THE present 24th Infantry is an example of the injustice done to regiments of a standing army by the statutes of a republic not forced by its surroundings to maintain a large military organization. The laws governing the consolidation of regiments at the conclusion of our wars, during which the number of organizations has been increased, have resulted in stamping out regimental traditions in many organizations, and have left this one without any, although its number has been borne twice by regiments in the regular establishment, which after honorable service have been consolidated with others, thereby losing all identity, and forfeiting records which would have given honor to them in history.
The existing 24th can therefore, under the conditions of its organization claim for itself none of the honors of war won by its predecessors; and, except for the war records of officers who have served or are now serving in it, and by the honorable service of the few enlisted men who served in the late war, it can present but a short history of duties performed, often under adverse circumstances but always cheerfully and uncomplainingly.
Under the Act of July 28, 1866, the 38th and 41st Regiments of Infantry were organized both to consist of colored men. All of the officers in both regiments except the chaplains had seen service during the War of the Rebellion either with, the regular or volunteer forces, and all but one had been breveted for services performed under perilous or other entitling conditions. Of the 38th Infantry, Brevet Major General Wm. B. Hazen was colonel, Brevet Major General Cuvier Grover, lieutenant colonel, and Brevet Colonel Henry C. Merriam, major. Of the ten captains who were assigned to the regiment at or near the time of its organization there are now in active service but three, and but five of the eighteen lieutenants.
The 41st Infantry was commanded by Brevet Major General Ronald S. Mackenzie, with Brevet Brigadier General Wm. R. Shafter, lieutenant colonel, and Brevet Brigadier General Geo. W. Schofield, major. Of the ten captains assigned to it at or near its organization but two are now in active service, and but four of the eighteen lieutenants.
The 38th was distributed along the transcontinental railroads then building, and in New Mexico, and the 41st was in Louisiana and Texas during the same period. The work performed by these regiments is a part of the history of the departments in which they served.
Under the Act of March 3, 1869, the 38th and 41st Regiments were consolidated and became the 24th Infantry, and as thus reëstablished has since continued in service. Under this reorganization Ronald S. Mackenzie became colonel, William R. Shafter, lieutenant colonel, and Henry C. Merriam, major. Of the captains assigned to the new regiment there are
in active service at this writing, six, but two only serving in it; and of the twenty lieutenants there are also six, but four only remaining in it. A few of the enlisted men who served in the War of the Rebellion or in the 38th Of 41st Regiments may still be seen in its ranks.
The regiment was in Texas from 1869 to 1880 and at some time during that period the several companies were stationed at all or nearly all of the many posts and permanent camps in that great State.
The duties falling to it were many, consisting of expeditions against Indians over the staked plains and other sections, guarding strategic points, building roads, hunting horse thieves, and in other ways performing arduous service which brought no fame, but required of its officers and men constant vigilance, discretion and care in the performance of the service; and it thus aided in clearing western Texas of Indians, opening the country to settlers. On December 15, 1870, Gen. Mackenzie was assigned to the 4th Cavalry and Bvt. Maj.-Gen. Abner Doubleday succeeded him as colonel, remaining, in that position until December, 1873, when, upon his retirement, Bvt. Brig.-Gen. Joseph H. Potter became the colonel.
In the autumn of 1880 the regiment changed to Indian Territory and the several companies were stationed at Forts Supply, Reno, Sill, Cantonment on the north fork of the Canadian River, and again a part of it in Texas at Fort Elliot. During this time no campaign service fell to its lot.
In April, 1886, Col. Potter having been appointed a brigadier general, Col. Zenas R. Bliss succeeded him and is still in command of the regiment.
In June, 1888, the regiment moved to the Department of Arizona with headquarters and three companies at Fort Bayard, N. M., the remainder of the companies being distributed in Arizona at San Carlos, Forts Grant and Thomas, and for nearly four years they performed all the infantry duty at these posts. The duty at San Carlos was particularly trying under circumstances of danger and discomfort, but no serious trouble with the Indians occurred to require unusual work, and the only incident of note was the fight of Paymaster Wham's escort, composed of men of the 24th Infantry and 10th Cavalry, who when attacked by a gang of robbers made a brave stand for which medals of honor or certificates of merit were given according to rank.
The companies of the regiment which had been distributed at the before-mentioned posts were in 1892 sent to Fort Huachuca, and as two companies had in the meantime been skeletonized, the regiment now became equally divided, with headquarters, D, E, F and G, at Fort Bayard, N. M., and Companies A, B, C and H at Huachuca, where at this writing they still remain.