A Short History of
The Second Company
The first meeting of the Second Company was held at Beer's 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 students of colonial history:
When the news of the Battle of Lexington reached New Haven on April 21st, 1775, some 58 of the Guard voted to march to Cambridge to the assistance of their fellow patriots in Massachusetts. The next day, April 22, Arnold, the fiery young commander of the Second Company, assembled the men, in full dress, on the New Haven Green. They received the blessing of Rev. Jonathan Edwards, then marching up to Beer's Tavern, Arnold demanded of the Selectmen, the key to the King's powder. The Selectmen were reluctant to yield. Arnold, shouting, "None but the Almighty God shall prevent my marching," forcefully persuaded them to turn over the key enabling him to claim the powder, ball and flint and march with his men to the aid of their fellow patriots in Boston. The pageantry of this exciting historic event is re-enacted annually by the Second Company. "Powder House Day" has been a yearly tradition in the Elm City since 1904.
The Company formed an escort on July 2, 1775 when General Washington passed through New Haven on his way to take command of the forces around Boston. The Foot Guard, Sabin's Minutemen, and a body of Yale students all led by Daniel Webster playing the fife.
On July the 5th, 1779, the Second Company, commanded then by James Hillhouse, put up a heroic defense of New Haven against a large British invasion force. One of our members, Joshua Newhall, blew up the West River bridge in the face of the enemy, stalling their advance for several hours and giving the militia companies from the surrounding towns time to come to the aid of New Haven.
We have a memo in our collection, which states that 128 members of the Second Company volunteered to go to Washington in 1861 to defend the city when the Confederate forces were threatening our Capitol.
A war company was formed called Co. "K" of the 6th Connecticut Volunteers. They left for the front on October 22, 1861. They fought in twenty-six battles and were mustered out August 21, 1865. The Second Company has on display in its museum a Civil War diary giving a daily account of its activities to March 1863, when the author died from wounds.
The Company was escort to the Marquis De Lafayette, the famous French soldier who so greatly aided our cause during the American Revolution. He walked through our ranks greeting each Foot Guarder like an old comrade.
The Second Company has been escort to every Governor of Connecticut since 1775. We have been escorts to fourteen Presidents. In 1962, when President John F. Kennedy came to New Haven to receive an honorary degree from Yale, the Second Company was his honor guard. Before leaving he walked through our ranks inspecting the troops and called out as he left, "I'll see you boys in "65". In 1976 we were the honor guard to Elizabeth the Queen of England when she visited Connecticut.
The Second Company has also traveled to foreign countries. The first expedition was in 1912. We were under the Command of Major George Hewlett, who was the superintendent of schools in New Haven. Starting from Fort Western in Maine, which is near Augusta, the Command retraced Arnold's route to Quebec in 1775.
In 1926 the Second Company went overseas as a group visiting Belgium and France. They were greeted on the steps of the French Presidential Palace by the President himself. They also took part in special ceremonies at the tomb of the French Unknown Soldier. The Second Company Chaplain, Capt. Dan Strickland, himself a World War One hero, stepped out of the ranks, removed his Shako, knelt down in front of the tomb and offered a special prayer for all the men who fell in the war.