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Old November 8, 2006, 08:52 PM   #173
4V50 Gary
Join Date: November 2, 1998
Location: Colorado
Posts: 20,824
Fall in for Militia Muster!

Get your guns, powder horns, scalp'n knives and tomahawks out boys! We're going to conduct a militia muster. It's for the safety of hearth & home, our loved ones, our community and for our nation.

...from the year 1825 until the law obliging all men to drill was abolished, the musters were more or less a farce. The laws regulating the militia of the Commonwealth were amended and changed so often that, as a consequence, they became more complicated than the maneuvers were unmilitary. Humphrey Marshall, in 1824 ("History of Kentucky, Vol. 2, page 14), wrote: "It is in vain to suggest tha tneither officer nor soldier will ever trouble himself to know the law, when it may, and probably will, be changed before he has an opportunity of reducing his knowledge to practice." Musters became gatherings in which everybody participated, regardless of age or social position. The men who attended were not so much prompted by a desire to drill, and thus live up to that article of the Constitution, as they were to take advantage of the chance to mingle with the crowd of men, women, and children, renew old friendships, make new ones, hear the news, see the races, trade horses, partake of a good dinner, and incidentally have a good time at "the big to-do."
Sounds like our modern rendezvous, don't they? Read on.

The military features of these affairs grew insignificant as compared with those of their social, political, and business nature. The ordinary picnic basket was too small for these gatherings. Trunks and boxes packed with fired chicken, boiled ham, roasted pork, pies and other edibles, with coffee-pots and whiskey-jugs, were brought to the place of rendezvous in wagons, and everybody was welcome to their contents. Gunsmiths were in abundance. Since the greater number of people came in wagons or on horseback, there was neccesarily a large aggregation of horses, from colts and two-year-olds down to worn-out plow-horses, and from carefully groomed quarter-nags to neglected horses whose tails and manes were filled with burrs. This led to the appearance of blacksmiths, who repaired wagons and shod horses. It also resulted in much "horse swapping," which in turn gave occasion for betting and horse-racing. The combination led to drinking, and drinking frequently brought on "fist and skull fights" and other disturbances.

In those days, as in the earlier days, every man furnished his own gun - muzzle-loaders of any sort, flintlock rifles, muskets, shotguns, or horse-pistols. Those who had no firearms to bring, or who had forgotten them, would enter the drills with a trimmed sapling or a cornstalk - consequently the name, the Cornstalk Militia.

When the captain was ready to order his company into ranks he usually mounted a convenient stump, rail fence, or empty barrel and called out: "Oh, yes! Oh, yes! Oh, yes! All you who belong to Captain So-and-So's company (giving his name) fall into ranks and parade!" The "Oh, yes," it might be well to add, is derived from the old French "oyez" - "hear ye." Hence the Court of Oyer and Terminer - to hear and to finish. If the captain's first order failed to move his men he would again appeal to them - "Everybody in my company, off the fence there and fall into line! Now come on, men, come on, everybody, and let's get started with our revolutions!" After all, or nearly all, of his company had responded to his call, he ordered ""Tention, the whole!" after which most men gave him more or less attention. Right or left dress was usually lengthened into the command to "Look to the left and dress!" or right, as the case might be. "Stop!" or "Hold!" was the command for halt. It is also said that although keeping step was a matter indifference or beyond the control of some of the privates, they were nevertheless permitted to remain in ranks and follow as best they could or would through the drills.

Company, battalion, and regimental drills were conducted on the Russell Old Field from May to October, making a total of at least six different musters on that tract every year. It became a great gathering place, especially when a Big Muster (a battalion or regimental drill) was scheduled. Horse-races on such occaisons were then by far the most prominent feature on the program, and they soon became more frauds than the drills were farces...
There's a lot more to this. In our next installment, you'll read more about what happened during a militia muster. Don't miss out on our next exciting installment of Rambling Anecdotes. Brought to you by Rich Lucibella and the staff of TFL.
Vigilantibus et non dormientibus jura subveniunt. Molon Labe!
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