New York was the first state to supply volunteer cavalry regiments to the Union Army, in 1861. The 10th NY Cavalry was one of these early regiments. The 10th NY was nicknamed the "Porter Guards," in honor of Colonel Peter Buel Porter of Niagara Falls NY, who served with distinction during the War of 1812 and later as Secretary of War under President John Quincy Adams.
Recruiting started in western and central New York State in August 1861, and the Tenth received its numerical designation on December 12, 1861. The first 2 battalions (8 companies) took a train to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, on Christmas Eve 1861. Here they encamped for 2-1/2 months and received their initial training.