The Kentish Guards are a part of the Centennial Legion of Historic Military Commands, which was formed on the 4th of July, 1876. It is dedicated to uphold Allegiance and Loyalty to the United States of America and to defend it against all enemies.
The legion is still active today and comprised of 83 Historica Military Commands. Its Board of Directors is composed of military persons from each of the original thirteen states.
The Centennial Legion seeks to unite and perpetuate the Military Organizations that served the country in the early days of its history, keep alive the old military traditions, and preserve the records of the commands and their achievements. The legion recognizes and honors all those who served or are serving in the Army, Reserve Corps, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, Coast Guard and the National Guard.
Examples of values that are important to the legion are national defense, patriotism, respect for the flag and the Constitution, and obedience to constituted authority. The legion strives to uphold the national institutions of the United States in their integrity and to maintain a brotherly union and benevolence among the armed forces.
This legion was established in Philadelphia on July 4, 1876, during the Centennial Celebration of the United States of America. During the celebrations, the newly formed legion put on a parade featuring historic military commands from the thirtheen original colonies.
As the Centennial Celebration drew closer, a group of citizens began meeting in Philadelphia to organize a celebration. On March 3, 1871, the plan for a celebration received Congressional approval.
The suggestion to form the legion was brought up at the 1875 Bunker Hill Centennial Celebration in Boston, by Major George W. McLean, Commander of The Old Guard of the City of New York, and Captain Robert C. Gilchrist, Commander of the Washington Light Infantry of Charleston, South Carolina.
At this point, the American Civil War had ended just ten years ago, and strong sectional feelings existed between the former sides of the war; feelings that fueled division within the nation. It was an era where many projects were launched to promote national unity, and the legion was to become one of them. Both Major MacLean and Captain Gilchrist were strong proponents of national unity, and they were on good footing with the soldiers at Bunker Hill – many of whom had been at war with each other.
In January 1876, Major McLean, Captain Gilchrist and Major John W. Ryan, Commanding Officer of the State Fencibles of Philadelphia, suggested that a parade in Philadelphia on the 4th of July should include at least one historic military command from each of the thirteen original states, and this suggestion was very well received. Soon, the Governor of Pennsylvania had sent out official invitations to the Governors of the thirteen original states and asked for their cooperation with the parade.
The Philadelpia Fourth of July parade of 1876
The Philadelphia Fourth of July parade of 1876 was a great success, and the plan to include at least one historical military command from each of the thirteen original states in the parade was carried out with much fanfare.
These were the participating commands:
- Fifth Regiment Infantry Maryland (formed in 1774)
- Fayetteville Independent Lt. Inf. North Carolina (formed in 1793)
- Boston Light Infantry Massachusetts (formed in 1798)
- Washington Light Infantry South Carolina (formed in 1807)
- State Fencibles Infantry Pennsylvania (formed in 1813)
- New Haven Grays Connecticut (formed in 1816)
- First Light Infantry Regiment Rhode Island (formed in 1818)
- Old Guard City of New York New York (formed in 1826)
- Norfolk Blues Artillery Virginia (formed in 1828)
- The Clinch Rifles Georgia (formed in 1852)
- The Amoskeag Veterans New Hampshire (formed in 1854)
- Phil Kearney Guards New Jersey (formed in 1868)
- American Rifles Delaware (formed in 1875)
General Harry Heth
The first Commander of the Centennial Legion was General Harry Heth of Virginia. He took office after the parade on 4th of July, 1876.
Celebrating the Sesquicentennial
During the planning of the Sesquicentennial, a celebration that would take place in 1926, the Mayor of Philadelphia asked the Centennial Legion to assemble, and invited all the Ancient Military Companies from the thirtheen original states.
During a meeting in June 1925, it was decided that the legion would function better with an Annual Slate of Officers, and Col. Thomas S. Landard was elected Commander.
Instead of just being celebrated on one or a few days, the Sesquicentennial was commemorated in various ways throughout 1926. Among other things, a special Independence Exposition was held from the first of June to the first of December. As a part of this extended celebration, Flag Day – on June 14th – concluded with a huge parade of the Ancient and Historic Military Commands in Philadelphia, reviewed by the Governors of the thirteen original states.
On June 16, the Centennial Legion gathered in the Declaration Chamber of Independence Hall. During this meeting, a permanent organization was established, by-laws were adopted, and all the Historic Military Commands who accepted invitations to the celebration were elected members.
The Centennial Legion became incorporated in the State of Maryland on December 14, 1935. Since then, it has been The Centennial Legion of Historic Military Commands Inc.
In addition to the abovementioned Gen. Harry Heth and Col. Thomas Lanard, the following persons have served as Commanders for the Centennial Legion.
|Maj. Wellington Wells||Maj. Everett H. Kandarian||BG Joseph G. Reynolds|
|Col. Edward H. Snyder||Col. James Maloney||Col. Stephen F. Kovach|
|Col. Charles E. Lockwood||MG Aylwyn P. Williams||Col. James W. Tingley, Jr.|
|BG Frank A. Hancock||Col. John J. Rizza||Col. Edward L. Milam, III|
|Cpt. Harry S. Burr||Col. George G. Boram||Col. Laurence J. DiStefano, Jr.|
|Ltc. Donald P. Sherman||BG Matthew G. Cusack||Col. Peter J. Sposito, Jr.|
|Cpt. Augustus J. Migell||BG James E. Clair||MG Henry W. Theiling|
|Col. Wellington B. Searls||BG Eli E. White||Ltc. Matthew G. Cusack, Jr.|
|Ltc. Patrick F. Zito||BG Raymond A. Thomas||Col. Robert N. Sheldon|
|Ltc. George Rosenblum||Col. James C. Nicoll, Jr.|
|Ltc . James C. Wise||BG Pasquale P. Romano|