Chief, The Last U.S. Cavalry Horse

The Library/Archives Division holds a small collection of papers and photos relating to “Chief,” the last U.S. Cavalry horse. Foaled in 1932, the U.S. Army purchased Chief in 1940 at Fort Robinson from L.A. Parker of Scottsbluff, Nebraska for the sum of $163. Chief arrived at Ft. Riley, Kansas on April 3, 1941, where he was assigned to the 10th Cavalry and later the 9th Cavalry. Chief was then transferred to the Cavalry School in June of 1942 where he would eventually attain the rank of Advanced Cavalry Charger.

Chief and Sgt. Ben Parker, Fort Riley, Kansas, 1964 (RG4261.PH:1-1)

Chief and Sgt. Ben Parker, Fort Riley, Kansas, 1964 (RG4261.PH:1-1)

Chief remained at the Ft. Riley Cavalry School throughout his semi-retirement in 1949 and full retirement in 1958. He spent the remainder of his life at the Ft. Riley Riding Club. Chief, the last of the U.S. Cavalry horses, died on May 24, 1968 at the age of 34. A military funeral with full honors was held and was attended by the Commanding General of the U.S. Army.

Memorial program for Chief (RG4261.AM)

Memorial program for Chief (RG4261.AM)

Chronology from Chief's memorial program (RG4261.AM)

Chronology from Chief's memorial program (RG4261.AM)

For more information about the collection, contact the Library/Archives Division.

Tom Mooney – Curator of Manuscripts

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9 Responses to Chief, The Last U.S. Cavalry Horse

  1. Greg Westen says:

    I wonder if my late father,W.C. WESTEN M.D. rode Chief when Dr. Westen was the assistant Regimental Surgeon for the U.S. 9th Cavalry; 1942-1944?

    • Tom Mooney says:

      You could try contacting the U.S. Cavalry Museum and the U.S. Cavalry Memorial Research Library at Fort Riley to see if they have more information.

  2. Robert & Liane Martin says:

    My husband’s response will follow. He was stationed at Ft Riley and was assigned to PIO. He knows the history of the last cavalry horses. We have an 8×10 of Chief & Sgt Parker which I have scanned and will send if you request it. …
    I got to know Chief in the spring of 1962 when St. Parker had a colt wire cut. I took pictures of the colt for insurance purposes. The Post veterinarian got the colt patched up and gave Chief special attention. The Vet had a large animal practice in Missouri before entering the Army. Our picture of Chief was taken in the spring of 1963 with Sgt Parker in era uniform. Chief acted more like a green colt than a seasoned cavalry horse that morning when we saddled him. I was assigned to write Chief’s obituary and a cavalry history. The information was released and many publications picked the story up and ran it as though they had done the research themselves.

    • Kenneth flynn says:

      I read your story about Chief and was very suprised to see sgt. parkers picture along side chief. It brings back a lot of fond memories of Ft. Riley and the post stables. Around 1963 and 64 I worked at the post stables as a young 22 year old specialist 4. It was my almost daily duty watering the herd of buffalo and driving for sgt. parker. He was quite an interesting and unique individual. I can still picture him wearing that old beat up cowboy hat. I would be very interested in getting a copy of the picture if you still have it. Thank you for bringing back and sharing lot of good memories.

      • Tom Mooney says:

        Thanks for your comments. I will forward your request to our photo staff. They will follow up with you in regards to the photo of Sgt. Parker.

  3. Darlene A. Greenawalt says:

    I was stationed at Fort Riley in the WAC detachment in 1964-67. I remember Chief very well indeed. It was my weekend assignment to ride the horses in the stable for the GI’s who deployed to VietNam. I took some wild rides over those historic cliffs and enjoyed my weekend duty time. Chief and Ben are a constant memory and I never skip the story when I talk about my Army times. Chief was a very gentle horse and I remember looking into his eyes and tried to imagine what stories he could tell. He stood in his stall like a regal being with pride and dignity as we pulled shifts tp guard over him 24 hours a day. To be so close to that period of time in history was a true blessing to me. Chief and Ben will always be remembered as one of the last stands of the old west. Thank you for the article.

  4. Lowell Eldridge says:

    I was stationed at Fort Riley just a few months before Chief died.My barreks was just across the road from where they kept Chief.I would go often to see him,i always liked horses being from Kentucky i rode alot when i was a kid.When he died i took a 5 ton wrecker and set the bleacher’s for the big funeral in 1968. Lowell Eldridge Flatwoods Ky 1-12-2012

  5. Sergei Dickey says:

    I was in the 437th Army Band at Ft. Riley in 1968. We rehearsed almost daily the ceremony that would honor chief when he had passed. Shortly before that time a letter to the editor of the local newspaper was written by the mother of a vet who was killed in Viet nam. Having read a newspaper article about the planned ceremony for Chief’s funeral she was apparently angry that her son wasn’t accorded the same honors. So, when Chief passed away he was buried during the night on the parede grounds of the Main Post without ‘fanfare’ and a less extravagant than planned parade and ceremony was performed the next day. I believe that during each and every parade on those parade grounds The troops salute Chief as they pass by his grave.

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