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The U.S. Army in the 1890s

For most of this decade, the Regular Army's organizational structure consisted of five regiments of artillery, ten regiments of cavalry, and twenty-five regiments of infantry. In March 1898, two more artillery regiments were authorized, and the outbreak of the Spanish-American War would bring additional changes to the Army's organization and missions. Since the end of the Civil War, the infantry and cavalry regiments had been engaged in numerous campaigns against the Native American (Indian) tribes. Units were seldom at authorized strength, and, for the most part, the soldiers served as relatively small detachments (of companies or troops), at posts scattered throughout the nation's vast western states and territories. A reduced threat from Indians allowed the Army to begin reducing the number of garrisoned posts and this in turn allowed more companies to serve together at the same post. The Army began pushing for Congress to adopt a three battalion organization (each with four companies) for each of its infantry regiments, but these regiments continued to be authorized only eight manned companies (Companies I and K were at zero-strength), with only 46 privates in each company.

The average soldier faced long patrols, supply problems, and other hardships. Of the roughly 2,100 officers and 26,000 enlisted men in the Army on 1 Apr 1898, almost 900 officers and 13,000 enlisted were infantry, and another 400 officers and 6,000 enlisted were assigned to the cavalry. The majority of the artillery branch (totaling nearly 300 officers and 4,500 enlisted) were stationed at established fortifications along the nation's coastline and these soldiers seem to have fared better, which probably contributed to their ability to maintain authorized organization. During this period artillery batteries served both field and coast defense guns, and were expected to serve as infantry to defend fixed positions as needed. The remaining 500 officers and 2,500 enlisted were on miscellaneous duty or comprised general officers and staff.

The Cavalry as a Constabulary Force:
Organization and Equipment (1890 to 1898)

Prepared by DAMH-FPO / Apr 2000