Over 200 Years of History

Read the entire story in our new book, THE SECOND COMPANY GOVERNOR'S HORSE GUARD 1808-2008, 136-page history with over 150 photos and prints, available at Amazon.com

In 1808 Elihu Munson and a number of New Haven gentlemen petitioned the Connecticut General Assembly at its October session to form a Troop of Cavalry to function as Governor’s Horse Guards.  The First Company already existed and served in the 'other' Connecticut capitol, Hartford. The Second Company Governor’s Horse Guard (2GHG) was formed in October 1808 by an act of the General Assembly, with Elihu Munson (variously spelled Monson in different places) as Brevet Major.  The duties of the original company were “to attend upon and escort him [the Governor] in times of peace and war.”  2GHG was stationed in New Haven, and would escort the Governor to Middletown, where 1GHG would take over and proceed to Hartford.

An act - original 2GHG Charter of 1808, and an original petition signed by the founders

On September 26, 1809, the Connecticut Journal described the 2GHG during a muster:  “…Major Munson’s brilliant and well-mounted company of Horse-Guards volunteered as an escort to Major General Walker, and maneuvered with the brigade – their martial appearance, combined with the soldiery and expertness in discipline of the artillery annexed to the Second Regiment, contributed to the splendor of the grand parade…”

William Babcock succeeded Major Munson but only served a year, when he died, literally in the saddle.  A written account of the incident describes it:  “…his death produced a profound impression upon the company and the community.  That company having assembled for its annual spring parade in 1815, marched…to headquarters in the County Building to receive its commanding officer.  Major Babcock appeared, answered the friendly salute, and proceeded to mount his horse, when he fell in a fit of apoplexy and in a short time expired”.

Notice in the Connecticut Herald, April 10, 1815

Major Babcock was followed by Josiah Morse and then Enos A. Prescott.  It was under Major Prescott’s command that President Monroe was escorted by the Horse Guard during his visit to New Haven on June 27, 1817. 2GHG also participated in the first inaugural parade for a Governor ever held in Connecticut in 1820.  During this period, 2GHG and 2GFG paraded and performed ceremonial duties together, and also conducted muster exercises at the same time on the New Haven Green – 2GHG being at the north end of the Green near Elm Street. 

Title: To the Mayor Aldermen & Common Council of the City of New Haven, by Amos Doolittle, 1812.

Courtesy of the Map Collection, Yale University Library.
(Detail showing the New Haven Green)

In August of 1824, 2GHG, led by Major Henry Huggins escorted the distinguished Revolutionary War General Marquis de Lafayette during a visit to New Haven.  One account of his review of the Troops relates:  “He was profoundly impressed with the martial bearing of the Horse Guards, whom he reviewed on the Green”.

For nearly 100 years 2GHG functioned in this manner and acted as escort for numerous distinguished men who visited New Haven and Connecticut. In the early days of its existence members were obliged to purchase their own arms, equipment and horses. During this time, 2GHG also became a social force on the New Haven scene, sponsoring many a 'sociable' complete with dance cards and dignitaries.

Ticket for a Sociable, December 22, 1870

In 1861 the General Assembly passed an amendment to the original charter increasing the strength of 2GHG, authorizing a complement of one major, one captain, four lieutenants, eight sergeants, eight corporals and 120 enlisted men.  2GHG as a unit did not participate in any of the wars fought during its existence until World War I, but individual members took a prominent part in the War of 1812, the Mexican War, the Civil War and the Spanish-American War.  During the draft riots of the Civil War, 2GHG  “spent their nights at the armory ready for any emergency”, according to a member who was interviewed by a historian in 1887.

SGT Theron M. Cooley wearing a post-Civil War uniform; the horse is very likely a milk horse –
Cooley was the proprietor of T.M. Cooley and Co., a milk delivery business in New Haven.

