Robert Wharton: Troop Captain, Brigadier General, and Philadelphia Mayor.
Troop officers and NCOs in Bosnia.
[Author's note: this post is an excerpt from The Gentlemen of Gloucester, a book available here on Amazon.]
During the War of 1812, Congress deployed the Troop to Baltimore to monitor warships on the Chesapeake Bay.
Accompanying the unit was Robert Wharton, a former Troop captain who had since become Brigadier General of the Pennsylvania Militia and mayor of Philadelphia. Having held these lofty positions, Wharton entered Troop folklore by re-enlisting back into the Troop at the rank of private. In doing so, he established an eccentric custom of “rank flip-flopping” that has characterized the First City Troop ever since.
Wharton’s presence on the deployment assumed legendary proportions when one morning, while taking his turn as the unit’s cook, a courier rode up to inform him that he had just been re-elected as mayor of Philadelphia--in absentia. Bitterly disappointed that he had to leave his Troop comrades, he delivered what one account described as “a pathetic [sad] farewell address" before reluctantly returning home to assume his mayoral duties. Wharton was ultimately elected five times to the office of mayor—more than any other person in Philadelphia history.
Rank flip-flopping has remained a Troop custom ever since.
When the unit deployed to Bosnia in 2002, Honorary Troop Captain Keith Rogers resigned his officer's rank of major in order to serve as Troop Captain Eric Guenther’s driver at the rank of staff sergeant. Responses to Rogers’s new rank created awkward situations when dealing with officers in the regular army.
During a major readiness exercise, Rogers was manning the radios and looking after things in the TOC (Tactical Operations Center; a small unit’s command post), as good NCOs do. Lieutenant Hathaway came into the tent and asked him for an update on the field situation.
Just then, Captain Guenther walked in with his regular army observer and asked Hathaway for the same update. Hathaway replied, "Well, Keith just told me…," at which point, the regular army captain interrupted and said, "Keith? Who's Keith?" Hathaway said, "Oh sorry, Sir, I meant Sergeant Rogers here," gesturing with his hand. Without saying another word to Hathaway, the visiting captain turned to Guenther and said, "See, that's what I mean! You can't have your officers calling NCOs by their first names!"
Hathaway agreed, saying, "Sir, of course you’re right! But what you don't understand is that when I was an enlisted man, Sergeant Rogers here was my commander in the Troop, so I still think of him as an officer." Confused, the visiting captain asked "Your commander? In this Troop?" "Yes Sir," said Hathaway. The captain turned to Captain Guenther, who nodded in confirmation. According to Hathaway, “After that, the gobsmacked regular Army captain said nothing further on the topic.”