Past Treasure of the Month – July 2007
During the month of July, the Rosenberg Library had artifacts related to the Washington Guards, the first military body established in Texas after the Civil War. These civilian men were incorporated into the state militia as Company A, First Texas Regiment. A small collection of Washington Guards memorabilia was donated to the Library by Josephine Goldman in 1925. Among these items is a ceremonial sword from 1874 as well as an assortment of ribbons and medals from events associated with the Guards.
The Washington Guards were first established as a state militia in Galveston in 1871. Recognized as an elite and highly regarded organization, the Washington Guards were superior in drill exercises and won numerous competitions. There were four separate companies in Galveston, all with distinct names and insignias. The Guard members’ blue dress uniforms, which they wore on special social occasions, were said to have been unusually colorful with attractive brass buttons.
In 1875 and 1888, the Washington Guards won three first-place blue ribbons for drills at state encampments. In 1874, a ceremonial sword was awarded to the Guards for superior drilling at the Texas State Fair. The Washington Guards’ chief rivals were the Houston Light Guards (established in 1873). Both companies were credited with upholding law and order in Texas, and each was recognized for its excellence in interstate rifle drills.
Membership into the prestigious Washington Guards was usually based on family tradition. Admission into the group stemmed from the earliest days of the Galveston Artillery Club. The Artillery Club evolved into the Washington Guards, which in turn evolved into the Sealy Rifles. Eventually, the body came to be known as the Galveston Artillery Company in the 1920s.
By the early 20th century, interest in the local military organization had waned, and the Washington Guards disbanded in 1908. In 1925, the Washington Guards Veterans Association was created for the purpose of preserving the traditions of the Guards and to prevent the organization’s name from being lost in history. Interestingly, the association hosted an exhibit of Guards’ artifacts in the main lobby of Rosenberg Library in July of that year. Eighty-two years later, the library is happy to celebrate the history of the Washington Guards once again.