Chapter 4

Guards Fortify Beacon Hill


      At a meeting held at Bishop's Hotel, August 25, 1814, it was voted that "the Second Company, Governor's Foot Guard appear at their usual place of parade on Wednesday morning next, at 7 o'clock, and there place themselves under the direction of a committee appointed to fortify Beacon Hill in East Haven."

      Accordingly, on August 30, the Guard met on the parade ground, and armed with shovels, picks, axes, hoes, crowbars, etc., marched with music and colors to Beacon Hill where they diligently applied themselves upon the fortification until half past five in the afternoon. Shortly before this his Excellency, the Governor, visited the works and on his approach he was saluted by the music, and with three hearty cheers from the Company. About six o'clock the Company again formed and marched with a quick step back to the city, until, arriving at the store of Lieutenant Doolittle, where they halted, partook of some refreshments, and were dismissed.

      Before the war ended the Guard was once more called out, on Tuesday, September 6, 1814. Information had been received that the enemy, under General Howe, was landing in considerable numbers near Branford. The alarm given, the Guard immediately assembled at the State House. In all 85 officers and men responded to this call and, in addition, 25 young men of the Town and College offered themselves as volunteers and were accepted and furnished with muskets, ammunition, knapsacks, canteens, etc. After waiting for orders to move, all day and into the night, word was received that the British had withdrawn, so the Guard and the rest returned to their homes.

      At the conclusion of the conflict, in 1814, there was inserted in the Company records, a list of 47 members of Second Company who had died in the service of their country, while aboard U.S. merchant or naval vessels, or as prisoners of war.

      For many years following the War of 1812 the activities of the Guard were the normal ones of an independent military company in a reasonably prosperous condition. Occasional mention of the number who turned out for parades indicates that the membership was from 60 to 70 rank and file. Drills were sometimes held in the Columbian Gardens, on Olive Street at the foot of Court. It was the usual place of drill of the New Haven Grays, organized in September 1816. Two full days each year, generally in May and September, were devoted to drill. The Company acted as escort to the Governor when the General Assembly met in New Haven.

      In February 1818 the custom of weekly evening meetings to insure military proficiency was inaugurated:

      Voted: That this Company meet for the purpose of exercise and drill on Tuesday evening of each week at 6 o'clock, until the first Monday in May next.

      With rare exception this practice was continued for some years. On March 19, 1823 it was:

      Voted: That a military school be holden in the State House on Wednesday evening of each week, until the first Monday in May next.

      Voted: That members residing in Town, who fail to attend such school shall pay a fine of 50 cents for each and every evening over two of such neglect. Members residing out of Town shall pay a fine of 75 cents for every evening over three for a like neglect of duty.

      Another custom that began during this period was that of target practice. On August 7, 1822 the Company voted to devote one day in the fall to such exercise and to raise money for prizes by subscription. The shooting grounds were in the rear of the Barnsville Hotel, located, according to an advertisement in the NEW HAVEN HERALD "on Grand Avenue at the end of the fine bridge leading to Fair Haven." Its facilities for target practice were used not only by the Guard but also by the Grays.

      When President James Monroe visited New Haven, the CONNECTICUT HERALD for June 24, 1817, wrote:

"As soon as the boat arrived, the Governor and Lieut. Governor waited on the President immediately on his alighting, and welcomed him to the State of Connecticut. They were succeeded by the Judges of the United States and State Courts, Members of Congress, and other distinguished citizens.

      "On Saturday, at 12 noon, his Excellency, accompanied by General Swift, reviewed the troops, under arms, consisting of Col. Hoadley's Regiment of Flying Artillery, the Governor's Horse and Foot Guards to a levee room prepared by the committee at Mr. Porter's Hotel, where he was visited by the Clergy, the Officers of the College, and all the Revolutionary Officers in the city, about 18 in number."

      The Second Company met at their usual place of parade on May 3, 1820, at 8 o'clock in the morning to celebrate the first Election Day held in New Haven under the new State Constitution, and to perform escort duty to his Excellency Governor Oliver Wolcott and the Senate. Some of the enthusiasm in the Guard over the new order of things may have been dampened by the fact that in a few days the Legislature repealed an act of 1811, appropriating $1.50 to each member of the Guard serving on Election Day, to cover the expense of a dinner. The resolution passed was brief but thorough:

      Resolved by this Assembly that no compensation by the day or otherwise shall be hereafter allowed or paid, either to the Horse or Foot Guards, at New Haven or Hartford, for bearing arms, or expenses, on Election Days, or training or drilling, or any other days, and resolutions, usages, or customs to the contrary notwithstanding.

      On December 14, 1821 the first surgeon to the Company was appointed. Dr. Timothy P. Beers, a popular New Haven physician who in 1830 became professor in the Yale Medical Institute. Indicative of changing tastes and customs is the following excerpt from the minutes of a meeting held April 24, 1822:

      Voted, That hereafter no member of this Company do duty with powdered hair.

      On January 12, 1824, "pursuant to an order from the Sheriff, Major Charles B. Granniss called out a detachment of the Guard consisting of 26 members, to suppress a riot which had been created through improper conduct on the part of some members of the Medical Institute, and remained on duty until 7 o'clock next morning. The following day another detachment of 20 men were ordered out and remained on duty all night." Some students had stolen a body from a West Haven burying ground and indignant townspeople, searching the Medical Institute building had found it buried in the cellar. Public exposure of it aroused such excitement that for a time the destruction of the building was threatened.

Chapter 5