The Eleventh Cavalry Hunt

The Eleventh Cavalry Hunt, organized in October 1909, was the first organized Army Hunt in America. One of the downloads that you received when you signed up for U.S. Horseman News was “Fox and Drag Hounds in the Army” from the 1912 Rasp.  This article gave lots of detail about the 11th Cavalry Hunt, much of which is also included in “Hunting in the United States and Canada” (1928).

In 1911 the Regiment was ordered to Texas and when Captain Cushman returned, he found hounds who were in such terrible shape that they had to be destroyed. Earlier Cushman had sent a letter to Middleburg asking for their help in starting a new pack. I hope readers will enjoy the following excerpts from “Hunting in the United States and Canada”, written by A. Henry Higginson  & Julian Ingersoll Chamberlain, published in 1928.

“Luckily, there were hounds to be had, and late in November five couples were sent from the Middlesex, and with them went “Bob” Cotesworth, late huntsman to the Middlesex, and a man who perhaps knew more about starting a pack of foxhounds than any Hunt servant in America. It was a lucky chance that found old Cotesworth free to accept the position of huntsman to the new pack, and his advice and energy were greatly appreciated by the officers of the regiment. Looking over some old letters from Cotesworth, we find the following extracts, which show the enthusiasm and support which was given to him:

“Fort Oglethorpe, December 4th, 1912. . . . I have four and a half couples in the pack, and one regular man to help me with hounds, as well as any number of ‘soldier defaulters’ that I may require. The kennels are inhabitable, just plain wooden buildings with good concrete floors, two lodging rooms which are very comfortable, and I am to have coppers and good kennel yards. The whole outfit is, as they admit, very uneducated in hound matters, but they are very keen, and I am sure that I shall be able to show them good sport after a bit. Chickamauga Park, on the outskirts of which the Post stands, is a splendid place, and I have already had some enjoyable rides through it, getting myself in some kind of condition. On Sunday I had hounds out in the park, and we ran on to a gray fox. Hounds didn’t make much of it at first, but presently old ‘Standard’ hit it off, threw his tongue, and the whole pack went to him, and we had some pretty hunting, picking him up after about an hour.”

Things progressed rapidly, and on Christmas Day Cotesworth wrote:
“Our new house is habitable and we will be most comfortable, and we hope to move in in a couple of days now, and then I shall be all right and close to the kennels. The hounds are now in good fettle but we have not been able to hunt for a week, on account of rain. It has been a soaking wet time for two weeks, and on days when we might have tried, the officers couldn’t get away from duty. Foxes are a very thin population about here and hard to find. The officers have to have a ride to suit the authorities, so I have instituted a ‘fox-drag,’ i. e., I have had made a house for a fox to live in, with a slanting floor pitched to the centre, a drain and a water-tight box underneath to catch all the drainage. The contents of the box is used for drag instead of anise-oil. The line is begun in some thick woods, and I draw the covert in the orthodox way. We had our ‘trial trip’ on the i6th instant, and it came out in great style. Standard found ‘him/ threw his tongue, and went away with it like a three-year-old, all the rest going to cry. Sailor and Talbot were very interested and did good work out of covert, the younger ones taking up the running from the old fellow—Bendigo going right out in front, not throwing his tongue as the rest did—but he did race away with it. You will be interested to know that the fences are not any bigger for me than they used to be! I rode a five-year-old troop horse, and it was no trouble to keep in front of the Field. They were all delighted. Mrs. Cushman tells me that before I came, most of the officers made all manner of fun of the hounds, but now fifteen of them have ordered scarlet coats—hitherto they hunted in regimentals—so we shall have quite a sporting Field in a few weeks. I have also donned the Eleventh Cavalry yellow collar. Everything is progressing, but, as I tell them, we cannot expect everything to be quite a success in the beginning, and they are satisfied to take the goods the gods send with gratefulness. In the springtime I shall put down some cubs in different places; there are some gray foxes on the ridges, but they are few and far between.”

