2nd Continental Light Dragoon Regiment

(aka Sheldon's Horse)

  • Authorized on December 12, 1776 in the Continental Army as 2d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment and assigned to the Main Continental Army.
  • Organized between December 16, 1776 - June 21, 1777 at Wethersfield, Connecticut and Middlebrook, New Jersey, to consist of four troops from Connecticut, one troop from Massachusetts, and one troop from New Jersey.
  • Bull's Troop assigned on June 9, 1777 to the Highland's Department and de Vernejoux's Troop to the Northern Department.
  • Relieved on May 29, 1778 from the Main Continental Army and assigned to the Highland's Department, concurrently Seymor's (formally de Vernejoux's) Troop relived from the Northern Department and assigned to the Highland's Department.
  • Reorganized in early 1780 to consist of four mounted and two dismounted troops.
  • Redesignated on January 1, 1781 as the 2nd Legionary Corps.
  • Furloughed on June 9, 1783 at Newburgh, New York.
  • Disbanded on November 20, 1783

ENGAGEMENTS

  • Northern New Jersey
  • Defense of Philadelphia
  • New York 1779
  • Connecticut 1779
  • New York 1780
  • New York 1781
  • Connecticut 1783

Captain Bull's Troop additionally served in:

  • Hudson Highlands
  • New York 1777

Captain de Vernejoux's Troop additionally served in:

  • Saratoga

UNIT HISTORY

Sheldon's Horse, the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons was formed under the command of Col. Elisha Sheldon in December of 1776 at the direct recommendation of Gen. George Washington. Sheldon first came to the attention of the Commander-in-Chief earlier that year when Sheldon lead a group of mounted Connecticut militia to Washington's New York headquarters to volunteer for army service. The offer was refused due to lack of sufficient forage for men and horses. However, after the October 1776 defeat at the Battle of White Plains, Washington came to recognize the value of a regular mounted establishment and the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons was born with Elisha Sheldon commissioned as Colonel-Commandant.

Consisting of four troops from Connecticut, one troop each largely from Massachusetts and New Jersey plus two companies of Light Infantry, the unit never served as a whole. First action occurred when Capt. Epaphras Bull and Lt. Thomas Young Seymour led a portion of the 2nd Continental Light Dragoons at the Battles at Trenton and Princeton.

From formation through its reversion to State troop status, Sheldon's patrolled and skirmished its way through Connecticut, Westchester and Rockland Counties as well as northern New Jersey.

Numerous whaleboat raids against British and Loyalist installations on Long Island were conducted by Sheldon's troopers. It was acts of bravery on one such raid that earned Sgt. Elijah Churchill the Badge of Military Merit (the Purple Heart), precursor to the Congressional Medal of Honor and one of only three awarded for Revolutionary War service.

The regiment performed as the first "pony express" relaying messages along a string of express stations between Washington's headquarters and the northern colonies.

Sheldon's served as advance scouts for the American army and earned the sobriquet "Washington's Eyes". Under Maj. Benjamin Talmadge, Sheldon's also became Washington's ears as Talmadge operated his "Culper" spy ring on Long Island and in New York City.

Elements of the unit comprised Washington's personal bodyguard and men of the 2nd Light Dragoons guarded John Andre during his incarceration, trial and subsequent execution in Nyack, New York.

In 1781, Sheldon's Horse became the first American unit to conduct a combined combat operation with our French Allies in Tarrytown, New York. Rochambeau's staff considered Sheldon's Horse, 2nd Continental Light Dragoons as " . . . incontestably the best on the continent. . . ."

Sheldon's Horse was never officially disbanded, making this regiment unique among all Continental cavalry units. The majority of its numbers were furloughed after the cessation of hostilities; the regiment released from federal service and returned to the authority of the state.

Battles engaged in: Woodbridge; Brandywine; Germantown; Kingston; The Battles of Saratoga, where a portion of the regiment under Lt. Seymour not only fought as the sole Continental cavalry, but was assigned to escort Burgoyne to Boston after the British surrender; Schoharie, at The Battle of The Flockey where Sheldon's Horse performed the first cavalry charge on American soil; Paoli; Whitemarsh, where two troopers are buried. The barn which was utilized as the field hospital still stands; Morrisania; Yorktown.

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