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 Texas : Features : Columns : "Texas Tales"
Last Cavalry Horse
by Mike Cox
Mike Cox
The buglers sounded Adjutant's Call and a squadron of cavalry moved forward at a trot.

That cold winter morning, Dec.14, 1932, was a sad one for old-time horse soldiers and civilians alike at Fort D.A. Russell in Marfa -- they both realized they were witnessing the end of an era.

Troops rode from their stables to the parade ground about 9:30 a.m. The cavalrymen passed the reviewing stand at a slow walk, sabers raised as each platoon passed Col. William A. Austin and his staff. Red and white guidons dipped in the customary "Hail and Farewell" salute.

The regiment turned at a faster gait and reassembled facing the review stand. After a brief honors ceremony, Col. Austin addressed the men.

Following his talk, every officer and enlisted man in the regiment dismounted and turned to face his horse. The men stood for a long moment with hands on the polls of their mounts in a silent farewell.

Then a trooper led a lone horse, caparisoned in black, to the front of the regiment.

The horse was Louie, the oldest mount in the historic First Cavalry, the regiment then stationed at the West Texas post.

At the bugle call of "Boots and Saddles," the 600 men of the command mounted their horses for the last time. The regiment soon would be transferred to Fort Knox, KY where it would be merged with another unit to become a mechanized outfit.

Taps sounded, the lines broke, and the troopers returned individually to their stables with their horses.

Louie, a cavalry mount since shortly after the turn of the century, had served in the tropics, during the Mexican border troubles and during World War I. Now he stood tied to the reviewing stand.

The regiment, now afoot, marched past, their sabers drawn in salute to their comrade.

The other horses of the regiment would be shipped to other border posts, but not Louie. The 34-year-old horse -- roughly equivalent to 99 human years -- would be destroyed.

At sundown, his escort moving to the slow beat of the Death March, Louie went to his final resting place. With a ceremonial volley of shots and the sad notes of Taps, a squad buried the First Cavalry's oldest horse.

A gray stone bearing the regiment's famed Black Hawk insignia eventually went over his grave.

The remote post at Marfa, established in 1911 and home of the First Cavalry since 1923, continued in operation through World War II. The Army abandoned it in 1949 and sold the buildings and the land.

But Louie's grave remained in the once wild country he had helped to protect.
Mike Cox
"Texas Tales" - November 9, 2005 column
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