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Governor's Guards

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Connecticut State Guard
Active1771 – Present
Country United States
Allegiance Connecticut
  State Defense Force
TypeFoot Guards Horse Guards[disambiguation needed]
RolePublic Duties

The Governor's Guards of Connecticut are four distinct units of the Connecticut State Guard, a part of the organized militia under the Connecticut State Militia. There are two foot guard units and two horse guard units. All four units are formed fully of volunteers and serve under the authority of the Connecticut Adjutant General.

Commission for James Hillhouse in the Governor's Foot Guards, June, 1779
Commission for James Hillhouse in the Governor's Foot Guards, June, 1779


Four Connecticut Governor's Guard companies were created during colonial times to serve and protect the governor between his travels between New Haven and Hartford, both of which served as state capitals until 1875.[1] One foot guard unit and one horse guard unit served the Hartford area, and the other two the New Haven area.

The First Company Governor's Foot Guard was created in 1771[2] with a Second Company raised in 1775. The First Company Governor's Foot Guard is the oldest American military formation in the United States with an unbroken lineage.

The First Company Governor's Horse Guard was organized in 1778 by Capt. Thomas Y. Seymour, along with other Continental Army veterans in Hartford, and was chartered in 1788 as the "Governor's Independent, volunteer Troop of Horse Guards".[3] It is the oldest, continuously active mounted cavalry unit in the United States.

The Second Company Governor's Horse Guard was organized in 1808 in New Haven.[4]

First Company Governor's Foot Guard

The First Company Governor’s Foot Guard[5] was organized in Hartford in October 1771 as the Connecticut Governor's Guard, and is the oldest military organization in continuous existence in the United States. Although other organizations may have been formed at an earlier date, the First Company is unique in its record of unbroken service.

A member of the 1st Co. Governor's Foot Guard drills a pilot hole for a tent stake in the parking lot of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.
A member of the 1st Co. Governor's Foot Guard drills a pilot hole for a tent stake in the parking lot of Saint Francis Hospital in Hartford, Connecticut.

Hartford, in 1771, was remote from larger towns. It was a small town of 3,000 inhabitants, with few churches and schools. The journey to New York or Boston took three days in a stagecoach which ran but once a week. Small as it was, Hartford was not lacking in public spirit.

A group of leading young men in Hartford decided it was time to organize a select company for the purpose of escorting the Governor and General Assembly at the General Elections after an unfortunate incident in 1768, when a “trainband” made a farce out of the escort duty. Certainly another reason for the decision was that a company from East Hartford actually did escort duty in 1769 and 1770. Accordingly, Samuel Wyllys and others petitioned the General Assembly. The petition was granted by the Assembly, and Samuel Wyllys, a young man of 32, was elected Captain, William Knox, Lieutenant, and Ebenezer Austin, Ensign. The company was known at this time as the Governor’s Guard.

The ceremonial uniform of the First Company, as far as can be determined, is substantially the same as the original one, although it has picked up elements from different time periods over the years. Tradition hold that the original uniform was copied from that of the Coldstream Guards, the personal body guard of Queen Charlotte. The uniform consists of a scarlet coat, the tails of which are faced with buff, and a black velvet frond crossed with silver braid. The vest and breeches are of buff, and the leggings are black velvet. The hat, or 'busby' as it is known, is of bear skin with a shield in front bearing the State Coat of Arms and supports a red and black feather plume on the side. Enlisted men wear white cross straps. Sergeants dispense with the cross straps and wear a white belt, sword and shoulder scales. Officers wear a black and silver belt, fringed epaulets, and carry a saber instead of a sword.

The First Company Governor’s Foot Guard has been closely connected with many historical events. In 1777, although not obligated to do so, it resolved to join the patriot army at Saratoga. As an advance guard of reinforcements under Captain Jonathon Bull, they were crossing the Rhineback Flats on their way to Saratoga when they were met by a messenger with the good news of Burgoyne’s surrender.

Second Company Governor's Foot Guard

It was not long before citizens of New Haven, Connecticut's other capital, felt the need to establish a unit of Governor's Guards composed of their own citizens. The Second Company was organized in New Haven primarily by Benedict Arnold who was elected the company's captain.[6] This caused the original unit to take the name First Company Governor's Guard and the new organization to take the name Second Company Governor's Guards. It was in 1778, with the establishment of a unit of Governor's Horse Guards, that the original unit changed its name for the final time to "First Company Governor's Foot Guard" and the newer unit adopted the name "Second Company Governor's Foot Guard". Both units of Foot Guard are recognized by the state of Connecticut as separate and distinct entities.

