The 2nd Continental Light Dragoons, also known as Sheldon’s Horse after Colonel Elisha Sheldon, was commissioned by the Continental Congress on December 12, 1776 and was first mustered at Wethersfield, Connecticut in March 1777 for service with the Continental Army. The regiment consisted of four troops from Connecticut, one troop each largely from Massachusetts and New Jersey, and two companies of light infantry. The regiment saw action at the Battle of Woodbridge, Battle of Brandywine, Battle of Kingston, Battle of Schoharie, The Battle of The Flocky (site of the first cavalry charge on American soil), Battle of Paoli, Battle of Whitemarsh, Battle of Morrisania, Battle of Saratoga, Battle of Germantown, and the Battle of Yorktown.
The unit almost never served as a whole. Usually individual troops were assigned as necessary. The regiment also performed numerous raids from whaleboats against British and Loyalist installations on Long Island. Some of the successful raids captured Fort St. George, Ft. Slongo and Lloyd’s Neck, Long Island. Elements from the unit comprised Washington’s personal bodyguard. In 1778, when Loyalist agents and a crack British commando team shadowed Washington for weeks with the intention of kidnapping him, they had to abandon the operation because, according to the British Intelligence Dispatches, “The 2nd Dragoons are (always) with him.” The 2nd Dragoons also guarded John Andre during his incarceration, trial and subsequent execution in Nyack, New York.
The regiments main patrol areas during the war were in Southern Connecticut and New York, where they intercepted British supplies and fought off bands of Loyalist partisans who preyed on local citizens. This duty earned them the nickname “Watchdogs of the Highlands”. They also earned the sobriquet “Washington’s Eyes”, likely because of their spy work. Major Benjamin Tallmadge became a spy master who ran one of the most successful spy rings of the war, able to infiltrate the British military command in New York city.
On January 1, 1781, the regiment was reorganized by the dismounting of two of its six troops and re-designated the 2nd Legionary Corps. The regiment was furloughed June 9, 1783 at Newburgh, New York and discharged on November 20, 1783 by proclamation of General Washington. The 2nd Light Dragoons are prominent in Colonel John Trumbull’s paintings of the American Revolution.