Both the 1st and 2nd Battalions, 5th Cavalry Regiment were originally formed 1855 and organized at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri as the 2nd Cavalry Regiment; its numerical designation changed when the Army reorganized its Cavalry arm and numbered the units based on their chronological order of creation. Commanding the Regiment was Colonel Albert Sidney Johnston, later a Confederate general, and under him were no less than a dozen officers who would later rise to the rank of General, including famous figures such as Robert E. Lee, George H. Thomas, Earl Van Dorn, Edmund Kirby Smith, and George Stoneman.

Neither the 1st nor 2nd Battalion was deployed during World War I, but the Regiment has seen action in almost every conflict since the Civil War, from multiple campaigns during the Indian Wars to service in Puerto Rico during the War with Spain, serving in the Mexican Expedition of 1916, deployment to the Pacific Theater in World War II and then Korea, Vietnam, and the First Gulf War. The 2nd Battalion has most recently earned campaign participation credit for its actions in Operations Iraq Sovereignty and New Dawn, with the 1st Battalion also taking part in Iraqi Sovereignty.

Approved on 19 January 1923, the 5th Cavalry Regiment’s Regimental Distinctive Insignia features imagery that highlights their combat record up to that time. A cross moline in lower half of the shield is a symbol of the Union cavalry charge at Gaines’ Mill against John Bell Hood’s Texas Brigade, which was not successful in breaking the Confederate line but did help the Union keep its artillery from being captured, epitomizing the motto of "Loyalty, Courage."

The Maltese cross in the chief of the shields recalls the Knights of St. John, from whom the island of Puerto Rico was originally named San Juan. “Black Knights” comes the from the fact that the Knights wore a white cross on a black habit.

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