Philadelphia (1774 - 1775)

The First Continental Congress met in September 1774, in the Hall of Carpenters' Company, Philadelphia. A Committee of Correspondence was elected by the citizens of Philadelphia to determine the most effective means of resisting the British and to carry out the nonimportation resolutions of the Congress. The Committee first met on the afternoon of Thursday, November 17, 1774, in the Pennsylvania State House. That evening three of the members, together with twenty-five other gentlemen, gathered according to tradition in Carpenters' Hall and associated as the Light Horse of the City of Philadelphia, a name that was later changed to First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry.

This purely volunteer cavalry troop was the first organized in defense of the colonies. Today the Troop is certainly the oldest mounted military unit and quite possibly the oldest military unit of any kind that has been in continuous service to the Republic. The times that called it into being, and the character of the original members who fought through the seven years of the American Revolution, together forged concepts of service and a body of tradition that have given it a continuity of purpose for 230 years.

The gentlemen of the Philadelphia Light Horse were professional men, shipowners, importers, or traders, generally of conspicuous prominence in the affairs of the day. The membership was not to confine itself to public or civil life, for many were to hold commissions in the Continental service and in the Army and Navy of the State. The Rolls of the Troop ever since have been enriched by outstanding individual records in all branches of military life.

A number of social organizations played an important part in forming the new cavalry unit. The oldest of these was the Schuylkill Fishing Company, a club that numbered many Troopers among its officers. Other organizations from which the Light Horse drew its members were the Schuylkill Company of Fort St. Davids, the St. Andrew's Society of Philadelphia, the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, and the Society of the Sons of St. George. The Gloucester Fox Hunting Club had especial influence. The "round black hat bound with silver cord and buck's tail" and the dark brown short coat faced and lined with white worn by the Trooper of the Revolution were similar to the hunting coat and cap in which its club members rode to hounds. Captain Samuel Morris was Gloucester's first president and Captain Robert Wharton its last, and twenty-five Troopers were among its members during the War.

The associates who met on the evening of November 17, 1774, voted to equip and support themselves at their own expense and to offer their services to the Continental Congress. The company prepared for active duty by holding drills at five in the morning and five in the afternoon several times a week.

Abraham Markoe, a Danish subject, was chosen to be the first Captain because of his energy in organizing the Troop and his previous Danish military experience. Though prevented from open participation in the War as a result of the Neutrality Edict issued by then King Christian II of Denmark, Captain Markoe took an active part in the defeat of the enemy by all other available means.

At the time there was no common flag in use by any of the colonies. Not long after the news of the Battle of Lexington reached Philadelphia, Captain Markoe presented the Troop with the Standard that was to be carried in the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown, and on all parades until about 1830, when it was retired for safekeeping.

When George Washington was appointed Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in June of 1775, the Troop assumed varied duties. Close personal contact with the General developed as he was escorted to distant points in the Colonies. The command was frequently called upon to provide detachments to accompany prisoners and spies, to bear dispatches for the Committee of Safety, and to march with money for delivery to the Army.


Trenton (26 Dec 1776)

With Captain Samuel Morris at its head, the Philadelphia Light Horse reported to General Washington in late 1776. The Troop covered the rear of the Continental Army as it retreated across the Delaware pursued by Lord Cornwallis and his British and Hessian troops. On Christmas night, 1776, the Troop recrossed the Delaware with the Continental Army. The craft in which the Troop embarked could not reach shore and the cavalrymen were forced to take to the water and make their way with their horses through the darkness and floating ice.

Approaching Trenton at dawn, the Troop rode near Washington in the column under Major General Nathaniel Greene. During the Battle of Trenton, the Troop served as escort to General Washington and his staff. A detachment of the Troop captured a body of Hessians fortified in a barn during a fierce engagement. The battle lasted forty-five minutes with the capture of about a thousand Hessians and the loss of two Americans. The Troop served as the Army's rearguard as it recrossed the Delaware, patrolling the roads until dark. A statue of a Trooper serves as the Trenton Battle Monument to this day.


Princeton (3 Jan 1777)

Trenton was reoccupied on December 30. The Troop performed critical reconnaissance the next day. Twelve Troopers under Colonel Joseph Reed, the Adjutant General, captured eleven dragoons within sight of the enemy's main army. As Lord Cornwallis occupied the lines across from Trenton, Washington slipped the Army out at night and marched on Princeton. Units of Pennsylvania Militia, the rear of the Continental Army, were panicked and routed by fifty British dragoons during the night march. The dragoons then encountered twenty-two Troopers aligned abreast blocking the road. After consideration the dragoons withdrew and the Troop marched on Princeton.

During the climax of the Battle of Princeton, General Washington, with many Troopers by his side, led the counterattack against the British. The Troop charged in "the fine Fox-chase" and the Army routed three British regiments that day. General Washington withdrew the Army to Morristown before Cornwallis could bring up his superior forces. The successful rear guard action by the Troop saved the artillery train. "The ten days that changed the world" were over. It would be four long years until Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown but the Republic would prevail. General Washington relieved the Troop on January 23rd and they returned to Philadelphia.


Brandywine (11 Sep 1777) - Germantown (4 Oct 1777) - Valley Forge

After its return to Philadelphia the Troop engaged in months of arduous service. The Troop served under Maxwell's command at the Battle of Brandywine and assisted in maintaining communications during the unsuccessful Battle of Germantown. The Troop served as detachments during the winter at Valley Forge. One group narrowly escaped capture with General Lafayette and his small force when they were nearly surrounded in the woods at Barren Hill. When the British withdrew from Philadelphia, the first troops to reenter the city were the Philadelphia Light Horse with the city's new commander, the hero of Saratoga, Major General Benedict Arnold.


Philadelphia (1779 - 1799)

The Troop suppressed a serious riot in Philadelphia in October 1779. Troopers subscribed over one-quarter of the Ј300,000 to organize a bank in 1780. In January 1781, the Troop assisted Generals Lafayette and St. Clair in suppressing a mutiny and administering its amnesty.

Yorktown surrendered on October 19, 1781 and the captured standards were placed in the care of the Troop. Eighty-three Troopers, including Honorary Captain Markoe, led a parade through the streets of Philadelphia to the State House and surrendered the trophies to Congress. At the cessation of hostilities on April 11, 1783, the Troop enrollment was eighty-eight members.

Following Washington's death on December 14th, 1799, the Troop participated in the funeral pageant and paraded, dismounted, assembling "in compleat uniforms at the State House for the purpose of paying the sad tribute of veneration to the remains of their late Commander in Chief."



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