Seventh U.S. Cavalry
The ill-fated Seventh U.S. Cavalry had its beginning at Fort Riley in August 1866. Although its first commander was Andrew J. Smith, the regiment is primarily identified with its original lieutenant commander, Colonel George Armstrong Custer. The Seventh Cavalry spent almost five years in Kansas escorting peace commissioners, surveyors, and other groups across the plains from the Missouri River to the Rockies and from the Platte River in Nebraska to the Staked Plains of Texas. The unit also attempted to enforce treaty provisions keeping the Cheyennes, Arapahos, and Kiowas south of the Arkansas River.
Early in 1867 after each side charged the other with treaty violations, the army was ordered into the field to ensure that American Indians stayed in their assigned territories. Custer and the Seventh Cavalry joined with other regiments under General Winfield Scott Hancock at Fort Harker and marched to Fort Larned. A conference with the Indians in April 1867 ended in embarrassment for the army when the Indians secretly left after the first day. Custer and his troops were dispatched to find them. Through the summer of that year the Seventh Cavalry traveled through western Kansas and Nebraska, stopping at Forts Hays, Harker, and Wallace in Kansas and Fort McPherson in Nebraska.
While the army was stalking the Indians, cholera was stalking the army. In July 1867 Custer left Fort Wallace, ostensibly to procure supplies at Fort Harker but primarily to make sure his wife at Fort Riley had not caught the dread disease. General Hancock charged Custer with leaving Fort Wallace without permission. In November Custer was convicted at a court martial at Fort Levenworth.
The following summer,Custer was assigned to Fort Hays. During the winter of 1868 to 1869 Custer and the Seventh Cavalry participated in the Washita campaign against the Cheyennes in Indian Territory. In 1871 the regiment was reassigned to a new post north and west of Kansas. From there Custer and his regiment eventually marched to the Little Big Horn and destruction.
Entry: Seventh U.S. Cavalry
Author: Kansas Historical Society
Author information: The Kansas Historical Society is a state agency charged with actively safeguarding and sharing the state's history.
Date Created: June 2003
Date Modified: May 2012
The author of this article is solely responsible for its content.