The Remount Service Past and Present
By Major A. A. CEDERWALD, QM-Res.
The Quartermaster Review – November-December 1928
IN TRACING the events that led up to the organization of the Remount Service, as we know it today, it seems desirable, purely as an historical recital, to state briefly the efforts made by the authorities of the War Department during a long period of years to establish some central agency to supervise matters pertaining to the supply of suitable remounts for the Army. Thus we find, as far back as our Civil War, that great difficulties were encountered in purchasing and caring for horses and mules and a woeful lack of knowledge of the care of animals in the hands of troops. At the outbreak of the Civil War two separate and distinct army agencies were charged with the procurement of animals, neither of which was properly organized, viz., The Quartermaster General’s Office, which purchased draft horses and mules, and the Cavalry Bureau, which purchased Cavalry horses. It took two years to bring our army authorities at that time to a realization of the fact that animal affairs should be handled by an agency charged solely with that duty. A proper organization would, of course, have been one agency charged with the purchase of all animals for the Army. There was as much difficulty experienced in the armies during the Civil War as there was during the World War, owing to the lack of care of animals and animal transportation. Special inspectors were appointed on the army staffs and they were given wide authority to correct these evils. However, affairs reached such a bad state that orders were issued authorizing the transfer of Cavalry officers, and even of whole Cavalry commands, to the Infantry, if found neglecting their animals.
The United States as a nation has always been prone to forget the lessons learned in a war, and quite naturally, due to this inclination, the Army failed to profit by its Civil War experiences in the animal line, for after that war things were allowed to lapse and no effort was made to concentrate animal affairs in a separate agency under its own chief and to keep it going.
EARLY EFFORTS TO ESTABLISH REMOUNT DEPOTS
Mention of the desirability of establishing what are now known as remount depots appears in the report of The Quartermaster General for the fiscal year 1868, in which he said that the northern horse bred in Missouri, Kentucky or Virginia, or the states still further north required a year’s residence in Texas before he became acclimated. It was recommended therefore that a stock farm be established at some healthy position, and that there be kept there a year’s supply of horses for the district. He was of the opinion that it would be greatly to the advantage of the service if such a stock farm were established in Texas, and one also on the western plains. He also suggested that all the mares then in Service should be collected at these two points and if money were appropriated for the purchase of a few good stock horses (stallions), in a few years these farms would supply the country with remounts at much less than the market price and with animals of better quality and acclimated by birth in the district in which they were to serve. There is no record that these recommendations were carried out.
Again in 1884 we find in The Quartermaster General’s Report a recommendation for the establishment of a Remount Depot at Leavenworth, Kansas, for supplying the whole service with animals for Cavalry, Artillery or draft purposes. The depot was to be directly under The Quartermaster General and to have in stables a sufficient number of animals to meet the ordinary demands of the Service. He further stated that the officer in charge of the depot should have authority to purchase animals when needed and in a short time farmers and raisers would bring their stock direct to the depot. Animals could receive at the depot a preliminary training, be thoroughly broken to saddle and besides be properly shod, so that when a requisition came for any regiment, a mount of sound, acclimated and trained horses, matched in color, could be at once sent in a solid shipment. No record is available as to whether or not the above mentioned depot was ever established, but the presumption is that it never was.
Maj. Gen. James B. Aleshire, then Quartermaster General, made extensive recommendations, in his Report for the Fiscal Year 1907, for the establishment of a separate division in his office to be charged with procuring and handling horses and mules and he also recommended the establishment of remount depots. These recommendations are important as they outline in general the Remount Service as it exists today. He stated, in part, that, “It is believed that the results contemplated in providing for open market purchases at posts can best be obtained and the greatest advantages thereof secured to both horse raisers and the Army by the establishment of a remount service, to be a separate division of The Quartermaster General’s Office, designated ‘Remount Division,’ and under charge of an officer of the Quartermaster’s Department, specially selected by the Secretary of War, on the recommendation of The Quartermaster General of the Army, who would supervise all purchases of animals.
“There should be a main office (headquarters) located in The Quartermaster General’s Office, and three or more remount depots, to be properly organized, located, and equipped, and the same number of remount districts; all to be under supervision and control of the officer in charge of the remount division and subject to his inspection. To each of the three or more remount depots would be assigned a remount district, and each depot and its tributary districts would be in charge of an officer of the Quartermaster’s Department, preferably detailed from the cavalry or field artillery and especially adapted for this duty. Each depot would be provided such employees and equipment as needed to perform its functions.
“Under the supervision of the officer in charge of the remount division, the officer in charge of each remount depot would have control of all matters pertaining to the management thereof, and be accountable and responsible for all animals, supplies, property, and funds necessary to the successful operation of the depot.
“He would personally superintend the care and handling of the horses under his charge, and see to it that the horses were well fed and cared for, gently and kindly handled at all times, and properly exercised and broken.
“When directed by proper authority, he would purchase young horses, to conform with specifications, within the district assigned to his remount depot, to which they would be shipped.