Earlier, at the start of the American War of Independence recognizing that members of the Second Company Governor's Guards were keen to travel to Massachusetts where the fighting had begun at Lexington and Concord, the colonial authorities wished the Guards to remain at home and kept their weapons locked up. On April 22, 1775, Captain Benedict Arnold called his men together at a tavern and successfully demanded the keys to the magazine for his company's weapons or else they would break into the storehouse.[7] He reportedly stated, "None but the Almighty God shall prevent my marching."

During the American Civil War, men of the 2nd Company formed Company "K" 6th Connecticut Volunteers and fought in 26 battles in the conflict.[8]

First Company Governor's Horse Guard[9]


Captain Thomas Y. Seymour, an officer in the Continental Army, organized the Horse Guards in 1778 upon his resignation from the army and return to Hartford. Members were private citizens, many veterans of the Revolutionary War, and within ten years, the organization had grown to a point where it petitioned the governor to become an organized "troop of volunteer Horse, or Light Dragoons." The petition was ratified and the "Governor's Independent, volunteer Troop of Horse Guards" was chartered on May 19, 1788, with Capt. John Caldwell and First LT Thomas Seymour at the helm, who served as the company's first two commandants, respectively. The Troop's headquarters was an armory at Arch and Main streets in Hartford.

Prominent individuals escorted by the Horse Guards, aside from Connecticut's governors, included the following: George Washington on October 19, 1789 (Wethersfield to Hartford) President John Adams on August 2, 1798 (escorted from Wethersfield to Hartford); President James Monroe on June 23, 1817 (escorted from Wethersfield to Hartford); General The Marquis de Lafayette in September 1824 (escorted from Vernon to Hartford); and President Andrew Jackson (escorted through Hartford beginning "north on Main to Morgan, to Front, to State, to Asylum, to Trumbull, to Pearl, to Prospect, to school").

The uniform during this period was described as "a bear skin dragoon hat, white broadcloth coat brilliant with lace and braid of gold, red belt above tight pants, and boots with yellow tops."[10]


The troop suffered from a period of inactivity during the 1840s. Wishing to revive the Troop, some Hartford citizens began a new Horse Guard, adopting the 1788 charter, with Col. Samuel Colt, inventor of the Colt revolver and grandson of John Caldwell, elected as commandant. However, the Horse Guards was still in existence, with Major Henry Boardman as commandant. After the confusion, Boardman resumed the troop's activities, escorting presidents and governors. At this time, the troop's uniform consisted of a "bear-skin cap ornamented with a rosette and gilt eagle, dark blue single breasted coat with brass buttons, and trousers of sky blue doeskin with straps under the instep; all trimmed with orange colored piping."[11]


When the Connecticut General Assembly passed an act authorizing both units of the Governor's Horse Guards to re-organize as cavalry in the Connecticut National Guard, the First Company delayed due to some opposition. It did eventually reorganize as Troop B Cavalry, C.N.G., since the Second Company Governor's Horse Guards had reorganized first as Troop A Cavalry. Troop B then began the long and hard training process designed to bring it in line with federal cavalry standards.

During 1912 and 1913, Troop B raised money for a new armory, which was built on Farmington Avenue in West Hartford.

On June 18, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson activated the National Guard troops in response to an attack by Pancho Villa on New Mexico, and deployed Troop B to the Mexican border at Nogales and Arivaca, Arizona, where they remained for several months guarding the border.[12] Capt. John Henry Kelso Davis, a Trinity College graduate, was the commander of this operation.

On April 6, 1917, less than six months after Troop B returned from Arizona, President Wilson declared war on Germany. Troop B was split into two Troops, B and L, and ordered to recruit to war strength. Troops B and L were drafted into federal service on August 5, 1917, and became the 101st Machine Gun Battalion, 26th Division. They served in France at Chemin des Dames, Toul, the Champagne-Marne Defensive, the Aisne-Marne Offensive, the St. Mihiel Offensive, the Troyon Sector, and the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, before returning to America in April 1919 and being demobilized.

After World War I, in 1919, the unit was reorganized as Troop B of the 122nd Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard.

In May 1940, Troops Band A were federalized as part of the 1st Battalion of the 208th Coast Artillery Anti-Aircraft (AAA), which was called to active duty three days after Pearl Harbor as the 745th Antiaircraft Artillery Gun Battalion. The 745th was stationed at Townsville, Queensland, Australia.[13]

Back home in Connecticut, the Troop operated, trained, and drilled a "Home Guard" which consisted of two troops that remained active during WWII.


Troop B C.N.G. ceased to function in 1946 as a National Guard Unit, and the First Company Governor's Horse Guards once again became part of the Organized Militia of the State of Connecticut as a "self-sustaining unit in its military operations."

