The First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, also known as the First City Troop, is a unit of the Pennsylvania Army National Guard. It is the oldest military unit in the United States still in active service.
The First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry, or “First City Troop”, was organized in 1774 as the Light Horse of the City of Philadelphia, often referred to as the Philadelphia Light Horse, one of the first patriotic military organizations established in the American Revolution. It is the only military unit in the US that owns its own armory building, built with private funds in the Rittenhouse section of Philadelphia.
Abraham Markoe was the founder and the first Captain of the Philadelphia Light Horse, known today as the First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry.
Early members came from a number of local social organizations, including the Schuylkill Fishing Company, the Schuylkill Company of Fort St. Davids, the St. Andrew’s Society of Philadelphia, the Society of the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, the Society of the Sons of St. George, and especially the Gloucester Fox Hunting Club. Captain Samuel Morris was Gloucester’s first president and Captain Robert Wharton its last.
During the Revolution, the troop fought in the battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, and Germantown. It often served as George Washington’s personal bodyguard. The unit also saved James Wilson at the “Battle of Fort Wilson” riot.
During the American Civil War, the First City Troop was called into active duty several times, beginning with the 1861 Campaign that led to the First Battle of Bull Run. During the Gettysburg Campaign, the company, under the command of future U.S. Speaker of the House Samuel J. Randall, performed scouting duties around Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, in late June before fleeing to neighboring York County following a brief skirmish on June 26, 1863. The company later helped defend the Columbia-Wrightsville Bridge against the Confederate forces of John Brown Gordon.
John J. Pershing said that “no National Guard organization in the country did more, relatively, in the First World War than the [First Troop Philadelphia City Cavalry].”
Today, the First City Troop deploys overseas with the Pennsylvania National Guard in support of Army operations. Recent deployments have been to Bosnia, Iraq, and Egypt. Membership is by election. Soldiers on the active roll continue to donate their drill pay back to the unit, in order to maintain a tradition of voluntary service.
The troop draws its membership from Troop A, 1st Squadron, 104th Cavalry Regiment, 28th Infantry Division (United States), Pennsylvania Army National Guard.