Publisher of Quality Genealogy Materials
Volume 8, Number 6 Mountain Press, P.O. Box 400, Signal Mountain, Tennessee 37377, 1-423-886-6369 March 23, 2016
Publisher's Notes In this article, we discuss Militia vs Military. It is also such a treat to find Militia records since they can help you pinpoint where your ancestors lived and find out more about their lives. Many years ago, I wrote an article that focused just on Militia Records if you are interested.
As always, we enjoy hearing your comments after each article!
James L. Douthat
Militia vs Military One of the most difficult concepts to get across to people in workshops is the difference between the military and militia records. The military is a permanent group with records and men prepared for conflict. These are the professional soldiers so to speak. The Militia, however, is a whole different ball game as these are the citizen soldiers. The records of these outfits are few and very scattered. Seldom in official records do you find records of militia units and activities.
To look back on the history of our nation, we find that in the very early age, there were very few men in the military. Early on the United States could not afford an army as such, and therefore, they relied on the citizen soldier to do most of the fighting up until the time of the Civil War in 1861. The American Revolution, the War of 1812, and even the War with Mexico were fought with volunteers for the most part.
On the frontier, the protection of the citizens was undertaken by the militia. In each county or section of the state, the county courts appointed the top brass for that county and named each Captain who had charge of a particular area of the county. As time went on and the counties became more and more populated, the county would be divided again and again to take care of their protection.
Within each Captain’s area of responsibility, the care and keeping of the militia unit under him was his responsibility. He issued the muster calls, he maintained the roll of each unit and when the call came out to raise a unit, he was responsible for calling the men together and ordering the unit into muster. In that unit, every man sixteen years old up to about forty-five was expected to be a volunteer. Each man was to maintain his arms, his horse if he had one, and have clothing and supplies ready at any time the call came to join a muster. In rare occasions, the unit might supply arms if the men did not have sufficient arms for the call. Rarely did they provide a horse and supplies. Even in the Mexican War, the men had to pay their passage down to Mexico to fight and then pay their passage back home when the war was over.
Usually, the Governor of the state issued a call for so many troops in a particular situation. This call was then passed down to the officials of the county who in turn passed the orders down to the Captains under that county. Not all units were called up at any one time due to the time restraints under which the call was rendered. The Governor would specify the amount of time for each unit from three to six months. In one case, this was critical.
In the War of 1812, the Governor of Tennessee issued a call for volunteers to go with General Jackson to New Orleans on a six month call. At the end of three months a number of the volunteers decided that their time was up, and they came home. After the war General Jackson, then President Jackson, issued orders to have these two units court martialed. In the trial, every man in these units declared that their time was up, and the government argues that they were signed up for six months and not three. These two units were court martialed and disgraced by having their sword broken over their heads and half of their hair shaved. Note at this time, many Tennesseans show up in Texas. In the above trial, there were a number of the deserters shot, but these were the ones that did not go home empty handed. They took a wagon train of supplies with them.
Back to the home guard. It was not all fighting for the volunteers. Six times each year the Captain would issue a muster call and the troops would gather at their muster grounds, usually somewhere near the Captain’s home. Here the soldiers were instructed in the affairs of war with drills and parade formations. At many of these musters, the families would travel with their men folk and this turned into the county fair in later years. The time spent at the muster ground would draw preachers to hold revivals, a swap meet with cows, dogs, guns, etc. being traded, sold, and swapped. Young people came to meet their intended, children played games, wives swapped recipes and old timers swapped “lies” and tales of past glories. It was a grand time for all.
As necessary as the muster calls were, they served the most important feat of protection of the frontiers with every man doing his part in that effort. Even those that could not or would not participate in the fighting, they would supply the guns, horses, and equipment necessary for all to take part. Protection was everyone’s responsibility. Each time a man served in a muster call, he was paid a small fee. This amounted to about $0.75 per day. Not much by our standards, but at the time, this was hard cash which was rare in the colonies. For many young men, this was the best way to make cash money for other necessities.
The records of these activities are primarily lost except in rare cases when the Captain kept his records and these are now brought to light. In many cases, the records are in private hands and not in public records. Luckily, the 1814 Court Martial of Tennessee Militiamen was included in the public records and lists over 7,000 names.
If you are fortunate enough to find some information on your ancestor and their units, always check on the Captain. He is the key to the location within the county where your ancestor might have lived at the time. Know your Captain and you can learn more about your ancestor.
Alabama Soldiers in the Cherokee War
Militia from Alabama called up to guard the Cherokees as they traveled westward.
North Carolina Soldiers in the Cherokee War
Militia from North Carolina called up to guard the Cherokees as they traveled westward.
Georgia Soldiers in the Cherokee War
Over 3,000 Militia from Georgia called to round up the Cherokees before they traveled westward.
Tennessee Militiamen - Territory South of the River Ohio
Militia called from Tennessee and Kentucky to serve from 1790-1796
Volunteer Soldiers in the Cherokee Wars
The bulk of the soldiers are listed in the Cherokee wars, but others are found in the Black Hawk War, Sabine War in Texas, the Seminole War in Florida. The National Archives listing from which this taken lumped all of the 11,200 soldiers together into one listing.
Roane County, TN - Militia Fines Records 1806-1839
The militia was in operation during this crucial time period for protection of the citizens. The “fines” occurred when a person missed one or more of the muster calls of his unit.
Revolutionary War Pensions and Applications - Roane County, TN
there are 24 Revolutionary War applications as well as one application for each of the following conflicts: Indian War, War of 1812 and Mexican War. In each application, the volunteer has to prove his service with records.
1814 Court Martial of Tennessee Militiamen
listing of over 7,000 Volunteers from Tennessee who were brought up on charges following the War of 1812 for treason and desertion.
1837 Tennessee Volunteers
Roster of Tennessee militia units called up for the Seminole Wars but were not pressed into service from Jackson, Overton, Anderson, Bedford, Warren, Rutherford, Overton, Sumner and Franklin Counties.
North Carolina Militia Returns 1754-1755, 1758 and 1767
There are hundreds of names listed here with their units and sometimes a little about where they were assigned in conflict.
The Militia of Washington County, VA 1777-1835
This collection of materials is found in the Auditors group of papers and were "fines" list sent in from time to time by each local County Sheriff. These fines were collected when a man did not report for the muster call of the Militia Units across the state.
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