U.S. Army Red over White Guidon, Troop C, 2nd U.S. Cavalry.
This worn and soiled 27" x 41" wool bunting guidon designates the longest continuously serving cavalry regiment in the United States Army. The 2nd Cavalry, which takes as its motto the French "Toujours Prêt" ("Always Ready") was prepared for everything headed in its direction, begininng on May 23, 1836. On that day the 2nd Cavalry was created out of the two companies of the Second Regiment of Dragoons in order to fight the Seminole Indians.
In the United States Army a guidon is a flag that a company carries to signify its unit designation and corps affiliation. A basic U.S. Cavalry guidon is rectangular with a wedge-shaped slice cut out, leaving a "swallow-tailed" appearance. The name guidon dates back to the Middle Ages when a company of French dragoons would often use a small flag to guide men or "guide hommes." This became the English "guide upon" and, ultimately, "guidon." When the U.S. Army reauthorized a mounted service in 1833 its guidons followed the design of the pennants made famous by Polish lancers during the Napoleonic Wars: a red upper half above a white lower half. The guidon is a source of both identity and pride for the unit it represents.
In the 1830s dragoon regiments usually broke into individual companies so as to better serve areas where their aid was most needed. A company guidon would be the unit's only visible flag because the regiment's colonel held the regimental standard in his possession, often far from where he had posted one of his companies.
After successfully battling the Seminoles, who had held strong against forcible removal from Florida, Company C of the 2nd served on the Texas frontier and in the Mexican-American War. Then in the 1850s they helped prevent the eruption of all-out war between pro- and anti-slavery factions in "Bleeding Kansas" and also took part in the bizarre standoff known as the Utah War which was waged against Mormon settlers suspected of disloyalty to the United States.
Company C remained out West and, soon after the Civil War erupted in April 1861, fought in Missouri's Battle of Wilson's Creek in July while still designated as mounted dragoons-making Company C the last U.S. Army unit to see combat under that old name "Dragoons". The following month the 2nd assembled as the Second United States Cavalry Regiment, under which Company C fought in some of the Civil War's most famous battles, including Shiloh, Gettysburg, Spotsylvania, and Cold Harbor. The glamorous and ill-fated George Armstrong Custer, then a Second Lieutenant fresh out of West Point, served with the 2nd early in the Civil War, although not with Company C.
After the Civil War the regiment returned to the West to help subdue the Native American Indians. The men of the 2nd saw action in the Fetterman Massacre (or "Battle of the Hundred Slain") in 1866, the Kidder Massacre in 1867, and the Baker Massacre in 1870. They also fought in the Battle of Powder River and the Battle of the Rosebud Creek during the Black Hills War or Great Sioux War of 1876-77-best remembered for Custer's annihilation at the Battle of the Little Big Horn-and in the Nez Percé War of 1877. Their combat with the Native Americans won them thirteen campaign streamers and fifteen Medals of Honor.
The U.S. Cavalry's 27" x 41" silk guidons evolved from the red over white pattern of 1833 to the stars and stripes design introduced in 1862, and back again to red over white in 1885. Five years later the Cavalry started issuing the same 27" x 41" red over white design in wool bunting to replace the less durable silk guidons in everyday use. The 2nd Cavalry's C Troop would carry its rugged wool guidon all over the globe during the next forty-one years.
Since the Civil War the different companies of the 2nd had deployed independently of one another. But in 1898 the larger scale of the Spanish-American War demanded their travel from Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico for reassembly as a regiment in Mobile, Alabama before shipping out to Cuba, presumably with the very guidon you see here. The difficulty of finding space to transport horses to Cuba left Company C as one of only four mounted companies during the brief but bloody Cuban campaign. Company C served with Teddy Roosevelt's storied "Rough Riders" on San Juan Hill and also fought at Aquadores and Santiago. After Spain's rapid defeat, the 2nd escorted the Spanish Peace Commissioners from town to town in order to bring about the surrender of a handful of scattered Spanish garrisons, finally embarking in August 1898 for Camp Wikoff on Long Island, New York.