In 1955, the First Company relocated to its current location, West Avon Road in Avon, CT, a property that encompasses over 37 acres of riding trails, a drill field, a 50-stall stable, and two outdoor riding rings. It has kept the same Charter that was accepted in 1788, and refers to its by-laws for all troop functions and positions. The Troop's activities consist of various ceremonial duties: parading, providing personnel and horses for dedication ceremonies, escorting dignitaries, and attending inaugural celebrations for the Governor of the State and, on several occasions in recent years, the President of the United States.

The First Company Governor's Horse Guards holds drill every Thursday evening at 1900, during which the riding platoon practices horseback formations and equitation. Training for new recruits takes place once or twice per year and lasts 16 weeks, in which recruits are trained in military bearing, drill and ceremony, horsemanship, horse care, and cavalry traditions. Volunteers who seek to become recruits must be between 18 and 60 years of age and a United States citizen, and no prior military or horse experience is required.

Second Company Governor's Horse Guard

The Second Company Governor's Horse Guard was chartered in 1808, as the New Haven area horse guard unit in the state. It is housed in Newtown, Connecticut[14] and performs ceremonial and community functions, among which have been the development of a therapeutic riding program.

Present day

All four units of the Governor's Guards remain active today as subordinate units of the Connecticut Military Department under the command & control of the Connecticut Adjutant General. Their mission today remains primarily ceremonial, but they can be called up to active service to augment the Connecticut National Guard for state emergency operations. They perform their annual training each August at Camp Nett in East Lyme. Over the years, the location of their headquarters has changed due to space availability and financial costs. Currently, the headquarters are as follows:

  • First Company Governor's Foot Guard - Hartford
  • Second Company Governor's Foot Guard - Branford
  • First Company Governor's Horse Guard - Avon
  • Second Company Governor's Horse Guard - Newtown

COVID-19 Pandemic Response

In March and April 2020, members of the Foot and Horse Guards were activated to assist the Army and Air National Guard, as well as the Connecticut Department of Public Health in configuring and staging their Mobile Field Hospital amid the COVID-19 pandemic.[15][16] The units periodically train in the practice of assembling and takedown of the mobile field hospitals at Camp Hartell in Windsor Locks.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ "Hartford and New Haven: A Tale of Two Capitals". Connecticut History | a CTHumanities Project. 2020-10-23. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  2. ^ p.21 Chartrand, René & Rickman, David Colonial American Troops: 1610- 1774 2002 Ospery Publishing
  3. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2013-08-06. Retrieved 2014-02-27.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  4. ^ pp. 4-5 Katcher, Phillip & Volstad, Ron American Civil War Armies: Volunteer Militia 1989 Osprey Publishing
  5. ^ "History | First Company Governor's Foot Guard | United States". 1st CompanyFootGuard. Retrieved 2021-06-30.
  6. ^ p.9 Nelson, James L. Benedict Arnold's Navy 2006 McGraw Hill
  7. ^ p.10 Ibid
  8. ^ "History of the Second Company Governor's Foot Guard of New Haven Connecticut".
  9. ^ Howard, James L. (1921). The origin and fortunes of Troop B: 1788, Governor's independent volunteer troop of horse guards;1911, Troop B cavalry, Connecticut national guard, 1917. Hartford, Conn. hdl:2027/nyp.33433007109048.
  10. ^ Howard, James Leland (1921). The Origin and Fortunes of Troop B: 1788, Governor's Independent Volunteer Troop of Horse Guards: 1911, Troop B Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard, 1917. Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company.
  11. ^ Howard, James Leland (1921). The Origin and Fortunes of Troop B: 1788, Governor's Independent Volunteer Troop of Horse Guards: 1911, Troop B Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard, 1917. Case, Lockwood & Brainard Company.
  12. ^ "The Connecticut National Guard on the Mexican Border". Connecticut Explored. 2017-08-04. Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  13. ^ "208th Coast Artillery (AA) Regiment, US Army, Townsville, QLD, during WW2". Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  14. ^ Libov, Charlotte (1988-09-11). "Horse Guard to Settle in Newtown". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-07-01.
  15. ^ "Connecticut Foot Guard assists in setting up Mobile Field Hospital". 17 March 2020. Retrieved 19 March 2020.
  16. ^ "Connecticut State Militia: the unsung heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic". Retrieved 2021-06-01.
  • History of First Company, Governor's Foot Guard Hartford 1771–1901 1902 Case, Lockwood and Brainard

External links

This page was last edited on 17 September 2021, at 23:28
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