Chapter 17

Connecticut's 300th Anniversary


      The year 1935 was chosen for the observance of the 300th anniversary of the beginnings of what is now the State of Connecticut. Locally, the Second Company was given the honor of opening the celebration with its Powder House Day exercises, the date of which was put forward to May 31. In events arranged for the two following days members of the Company also had a part.

In the afternoon of June 22, 1935 the Company participated in the tercentenary parade in Stratford, a detail from the Company having rendered a similar service at Thomaston in the morning. On July 4th it took part in the tercentenary exercises in Meriden, and on September 28th, the Company went to Ansonia. At Hartford, on October 12, there was a mammoth parade, after which the military units participating came to New Haven to attend a tercentenary ball held in the Goffe Street Armory. The bands of the two Foot Guard Companies united for the regimental review which was given in honor of Governor Cross.

      On June 18, 1935, a detail of 50 members and a like number from the First Company acted as escort to Governor Cross at the Commencement exercises of Yale University from which he had graduated 50 years before. On September 13 and 14 a detail of fifty, and field music, were guests of the Fifth Maryland Regiment and the City of Baltimore at which time a new armory was dedicated and the 101st anniversary of the composition of "The Star Spangled Banner" was observed. In connection with the latter, units from the 13 original states took part. There was a ball in the new armory and a dinner at the Southern Hotel.

On September 12, 1936 there was an excursion to Providence, R.I., to take part in tercentenary exercises there and on September 21, 1937, to New York to participate in an American Legion Convention parade.

      On January 10, 1938 Captain Joseph A. Weibel was elected commandant, destined to have the honor of holding the office longer than any of his predecessors.

      Of all the municipal parades in which the Second Company, during its long history, has appeared, none was so elaborate and spectacular as that of May 28, 1938, in New Haven. The 20,000 persons in line, together with the numerous exhibits, constituted, according to the newspapers "a cavalcade of brass bands, gorgeous floats, and brilliant uniforms the like of which the city had never seen before." In the early part of June a series of pageants portraying significant episodes in the city's history was presented in the Yale Bowl, in which members of the Company were called upon to take part.

      Other engagements within and without the State followed in rapid succession. On July 30, 1938 the Company went to New London for an American Legion parade, and on January 4, 1939 to Hartford for the ceremonies incident to the inauguration of Governor Raymond E. Baldwin. About 200 strong, it made another visit to Richmond, May 12-13, 1939, to join with the Infantry Blues in the observance of their 150th anniversary. On June 22, it acted as escort to the Governor at the Connecticut Day exercises at the World's Fair in New York, and it performed a similar service on August 26 at the tercentenary celebration at Milford. The next day a detail with colors represented the Company at a convention of the Continental Legion at the World's Fair, and two days thereafter the Company as a whole accompanied Governor Baldwin to Boston for a parade in connection with the 40th National Encampment of the Veteran's of Foreign Wars. On September 4th it was again his escort, this time at the Guilford tercentenary celebration; and once more, on October 7th, in Stratford, the home town of Governor Baldwin.

      Germany's invasion of Poland, September 1, 1939, made certain a general European conflict, in which it was probable that the United States would become involved.

      Preparations for such an event were begun, and as it had on all similar occasions since 1775 the Company put itself on record as ready to render any service it might be called upon to perform.

      On August 11, 1940, pursuant to orders from the Governor, the Company went to Niantic for one week of field training. While there, in accordance with the plan of the Adjutant-General, such members as passed the physical examination were inducted into the State Guard and organized as the First Provisional Battalion, Second Regiment, with Major Weibel in command. About 200 men qualified for induction. In April of the following year because of illness Major Weibel relinquished the command and Captain Carl G. Swanson succeeded him. When the organization of the State Guard was completed, Captain Swanson commanded the Fifth Battalion, Second Military District, in which many of the Foot Guard served.

      Entrance into World War II by the United States was still almost a year and a half away, however, and in the meantime the Company continued its customary activities. On January 8, 1941 it took part at Hartford in the ceremonies connected with the inauguration of Robert A. Hurley, and on February 21 it held a reception and ball in his honor at the armory. On June 14 a special train conveyed the Company to Stamford where it participated in another tercentenary parade. It also paraded on July 28 in Waterbury where the annual convention of the American Legion was being held.

