“Troop of Light Dragoons” by the name of Governor’s Independent Volunteer Troop of Horse Guards was founded on May 17, 1778 in Hartford, Connecticut. Modeled after England’s Royal Regiment of Horse Guards (The Oxford Blues), the troop was organized by a group of leading citizens and patriotic war veterans.
The General Assembly of the State of Connecticut on May 29, 1788 constituted the Governor’s Independent Volunteer Troop of Horse Guards and were then chartered as the First Company
Governor’s Horse Guards as it is known today. The first Commander was Captain John Caldwell. Practically all the Cavalrymen were veterans of the American Revolution.
The first authenticated official appearance of the Horse Guards was on October 19, 1789 when President George Washington visited Hartford. From 1789 to 1835 The Horse Guards seem to
have appeared at every parade, every Governor’s Inauguration and other celebration that called for public display. In addition to the regular local events, records show The Horse Guards had the honor of escorting many Presidential visits to Connecticut. They accompanied President Theodore Roosevelt on August 22, 1902 and escorted Governor Chamberlin to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis, for Connecticut week in 1904.
The Horse Guards furnished many officers and men for the Armed Forces in the War of 1812.
On May 8, 1888, the Centennial celebration of the Horse Guards was a significant occasion.
On March 6, 1911, the members petitioned the Adjutant General for reorganization into a troop of cavalry, “Troop B”, attached to the Connecticut National Guard. Subsequently the troop served a tour of duty on the Mexican border in 1916, following raids on American property by Poncho Villa.
With the onset of American involvement in the World War I on August 21, 1917, the troop was federalized. It was dismounted and reorganized as part of the 101st Machine Gun Battalion of the 26th (Yankee) Division. The unit saw action in seven major engagements in France and served with great distinction.
Troop B regained its status as mounted cavalry as part of the reorganized 122nd Cavalry Squadron, and through the 1920s and 30s sponsored polo matches, mounted drills, gymkhanas and horse shows.. The highlight of the Governor’s annual review of the National Guard in Niantic was often the mounted drills and thundering charges on horseback by Troop members. In the late 1930s mechanization and economic realities doomed the horse cavalry of the US Army. However, a group of veteran horse soldiers revived the old First Company Governor’s Horse Guards to continue the unit’s cavalry traditions.
In 1938, shortly before the start of World War II, the National Guard Cavalry was federalized for a third time, to become the 208th Coastal Artillery Anti-Aircraft, manning the heavy guns which defended America’s wartime coastline. Three days after Pearl Harbor (December 7, 1941) it was called to active duty. At this point the many Guards transferred to the Armed Forces, a trend which continued to the end of the war. The outfit served in the South Pacific throughout World War II.
In 1946 the Company ceased to function as “Troop B”. The troop was once again recognized as The First Company Governor’s Horse Guards. After several moves the Horse Guards settled in its permanent home in Avon in 1954. The Horse Guards is a self-sustaining unit with financial support from the State of CT with a unique military designation.
The troop is part of the Organized Militia of the State.
The Guards have assisted in times of emergencies throughout the state including the 1936 flood, given duty to guard federal property and 1938 when New England saw a severe hurricane. The units became members of the Connecticut State Guard to replace the National Guard which had been called into Federal Service in 1940.
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 at Niantic.