NORWALK, Conn. – The Second Continental Light Dragoons horsed around Saturday on Norwalk’s Mill Hill for the first time since 1779.
That date is significant: The visit from Sheldon’s Horse unit was arranged by the Norwalk Historical Society to commemorate the burning of Norwalk on July 11, 1779, when British Maj. Gen. William Tryon, with 2,600 troops under his command, attacked and destroyed Norwalk.
NHS board member David Westmoreland said a few hundred people came to Mill Hill to attend the first-time observance and fill the lectures given by local history buffs Madeleine and Ed Eckert, who have been researching the battle and burning of Norwalk.
Sheldon’s Horse Second Continental Light Dragoons, billed as the first commissioned cavalry in the United States, was re established in 1978 as a nonprofit educational organization, a re-established military unit and historical organization, according to its website.
“We’re one of the few organizations that has horses. There’s a lot of living history organizations that are infantry based, but then you get more specialized things like guys that do artillery and guys that do cavalry. I would say out of all of it, the guys that are horse soldiers are the fewest,” said Eric Chandler of Norwalk, the lieutenant of the outfit.
“We’re actually a unit that has never disbanded. So technically we’re still an actual unit, not just re-enacting,” said Bob Rivard of Lebon, who was portraying the outfit’s surgeon, with an assortment of medical instruments that made 6-year-old Mia Abreau’s jaw drop.
Good thing medicine has come a long way since then because her brother might be in trouble, she said.
The dragoons were Gen. George Washington’s “lifeguards,” David Goodrich of Hampton said.
One person described their demonstration as a “horse ballet.” Chandler said it was a drill meant to familiarize the horses with people. The unit arranged itself in a formation and the horses meandered between them, he said.
Norwalk’s history is deep, Madeleine Eckert said. That includes a famous action done by Nathan Hale. “Norwalk is the only Connecticut town associated with his spy mission. He left from Norwalk,” she said.
NHS board President Erik Anderson said he’s been coming to Mill Hill since third grade when he visited as part of the Little Red Schoolhouse program.
“It never ceases to amaze me, but I love hearing it: ‘I lived here all my life and I never knew this was here!’” Anderson said, of the visitors. “‘Well, now you do.’”
Mill Hill will be closed over the summer as work is done to make it American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant, he said. Next year, the Norwalk Musuem will reopen in the Lockwood Mansion, next to City Hall. Meanwhile, work continues on the old city lock-up at the bottom of Mill Hill, on Smith Street.
“The fun thing about being on the board is I continue to learn more about the history of Norwalk,” Anderson said.