Participates In Yorktown Centennial
Now came the first of numerous extensive trips away from home undertaken by the Second Company. It was occasioned by the centennial celebration of Cornwallis's surrender at Yorktown. Second Company left New Haven by steamboat on October 17, 1881 accompanied by Governor Hobart B. Bigelow and staff. Following a most disagreeable voyage (the weather was terrible and everyone was seasick) Second Company half-heartedly went through the motions of celebrating the Yorktown Centennial. Things brightened a bit on October 20 when they visited Fortress Monroe, and still better when they went on to Charleston and were entertained by the Washington Light Infantry of that city. This visit to South Carolina established a warm friendship between the two military units and in the summer of 1883 the Washington Light Infantry visited New Haven and every effort was made to match Southern hospitality.
On September 14, 1883, so far as the records show, the Company made its first of many appearances at Niantic, having been ordered by Governor Thomas M. Waller to attend him upon his visit to the National Guard in camp there.
Going to New York City on November 25, 1883 the Guard celebrated with a hundred other units, the evacuation of that city by the British a hundred years before. The parade was reviewed by President Chester A. Arthur.
The centennial of the incorporation of New Haven as a city was celebrated on July 4, 1884, and the Foot Guard took a prominent part. The REGISTER said: "With the rising of the sun 100 guns resounded from the base of East Rock, church bells rang merrily, and all the youngsters of the town came forth with loads of firecrackers." Later in the day there was a huge parade which was reviewed by Governor Waller and his staff.
On October 5, 1885 the Ancient and Honorable Artillery of Boston observed its 248th field day by coming to the Elm City. The Guard, with other military units escorted the visitors, who numbered about 260. There was the usual parade which was reviewed by Governor Henry B. Harrison in front of City Hall, and a grand ball at the armory in the evening. The next day the visitor's band gave a concert on the Green.
Another civic event to which the Foot Guard gave support was the dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on the Summit of East Rock. This occurred on June 17, 1887, and the program of ceremonies was even more elaborate than that of the city centennial celebration. On the evening preceding there was a concert on the Green by the Second Regiment Band and as it grew dark the summit of the Rock was illuminated by "colored fires of intense brilliancy, interspersed with flights of rockets of high caliber." The next day there was a parade which took three hours to pass the reviewing stand. Included in this procession were 38 floats containing young ladies from various Sunday Schools in the city, representing the 38 states of the Union.
On April 25, 1888 the Foot Guard joined in the celebration of the 250th anniversary of the settlement of New Haven. The parade was elaborate, and Henry T. Blake gave a historical address in Center Church.
On August 28th of the same year the Company again visited Milford, not on this occasion to protect the residents from New York ruffians but to assist in the dedication of a memorial to those who had founded the town 125 years before. This memorial was the stone bridge and tower erected over the river upon the banks of which the first habitations were placed and the first mill was erected.
Early in the decade the State Legislature had authorized the building of armories in towns where there were more than two military companies. In 1882 a commission purchased a lot on Meadow Street to erect an armory. This was completed in 1883 at a cost of $68,000. Quarters were assigned to the Foot Guard and the Company held its first meeting there on October 2, 1883.
For some years previous to 1890 the Company's membership gradually diminished and nothing was being done to make good the loss. In 1893, some of its remaining members aided by influential citizens took measures to rehabilitate it. A recruiting campaign increased the strength of the Company to well over a hundred, rank and file. The recruits were mostly Civil War veterans or former members of the National Guard and no longer young but they were of a character that gave the Company capable leadership and prestige. A new uniform, practically the same as is worn today, was adopted. It was modeled on the uniform worn by the Cold Stream Guards in 1775, copies of which were brought over from England by Charles H. Townshend, and the material was ordered from abroad by cable.
The Company's first public appearance in its new uniforms was on October 18, 1893, when it marched from the armory to the railroad station to entrain for Trenton, N.J., to take part in the ceremonies attendant upon the dedication of the monument erected there to commemorate the victory gained by the Americans over the forces of Britain on Dec. 26, 1776. In Trenton they were joined by the First Company and the New Haven Grays.
Although from its organization the Company had invited clergymen to officiate in various capacities, now for the first time it had a chaplain, Dr. Justin E. Twichell, pastor of the Dwight Place Congregational Church. During the years he remained chaplain, Second Company attended a service in his church at least once a year.
The Company was now finding its quarters in the State Armory on Meadow Street inadequate, especially for social functions. It was finally decided that the Company should have a building of its own to be erected on Whiting Street, the cost of which was to be met by the issuance of bonds. It was a two story structure, 50 by 40 feet, and the expense of furnishing it was to be borne by the Company.
In order to raise funds for the furnishings of its new quarters the Company gave what was probably the most elaborate entertainment of its history in the Hyperion Theater on June 6, 7, and 8, 1895. The program read: "We endeavor to reproduce with as much fidelity as possible scenes and personages prominent in our nation's, our State's, and our Company's history, by presenting a series of living pictures aptly termed 'Realism in Art.'"
The entire command, with the exception of the band, next traveled to Atlanta, Georgia, to participate in the Cotton States and Industrial Exposition, otherwise known as the Atlanta Exposition. It arrived in Atlanta on Oct. 20, 1895, and the next day, with the First Company, took part in a parade and other ceremonies in honor of "Connecticut Day." On the 22nd, "President's Day," there was another parade, in which the Second Company was conspicuous, and in the evening it left for home. On the way it stopped at Asheville, N.C., and was escorted about the town by the Asheville Military Company. Another stop was made in Washington, where it was welcomed by the Washington Light Infantry, with which organization it put on a parade. When the Company reached New Haven almost half of the population, according to the newspapers, were at the station to meet it.
Always ready to assist neighboring towns at important civic events, the Company went to New London on May 6, 1896 to take part in the exercises connected with the dedication of the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, going and returning on the steamer CONTINENTAL. Since the Company's band had recently severed its connection, because it hadn't been taken to Atlanta, the Second Regiment Band was engaged to furnish music for the occasion.