Antebellum Grayson County, Virginia Militia
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April 1, 2013
The GCVHF office will be opened for researchers on the second Saturday of the month. We're offering the Saturday hours primarily for people who can't get to the office during the work week.
Second Saturday hours will begin April 13th and go to October 12th. We'll be open from 10 AM to 4 PM. See our calendar at www.graysonheritage.org/events for our full office schedule.
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Antebellum Grayson County, Virginia Militia
The Militia served a three fold function in the Upper New River Valley, the first and most obvious was to prepare the males of the valley for any military emergency. The second function was a good excuse for socialization in a time and place were social contacts were extremely limited. The ladies of the region would prepare pies and other goodies, and a general picnic lunch to the mustering grounds. In Grayson County the mustering grounds were centered in each militia captain's district, which varied with the shifting population. In Ashe County there were three drill fields, roughly at current day Sparta, Boone and Jefferson, or the three county seats of government. The third and perhaps most practical function of the militia was to function as a constabulary for the region in which it operated. The rank of constable, discussed further along, was primarily responsible for law enforcement within the bounds of a particular militia zone. In March 1807 in Grayson County this was formalized and a constable was appointed for each militia captain's company.
The Militia of the Upper New River Valley were poorly equipped, poorly trained and were considered raw recruits when mustered into the Confederate Army in 1861 and 1862.1 The Second Amendment to the United States Constitution was taken very literally in the Upper New River Valley, as well as in the Southern States generally. "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."2
The State owned very few of the weapons in the ante-bellum days, for example, a notation on a 1784 Montgomery County, Virginia muster roll indicated that the militia possessed only 16 guns for 61 militiamen.3 This same company noted it had 6 pounds of power and 20 pounds of lead. This amount was hardly sufficient for any military emergency or rebellion, therefore, it is logical to assume that individuals provided their own weapons and supplies at least in the days immediately following Independence.
The strength of the militia was a prime concern in the early days of the republic. On June 2, 1794 the Grayson County militia was composed of 678 free white men and boys above the age of 16. The unit, the 78th Regiment, was assigned to the 17th Brigade and 3rd Militia Division. The Regiment was composed of 10 companies, a full regiment, and included 2 companies of riflemen or sharpshooters. This designation implies that the Grayson boys were expert shots and honored with this designation. No other regiment in the commonwealth had two companies of riflemen. The 17th Brigade was then composed of Lee, Washington, Montgomery, Wythe and Grayson Counties.4
The Calendar of State Papers for Virginia notes that the Adjutant General had implemented the law of the General Assembly on March 30, 1804. This law reorganized the militia of the commonwealth and raised companies of artillery, cavalry, infantry and riflemen. Grayson County was one of the counties authorized to raise a cavalry company, under the command of Thomas Smith at the time. The companies of Grenadiers, Light Infantry and Riflemen from Grayson County remained and the county's designation of the 78th Regiment was not changed, however the county's brigade assignment changed and now was assigned to the 17th Militia Brigade, with Washington and Lee Counties.5
Militia muster drills were primarily consisted of drill and ceremony, and very little emphasis was placed on military theory or practice for actual combat. This is not the fault of the Upper New River mind-set, but was instead a pervasive school of thought through out all late 18th - early 19th century military communities. It is difficult, however, to understand the willingness of the men of the Valley to suffer this type of training. These same men in the 1780's and 1790's militia, had fought a largely successful guerilla war against the British, and now the same men were trained in British tactics.
Militia musters were also mandatory and failure to attend drills was a "court- martial" offense. These court martials invariably resulted in a fine of 75 cents per offense. Any excuse for missing drill was unacceptable, there were no doctor's excuses during this period. A person could be excused from further service by order of the county court, obvious physical infirmities or reaching the age of 50.6 Prior to 1819 musters were held monthly, however, in that year, the Virginia General Assembly only required musters twice per year and delinquency was virtually eliminated.