Photo Courtesy George Cooley

 Major Commandants from 1845-1915 were:  Colin Ingersoll, T.P Merwin, Horace P. Hoadley, R.P. Cowles, J. F. Gilbert, F.C. Smith Thorn A. Todd, Charles W. Blakeslee, H. H. Strong, Dennis A. Blakeslee and Major Luzerne Ludington.

In June 1901 a second amendment to the Charter provided that 2GHG could be organized as a Troop of Cavalry in the Connecticut National Guard.  The organization quickly took advantage of this opportunity and formed Troop A, Connecticut National Guard on July 5th, 1901.  As was the custom in those days, the men, electing their own officers, chose Luzerne C. Ludington as Captain, William J. Bradnack as 1st Lieutenant, Robert J. Woodruff as 2nd Lieutenant, and John Hugo as 1st Sergeant.

The headquarters of the Troop were then in the old Second Regiment Armory on Meadow Street in New Haven.  Finding this unsuited for Cavalry drill, it was decided to build an Armory on Orange Street. This building, of frame construction, burned to the ground in January 1905 when barely completed.  It was decided immediately to rebuild and a new Armory was opened in the Spring of 1906.  The State later purchased the Armory and the private obligations thus released allowed the purchase by 2GHG of twenty horses in the Fall of 1909.

Bivouac at Montgomery’s farm near Sleeping Giant State Park, taken in 1912,
when 2GHG had become Troop A, Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard

Following its inception as a National Guard Unit, 2GHG was not called upon to aid the State authorities until June 4th, 1911. 2GHG performed strike duty at the Russell Brothers’ Mills in Middletown. 350 workers were on strike and 2GHG remained on picket duty for four days.  There were no incidents - the Troop served mainly as symbol of the Governor’s ability to quickly muster forces.

In 1916 Frank E. Wolf became Captain, and with 1LT F.T. Maroney and 2LT William H. Welch led 2GHG on duty on the Mexican Border.  Mexican Brigand General Francisco “Pancho” Villa had attacked Columbus, NM and engaged the 13th Cavalry in battle.  National Guard units were called up from all over the country for garrison duty to relieve the Regular Army.  2GHG and their Mounts spent ten days on a special train to Nogales, AZ. Four months of meritorious service along the border followed, serving with noted military leaders such as General Jack Pershing. The Unit returned to New Haven in October 1916.  

Snapshot made on the job by Richard Tuttle of West Haven, wagon driver of a supply company
of Second Connecticut Infantry Regiment. After flash floods, the Army brought in Missouri mules
– a new experience for the Connecticut National Guardsmen.

Photo courtesy of Theodore F. Tuttle

 Upon the entry of the United States into the World War on April 6th, 1917, and order was issued to form four troops of Cavalry from the two mounted militias  – 2GHG and 1GHG, to be known as the Third Separate Squadron of Militia Cavalry.  Men from Troop A formed a nucleus for new Troop M.  LT Welch became Captain of the new Troop, with 1SG Herrick appointed 1LT and SGT George M. Wallace as 2LT.  New officers commissioned in Troop A were 1LT George D. Condren and 2LT John A. Paton.

Both troops then proceeded to Niantic where, shortly afterward, they lost their Cavalry designation; Troop A being changed to Company A, 101st Machine Gun Battalion and Troop M to Company D of the same Unit. On August 3rd, 1917, all organizations were mustered into Federal Service and on August 15th the Troop was without horses, drilling as infantry until its arrival in France.  The strength of the organization was increased from 105 to machine gun unit requirements of 180, many of the recruits coming from New Haven and vicinity and about forty being transferred from the Vermont National Guard.  Outstanding among the latter was LT Gustav Nelson, who stayed with the Company during its entire service in France and was its commanding officer through some of its most trying times.