“He would be required to acquaint himself with, and keep a record of, the number and class of horses, how bred (if possible), by whom owned, where located, and generally complete data of the horse and mule production of his district, and be prepared to direct a purchasing officer, or to go himself, to the place most suitable for the establishment of sub-depots in case of an emergency, and where the best horses could be found.”
The large Remount Depots at Fort Reno, Oklahoma, Fort Keogh, Montana, and Front Royal, Virginia, were established on this recommendation, but a separate division in The Quartermaster General’s Office was not organized. Also, not until the World War were there sufficient officers and employees in the Remount Branch to carry on the business, prepare the necessary plans, regulations, and equipment tables and keep in touch with outside horse interests.
When the United States declared war against Germany on April 6,1917, we thus see, as outlined above, that effort had been made for some years to bring about better conditions in the branch of the Quartermaster Corps charged with the purchase and handling of horses and mules. Development had been slow but the foundation for a Remount Service had been laid.
ADVANCEMENT OF REMOUNT MATTERS BY WORLD WAR
The World War, however, brought the matter to a focus. There is no doubt but that the war advanced remount matters to a point that they would not have reached for years, if ever. We find remount affairs, when we entered the World War, being managed by a Remount Branch of the Transportation Division of The Quartermaster General’s Office, and strange as it may seem, it took a long, hard pull to get the Remount Branch out of that place and transform it into a real Remount Service.
No one had dreamed, and even if they had it was only vaguely, that the United States would ever be called upon to put a huge army into the field. No one knew for certain what size it would be, perhaps a million men; in a few days the figures jumped to possibly two million men, and when it was finally decided that five million men would be called to the colors and it was realized that an army of that size would require approximately one million horses and mules, there was consternation among those responsible for the procurement, care and issue of such an unheard of number of animals.
The first concern was to find an officer capable of reorganizing the Remount Branch and to undertake the monumental task of procuring competent personnel, building the remount depots required and purchasing the animals. He was found in the person of Capt. (now Colonel) John S. Fair, Cavalry, who had already had experience in remount work in the Southern Department where he had been in charge of such work in the office of the Department Quartermaster at Fort Sam Houston, Texas. Captain Fair took charge of the Remount Branch, Quartermaster General’s Office, on April 10,1917, and the splendid success he and his successors achieved against innumerable obstacles is now a matter of history.
At the time there were in existence three large permanent remount depots at Fort Reno, Oklahoma, Fort Keogh, Montana, and Front Royal, Virginia, and two temporary remount depots, one at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, and another at Fort Bliss, Texas, already in operation. The two last named depots were built in 1916 under the direction of Maj. Gen. H. L. Rogers, then Colonel, Quartermaster Corps, Department Quartermaster, Southern Department, for the purpose of furnishing animals to troops on Mexican border patrol duty. A system for making purchases by dividing the country into zones was devised but that system had to be revised and expanded to adapt it to the extensive operations in view.
There was little trouble about what was found on hand and working. The great difficulty was that various essential things were found not to be in existence. There were no regulations for the government of remount depots; no construction plans for remount depots; no tables of organization for remount units and depots; no tables of fundamental allowances of equipment and supplies for remount units and depots; no regulations for the Remount Service in the field. Worse perhaps than any of these deficiencies, serious as they undoubtedly were, was the lack of officers and soldiers trained in remount matters, who could be spared from other duties considered more important. However, the officers and men were found, and the Remount Service proceeded with energy to a performance of the duties with which it was charged.
Overseas the Remount Service with the American Expeditionary Forces was developed correspondingly with the Organization in this country, and by Armistice Day the maximum force on duty with the Remount Service in the United States was 455 officers, 16,063 enlisted men and 784 civilians, and in France 493 officers, 14,598 enlisted men and 5 civilians, making a grand total of 948 officers, 30,661 enlisted men and 789 civilians.
There were on hand or built in the United States at the close of the World War 39 remount depots of a total capacity of 229,200 animals, and in France there were built or taken over from the French Army, 33 remount depots of a total capacity of 63,500 animals, making a total remount depot capacity in this country and in France of 292,700 animals.
Procurement of animals reached a total of 305,394 in the United States and 175,635 in France. The number of animals shipped overseas was 67,725, of which number but 589 were lost in transit. The maximum number of animals handled both in this country and abroad during the war reached a total of 571,607. After the war 345,580 of these animals were sold as surplus, realizing a total of over $52,000,000. The losses by death in France were 63,339 animals, and in this country 30,184.
PRESENT ORGANIZATION FOR PEACE AND WAR
The present peace-time organization of the Remount Service is substantially the same as it was at the end of the World War except that it is on a greatly reduced scale, capable of instant expansion to a war-time basis. We still have three Remount depots-one at Front Royal, Virginia, one at Fort Reno, Oklahoma, and the other at Fort Robinson, Nebraska-and five purchasing and breeding headquarters. Our present plans also provide for a number of additional installations, such as concentration Remount depots, field Remount depots of varying capacities, etc., in case of emergency.
