larger events ongoing nearby, on 3 July 1863, Major Starr with 400 troopers dismounted his men in a field and an orchard on both sides of the road near Fairfield, Pennsylvania. Union troopers directed by their officers took up hasty defensive positions on this slight ridge. They threw back a mounted charge of the 7th Virginia Cavalry (CSA), just as Chew's Battery (CSA) unlimbered and opened fire on the Federal cavalrymen. Supported by the 6th Virginia Cavalry (CSA), the 7th Virginia charged again, clearing Starr's force off the ridge and inflicting heavy losses. Jones (CSA), outnumbering the Union forces by at least 2 to 1, pursued the retreating Federals for three miles to the Fairfield Gap, but was unable to catch his quarry.
"The fight made at Fairfield by this small regiment (6th U.S. Cavalry) against two of the crack brigades of Stuart's cavalry, which were endeavoring to get around the flank the Union army to attack the (supply) trains, was one of the most gallant in its history and no doubt helped influence the outcome the battle of Gettysburg. The efforts of these rebel brigades were frustrated and their entire strength neutralized for the day by the fierce onslaught of the small squadrons. The regiment was cut to pieces, but it fought so well that the squadrons were regarded as the advance of a large body of troops. The senior officer of those attacking CSA brigades was later adversely criticized for allowing his command to be delayed by such an inferior force. Had the regiment not made the desperate stand, the two brigades of Virginians might have caused grave injury in the Federal rear, before sufficient force could have been gathered in their front."
Private George Crawford Platt, later Sergeant, an Irish immigrant serving in Troop H, was awarded the Medal of Honor on 12 July 1895, for his actions that day at Fairfield. His citation reads, "Seized the regimental flag upon the death of the standard bearer in a hand-to-hand fight and prevented it from falling into the hands of the enemy."
His "commander," Lieutenant Carpenter, of Troop H, was one of only three officers of the 6th U.S. Cavalry to escape from the deadly melee at Fairfield. He was an eyewitness and documented Private Platt's "beyond the call of duty" behavior that day. Louis H. Carpenter was brevetted from lieutenant to lieutenant colonel for his actions that day and later during the Indian Wars he won the Medal of Honor.
Post Civil War
After the fighting stopped in April 1865, came the Reconstruction era of the United States covering 1865 to 1871. The 6th Cavalry left Maryland, via New York and New Orleans to Texas in October 1865. On 29 November 1865, the 6th Cavalry headquarters was established in Austin where it was part of the Fifth Military District which covered Texas and Louisiana under Generals Philip Sheridan and later under Winfield Scott Hancock.
There was little or no fighting during the state of martial law imposed while the military closely supervised local government, enrolled freemen to vote, excluded former Confederate leaders from elected office for a period of time, supervised free elections, and tried to protect office holders and freedmen from violence. However the men did face a low level of civil hostility and violence during this uneasy transition period. For reports of soldiers of the 6th Cavalry killed and wounded in various incidents of 1867–68 see the article on the Fifth Military District.
On 9 September 1873 a drunken row among 6th cavalrymen in Hays Kansas resulted in two troopers being killed. During the majority of the 1870s & 1880s, the 6th Cavalry was based in the Southwest and served in the thick of the Apache Campaigns of that time period. Capt Whitside and two Troops of the 6th Cav founded Fort Huachuca (SE of Tucson) March in 1877.
An 1887 letter from Charles Winters, Troop D of the 6th Cavalry, describes a soldier's experiences during the Apache Wars in New Mexico:
I will now take and write to you a few lines, to let you know that I am yet alive, and doing well. I joint(sic) the Army in January, 86 and had a good fight with Geronimo and his Indians. I also had two hard fights, where i came very near getting killed, but i got true alright. I was made Corporal when i first enlisted, but have now got high enough to be in Charge of Troop D. 6th U.S. Cavalry and it requires a good man for to get that office, and that is more than i expected. Charley White from Cranbury came out with me and got in the same Troop with me, and I sent him with twenty more men out on a Scout after Indians and Charley was lucky enough to be shot down by Indians the first day, and only three of my men returned. I was very sorry but it could not be helped.
