A Brief History of the Centennial Legion of Historic Military Commands

pipers The Centennial Legion was organized on July 4, 1876, in Philadelphia, at the Centennial Celebration of our nation. A mammoth parade featured the newly formed Legion comprised of Historic Military Commands from the Thirteen Original States. The Eutaw Flag was included in the colors of The Legion and was carried by the Washington Light Infantry.

The suggestion to form the Legion was made a year earlier (1875) at the Bunker Hill Centennial Celebration in Boston by Major George W. McLean, Commander of the Old Guard – City of New York and Captain Robert Gilchrist, Commander of the Washington Light Infantry, Charleston, South Carolina.

The unhappy war between the states had ended only ten years before and there still existed very strong sectional feelings which many level-headed men of that day sought to eradicate for the general national good. Two such men were Major McLean and Captain Gilchrist. This friendly association together of soldiers at Bunker Hill, many of whom had a few years previously been engaged in actual warfare with one another, created a feeling of fraternity and good fellowship, that set the stage for organizing The Centennial Legion.

Kentish Guard flag tightIn January 1876, Major McLean and Captain Gilchrist along with Major John W. Ryan, Commanding officer of the State Fencibles of Philadelphia, suggested a parade on July Fourth which would include at least one historic military command from each of the Thirteen Original States. This suggestion met with instant approval.

The Governor of Pennsylvania issued official invitations to the Governors of these states requesting their co-operation. On July 4, 1876, the parade consisted of a formation, which, up to that time, had never been attempted. Each state was represented by one of its own military commands. “The Centennial Legion” was born.

The first Commander of the Centennial Legion was Harry Heth of Virginia who took office following the parade on July 4th, 1876. In June of 1925 at the meeting of the State Fencibles at which members of the Centennial Legion were guests, it was decided that the CLHMC would function better and more effectively with an Annual Slate of Officers. Colonel Thomas S, Lanard was elected Commander.

WLI flagOn June 16, 1926, the Declaration Chamber of Independence Hall was set aside for a meeting of the Centennial Legion. As its original founders made history for the CLHMC in 1876, ao did its successors make history in 1926. At this meetin, which was arranged by special permission of the City of Philadelphia, a permanent organization was perfected. By-laws were adopted and all those Historic Military Commands who accepted invitations to the celebration were elected members.

The Centennial Legion remains an active organization and is comprised of 83 Historic Military Commands. It seeks to perpetuate the Military Organizations who served and protected our country in the early days of its history, prior to, during and subsequent to the Revolutionary War. It was formed to unite together those Military Commands that still exist, together with their successors, in one body, pledged to keep alive their ancient traditions and to perserve the records of their military Achievements.

The organization fosters patriotism and encourages National Defense. It is bound to uphold the national institutions of the United States in their integrity and to maintain a spirit of brotherly union and benevolence among our armed forces. It recognizes and honors all citizens who served or are serving in the Army, Reserve Corps, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the National Guard.

unitsOne of the principal objects is to teach and impress respect for our flag and to the Constitution as well as obedience to constituted authority. It is dedicated to uphold allegiance and Loyalty to the United States of America and to defend it against all enemies.

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Washington Light Infantry - Charleston SC by TeslaThemes