Arriving in England after leaving Niantic in October, the Company first went to a ‘rest camp’ in Southhampton, then to LeHavre, France and finally to barracks in the little town of Certilleux in the Neufchateau area. After three months’ intensive training the company went into the front lines on February 10, 1918 as part of the famous 26th (Yankee) Division, and its designation was changed to Company D, 102nd Machine Gun Battalion.

A great deal has been written concerning the outstanding service of the Company during the War.  In one notable instance, on September 12th, 1918, the Company was in the first wave of the attack on the St. Mihiel Salient.  That night one of the most dramatic episodes of the war occurred: the night march of the 102nd Infantry and the 102nd Machine Gun Battalion, of which Company D was the leading Unit. They marched fifteen miles straight through the enemy’s lines in a successful effort to close off the salient and prevent the escape of thousands of Germans trapped in the apex.

On 11 November 1918, the fighting ceased and Troop A, formerly the Second Company, Governor’s Horse Guard, became history. Captain John Allen Paton, killed during the Meuse-Argonne offensive, was one of eleven casualties of Troop A. He was one of the most respected, admired and well -liked officers of the Troops’ history. An award to his memory is presented each year to a member of the 2GHG who has upheld CPT Paton’s standards. 

    CPT John A. Paton   
WWI Monument, New Haven 

  Other members killed in battle included PVT William N. Meickle, Jr., PVT Harry Rosenkind,  CPT Frank Wilfore, PVT William J. Kennedy, LT Charles L. Rogers and CPL Arthur O. Parmalee. They are memorialized on the World War I monument on the New Haven Green.

After the Armistice, the Company embarked from Brest on April 6th, 1919, landed in Boston and arrived at Camp Devens on April 17th with LT John Carroll, one of the original officers in Niantic.  The Company was mustered out on April 29th.

During the War, former members of old Troop A formed a new troop and served as Troop A, Connecticut Horse Guard, using the Orange Street Armory and equipment. Troop A, was reorganized in 1920, under the command of CPT George M. Wallace and again in 1921, following the accidental death of CPT Wallace. Subsequently the First Separate Squadron Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard, was formed, comprising of Troop A and Headquarters Detachment in New Haven. Troops B and C formed in West Hartford, federally recognized as 1st Squadron Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard on March 9, 1923, with Major William H. Welch commanding.

In July 1924 LT Nelson R. Durant became Captain and commanded until May 1929, when the 1st Squadron Cavalry was re-designated 122nd Regiment Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard and Troop A was changed to Headquarters Troop with Nelson Durant as Major.  Major Durant became interested in reviving 2GHG, and in 1928, 2GHG was reorganized as a companion organization of the active Troop A.

The Re-formed 2GHG
(the three in front are:) CPT Nelson Durant, LT Walton Smith and SGT Russell Ellis.
Holding the Guidon is SGT Carl Huber, New Haven, 1928

 A large sum of money was raised to participate in the 1929 inaugural parade for President Herbert Hoover. This new organization was subsequently officially recognized by the State, and gained recognition as an outstanding member of the Centennial Legion of Historic Commands. 2GHG is still a proud member of the Centennial Legion.

During the 1930’s, the Troop, led by CPT Walton Smith, took road marches out to a farm owned by Phelps Montgomery.  The Unit’s annual summer encampment often took place at Camp Wilber Cross in Niantic.  A young soldier, Ed Mursko wrote of the preparations:  “On the night before we went to camp, everyone would show up at the armory to finish packing the rifle racks, field kitchen, saddles and blankets and everything else.  We were told to be back at the Armory early the next morning, so we didn't’t go home… The next morning about 6:30 we’d mount up.  Each man in the horse detail would ride one horse bareback and lead a couple of others, and we would ride down the length of Orange Street and through downtown New Haven with the herd that way, with rifles slung over out backs…We rode down to Water Street, past the freight houses to the railroad yard, where we loaded the horses.   Then we marched over to the station in a column of two’s to get on the train." Ed Mursko remained a member for fifty years,, retiring in 1983. At his retirement ceremony the Mursko Award was presented, and each year since a Trooper who personifies dedication is the recipient.

