Beginnings of the Foot Guard
When Jonathan Trumbull was inaugurated as Governor of the Colony of Connecticut in 1769, the citizens of Hartford and New Haven---for the latter city shared the honor of being the capital with the former from 1701-1873----determined to dignify the occasion with fitting and appropriate ceremonies.
In Hartford a general holiday was declared and the officers of the city assembled some 60 men at arms to act as an escort to the Governor and the members of the Assembly. This was a nondescript gathering of soldiers of fortune, veterans of the Indian wars, and town idlers, many in tattered uniforms and presenting an extremely undignified appearance, which accompanied the Governor to the State House, and after the ceremonies escorted him with the members of the Assembly to the Bull Tavern where a formal and bountiful repast was given, followed by a reception and dancing.
Inasmuch as the election of the Governor was held annually, the leading citizens of both cities soon realized the impropriety and inadequacy of this escort and when the General Assembly of the Governor and Company of His Majesty's Colony of Connecticut, held at New Haven in October 1771, granted a charter to Samuel Wyllys and 48 other citizens of Hartford to enroll the Governor's Guard "to wait upon His Excellency, the Governor and the General Assembly on election days" they were speedily emulated by their associates in New Haven.
Samuel Wyllys was the first Captain of the First Company and the Company's first parade was an escort to Governor's Trumbull and the General Assembly at Hartford on the second Thursday of May, 1772. Meantime, with Governor Trumbull's approval, a movement was put on foot to establish a Second Company of the Governor's Guard at New Haven, by James Hillhouse, Jesse Leavenworth and Benedict Arnold.
During the Autumn of 1774, mainly through the efforts of Arnold, arrangements were completed for the organization of the Second Company, and the obtaining of the charter. The first meeting of the Second Company was held at the Beers Tavern, later the site of the Hotel Taft in New Haven on the evening of December 27, 1774, as the first entry in the Company Record Book shows. Among the 65 young men gathered on this occasion can be found many names familiar to the student of colonial history: Aaron Burr, who became Vice President of the United States under Jefferson, and a grandson of the Rev. Jonathan Edwards, Pastor of Yale College, and the first Chaplain of Second Company; Ethan Allen, who came down from Litchfield, and who later was to be the leader of the force which captured Fort Ticonderoga, and his brother Ira Allen, later Major General of the forces of Vermont; Hezekiah Sabin, Jr., the second commandant of Second Company who became Lieutenant Colonel in Washington's Army; James Hillhouse, who became a Senator of the United States from Connecticut, and third commandant of Second Company; Nathan Beers, Jr., who later became Captain and Paymaster in the Revolutionary Army on the staff of George Washington; and Pierpont Edwards, later Second Company's First Sergeant, who had prepared the petition for a charter which was presented to the General Assembly, and later becoming the first United States District Judge.
The memorial prepared at the first meeting was brief and read as follows:
"As we, the subscribers, are desirous to encourage the Military Art in the town of New Haven, and in order to have a well disciplined Company in said town, have agreed with Edward Burke to teach us the military exercise for the consideration of three pounds lawful money per month, till such time as we shall think ourselves expert thereon. We then propose to form ourselves into a Company, choose officers and agree upon some uniform dress, such as a red coat, white vest, white breeches and stockings, black half leggins, or any other dress that may be thought suitable. We also agree that we will endeavor to furnish ourselves with guns and bayonets, as may be found necessary. (But no person shall be obliged to equip himself as above by signing this agreement if he desires dismission before he signs other articles.) This agreement only obliges every signer to pay his proportional part of the expense of instruction, etc."
This was signed by many of those present.
The application for a charter was presented on the 2nd day of March and on that day granted "At the General Assembly of the Governor and Company of the Colony of Connecticut, holden at New Haven (by special order of the Governor of said Colony) on the 2nd day of March, A.D. 1775."
At a meeting on March 16, 1775, Colonel Leverett Hubbard, Colonel of the Second Infantry Regiment, being in the chair, the permanent officers of Second Company were elected as follows: Benedict Arnold, Captain; Jesse Leavenworth, Lieutenant; Hezekiah Sabin, Jr., Ensign; Samuel Greenough, Eliakim Hitchcock, Nathaniel Fitch, Jeremiah Parmele were elected Sergeants. William Lyon was elected Clerk; Hezekiah Beecher, was chosen First Corporal; Amos Doolittle, Hezekiah Augur, Thaddeus Beecher, and Elijah Austin, were named as Corporals.