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#195 – Stories of the Senior Night Ride

Archer Greenhalgh 200 Things about Norwich, Fun Facts & Stats 9 Comments

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.

Comments 9

  1. andrew morse 1965

    Dear Bill
    My father Louis Morse 1930 and Wilson McNamara 1936 ( uncle)were at Norwich during that time.Any reference to them?
    Andy Morse 1965

  2. Don Gill

    Bill, I did’t know your Dad was Class of ’37. He would be proud today knowing his son is retelling his story in 2019. Hope you are doing well.
    Don Gill ’65

  3. paul murray

    My father was a bandy legged cavalry trooper. A respect for a ride such as the night ride as described was part of my up bringing. I attended long after dismounting at NU (1969-1973) but the challenges at NU should continue to Test the metal of Cadets.

  4. Bradford Greason

    I entered Norwich in the fall of ’42 with the class of ’46 and played freshman polo until enlisting in the Air Corps flight program. (easy transition) I returned after WW II and graduated class of ’50. The polo ponies were still there and the polo team competed (without me) until , I believe, 1949. No senior night ride.
    I have enjoyed the 200 Things About Norwich. Thanks!

  5. harris

    Sadly the current NU cavalry is not at all like it once was due to cost, or desire or whatever(?) The “ponies” used today are embarrassing, seriously get some real size horses or disband the troop all together. Real Troops have real horses, take Texas A&M cadets for an example. This comes from a relatively recent cavalry trooper. Please consider bringing back real, traditional horses.

  6. don shaw '51

    We still had the horses during my freshman year (1947 -1948) due to an exception granted Norwich by General Eisenhower to preserve the Cavalry tradition, but they we removed in the summer of “48 after General Eisenhower retired. (Eisenhower had been at Norwich as commencement speaker in 1946)

    In later years, the expression ‘night ride’ described a different type of “rumored” event. As editor of the Guidon during my senior year, we declined to publish rumors

  7. Mr Gary R Stebbins NU 73

    My late Uncle, BG (ret) William A Stebbins, NU 1935 most assuredly participated in the “Night Ride”. His yearbook mentions his excellent exploits on horseback and on the rifle range. MG (then CPT) Ernie Harmon commented on his excellent saber handling skills on horseback.

  8. GORDON NICHOLSON

    Bill, thx for sharing your informative and entertaining historical recounting of the “Senior Night Ride”. I was not aware of this tradition at NU. You captured it well.

  9. Laurie Crittendon Nikituk

    I remember Dad telling the story, and the cup. As I recall, he told the story as though they had really thoughtfully planned how they were going to accomplish this, when in reality, I think it was purely fun and luck and a good attitude! Thank you, Bill for researching and writing this!
    Laurie Crittendon Nikituk

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