Photos showing transport from New Haven Railroad terminal near Long Wharf
en route to Camp Wilber Cross in Niantic, 1934

Courtesy of Jack Dwyer

Summer encampments included machine gun training, which was not in vain.  With a war raging in Europe, the Troop was changed to an anti-aircraft battery, becoming Battery D of the 208th Coast Artillery (AA) Bn.  The Troop was called for active duty in January, 1941, for training at Camp Edwards. Not long after the bombing of Pearl Harbor in December 1941, Battery D found itself aboard the liner Matsonia bound for the South Pacific.  It landed in Australia, where some of the Troopers bought horses for $15 each. The unit became Battery D of the 745th, and moved around the combat area by aircraft and troopship. When the war ended, a number of Horse Guard veterans reorganized 2GHG.  In February 1948, a meeting was held at the Orange Street Armory to formalize the re-establishment of the 2GHG.

Walton Smith, a General in WWII, was elected commandant, with former Major Nelson Durant available as an advisor.  Majors from 1949 – 2007 included Russell Ellis, Eugene Clark, Seth Darley, Jules Shambron, Jacob K. Malkin Joseph C. Rakiec, John G. Ungrady, John Costin Jr., Anthony Barbaro, Joseph Loyd, Peter Moritz, Steven deFriesse, William Harris and the first female Commander in the history of all four militias, Janis E. Arena. In 2007, Gordon Johnson was elected and continues to serve as 2GHG Commander.

Officers of the 122nd Cavalry, Connecticut National Guard in Niantic, CT.

Courtesy of Jack Dwyer

Throughout the years, 2GHG has participated in enumerable parades and patriotic and other state occasions including every Governor’s inaugural parade, and many Presidential inaugural parades.   In 1981, President Ronald Reagan – “The Man Who Loved Horses” – invited 2GHG to march near the front of the parade.  Members who rode included CPT Charles Zarbo – who until 2003 was still in charge of mess for 2GHG.  CPT Zarbo joined the Troop in 1950 and continues to visit 2GHG. It is considered an honor to be ejected from the kitchen when he is in charge!

Two photos - 24 years apart -
2GHG marches in the the inaugural parade of Governor William O’Neillin 1983,
and in the inaugural parade of Governor M. Jodi Rell, Hartford, 2007

In October of 2008, 2GHG celebrated the 200th Anniversary of the signing of the Charter with a Battalion Review on the New Haven Green, a Military Ball at the Omni in New Haven, and the publication of a history book, THE SECOND COMPANY GOVERNOR'S HORSE GUARD 1808-2008, (available on Amazon.com).

One of the many photo spreads in our 136-page book

Currently, 2GHG is one of four Militia Units, along with the First Company Governor's Horse Guard (1GHG) and the First and Second Company Governor’s Foot Guards (1GFG and 2GFG).  All four Units continue to serve the Governor and the State of Connecticut under the direction of the Connecticut National Guard. 1GHG is based in Avon, 1GFG in Hartford, 2GHG in Newtown and 2GFG is in New Haven. Traditionally, 2GHG and 2GFG conducted muster on the New Haven Green together. As New Haven grew and the space for horses diminished, 2GHG moved to Ansonia and then Bethany. When the Fairfield Hills Dairy Farm property in Newtown became available in 1988, 2GHG Commandant LTC John Ungrady jumped at the chance to have a permanent home.  2GHG has remained at the Fairfield Hills property and continues to grow and change with the times. Below is a photo from the Battalion Review of all four Militia Unuts, held to commemorate our 200th Anniversary; back where it all began - on the New Haven Green. 2GHG is now 201 years young, and Second to None!

CPT Pamela Berlekovic leads 2GHG mounted Troopers past VIPs in a
Pass and Review on the New Haven Green,
200th Anniversary Battalion Review, October 4, 2008

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