by Mike Cox
buglers sounded Adjutant's Call and a squadron of cavalry moved forward at a trot.|
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.
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.
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.
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.
now afoot, marched past, their sabers drawn in salute to their comrade.
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.
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.
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.