Rank in the militia follows similar patterns as are currently found. At the top the governor appointed, on the recommendation of the county court, a regimental commander in the rank of lieutenant-colonel or colonel, depending on the size of the militia regiment, which depended on the white male population of the county. The Virginia Militia had a rank associated with it not currently found in military structures, that of constable, as this was the lowest of the commissions available. By 1807 the rank of Ensign was gradually replaced by that of second lieutenant, while lieutenant was redesignated 1st lieutenant. Each county in North Carolina and Virginia generally had its own regimental structure. Grayson County's militia regiment was designated the 78th regiment. The 78th regiment was initially divided into two battalions of four companies each, commanded by a major. The County court reshuffled the militia officers on May 18, 1812.7 The 1st Battalion was in roughly the territory which became Carroll County in 1842. In 1862, after many of the militia men had already joined the Confederate Army, the Grayson County Militia still had 338 men enrolled, many of whom were coerced into joining Company C or G of the 63rd Virginia Infantry.8
On March 19, 1819 the Virginia General Assembly passed the following law regulating the militia:
Whereas a well regulated Militia constitutes the great defense of a free people, and it is expedient to carry into effect the laws of the Congress of the United States, providing for the national defense by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the Untied Sates: 1. Be it therefore enacted that the counties of Washington, Russell, Lee, Scott, Grayson and Tazewell shall compose one Brigade... 2. The several counties and corporations within this common- wealth, shall constitute the battalion, portion of Battalion, Regiment, or portions of Regiment, as now established: Provided that it shall be lawful for the executive to divide or alter the regimental districts in the several counties, as circumstances may require, etc. 3. And every Battalion shall, if convenient, be formed into five companies, each company to consist of not less than sixty men, including non-commissioned officers, musicians and privates, nor more than one hundred and eight, officers, included. 4. There shall be a (sic) Adjutant General for the Militia of the state, a Major General to each Division, and a Brigadier General to each Brigade, to be appointed by the joint ballot of both houses of the General Assembly, who shall reside within the limits of their respective commands; and there shall be a Colonel, Lieutenant Colonel, and Major of each Regiment, and a Captain, Lieutenant and Ensign to each Company, who shall be appointed and commissioned agreeable to the constitution and commissioned agreeable to the constitution and laws of the Commonwealth. 44. There shall be a muster of each troop of Cavalry and company of Artillery in the months of April and October of every year, at such places as a majority of the members constituting the said troop or company, shall, from time to time, fix upon; and it shall be the duty of the commanding officer of any such troop or company, and he is hereby required, at each and every muster, to call his roll, examine every person belonging thereto, and note down all delinquencies occurring therein, and make return thereof, to the Commanding Officer of the Battalion. 45. There shall be a muster in each company of Militia, including the light companies, in the months of April and October in every year... And there shall be a muster of each Battalion in the month of October or November in every year. 48. It shall be the duty of every Commanding Officer of a Regiment, Battalion or Company, at their respective musters, to keep their respective corps under arms for a period of at least two hours, and to cause them to be trained and exercised, agreeably to the mode of discipline prescribed by congress.9
The Virginia system in the late ante-bellum period was similar and county militia regiments were combined under the overall command of a senior colonel or brigadier general. Grayson County was included in the 25th Brigade, with Wythe, Smyth and Carroll Counties, and the Town of Wytheville.10
Service as a militia officer was considered a high honor. Titles obtained while in militia service were used long after the affiliation ceased. Some of these titles may have been honorary, while others may have been fictions used for personal aggrandizement and to gain social stature in a community. The latter was particularly true when a person traveled from one community to another. The Militia was abolished after Civil War, as a possible source of further rebellion. In modern society it has been replace by the Army National Guard and Army Reserve, which serve similar functions as the ante-bellum militia.
The following chart lists the known Militia Commissions held by men in the Upper New River Valley.
