It was 90 years ago that the Fort Leavenworth Hunt (FLH) started as a military foxhunt, and with only two periods of a few years' inactivity due to war and changes in leadership, it has weathered many seasons of major U.S. Army transitions. In celebration of this accomplishment, FLH held several special observances on October 7-9. There were nearly 200 current and past members of the FLH and neighboring hunts from Iowa, Nebraska, Colorado, Missouri, Kentucky, Arkansas, Illinois and Great Britain who spent the weekend commemorating the legacy and history of the last remaining military hunt in North America.
On October 7th, a picturesque Friday afternoon, four groups of riders departed the Old Bell Hall parking lot to see some of the historical sites on Fort Leavenworth, such as the Old Disciplinary Barracks, the Missouri River crossing site where the wagons heading west began their trek to the Oregon Trail and Santa Fe Trail, Sherman Army Air Field, and the Prison Cemetery. Following the ride, 130 members and friends of the Hunt gathered at Frontier Heritage Museum where they were treated to displays that showcased the long and distinguished history of the horse in the U.S. Army, and particularly at Fort Leavenworth.
The next day, more than 100 horses and riders set off on a crisp fall morning following the traditional Sharing of the Stirrup Cup and Blessing of the Hounds to initiate the 90th season of foxhunting for FLH. “The coyote gave a fantastic chase for the hounds, staff, horses and riders, and persevered in evasion tactics in order to give chase another day, which remains the purpose of the hunt - the thrill of the chase,” remarked FLH honorary whipper-in and Field Secretary, Dr. Bruce McEnroe.
Photo by Captain Carolina Cruz.
Saturday evening, the Hunt conducted a traditional military ball where Brigadier General Tom Graves, Deputy Commander for Operations, Eighth Army and member of the FLH, reflected on the tradition of the military foxhunt and its utility in developing Army officers of courage and character. He said, "Commemoration of the 90th anniversary of the FLH also memorializes the equine pillar of the U.S. military prior to World War II."
On Sunday morning, the FLH saluted the Buffalo Soldiers at the Buffalo Soldier Memorial on Grant Avenue. The mounted FLH riders in formal hunt attire processed down Grant Avenue to the site. The ceremony took place in front of a large crowd of mounted riders and honored guests. Brig. Gen. Graves, with Trooper John Bruce, laid a commemorative wreath from the FLH in honor of "A Cavalry Trooper: an expert shot, amazing horseman, whose mount and tack were always neat and ready," said Graves. The wreath now rests at the gravestone of Fitz Lee, Medal of Honor recipient, Troop M, of the 10th Cavalry, who died in the Spanish American War on September 14th, 1899.
Photo by Angela Fain.
Lieutenant Colonel (Retired) Bob Fullerton, MFH, former Infantry Ranger in Vietnam and retired Academic Dean of the Command and General Staff College, Fort Leavenworth said, "The Hunt would not have prospered would it not have been for the Buffalo Soldiers at a time when they were a segregated unit. They became the heart and blood of the Hunt, and the Hunt flourished because of their dedication. The history of the two units is pretty much inseparable in the interwar period."
Select members of the 1st Squadron, 10th U.S. Cavalry served as Staff members of the FLH, including kennel huntsman, kennel whippers-in and junior hunt whippers-in. The Hunt honored their faithful service as the Buffalo Soldiers celebrate their 150th anniversary this year. Master Bob Fullerton presented a portrait of a 10th Cavalry First Sergeant to Trooper John Bruce, on behalf of the FLH.
Photo by Captain Carolina Cruz.
Captain Carolina Cruz, the Public Affairs Officer for the Fort Leavenworth Buffalo Soldiers Chapter, ROCKS, Inc., photographed the memorial ceremony. "I felt honored to attend such a commemorative event and to witness how members of the local community came together to celebrate this historic milestone. It was a privilege to capture the pride and unity of the personnel dressed in their historic uniforms," she said. "These pictures will help build memories for the Buffalo Soldiers, the Fort Leavenworth Hunt Association and their Families."
Fullerton said, "The Hunt is unique in that we offer foxhunting for beginners and then they take this experience across the United States and abroad. We feel vested in involving military members who are here for a short time to learn how to foxhunt and use these skills for the rest of their lives." Fullerton and his wife, Hollis, have a track record of investing in the Hunt for the long term: both of their daughters were active members as children, growing up in the Hunt, riding to hounds, learning respect for the quarry, hounds, horsemanship skills and traditional hunting etiquette. Now the legacy continues with a granddaughter who regularly participates with her grandparents and mother. "I came here in spring of 1984, having never ridden in my life and by the fall, I had two horses and a horse trailer, I was hooked. With this Hunt, you come for the sport and stay for the people."
Photo by Angela Fain.
The membership of the FLH has a unique tie to history in that former Master of Foxhounds, then-Major Charles H. Reed, was Operations Officer for the 10th Cavalry, one of America's oldest all-African-American mounted cavalry regiments. He helped bring the 10th Cavalry to its zenith in the period immediately before World War II. At the close of the war, then-Colonel Reed was integral to the rescue of prized Lipizzaner and Arabian horses. In modern times, it is worthy to note that the current MFHA Executive Director, then-Major Dennis Foster, was a whipper-in for the FLH when he attended Command and General Staff College.
Foxhunts were a logical extension of the equine pillar of the U.S. military prior to World War II. Strong ties for the sport of foxhunting existed within the cavalry corps, particularly at posts such as Fort Leavenworth and Fort Riley, where the U.S. Mounted Cavalry School was located.