THE MISSION OF THE REMOUNT SERVICE
The mission of the Remount Service is as follows: (a) The purchase of horses and mules and forage for the Army. (b) The care, conditioning, and training of remounts after purchase and before issue. (c) The distribution and issue of remounts. (d) Organization and operation of the Remount Service. (e) The training, allocation and assignment of Remount Service personnel operating under the control of the Quartermaster General. (f) The operation of the Army horse breeding plan. In view of its importance to the Army and to the Nation a discussion of this plan and of the events that led up to its establishment follows:
ARMY HORSE BREEDING
Farsighted officers of the Army and numbers of patriotic civilians long before the advent of the World War had realized the alarming shortage of suitable riding horses in the United States and the necessity for taking some steps toward the encouragement of the breeding of such horses so that our Armies might be supplied with suitable riding horses in time of peace and have a reserve in the country available for war. This shortage was largely due to the advent of the small automobile and to other causes.
As far back as 1910 the War Department requested the cooperation of the Department of Agriculture in evolving a plan to enable the Army to obtain suitable riding horses. This request resulted in each department appointing a representative to outline a plan to bring about this desirable end and as a result a number of stallions were obtained by purchase or donation and placed in breeding centers in a few of the Eastern States and in Kentucky. This plan brought about the production of a number of excellent colts which were available for purchase by the War Department at three years of age. However, due to inability to secure appropriations from Congress, the plan had to be abandoned shortly after the outbreak of the World War.
When the United States entered the World War and proceeded to purchase animals it very soon became evident to purchasing officers that animals suitable for cavalry and riding purposes were none too plentiful. As time went on it was noticed that fewer good type riding horses were purchased; and in April, 1918, a plan for the breeding of a suitable type of cavalry horse was submitted to the Secretary of War by The Quartermaster General and approved on May 15, 1918. This plan authorized the Remount Service, in cooperation with the Bureau of Animal Industry, to obtain as many stallions as were required from interested Owners or horse breeding associations either by donation or purchase and to transport selected mares to the existing permanent remount depots for breeding.
The first breeding actually done by the Army was thus begun in 1918. Thirty-nine thoroughbred stallions were secured-four by purchase, the balance by gift. These stallions were obtained through the untiring efforts of Mr. F. Ambrose Clark and Maj. Robert E. Strawbridge, then on duty in the Remount Service. Approximately 1,500 mares were shipped for breeding purposes to the Remount Depots at Front Royal, Virginia, Fort Reno, Oklahoma, and Fort Keogh, Montana. However, an examination of the mares selected in 1918 clearly showed that a great many of them were unsuitable to breed to light stallions and it was decided that the maintenance “of this number of mares was too extensive a project and too expensive for the Government to undertake. As a result of this the Army breeding plan as it is today was evolved and authorized by Congress in 1920, with an appropriation of $250,000. In the interests of economy this amount has subsequently been reduced to $150,000 per annum. This plan provides substantially for the placing of suitable light sires at breeding centers throughout the country at the service of farmers and breeders willing to raise riding horses of the required quality and who are located in communities where suitable mares are available. This service is furnished at a nominal fee. Stallions are delivered at Government expense to local agents who arrange for service and collect the fee therefor. A local horseman or farmer of good standing interested in breeding is usually selected as agent.
The colts sired by these stallions are the property of the breeders and may be disposed of as they see fit. However, when in the market for riding horses the Government will naturally favor the purchase of the offspring of its own stallions. It may safely be said that the plan has proven an outstanding success up to date.
At the inception of the breeding plan in 1921 the failure of the undertaking was frequently predicted because of the supposed lack of interest of the horsemen as a whole in the riding horse. It was constantly asserted that no interest in the breeding of light horses existed in the United States and that the only way to obtain the necessary interest was to pay liberally for it. The results so far obtained refute fully these assertions, for with more than 500 stallions in service during the 1928 breeding season applications for stallions are constantly being received, it being estimated that there are now more than 1,500 applications for stallions on file that cannot be filled.
To visualize what the encouragement of horse breeding means to national preparedness, attention is invited to the following:
That at present approximately 18,000 mares are being bred yearly and fully 12,000 foals produced.
That the value of these foals at three years of age is easily $170.00 each, which means a yearly production of horses valued at approximately $2,000,000 at a net expenditure for encouragement of the work of $125,000 ($150,000 appropriation for breeding less return of $25,000 in stud fees).
That fifteen years from date, considering all horses between the ages of 4 and 14 years sired by Government stallions as available for military use in emergency, there will be in the United States a reserve supply of about 100,000 riding horses sired by such stallions.
That this reserve of 100,000 riding horses is the only Army reserve which costs nothing for maintenance, as is the case with all other military supplies, and is being held and put to use by the civilian population of the country.
It may not be amiss here to bear testimony to the fact that the success of the breeding plan is due in no small measure to the material support given by the horsemen and horsewomen of the United States in every section and on all occasions. This support has been wholehearted and generous in the extreme, and the breeding plan will continue to receive their unstinted support so long as it is operated in the present conservative manner. However, encouragement of breeding over a long period of years without interruption will be necessary to ensure not only reserve as well. Once interrupted, it would be extremely difficult to resume breeding operations, as the confidence of breeders, which it has taken years to build up, would be destroyed, and they would hesitate again to invest time and money in the furtherance of a project from which support was likely to be withdrawn at any moment, to their loss.