The Second Texas Cavalry was originally organized in May 1861 as the Second Texas Mounted Rifles. It was reorganized in April 1862 with all the same officers and enlisted men. The unit was known by several alternate names including Baylor's Cavalry, Ford's Cavalry, Donelson's Cavalry, Littleton';s Cavalry, Nolan's Cavalry, Hardeman's Cavalry, Walker's Cavalry, Pyron's Cavalry, Spencer's Cavalry, and Richardson's Cavalry. The Second Texas Cavalry consisted of 1,200 men from Anderson, Bee, Bexar, Cherokee, Goliad, Harris, Harrison, Houston, Johnson, Karnes, Leon, Lavaca, Live Oak, Nacogdoches, Nueces, Parker, and Uvalde counties. The original field officers included Col. John S. Ford, Lt. John R. Baylor, Maj. John Donelson, Maj. Matthew Nolan, Maj. Charles L. Pyron, Maj. William A. Spencer, Lt. Col. James Walker, and Maj. Edwin Waller, Jr.
The Second Texas was assigned to the Trans-Mississippi Department throughout the war. The unit served garrison duty at Fort Brown and was briefly attached to Sibley's Brigade of the Army of New Mexico. It then served in the districts of Galveston and Houston during 1862. In mid-1862 the Second Texas Cavalry mutinied and was dismounted as a result in early 1863. In the spring they were assigned to the district of Western Louisiana, where they served with Xavier Debray's command. The regiment was reorganized in Austin, Texas, in September 1863, and in the winter of 1863–64 they returned to Texas to serve at Velasco and San Bernard. In November 1862 the Second Texas Cavalry consisted of 752 men, but by July 1864 its numbers decreased to only 167 men. In the fall of 1864 the unit was assigned to the Seventh Texas Cavalry Brigade. In March 1865 the regiment consisted of 150 men who served at San Antonio, Fort Clark, and Fort Duncan.
The Second Texas Cavalry participated in several engagements during the Civil War. The regiment fought at San Lucas Springs, Mesilla, San Augustine Springs, Fort Stanton, Fort Craig, Fort Bliss, Fort Thorn, Canada Alamosa, Camp Robledo, and Fort Inge. In 1862 the unit was engaged in the Sibley campaign at the battles of Valverde and Glorieta in New Mexico and Boutte Station and Bayou des Allemands in Louisiana. The Second Texas Cavalry returned to Texas where they fought at Fort Clark near the Nueces River. In January 1863 several companies were engaged at Galveston Island and Sabine Pass in Texas, while several other companies were captured at Arkansas Post, Arkansas. Following parole the unit was involved in operations in Western Louisiana in the spring of 1863. The Second Texas Cavalry was engaged at Bayou Vermillion, Bayou Beouf, LaFourche Crossing, and campaigns in the Teche Country. They returned to Texas in early 1864 and remained there for the duration of the war. The men were dismounted in March 1865 and gradually disbanded in mid-May as a substantial number of the men fled across the Rio Grande into Mexico. The Second Texas Cavalry was officially surrendered with Gen. Edmund Kirby Smith at Galveston on June 2, 1865.