Join Date: November 2, 1998
Militia Muster, Part II
We continue our tale of the militia muster.
Every nation has a memorable day - a day of songs and rejoicings. With us the fourth of July, twenty-second of February, and Christmas, are all holidays, or days of joy and pleasure. But of all the grand days in this martial old Commonwealth of ours, those set apart for militia training are (at least in the estimation of militia captains) the grandest and most exciting. If you should happen within ten miles of a mlitia muster on one of those eventful days, every step you took, and every object that met your gaze, would remind you of war, with its glorious and thrilling panoply, its noise and wild tumult. Boys, negroes, and men, on foot and on horseback, in cart, wagon, and carriage, single, double, and treble, are crowding from every direction and hurrying with anxious speed toward the scene where mimic battles are to be fought and won. Old shotguns, rustly rifles, long-untried fowling-pieces, cornstalks, and hickory sticks are in great demand, while the Sunday fineries, drawn from their secret hiding-places, adorn the martial forms of their proud-treading owners. Cider-wagons, ginger-cakes, apples, whiskey, and all the other et ceteras of the camp, are rushing pellmell into the place of rendezvous. Arriving at the parade field, your ears are greeted with every imaginable noise - the squealing of pigs, neighing of chargers, barking of dogs, braying of asses, laughing of happy negroes, and hoarse commands of military chieftains being mingled together in the most harmonious concord of discord. Jingling spurs, rusty sabers, black cockades, and the fierce little red plume, everywhere meet your wandering eye and fill up the interstices of this moving, animated scene.
Such an exhibition of warlike enthusiasm might have been seen, if you had only been present, dear reader, at Pleasant Grove, on the morning after the night described in our last chapter. Noise and wild confusion were the order of the day. The thrilling fife and a cracked drum were pealing forth their stirring notes, and calling loudly upon the brave sons of old Kentucky to shoulder their arms and sustain the glory of their ancestors. Generals, colonels, majors, captains (we have no lack of titled gentry in Kentucky), and privates were mingled together in a confusd mass, talking, laughing, shouting, swearing, drinking, and eveyr now and then taking a pleasant knock-down, merely to vary the bill of entertainment, keep up the excitement, and cultivate a proper military ardour. Candidates were there, too (like all other aspirants for office), shaking hands, treating, speaking, and making known to the warlike assembly the past, present, and future (they were no prophets, merely reasoning from cause to effect) glory and renown of Kentucky and her gallant sons. Horse-racing, cock-fighting, rifle-shooting, wrestling, and boxing, upon this occaison, all had their votaries, and all were busily engaged in their respective amusements. Bable, in her planiest day, was a mere "tempest in a teapot" compared with a militia muster in the backwoods of Kentucky. The Carnival at Rome or the ancient Saturnalia of the Romans, in the very height of their revelling, would be tame and insipid when placed in juxtaposition with such an occasion. We know of nothing that can be compared, for noise and wild confusion, with a regiment of boisterous, merrry, reckless militia, along with their chivalrous leaders, adorned with flowing red sahs, bullet-button coats, tin-foil epaulets, and stiff, ragged, red plumes, just preceding or succeeding "the training."
But suddenly a great change comes over the moving, tossing mass gathered on the battlefield at Pleasant Grove. Some order (a devilish little, by-the-by, if it can be called order at all) takes the place of the late disorder, and a comparative calm - in a figurative sense - settles down upon this raging storm. The commanding officer of the day, strippling his saddle of its red girth, belts on his trusty, trenchant blade, dons his swallow-tailed blue, adorned with bullet-buttons and red tape, borrows the best charger he can find, scrambles on his back with the assistance of a stump or a kind hand, and, when once safely moored, waves his plumed beaver around his warlike head and shouts his order to parade. Now comes a busy, stirring, wild and moving panorama. Men, before ignoble and unknown from the common herd, draw from their bosoms, pockets, and hats the red plume and sash (that is if they are so lucky to have any), and soon become leaders and chieftains of the day. A fierce struggle now commences who shall get their companies first formed into a line, or who shall first gain a preemption right to the shade of a tree, under which to marshal and form. Although each company has, or rather has had at some former time, a captain and inferior officers (for they often assemble on parade-ground with out any), in reality every man in the corps, being fully competent to command, takes the responsibility of giving orders.
In our next installment, we'll learn more about how the companies form up and drilled.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!