A week later, he writes:
“On New Year’s Day, Colonel Parker called a hunt, and we met on the Parade Ground. The regimental buglers sounded the ‘Hunt Call,’ and nearly all the officers turned out and several enlisted men. A drag was laid about six miles, and they ran it like distraction. At the end of the drag, we had turned down a gray fox—I knew where the fox was turned down and cast the wrong side first, to let the horses get a blow; then I cast back and hit it off. They changed from the drag to the fox as readily as if it were the one thing all the way, only they were somewhat flighty, and the Field was so keen that they rode them off the line, and it took me some time to get them going again. But after they got settled, we had an hour of the prettiest hunting you ever saw, every hound at work, and that kind of fox (gray), as you know, does not run very straight, and they had to hunt him every yard. Sailor made a most re-markable hit, when they ran down to a road and checked. I swung right and left and tried on without result. I was sitting on my horse about a hundred yards behind them when I saw Sailor standing on a spot about ten yards from the road, but I did not give him credit for what he was doing. I said to him: ‘If I was a little closer to you, I’d make you get together and try with the rest.’ Presently I saw him coming towards me and I got interested. He worked a line right back to where I was and then I knew that the fox had been headed at the road, but before I decided to cast back I made the road good both ways, Captain Cushman came to me and said, ‘Don’t you think we’d better go home?’ —I said ‘What—and leave this fox? No, sir.’ He said, ‘I don’t think you’ve been hunting a fox lately.’ I said, ‘All right, sir, you do the looking on for a little while, and then maybe I’ll show you all about no fox.’ When I held them back the way we had come, they all certainly thought I was crazy, and when they hit the line I heard Captain Vidmer say, ‘Oh, they can teach those English hounds to do anything like that’ (he is an American hound man). . . . We hunted the line on about another mile, and presently up jumped the fox in front of us, and everyone who had stayed saw him. Of course I had to get some of my own back then: ‘Master,’ I said to Captain Cushman, ‘that’s a fox, and if he don’t hurry I am afraid these hounds will kill him.’ Windsor forgot that he was lame and went right out in front and knocked him over, and they split him in two in quick time. Captain Vidmer came forward and I said: ‘Sir, I heard you make a very complimentary remark to my little pack just now; that’s a fox, sir, and they killed him—you can teach those English hounds to do anything like that, but you cannot teach that other sort anything—not even manners.’ Everybody just roared, for they didn’t think I had heard Captain Vidmer’s remark, but as usual my hearing is very good—if I want it to be! Everybody was very much delighted with the morning’s hunt and invited me to luncheon at the Officers Club, where everybody, it seemed to me, drank everybody else’s health, and then Captain Cushman remembered the hounds and gave their health. Hunting and the pack were the only topics worth mentioning. If you could have seen Mrs. Cushman when the fox got up in front of hounds, you couldn’t have forgotten it. She just screamed until she couldn’t speak. Her brother, Mr. Courtland Parker, was nearly as excited in a quiet way, but he sadly wanted to jump in and save the life of the fox, and his younger brother, George, was equally as bad. Punch has shown many comic hunting cuts, but never such a one as that, I’m sure. I ‘blooded’ young George Parker—a dab on each cheek and one on his nose—and told him not to wash his face for a month! That he was very willing to do, but Colonel Parker telephoned to Mrs. Cushman to come and wash George’s face and make him presentable. Fort Oglethorpe was certainly turned upside down on New Year’s Day.”

The season of 1911 seems to have been a banner year for the hunting at Oglethorpe, for in 1912 there were some changes in the personnel of the regiment that were rather detrimental to hunting. Colonel Parker was detailed to go to Europe, on a Cavalry Board, and the Master, Captain Cushman, went as military attache to Sweden. In December Major General Leonard Wood— then in command of the Eastern Department—visited the Post and inspected the kennels, and learning that the hunting was beginning to lapse, he caused a regimental order to be issued that hounds were to hunt at least one day a week. The return to the regiment of a lot of the old officers who had been detailed on special duty about this time, brightened matters up, and under the Mastership of an energetic young officer, Lieutenant Robinson, things took on a better aspect. Early in the year twelve brace of cubs were put out, and these throve well through the summer, so that by autumn the prospects for a good season looked very bright. Old Cotesworth wrote about that time, enclosing a photograph of himself and the horse on which he hunted hounds, of which he says:

“I call him ‘The Dream.’ I picked him from T Troop when I first came here, and he took to his job with hounds like a duck to water, and now he is a very good hunter.”

Under the Mastership of Lieutenant Robinson, the season seems to have been a very good one, and in the early spring of 1913, Cotesworth describes a day’s hunting as follows:

“We met on the Parade Ground at 1:30 p. m., and going on at once, we hit the line of a fox in Chickamauga Park before two o’clock; we killed him at 5:15, so tired that he stood up by himself! This fox did not appear to know the country any too well, although at Kelly Field he was headed by some officers going home, which may have been the reason for his not making a better point. For the first hour and a half, scent not being any too good, we just had a slow hunting run, but finally getting up to him they went on at a great pace for forty or forty-five minutes, pushing him on nearly to Smith’s and racing him back again over the foil, to kill him within a quarter of a mile of the place at which they found him. It was not a long point—perhaps five miles—but it was very pretty hunting. Fordham did as much work as anything in the pack, throwing his squeaky note directly he struck the line, and at the last part, when they started to race, it was always English hounds in the lead, principally Sailor, Talbot, and Fordham.”

During the summer the regiment was, as usual, away on maneuvers, and in the autumn of 1913, when they returned, hunting was resumed, but not with the old enthusiasm. The outbreak on the Mexican Border was brewing, the officers who had in the past supported the Hunt had many of them gone to other assignments, and things began to go downhill. Cotesworth stayed throughout the season of 1918, but in the following spring, when the regiment went away, he too resigned his position, and as far as we can find out, the Eleventh Cavalry Hunt became a thing of the past. It seems to us, however, that too much stress cannot be laid on the importance of this organization, for it blazed the way for those other Army Hunts which were to follow… “

Let me know what you think! I'd love to hear from you