Will Nation’s Oldest Continually Active Mounted Cavalry Unit Be Saved? – First Company Governor’s Horse Guard Avon, CT
Posted on June 19, 2015
Only a few years after the Sons of Liberty orchestrated the 1773 Boston Tea Party and Paul Revere made his famous ride on the 18th of April in 1775, amidst the American Revolution, Connecticut’s First Company Governor’s Horse Guard was organized in 1778. It remains the “oldest continuously active mounted cavalry unit in the United States” – for now.
Over the past several years the size of the state’s two horse guard units, the First Company -1GHG- located in Avon, and the Second Company in Newtown has been dwindling. Each is said to be down to ten horses per unit and for awhile it looked like they could be wiped out thanks to Gov. Dannel Malloy’s proposed budget which had cut $70,000 for the care and feeding of the horses, according to an appeal for help posted on the 1GHG website.
The horse guard has been described in its contemporary status as primarily ceremonial. Nonetheless, for those who look forward to it that ceremony provides tremendous pageantry. The horse guards are sought after for virtually every parade in the state, marching with majesty through towns and cities both big and small. It has become almost a given that this representation of Connecticut’s history will be present when parade-goers turn out. As well, the horse guards are an expected sight at inaugurations, charity events and on Connecticut Day at the Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield, Massachusetts.
In an interview for the Simsbury News with this reporter about three years ago, an officer with the 1GHG explained that the Avon unit is part of the Connecticut National Guard. As such, in addition to parades and educational activities such as encampments, its volunteer members could be deployed for search and rescue missions – for example, in state parks. Since it was organized, then chartered in 1788, he further noted the unit has escorted U.S. presidents during visits to the state and other dignitaries – so its history goes beyond the boundaries of the Constitution State to that of the nation. (An interesting side note for 1GHG’s present day history is having a local television news anchor as a member, NBC Connecticut’s Kerri-Lee Mayland.)
Non-profit groups have been formed to try and help maintain the horse guards. Yet, every budget season those who care hold their collective breath to see if the historic guard from one of the country’s thirteen original colonies, can survive another round of state budget cuts. In March it looked dim when state funding in Malloy’s 2015-16 proposed budget was on the chopping block. On their own, each unit would had to have raised some $35,000 1GHG pointed out.There was talk of combining the two units to the Newtown site – in the southern part of the state.
The Farmington Valley-based Valley Press however, is reporting at the June 5 Avon Town Council meeting, Chairman Mark Zacchio announced funding had been restored in the state budget for the 1GHG. At that meeting, members of 1GHG reportedly produced documentation from 1964, from the state Adjutant General’s Office to the major commandant of the First Company acknowledging a letter was received establishing “the Avon land as assigned to the First Company for use ‘as a Military Reservation in perpetuity’ “.
In fact, a sign on fencing surrounding the Avon grazing fields identifies the site as a state military reservation. The Newtown site is also a military reservation and will host its annual Open House Saturday June 20, rain date Sunday June 21.
Funding for the units may be restored for the time being but budget wrangling usually goes into the wee morning hours before being adopted for July 1. Between now and then anything can happen – so it seems supporters of the horse guards will need to ‘make hay while the sun shines’.
Go to http://www.ctfirsthorseguard.org for more information.