GRAYSON COUNTY - MILITIA OFFICERS 1793 - 181211
|NAME||RANK/UNIT12||Term of Service 13|
|Adkins, James||Ensign||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Anderson, James||Captain||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Anderson, James||Captain, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793-Aug. 25, 1793|
|Anderson, Peter, Jr.||Constable, 2nd Battn.||Jan. 4, 1810|
|Anderson, Thomas||Lieutenant||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Anderson, Thomas||Ensign||Aug. 1806|
|Baker, Joseph||Constable, Hash's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Baldwin, _______||Captain||Mentioned Oct. 1806|
|Baldwin, Thomas||Captain||Oct. 1807|
|Ballard, Amos||Captain, Cavalry Co.||Aug. 1806-Mar.24, 1807|
|Blakly, Aquilla||Constable, Cornelius' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Bobbitt, Caleb||Lieutenant, 1st Co., 1st Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Bourn, Stephen||Captain||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Bourn, Stephen||Lieutenant||Mar. 28, 1809-Promoted|
|Bourn, Stephen||2nd Lieutenant, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Boyd, William, Jr.||Constable||Feb. 25, 1812|
|Burton, John||Constable, 2nd Battalion||May 21, 1793|
|Byrd, John||Ensign||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Chaffin, William||Ensign, Rifle Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-May 27, 1794|
|Cloud, Jeremiah14||Captain||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Cock, John||Ensign||Oct. 1806|
|Cock, John||Constable||June 28, 1809|
|Cole, James15||Lieutenant||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Cooley, Benjamin||Captain, Cavalry Co.||Oct. 1806|
|Coplin, Charles||Captain, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Aug. 25, 1793|
|Cornelius, George||Captain,||Mar. 24, 1807-Mar. 27,1810|
|Cornett, David||Major, 2nd Battalion||Oct. 15, 1793|
|Cornett, James||Constable, 2nd Battalion||Oct. 26, 1809|
|Cox, Alexander||Ensign||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Cox, Andrew16||Lieutenant||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Cox, David||Lieutenant||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Cox, John||Lieutenant, 1st Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793-Mar. 25, 1794|
|Cox, John||Constable, 2nd Battalion||May 21, 1793|
|Cox, Joshua||Constable, Fields' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Curren, George||Captain||Oct. 1806-Promoted|
|Currin, George||Major, 1st Battn.||Oct. 1809|
|Currin, Hugh||Captain||Oct. 1806|
|Dalton, John||Lieutenant||Oct. 1806|
|Dalton, John||Constable, Mayberry's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Dalton, John||Lieutenant, Baldwin's Co.||Aug. 1807-Oct. 25, 1809|
|Dalton, Timothy||Lieutenant, Edward's Co., 1st Battn.||Oct.26, 1811|
|Dickenson, Martin||Lieutenant Colonel||Mar. 27, 1810|
|Drope, William||Captain, Rifle Company, 1st Battn.||Mar. 25, 1794|
|East, William||Ensign||Sep. 21, 1811|
|Edwards, Henry||Constable, Cornelius' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Edwards, Samuel||Captain||Mar. 27, 1810|
|Eller, George||Ensign||Mar. 25, 1794|
|English, Robert||Ensign, 1st Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|English, Robert||Constable, 1st Co., 2nd Battn.||Dec. 17, 1793|
|Farmer, David||Constable, 2nd Co., 2nd Battn.||Dec. 17, 1793|
|Farmer, Elijah||Constable, 2nd Battalion||Oct. 26, 1809|
|Fielder, Enos||Constable, Jones' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Fielder, John||Ensign, 2nd Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Fields, William||Captain||Mar. 28, 1809-Oct. 26, 1811|
|Freeman, Robert||Ensign, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 26, 1794|
|Frost, John||Ensign, 2nd Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Gaines, Phillip||Captain, 1st Co., ___, Battn.||Mar. 25, 1794-Promoted|
|Gaines, Phillip||Major, 2nd Battn.||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Gallimore, James||Constable, Mayberry's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Goest, Stephen||Captain||Mar. 25, 1794|
|Green, Isaac||Captain||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Greer, Aquilla||Captain||Aug. 1806|
|Greer, Shadrack||Lieutenant, 3rd Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793-Mar. 25, 1794|
|Hale, Francis||Lieutenant, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Aug. 1806-Oct. 26, 1811|
|Hale, Francis||Ensign, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Promoted|
