Chapter 6

Dissension In The Ranks

(1839 - 1852)

      To almost every organization of long standing there comes sooner or later an interval in its history when its character deteriorates and its reputation becomes impaired. Such a fate befell the Second Company during the middle of the 19th Century. From May 22, 1839 to February 21, 1852 no Company records exist. There is a tradition that because of dissension in the ranks they were destroyed. It is assumed the Company took part in numerous public functions and engaged in various social activities, but there was a slow but steady decline in members, in quality of leadership, and, consequently, in morale.

      Information from various sources reveal some of the public activities of the Guard during these years. In 1840, First Company of Hartford came to New Haven in response to an invitation from the military companies and citizens of the Elm City. The occasion was election day and William W. Ellsworth was chosen Chief Magistrate for the third time. In the afternoon the Hartford company "held a levee at their quarters in City Hall." The next day the Guard visited Colonel Trumbull, the historical painter of the Revolution, to go through the Trumbull gallery. The Guard noticed in those paintings a facsimile of their uniforms.

      On April 17, 1841 New Haven observed a day of mourning for President William Henry Harrison. According to the local papers, colors on all shipping were at half mast, minute guns were fired, and there was a parade through the center of the city. Second Company, commanded by Capt. Joshua Miller, with arms reserved, marched second in line, preceded by the New Haven Cadets, and followed by the New Haven Grays and the National Blues.

      The Fusileers of New York came here to take part in the celebration of the Fourth of July, 1844. They arrived the night before and the Foot Guard, Major Benjamin M. Prescott commanding, joined the Grays in escorting the guests from the boat to the Tontine Hotel. Relations between the Guard and the Grays at this time were very cordial. Second Company turned out to act as escort to the Grays in July 1845 as the latter marched to the steamboat to embark for New York to return the visit of the Fusileers, and later in the year they joined with them in entertaining the Hancock Light Infantry of Boston. The three companies gave a military exhibition on the Green and in the evening the New Haven outfits provided a dinner for their guests.

      The Guard took part in the ceremonies attendant upon the inauguration of Roger S. Baldwin, one of New Haven's most distinguished citizens, in the spring of 1845. That year the inauguration was at Hartford, and at 7 o'clock in the morning the Guard, Grays, and Blues had breakfast in the Baldwin home and from there they escorted the Governor-elect to the railroad depot.

      In 1846 came the Mexican War. The government called for volunteers at large and some 700 responded from Connecticut. Whether any of these were from the Foot Guard cannot in the absence of any company records for this period be ascertained.

      On July 20, 1846 Andrew P. Potter was executed for the murder of a man named Osborn. It was the first hanging which had taken place in New Haven County since 1790 and aroused a great deal of morbid interest. Hundreds of people gathered in the vicinity of the jail, located approximately where the City Hall now stands, and the Second Company, the Grays, and the Blues were called upon to do guard duty. The DAILY HERALD wrote: "the military was mustered and each company filed away with slow and solemn tread and took up their stations along the jail wall in Church Street, in Court Street, and in the rear of the premises, where they performed sentinel duty in a very efficient and laudable manner through the proceedings."

      The Guard participated in the reception given to President James K. Polk when he visited New Haven on June 28, 1847. According to the REGISTER of that date: "Seldom has our quiet city exhibited such a stirring scene as has here been the case today. The anticipated arrival of the President brought thousands from the surrounding towns at an early hour." Arriving from New York by boat he was escorted to the State House by the military where an address of welcome was made to which the President responded, "We have not seen," the REGISTER continued, "such a jam of people at the State House since General Jackson's visit inn 1833." At 2 o'clock he dined at the Tontine, and at 3, was escorted by the military to the railroad station.

      The Second Company headed by Major Hendricks, took part in the ceremonies connected with the inauguration of Col. Thomas Hart Seymour as Governor in the spring of 1850. The First Company came down from Hartford and in the evening Major Hendricks gave a ball which was attended by local and out of town guests.

      On October 2, 1850 a double hanging took place in the jail yard. While two murderers were being executed some 3,000 people sought admission and the house steps and windows overlooking the jail yard were filled with spectators. The Foot Guard, the Grays and the Blues were praised the next day in the press for "preserving order and quiet."

      During the term of Major John Arnold the Guard was escort to Governor Seymour on May 4, 1852. It had acquired continental uniforms but their pride in their new uniforms was short-lived for the next year, because of some unexplained circumstance, they voted to sell them.

Chapter 7