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PATTERN 1885 US ARMY GUIDON USED BY THE 1ST SQUADRON OF CAVALRY,  TROOP B, OF THE NEW JERSEY NATIONAL GUARD, DURING THE PUNITIVE EXPEDITION ON THE MEXICAN BORDER – OFFERED HERE WITH ACCOMPANYING PERIOD PHOTOGRAPHS – A RARE GROUPING IN EXCELLENT CONDITION:  This is a very rare offering of an original Pattern 1885 U.S. Army Guidon identified to Troop B, 1ST Cavalry Squadron of the New Jersey National Guard, dating from the period of the Punitive Mexican Expedition of 1916.  The guidon is accompanied by a panoramic photograph taken of the full company mounted on their horses while Troop B was stationed on the border in Arizona. 

The practice of displaying totems, banners and flags to identify the leader of a unit on the battlefield and mark his position certainly predates written history, and it was from those displays of military heraldry that the guidon emerged in the U.S. Army.  

In its familiar form the guidon first appeared in 1834, when the newly formed 1ST Regiment of Dragoons was authorized a silk red-over-white guidon, with the letters "U.S." in white on the upper half and the company letter in red on the lower half.  The guidon measured 27” high (“on the lance”) by 41” long (“on the fly”), and had a 15” (measured on the diagonal) forked swallow tail on the trailing edge.  It is believed the swallow tail design was incorporated so that the guidon would better catch the breeze, extending it to its full length on the fly, making the numerals and letters easier to read.   

The guidon was carried on a 9’ staff by the mounted color bearer with the lower end of the staff secured in a leather cup suspended by a leather strap from the saddle or attached to the offside stirrup.   

In the years following the adoption of the red-over-white swallow tail design, there were some minor changes, but by 1841 the army had settled on the original design adopted in 1834.   

Early in the Civil War, on January 18, 1862, the U.S. Army issued General Order No. 4 directing "Guidons and camp colors will be made like the United States flag with stars and stripes." The dimensions were the same as prescribed in 1834, but the new design consisted of gold stars in two concentric circles with one star in each corner of the canton.  

This pattern of “National Ensign” guidon remained in use through the early Indian Wars era until the regulations published in 1885 ordered that the design of the guidon would revert back to the Pattern 1834, with the regimental number on the upper half and the letter of the company, or troop, on the lower half. 

This guidon fits the specifications of the Pattern 1885 Guidon, as detailed in the description published by S. B. Holabird, Quartermaster General of the U.S. Army: 

“Specifications for Cavalry Guidons” 

     “Silk – To be of the best quality of banner silk.

     “Size – To be three (3) feet five )5 inches fly from the lance and two (2) feet three (3) inches on the lance; to be cut swallow-tailed fifteen (15) inches on the fork.

     “Design – Two (2) horizontal stripes, each one-half (½) the width of the flag, the upper to be red and the lower white.  The upper stripe to have on both sides, in the center, the number of the regiment in white silk, and the lower the letter of the troop in red silk.  The letter and number to be block-shaped, four and three fourths (4 ¾) inches high, and held in place by a border of needle-work embroidery three-sixteenths of an inch wide, of same color. 

     “Lance – To be one and one-fourth (1¼) inches in diameter and nine (9) feet long, including spear and ferrule.

     “Case or cover – To be of water-proof material, to protect the guidon when furled.

     “Workmanship – To conform to standard sample on file in the Quartermaster General’s Office.”   

In 1895, additional regulations were published – "Each troop of Cavalry will have a silken be used only in battle, campaign, or on occasions of ceremony”   The same regulation provided that “Each troop will also have a service guidon made of bunting or other suitable material” for daily use.  In 1922, the army abolished the requirement for silk guidons, and they were withdrawn from service while those made of bunting continued to be issued. 

These army regulations setting the pattern and defining the use of the Pattern 1885 Guidons serves to date this specimen as having been made and used during the 37 years they were in service.  Further narrowing the period of use of this particular guidon is the unit history of Troop B of the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry, New Jersey National Guard. 