      During the years its members were active in their country's behalf in every possible way. In addition to those who served in the State Guard, 31 were with the armed forces in various parts of the world. Although curtailed in some respects, the yearly programs were carried out in order that the normal life of the community might go on with no more disruption than was inevitable. In 1942 the Governor's Ball was held on March 20, and the traditional Powder House Day on May 11.

      On January 6, 1943 the Company turned out 150 strong to act as escort to Raymond E. Baldwin at his inauguration as Governor. This year the annual reception and ball were held but were limited to members of the Foot Guard and a few guests. An interesting feature of the occasion was the presentation of the sabre carried in the Civil War by Captain Henry G. Gerrish, who commanded the company recruited by the Foot Guard. The gift came from Mrs. Anne Gerrish, widow of Charles Gerrish Jr., a nephew of the Civil War soldier, and was secured through the efforts of Captain Robert H. Gerrish. In 1943, Powder House Day was observed on May 24 but for the second consecutive year, instead of the summer encampment at Niantic there was rifle practice at the East Haven range. In 1944, the reservation at Niantic being available, the Company went there on August 10th for three days of field training.

      In 1945 the Company performed its prescribed duty at the induction into office of Governor Baldwin, but omitted the reception and dance in his honor because of the period of mourning occasioned by the death of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

      During the years that followed the war the Company prospered and continued the practices that time had established without the occurrence of particularly noteworthy events. On January 26, 1946 it participated in a parade and review in honor of Captain Robert B. Nett of New Haven who had been awarded the Congressional Medal. On February 4, 1946 the Rev. Dr. Oscar E. Maurer, having served the Company as chaplain for more than 36 years, resigned, and the Rev. David N. Beach, his successor as pastor of Center Church, was appointed to that office. On June 22, 1946 the Company acted as escort to Governor Baldwin in Bridgeport during the state convention of the Veterans of Foreign Wars. On September 19 it took part in a "Welcome Home" parade in Ansonia, and a week later joined with the First Company at Hartford in celebrating the inauguration of James L. McConaughy as Governor, and August 30 in New York City for a parade in connection with the national convention of the American Legion.

      Major Joseph A. Weibel resigned his post as commandant in October, 1947, to be succeeded by First Lieutenant Robert H. Gerrish. In his valedictory speech to the Command, Major Weibel said, "We have emerged from a war in which you took part without hesitation, without regard to profit, but to give all humanity a stable and lasting peace. To the new Major I say 'Carry On' and I feel that every man of the Second Company realizes and appreciates what loyalty and unity mean to a Commandant. I'm sure you will have it." Gerrish was the 53rd Commanding Officer since that Company's organization in 1775 and the 16th to serve in that rank since the unit was reorganized in 1893.

      The unexpected death of Governor McConaughy caused the cancellation of the ball to have been given in his honor, but on April 16, 1948 one was held of his successor, Governor James C. Shannon. On May 15 a rifle team under Captain W. B. Pape took part in a meet held in New York City under the auspices of the Veteran Military Rifle Association, and was awarded one of the three prizes. Participating in the tercentenary celebration in West Haven, October 31, 1948, the Company received the prize for the best drilled organization, and another for having the best adult band.

      The outstanding events of 1949 were participation in the exercises attendant upon the inauguration of Chester Bowles as Governor on January 5 and the reception and dance given in his honor on March 10. As the year 1950 drew near, under Major Gerrish's direction, elaborate plans were formulated to celebrate the 175th anniversary of the Company's establishment by charter of the General Assembly.

      In April, 1950, the Company joined with Chaplain Captain David N. Beach in the observance of "Old Colony Sunday" at Center Church which affair is conducted annually. The traditional observance of the departure of the Command to Cambridge in 1775 was held on May 15, 1950, and just two days following, the Company appeared in the New Haven Armed Forces Day Parade. Annual field training was held at the State Military Reservation at Niantic from July 27 to 30, 1950 during which training in use of weapons and internal security were stressed due to hostilities in far off Korea.

Chapter 18