In 1869, the New Jersey Militia and the New Jersey Rifle Corps, the latter an elite militia unit created in 1864, were reorganized as the National Guard of New Jersey. In the late 19th century, the Guard was basically an infantry organization, supplemented by artillery and Gatling Gun (an early form of machine gun) batteries. Cavalry companies were formed and disbanded as part of the overall organization, but there were no consistent mounted units in the organization.
In 1890 the Essex Troop, an elite group of horsemen, formed in Newark to participate in civil functions and parades. In 1893 the troop joined the National Guard as “Cavalry Company A.” Under various designations, it has been an integral part of the Guard ever since. Initially, the Essex troop trained at the Newark Amory and held mounted drills at the Roseville Riding Academy on Roseville Avenue in Newark. The troop subsequently purchased the Academy and built an Armory on the site. A more permanent armory was built in 1910, and still stands, although modified, today.
The men of the Essex Troop purchased their own dress uniforms, like the one on display, which is 100 years old. Although not required for the Spanish American war of 1898, in 1916 the Essex Troop was called to active duty to assist the regular army in defending the Mexican border against incursions by revolutionaries and again in 1917 for service in World War I. During the latter conflict, the troop served in France not as cavalry, but as military police and artillery.
After the war New Jersey’s cavalry, including troops at other locations than Newark, were reconstituted as the 102nd Cavalry Regiment. The 102nd was called to active duty for a year in January, 1941, but the Pearl Harbor attack of that December stretched the unit’s service from one year to five. In England part of the 102nd was split off as the 117th Cavalry squadron, which fought in North Africa, Italy and France. The 102nd, supplemented by the 38th Cavalry Squadron as the 102nd Cavalry Group, landed at Normandy and campaigned across France and into Germany.
Following the war the unit was reconstituted as part of the New Jersey National Guard’s 50th Armored Division. Today the old Essex Troop lineage was carried on in the 102nd Armored Regiment.