Lineage of the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry, New Jersey National Guard

In 1890 the Essex Troop, an elite group of horsemen, formed in Newark to participate in civil functions and parades. The Essex Troop mustered on May 17, 1893, and the 52 officers and men present, dressed in full dress uniform, swore the oath of allegiance to the state and were designated as Troop A, Cavalry, National Guard of New Jersey.   

During the early 1900's the official name of the troop was First Troop, New Jersey Cavalry. This designation would remain in effect until the First Squadron of Cavalry was formed into four troops of cavalry.  The original First Troop was split to form Troop A and Troop C, with Troop B being formed at Red Bank, New Jersey, reported in some sources as occurring in 1908.  At some point, Troop D was added to the squadron. 

As a recognized unit headquartered in Newark, the fully formed 1ST Cavalry Squadron cites its organization as May 29, 1913.  The growing revolutionary climate and resulting unrest in Mexico would soon see this recently formed squadron drawn onto to the international stage. 

On March 9, 1916, Poncho Villa crossed the border into the United States and engaged elements of the 13TH US Cavalry garrisoned in the small town of Columbus, New Mexico.  In the wake of Villa’s raid, President Wilson declared a national emergency, resulting in the “call up” and federalization of a number of National Guard units from several states.  

Along with other New Jersey National Guard units, the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry was mustered into federal service at Camp Wert, at Sea Girt, New Jersey on June 21, 1916.  Troops A, B, C, and D were transported from New Jersey by rail, arriving on July 4TH at Camp Harry J. Jones located in Douglas, Arizona.  Camp Jones was strategically located on the Mexican Border in southeast Arizona, where the town of Douglas shared a border crossing with Agua Prieta, Mexico.  Although the New Jersey soldiers never engaged the Mexican revolutionary forces, the area had seen some significant cross border violence prior to their arrival and both the federal government and the local citizens regarded the soldiers’ presence in the area as very necessary. 

The history of the mobilization and service of the National Guard units on the border is somewhat conflicted, with widely varying reports depending on the view of the historians and the written accounts they recorded.  For example, the unit history of the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry reports that the four troops arrived with all of their personnel and horses, fully equipped to serve in the field.  Supporting this claim are period photographs taken during their time in Arizona, capturing the soldiers mounted on their horses such as the panoramic photograph of Troop B which accompanies this guidon. One account captured in The History of the Essex Troop recounts that on June 27TH as the squadron was entraining in New Jersey for the transfer to Arizona, and the troopers prepared to load the horses, it was discovered that the livestock cars provided by the railroad were double decked sheep cars – useful in their own right, but hardly interchangeable.  Likely referring to the same situation, a letter from one of the New Jersey troopers to his mother which was published in the New York Times in which he related that instead of horse cars, the railroad had provided chicken and hog cars which the soldiers had to modify to accommodate the horses, with considerable effort expended in the process.   

There are other accounts which report that the squadron arrived in Arizona without their mounts and at least until the horses caught up with the soldiers, the men were drilled as infantry.  Other sources describe the soldiers as lacking uniforms, basic equipment such as blankets and mess kits, and one report indicated that Troops B and C did not have sufficient horses and saddles.  The accurate story of the mobilization lies somewhere between these two extremes, but the surviving photographic evidence is very compelling that the four companies of 1ST Squadron of Cavalry were in fact, mounted during their period on the border.  

Throughout the almost four months the squadron was stationed at Camp Jones, they appear to have acquitted themselves very well, while gaining considerable field experience and training from their partnership with regular army units.  At the end of their assignment in Arizona, the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry returned to New Jersey and was mustered out of federal service on October 21, 1916.    

