By William S. Crittendon ‘65
Horse mounted Cavalry was an integral part of Military training at Norwich from 1909 through 1943, at which time the Cadets and the horses went off to WWII. By that time the cavalry had basically transitioned to tanks and Armored warfare, the last US Cavalry unit was deactivated in 1944. The Norwich horsemen went on to ride across Europe leading units of tanks not horses.
However, while at Norwich the horses played a big part in the training and other events during the school year. The horse stables were in the building just south of the present hockey arena (now Student Service Center) and ridden in Taylor Riding Hall just to the North. Taylor Riding Hall later became Taylor Arena, the hockey rink, later replaced with Kreitzberg Arena.
Of course, as Norwich tends to bring out the competiveness of the cadets, there naturally had to be some event or challenge created to reward the horsemanship and orienteering skills of the students.
The “Senior Night Ride” was initiated in 1927 as such a test. This ride was held in November each year and was made up of two man teams. A brief description follows from The Norwich Guidon, November 15, 1935. “Each year this event is sponsored by the Army officers attached here at Norwich. As in years past, headquarters for the event was the riding hall, where a large blackboard was mounted, with the names of the entries, their times for starting, and names of mounts, etc. Entries, again rode in pairs. Equipment allowed included flashlight, maps, dividers, watches, etc. for estimating distances and times.”
My father, William S. Crittendon, NU ’37, told me the story of his Senior Night Ride and left me his Silver Cup which is being donated to the Sullivan Museum. Following is the article describing the event in his senior year, excerpts quoted from The Norwich Guidon, November 13, 1936.
“Last Tuesday night the trails and bypaths in the vicinity of Northfield were the scene of the annual Senior Night Ride. Major Hayden laid out the course. Some of the nightriders never reached the first station. There were four stations in all; the first being at the Brooks School, which is just a mile or so from the base of Scrag Mountain; the second station was at the Roxbury Railroad Station; the third at the Bull Run School; and the fourth and last station at the stables. The ride covered about nineteen miles.
The object of the ride was to get from one station to another as close to the correct time as possible…Points were counted against teams for getting there too soon as well as too late…Two teams tied for first place with a total of seven points against them. Loheed and Tranfaglia, and Howard and Crittendon were the collective victors. Goblets are going to be awarded to each of the winners.
It was an ideal night for such a ride, cold and dark. The roads were so hard and icy that, it made it practically impossible for teams to follow each other. Coming out of Roxbury toward Bull Run it was necessary to lead the horses over the mountain.”
According to my father’s recollection, the key to victory was that he and his partner had a flask of whiskey with them. Most likely this was not officially countenanced but probably was part of the tradition.