The Territory of New Mexico is a very nice place never no Winter and lots of Gold and Silver Mines all around but for all that it is a disagreeable place on account of so many Indians. I like it first rate and I think as soon as my five years are up I will go bak(sic) to Old New Jersey but not today. My name isn't Charley Winters no more since i shot that man at Jefferson Barracks when he tried to get away from me. My Captain at time told me to take the name of his son who died and so my name since then is Charles H. Wood. I will now close and hope that you will soon write and let me know how you are getting along. Give my best regards to all and to yourself and oblige.
My address is:
Charles H. Wood
Troop D. 6th Cavalry
Fort Stanton, New Mexico
The 6th "Cav" also took part in the Indian Wars and the 1892 Johnson County War in Wyoming. The "Fighting Sixth" sailed to Cuba during the Spanish–American War and took part in the battle for San Juan Hill alongside of Teddy Roosevelt's "Rough Riders." (In 1900 the 6th was in the Boxer Rebellion).
From World War I to World War II
The "Fighting Sixth" Cavalry was stationed at The Post at Fort Oglethorpe from 1919 to 1942. A museum has been established in the old post's parade ground honoring the era of the "horse soldier". Visit the 6th Cavalry Museum website for more information.
World War II
The 6th Cavalry, which became part of George S. Patton's Third Army during World War II, had one of the most outstanding combat records to come out of that conflict, starting in October 1943 where it embarked on the Queen Elizabeth bound for northern Ireland.
In January 1944, the 6th Cavalry Regiment was disbanded and reorganized into the 6th Cavalry Group and assigned to XV Corps. The unit spent the first part of 1944 in intense basic, small unit, and special combat training. Finally in July 1944, the unit set sail across the English Channel to land at Utah Beach (Sainte-Mère-Église, France). Throughout the latter part of World War II, the Sixth was part of most of the major campaigns, some of which included "Task Force Polk," the engagement in the Ardennes, and the Battle of the Bulge. It was also responsible for the screening and protection of the corps in the Bastogne area, defending the Our River, breaching the Siegfried Line, and the big job of crossing the Rhine River and the drive to the east.
Toward the end of hostilities, the Sixth was left with the detail of mopping up enemy stragglers to its final battle with the capture of Adorf & Markneukirchen. The Sixth Cavalry was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation (Army), for its valor during World War II.
As "Patton's Household Cavalry", the regiment was tasked with observing the advances of the Third Army's troops, reporting its observations directly back to Third Army headquarters, improving General Patton's situational awareness – very much like the British GHQ Liaison Regiment did.
On 20 December 1948, the former 6th Cavalry Regiment was reorganized and redesignated as the 6th Armored Cavalry. The regiment returned to the United States from Germany in 1957 during Operation Gyroscope and was stationed at Fort Knox, Kentucky. Inactivated in 1963, the regiment reactivated four years later at Fort Meade, Maryland, where it served through 31 March 1971 when the regiment was reduced to just the 1st Squadron, which departed for Fort Bliss, Texas. The 1st Squadron was inactivated there on 21 June 1973.
The lineage of the former Troop A, 6th Armored Cavalry was redesignated on 22 June 1973 as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry, assigned to the 1st Cavalry Division, and activated at Fort Hood, Texas. The lineage of the former Troop B, 6th Armored Cavalry was redesignated on 1 July 1974 as Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, and activated at Fort Knox, Kentucky (organic elements concurrently constituted and activated). Members of 2nd Squadron, 6th Cavalry, located at Fort Knox, Kentucky, were involved in testing of both the M-1 Abrams (H Company) and M-3 Bradley (E Troop) in the 1980s. The 2nd Squadron was inactivated on 30 May 1986 at Fort Knox, and then soon thereafter reactivated on 16 July 1986 at Fort Hood, Texas. Later it was assigned to the 11th Aviation Brigade of VII Corps in Germany.
In the summer of 1974, the Army decided to implement one of the recommendations of the Howze Board and created an air cavalry combat brigade. The assets of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division, commanded by Col. Charles E. Canedy, were used to create the 6th Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat). 1st Squadron, 6th Cavalry, was transferred to the new brigade on 21 February 1975. The brigade served as a test bed for new concepts involving the employment of attack helicopters on the modern battlefield. (The 6th Cavalry Brigade's lineage is separate from the lineage of the 6th Cavalry Regiment.) Later, in the fall of 1990, two subordinate units of the 6th Cavalry Brigade (Air Combat) deployed in Iraq during Operation Desert Shield/Desert Storm. One of those units was 2nd Battalion, 158th Aviation Regiment, a Chinook battalion from Fort Hood.
