By Jack Thomas Tomarchio
With AT 2017 behind it, the Troop can be proud of yet another training year brought to a successful end. AT 2017 was just one in a long list of past Troop annual trainings that are remembered fondly (or not) by generations of First City Troopers. The Archives contain a charming little pamphlet called Recollections of the Troop March of 1882. Bound in a gold and brown (FTPCC colors) heavy paper, the pamphlet was written by Sergeant Anthony M. Hance No. 894 and privately printed in 1910. It tells the story of the Troop’s 1882 Annual Training and gives us a glimpse of the lives of our predecessors both in and out of the saddle from an earlier era.
The Summer of 1882 was a hot one and many Troopers had by August fled Philadelphia for the seashore or the mountains. With N.G.S. General Order 1882, the men were called back to the Armory to assemble on August 4, 1882 at 1600 hours and in “heavy marching order” proceed to Camp John Fulton Reynolds in Lewistown, PA for the Division Encampment. There they were to be inspected by Adjutant General James W. Latta before passing in review before the General and other assorted state brass.
In the words of Sergeant Hance, a pharmaceutical executive in civilian life, the situation at the Armory was transformational when “straw hats and sticks were replaced by forage caps and sabres: travel-stained linen by regulation flannel; and soon the civilian was metamorphosed into the conventional cavalry-man, with belts, buckles and spurs.”
The Troop entrained to Lewistown and upon arrival were inspected, paraded and then ordered to ride immediately back to Philadelphia, 169 miles away. The Troop was ordered to make the trip in no more than six days. The men mounted up for the return trip just 48 hours after leaving the Armory and without the chance to get any sleep since the night before reporting for duty.
While it’s at times difficult to understand some of the terms used by Sergeant Hance in his reverie, one can deduce their meanings if one understands that the City Trooper of 1882 was in many ways not too dissimilar from the 2017 edition. Hence, the meal “which out of politeness to Quartermaster Craig we called dinner “ was preceded by the Troop first finishing “fragrant Ediths.” While the definition of a “fragrant Edith” is lost to history, could it possibly have been some liquid concoction used by the “mens” to slake their trail thirst? Or maybe it was just a strong cigar.
The 1882 march was no walk in the woods, with Reveille often being blown at 0300, the men immediately watering, feeding, rubbing down and grooming their horses, grabbing a quick breakfast and then falling in to the bugle call “Boots and Saddles”. Each day’s ride was made in plus 90 degree temperatures, the men wearing cork pith helmets to shade them from the unremitting sun. A chocking dust from the trails was everywhere, often turning their blue uniforms the color of chalky grey. Every night the Troop bivouacked in a pasture or a ploughed field, the men often sleeping between the furrows in the field. The daily tedium of the trail march was only broken by the occasional fording of a stream or river which the men often turned into an impromptu bath. On one crossing, one of the mounts decided to lay down in a small tributary of the upper Schuylkill taking his rider and equipment with him.
Surgeon J. William White No. 875 only had two patients on the march, a Trooper Smith who suffered a sprained ankle on a fall from his horse and an unnamed Trooper who claimed to be undergoing withdraw symptoms from civilian life, wishing he was back at “the old Bellevue with a kidney omelet and a pint of Pommery (champagne)”.
Upon reaching the western suburbs of Philadelphia, life for the men improved considerably since many Active Roll members as well as Non Actives and Honoraries maintained estates on the Main Line. Accordingly, the hospitality of several local Trooper-owned homes opened to the men.
The last two days of the march were spent in feasting with the Troop lunching first at the Bryn Mawr estate of Trooper James Rawle No. 903 and later having dinner at the estate of Trooper John C. Groome No. 906 in Haverford. Dinner consisted of corn-beef hash, chicken croquettes, bacon and filet Mignon a la Bearnaise with ice cold champagne.
The next morning the men arrived back at the Armory where they were feted with a magnificent breakfast provided by Troop Captain E. Burd Grubb, No. 839. The march of 1882 was over, and while generally uneventful, it was the longest ride made by the Troop since its participation in the Civil War.