Pa. National Guard: Parading 213 Years Of A Proud Tradition

Posted: August 28, 1987

It is a lot of horse. It stands 16.2 hands - about 5 feet 5 inches - and it looks as though it ought to be running at Philadelphia Park. No way, though.

This horse is made of carved wood.

It is the first thing that catches the eye as you enter the display area for an exhibit called "The Guardians of the Constitution," now at the Port of History Museum at Penn's Landing. And right beside it is a second eye- catcher - a mannequin attired in a 150-year-old dress uniform of an officer of the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry - better known as the First City Troop.

It is a logical entry, for the wooden horse, called "Woodrow," long has been a mascot of the First City Troop.

"These two figures," Mary Devaas, a visitor from Portland, Maine, was saying yesterday, "are exciting. I can hardly wait to see all the other things."

There are a lot of "other things" in the exhibition, which traces the history of the Pennsylvania National Guard from 1774 to the present.

They range from weapons and battle standards to uniforms and battle vehicles.

The Guard is depicted not only in wartime pursuits but also in service to the nation, as well as to Pennsylvania, in peacetime emergencies.

The exhibit began in June and will continue through Sept. 6. It is open Wednesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Admission is $2 for adults and $1 for children ages 5 to 12.

It is being held in conjunction with the We the People 200 celebration of the 200th anniversary of the signing in Philadelphia of the U.S. Constitution.

Its theme is the fact, usually taken for granted, that every citizen soldier of the National Guard, like any professional soldier, is sworn to defend the Constitution.

Before there was a Constitution - indeed, before the American Revolution - the various colonies organized militias for the common defense against natural disasters, predators and invaders.

Voluntary associations of Philadelphia citizens, such as the First City Troop - which still exists as Troop A, First Squadron, 223d Cavalry, Pennsylvania Army Reserve National Guard - played an important part in the winning of American independence and the subsequent framing of the Constitution.

The special needs of the local communities and the performance of the militias led to the language of the Constitution's Second Amendment, assuring ''a well-regulated militia . . . necessary to the security of a free State. . . ." The name of the Pennsylvania militia long ago became the Pennsylvania National Guard, but its mission is still the same.

The Guard has been active in every major military conflict in which this country has been involved, save one: It was not "called up" by the federal government for the Vietnam conflict, but many guardsmen volunteered to serve in 'Nam.

The items on display are illustrative of the Guard's activities.

There is the "Germantown Standard," a small, silk cavalry standard carried by the First City Troop - then known as the Philadelphia Troop of Light Horse - in the Battle of Germantown in 1777.

There are rifles, pistols, sabers and other weapons from the Revolution, the Civil War and every other conflict.

There are artifacts from World War I, when the 28th Division - federalized as a part of the U.S. Army - was known as the "Iron Division," and from World War II, when it earned the tag "The Bloody Bucket."

There are a simulated World War I machine-gun nest, a Civil War cannon and a World War II jeep. In a group of figures dressed in World War II Army uniforms, there is one in combat attire, including a field jacket.

Peeking out of one pocket is a pack of Lucky Strike cigarettes; the pack is decorated in "Lucky Strike green," which was a casualty of the war.

There is a World War I flag kit, containing three flags used for semaphore signaling in an era before there were battlefield telephone systems. And there is a recruiting poster from the Civil War.

At the bottom is a note to the effect that the commanding officer of the outfit seeking recruits would like to "invite a few good Old Soldiers to join his company."

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