This service along the border was to be the last major assignment the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry would enjoy in the company of their horses.  With the entry of the United States into World War One, the squadron was again mustered into federal service in July of 1917, only to be reorganized that September with its elements being redesignated as follows:   

Minus Troops B and D, the squadron was redesignated as the 104TH Train Headquarters and Military Police Company, attached to the 29TH Infantry Division.  Troops B and D were consolidated to form Battery F, 110TH Field Artillery, also attached to the 29TH

The lineage of Troop B, 1ST Squadron of Cavalry, New Jersey National Guard is well documented, defining the troop’s existence within a relatively brief period of no longer than eight years, however during that period Troop B was one of the few National Guard cavalry companies to have been mustered into federal service and actually see service in the field along the southern border.  Within a very few months following their return from the border, Troop B would again be mustered into federal service, but without their horses and then only to have their unit designation forever changed, eliminating the need for this guidon.   For the proud cavalry troopers, those orders must have been a bitter pill indeed, and it must have been just as difficult for them to furl this flag for the final time as it had been to bid goodbye to their horses.  As the world dramatically changed around them, their horses, their saddles and this flag were left behind to history.   

This guidon has survived in excellent condition, showing no significant evidence of wear.  The silk is very solid with no holes, tattering or fraying and it is overall very clean, with only some very minor isolated spots of soiling.  The red field retains a bright vivid color with no fading and the white field shows only minor aging to a mellow ivory hue.  The letters and numerals are likewise in excellent condition, all retaining their hem lines fully intact and all having a bright, clean color.  Measuring 41” on the fly, 28” on the hoist, and 20 ½” on the angle of the swallow tail, this guidon is well within the variances which would have been allowed in the manufacture of cloth items.  The numeral “1” and the letter “B” are the regulation 4 ¾” tall, while the “N.J.” is 3 ½” high.  The two “button-hole” leather tabs for mounting the guidon on the lance are present, however the slits in both tabs have worn through.  There is no loss of leather and this is not noticeable on either tab except on close inspection – simply more evidence that this guidon was carried.   

A real added value to this guidon is the presence of the full form, fully legible Philadelphia Depot, U.S. Army Quartermaster Corps Inspector’s tag which is sewn inside the lance pocket along the hoist.  The tag is faintly ink stamped with the numeral 21, indicating the inspector who approved this guidon.  The presence of this tag is significant confirmation of the originality of this guidon.   

Accompanying the guidon in this offering is a panoramic photograph of a company of cavalry men titled “Troop B; New Jersey National Guard; Camped on the Mexican Border; Douglas, Arizona”.  [Note:  The “Douglas, Arizona” portion of the title is below the edge of the frame and while visible when viewed in person, that line is not visible in the photographs below.]  Based on the title, no doubt this image captures the very soldiers who served under this guidon.  Note that the sergeant bearing the guidon is visible on the extreme left of the line of soldiers.  Based on the regulations governing the use of the guidons, being that this image captures the troop under arms in the field, it is almost certain that the guidon displayed in this image is the silk version.  The image measures 48” long and 8” wide, and of special value, the name of each of the 62 men captured in the photo is identified below in a handwritten notation. 

Included in this grouping is an original period photograph I found here in the San Antonio area years ago, prior to acquiring the guidon and panoramic photograph. This photograph captures several ambulances parked in front of what is presumably a field hospital.  The ambulance in the center foreground is painted with the red Geneva cross and below the cross is painted the identifying legend, “FIRST SQUADRON CAVALRY NEW JERSEY”.  The reverse of the photograph bears the photographer’s stamp, “COLE & Co. 204”.  I have seen other photographs capturing scenes of the Punitive Expedition bearing Cole’s stamp and apparently he was active along the border during that period.  One has to assume this image was taken during the squadron’s assignment in Arizona.  This photograph measures 4” by 2 ½”, and the image is clear with no damage save for at the corners where it was attached in an album.    

Any surviving original U.S. Army silk guidon is a rare artifact.  Those which can be attributed to a specific unit within the context of a recognized historical event are almost non-existent on the market.  The offering of this Pattern 1885 Guidon, identified to Troop B of the 1ST Squadron of Cavalry, New Jersey National Guard, and accompanied by original period photographs of the unit while stationed in Douglas, Arizona during the Punitive Mexican Expedition on the United States – Mexican Border is a very rare offering and one not likely to be seen again any time soon.   SOLD



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