After the Mexican-American War, noncommissioned officers found themselves leading small units into the new frontier to defend settlements against Indian raids and set up in the newly gained land out west. In 1849, a young man named Percival Lowe enlisted into the U.S. Army’s elite Dragoon unit. Lowe use his knowledge of the land and equestrian skills to immediately make an impact in his unit. Lowe would achieve the rank of first sergeant in just over two years.
In 1853, Lowe, along with other NCOs in his company, established the “company court martial.” It was not yet recognized by the Army, but this was the first time that NCOs could enforce discipline in their Soldiers for breaking regulations without dealing with lengthy proceedings. During the 1850s, changes in the chevron and epaulet continued to occur. After declaring in 1847 that the chevron would be worn in the inverted “V” position, it was changed to point down, where it remained until the regulations of 1902. The epaulet became acceptable to wear in dress uniform but was not permitted with the normal duty uniform.
Major changes to U.S. weaponry occurred in the 1850s that added greatly to the fire power and accuracy of the weapons being used by Soldiers. The Sharps Carbine and Joslyn Rifle, which both used breech loading, added a new dimension of training for Soldiers. NCOs again took the lead ensuring that all Soldiers in the unit were trained and capable to fire the weapons quickly and accurately.
In April 1861, the leadership skills learned from fighting in the Mexican-American War and defending the new frontier from Indian attacks, along with training new Soldiers in advanced weapons and equestrian skills, came full circle for NCOs as cannons under confederate flags opened fire on Fort Sumter, S.C., officially beginning the Civil War. NCOs would be called on not only to lead the lines of skirmishers, but also