On 15 December 1995 the 1st Squadron was inactivated at Fort Hood, and the 4th Squadron was also inactivated in late 1995. Thus only the 3rd Squadron remained at Fort Hood. By this time the 6th, through activations and inactivations, had long since transitioned from armor to aviation. The 1st Squadron was reactivated on July 1996 in Korea.
War on terrorism
In February 2003 2nd and 6th Squadrons were deployed to Kuwait to prepare for the 2003 invasion of Iraq. The units were accompanied by their group command unit, the 11th Aviation Group, and supporting AH-64 repair unit, the 7th Battalion, 159th Aviation Regiment, all hailing from Storck Barracks in Illesheim Germany. When units began making way into Iraq the 2nd and 6th Squadrons accompanied by several other units making up Task Force 11 flew into combat and became a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom. The 2nd Squadron left Iraq to return to Germany and case their colors until return from the Unit Field Training Program at Ft. Hood TX, where their AH-64A Apaches were converted to AH-64D Apache models. Meanwhile in Iraq, the 6th Squadron was performing combat support and convoy safety operations until the unit received orders to return to home station in Germany. After returning to Illesheim and regaining full fighting strength the 6th Squadron received their sister squadron back into Storck Barracks. Together the 2nd and 6th Squadrons trained and began readiness to redeploy in support of combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan. During the Army Transformation the squadrons lost their command when the 11th Aviation Group cased its colors in June 2005, the units were absorbed by the 1st Infantry Division and redesignated, thus closing another chapter of the Fighting Sixth.
On 4 January 2005 2nd Squadron deployed from Germany to Afghanistan absorbing elements from other units to become Task Force Sabre. CH-47 Chinooks, UH-60 Black Hawks, AH-64 Apaches and the necessary support elements comprised the aviation task force which deployed to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
In 2005 and 2006 as a part of the Army Transformation, squadrons of the regiment were again reorganized, as the Army eliminated from its rolls those OH-58D Kiowa Warrior units designated as attack battalions in light infantry divisions. Several of these attack battalions were reflagged as squadrons of the 6th Cavalry Regiment, replacing AH-64 squadrons that were then redesignated as Armed Reconnaissance Battalions:
In 2006, 2nd Squadron deployed with its parent unit, the Combat Aviation Brigade, 25th Infantry Division, from Wheeler Army Airfield to Iraq. The squadron was recognized with the Order of Daedalians' 2006 Brig. Gen. Carl I. Hutton Memorial Award for their safety record in preparation for the deployment. The Squadron returned to Hawaii in 2007 having lost only one aircrew to hostile fire.
In 2007, 1st Squadron and 4th Squadron deployed to Iraq. The squadrons along with 1st Squadron's parent brigade, the Combat Aviation Brigade, 1st Infantry Division, replaced 2nd Squadron and its parent brigade. 4th Squadron returned to Fort Lewis during August and September 2008. In October 2008, 1st Squadron began to return to Fort Carson, being replaced by 6th Squadron. 6th Squadron has now taken over operations in Iraq with its parent brigade, the Combat Aviation Brigade, 10th Mountain Division (Light Infantry).
6th Cavalry group
6th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron, Mechanized
28th Cavalry Reconnaissance Squadron
6th Armored Cavalry Regiment
- Cold Harbor;
- Virginia 1862;
- Virginia 1863;
- Virginia 1864;
- Virginia 1865;
- Maryland 1863
- Pine Ridge;
- Oklahoma 1874;
- Texas 1874;
- Arizona 1876;
- Arizona 1881;
- Arizona 1882;
- New Mexico 1882;
- Colorado 1884
- Streamer without inscription
- Streamer without inscription
- Mexico 1916–1917
- Streamer without inscription
- Northern France;
- Central Europe
- Defense of Saudi Arabia;
- Liberation and Defense of Kuwait;
- Iraq 2007–2008, 4th Squadron;
- Iraq 2007–2009, 1st Squadron;
- Iraq 2010–2011, 1st Squadron;
- Afghanistan 2013, 1st Squadron;
- Iraq 2016-2017, 4th Squadron;