Pacification duty required the presence of the 2nd in Cuba again from 1899 until 1902, when they came back to the United States for dispersal. Upon returning the 2nd became part of the 1st squadron along with troops A, B, and D, leaving them now posted at Fort Ethan Allen, Vermont. There they took part in the unveiling of monuments to Civil War Generals Joseph Hooker and William T. Sherman and in ceremonies for patriotic organizations, helped train national guard units, and gave exhibition drills at reunions and county fairs. They also represented the Cavalry at a tournament at Madison Square Garden in New York City.
In February 1904 the 2nd arrived in the Philippines, which had been acquired from Spain during the Spanish-American War. From their garrison on the main island of Luzon, Troop C ventured out for counterinsurgency missions against a pro-independence force-known as the Irreconcilables-a group viewed as heroes and patriots by much of the native population. However, by 1906 U.S. interests in the Philippines were secure enough to permit the 2nd to return to Fort Assiniboine, Montana, where they had not served since 1884. There they won more marksmanship awards than any other regiment. But in 1907 hostilities beckoned again in the form of a possible Ute uprising in South Dakota. The presence of the 2nd quelled the threat and allowed the soldiers to spend the next two or three years at Fort Des Moines, Iowa focusing on training with modern weapons, including machine guns.
Their new skills served the men of the 2nd well during their next combat mission when, in 1910, they received orders to assist in suppressing an insurrection by the Philippines' Islamic Moro minority. On their volcanic island of Jolo, in the Sulu Archipelago between Borneo and Mindanao, the Moro people resisted incorporation in the U.S.-administered Philippine Commonwealth. But on an extinct volcano called Bud Dajo, the 2nd helped end the uprising at the climactic Second Battle of Bud Dajo in December 1911, enabling them to return to to their new base at Fort Bliss, Texas the following year.
However, Texas was not a scene of calm in 1912, two years into the Mexican Revolution. The revolution's violence sometimes swept north across the Rio Grande, prompting U.S. Cavalry incursions into Mexico to protect American border towns and ranches.
Once the border chaos had subsided the 2nd headed north in December 1913 to Fort Ethan Allen in Vermont to resume the ceremonial and instructional duties which had occupied them a decade earlier at this post.
Several years of peace had left only those American military units which had seen action along the Mexican border prepared for the First World War. So in April 1917 the 2nd began training the recruits who would form the nucleus of the brand-new 18th and 19th Cavalry Regiments. A year later the 2nd landed in France under the command of General "Black Jack" Pershing who had led them in the Philippines and paid them a great tribute upon their departure from Jolo: "I should consider myself fortunate to again have your splendid Regiment a part of my command."
Under Pershing the 2nd earned the distinction of remaining the only mounted U.S. Cavalry unit, serving on horseback at Aisne-Marne, St. Mihiel, and Meuse-Argonne. Their duties included scouting for enemy machine gun nests, courier service, reconnaissance (or information-gathering) patrols, escorting prisoners of war, military policing, and monitoring the Swiss border. After the November 1918 Armistice, the 2nd served in Koblenz in the Army of Occupation until 1919.
That year at Fort Riley, Kansas, the 2nd began two decades of duty as a training regiment at the Cavalry School during which time the U.S. Army would make many changes, both great and small. The former would include retiring its horses and adopting mechanization, while the small changes would include replacement in 1931 of the 27" x 41" guidon with the diminutive 20" x 27" model in use today.
Fully mechanized by the time of the Second World War, the 2nd Cavalry penetrated deep into Czechoslovakia and rescued the famous Lipizzaner Stallions en route to linking up with Soviet forces. Guard and surveillance duty along the Iron Curtain during the Cold War, then later the Gulf War, Bosnia, and Operation Iraqi Freedom are among the missions that have occupied the 2nd in more recent decades. Today Troop C is "Comanche" Company of the first squadron of the Second Stryker Cavalry Regiment.
Unforeseen dramatic changes in the interests of the nation for which the 2nd fights probably lie ahead, as do drastic changes in the nature of combat itself. But the 2nd will surely find itself "Toujours Prêt" for whatever changes come its way- even if these include more alterations to its guidons.
ZFC Significant Flag
• Troop C, 2nd U.S. Cavalry, 1895 - 1910
• Acquired by Thomas F. Aldon Collection, until passing in 2009.
• Sold via Cowan's of Cincinnati, Ohio to Zaricor Flag Collection, 2010