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Friday, October 5, 2012

Muster Day, Training Day — Huzzah!






To Arms!

Between 1620 and 1790 Muster Days served as a significant social event for colonists. With holidays few, especially in New England, these days would present an opportunity for men to take a day off from work. Several times per year (April, May, September, & October), men ages 16 to 60 would assemble on the town green for roll call, to show their guns for inspection, and participate in military training drills. The frequency of the training days varied among the colonies and also according to circumstances of impending threat The selectmen of the town would take account of stock in powder and ball to see if the town was ready to defend its people and its property. Each town company had its Captain, Lietuenants, and Corporals elected by their peers; each Battalion had a Major; and each Regiment, a Colonel. Some of the men were selected from among the general ranks to be ready for rapid deployment - called Minutemen. During times of peace the drills would be completed in the morning with the afternoon reserved for friendly competition. This was usually a rowdy affair with much drinking.

In my new release, Colonial Courtships, there was great enthusiasm for an annual event - the Fall Muster. This is when militia men of all the townships in the county would gather at the county seat for the large gathering of all. This annual muster accomplished actual enrollment of members. If a muster was missed, a fine of $1 was required to be paid by the absent party. Akin to a town fair, the annual muster welcomed the entire community, and then men would be better behaved while their families where watching.  


The exercises would begin about 8:00 a.m. and continue until about 12:00 p.m. when the noon meal would be served by the women. "Training Day Cake", also called "Muster Day Gingerbread", was served, with plenty of rum available for 3 cents per glass. Militia commanders often attempted to win their men's cooperation by providing them with the alcohol. In the afternoon companies paraded before the many spectators, and there was a great deal of rivalry between the companies as to who could march, shoot and make the best appearance. Contests such as drills and maneuvers, wrestling matches, and more between the champions of each company were common activities. Older men, women, and children would urge their favorites on. The Muster Field was filled with eating booths, tent shows, and auction carts with peddlers crying their wares.The day would end about sunset with a fine salute of guns into the air.

Under the militia act of 1792, in effect for more than a century, every able-bodied citizen between the ages of eighteen and forty-five was a member of the militia. Patriotic enthusiasm from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 carried over into musters, although by around 1830 many resented the required participation. By 1855 Muster Days were no long necessary.

For more information on Muster Day you might like to read Everday Life in Early America by David F. Hawke.



5 comments:

  1. Love hearing about interesting tidbits of American history. Thanks for sharing this! :)

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  2. Clark mustered out at Colonial Williamsburg a couple of springs ago. He was so cute because the next time we went out he said to me--don't make me muster again mom because he said if we didn't show up back there the next day after muster then we'd be thrown in jail. I explained to him that of course he wouldn't be. Did you get to see them muster at CW when you were here? I'd have my heart in my throat if my boy really did have to muster into the militia!

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  3. Thanks for stopping by Karen, so many interesting things to learn I don't think I'll ever have my fill.

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  4. Oh, I would too, Carrie! That's so cute about Clark. Sounds like something my Brandon would have said. Imagine having all the generations of men in your family mustering together...not sure I'd like that much. Actually, I took the second photo at CW, but it wasn't really a muster, but I think it was just a little practice as there were only about 6 of them.

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  5. Very nice, Carla. I thought I recognized the second picture.

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