|Hale, John||Constable, 2nd Battalion||May 21, 1793|
|Hale, Lewis||Lieutenant||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Hale, Richard||Lieutenant, 2nd Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Hale, Stephen||Ensign, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Oct. 1806|
|Hale, Stephen||Ensign, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Aug. 1806|
|Hash, John||Captain||Aug. 1806-Mar. 28, 1809|
|Hays, Jacob||Captain, __ Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 1806-Oct. 26, 1811|
|Hays, Thomas||Ensign||Removed Oct. 1806|
|Herrick, Avery||Captain, Rifle Company, 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Mar. 25, 1794|
|Howell, George||Captain, 3rd Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Johnson, Jabez||Lieutenant, Cloud's Co.||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Jones, Abner||Major, 2nd Battalion||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Jones, Abner||Captain, 2nd Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Jones, Churchwell||Lieutenant||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Jones, Churchwell||Ensign||Mar. 28, 1809-Promoted|
|Jones, Isaiah||Lieutenant||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Jones, Minitree||Major, 1st Battalion||May 21, 1793|
|Keith, George||1st Lieutenant, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Kenney, William||2nd Lieutenant, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 1806.-Mar.24, 1807|
|Leonard, Obediah, Jr.||Cornet, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Levesy, George||Ensign, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Levesy, James||Constable, 2nd Battn.||Dec. 27, 1808|
|Levesy, Peter||Ensign||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Lindsey, Henry||Ensign, Baldwin's Co.||Aug. 1807-Mar. 27, 1810|
|Lundy, Daniel17||2nd Lt., Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Mar.24, 1807-Mar. 10,1810|
|Martin, George||Lieutenant, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Aug. 25, 1793|
|Martin, George||Lieutenant, 4th Co., 1st Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Mayberry, Charles||Captain||Men. Mar. 24, 1807-Oct.1807|
|McBride, Daniel||Ensign||Sep. 24, 1811|
|McClain, William||Lieutenant, Edward's Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 29, 1810-Oct.26,1811|
|McClain, William||Constable, 1st Battn.||Aug. 1807|
|McClure, John||Ensign, 1st Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|McCoy, John||Captain, 2nd Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|McKenzie, Greenberry||Captain, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Oct. 1806|
|McKenzie, Greenberry||Captain, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|McKenzie, Greenberry||Lieutenant, 2nd Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Promoted|
|Meredith, Isaac||Constable, 1st Co., 1st Battn.||Dec. 17, 1793|
|Mitchell, William||Ensign,||Mar. 27, 1810|
|Moseman, Archibald18||Constable, Currin's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Noblett, Abraham||Ensign, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||Dec. 17, 1793-Promoted|
|Noblett, Abraham||Lieutenant, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 26, 1794-Promoted|
|Noblett, Abraham||Captain, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Noblett, Isaac||Ensign||Oct. 1806|
|O'Neal, John||Ensign, Cloud's Co.||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Osborn, Enoch, Jr.||Captain||Mar 28, 1809|
|Osborn, Zachariah||Constable, Fields' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Osborne, Enoch, Jr.||Ensign, 3rd Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Parker, Arthur||Ensign||Aug. 1807|
|Parker, Arthur||Lieutenant||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Parsons, Solomon||Constable, Hash's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Patton, Thomas||Lieutenant, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Aug. 26, 1794|
|Peace, Silas||Ensign||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Perkins, Timothy||Ensign||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Phipps, Joseph||Lieutenant||Mar. 28, 1809-Aug. 29, 1810|
|Pickerell, John||Captain, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Aug.26, 1794|
|Poole, John||Ensign, 4th Co., 1st Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Pope, Nathaniel||Captain, 1st Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Mar. 25, 1794|
|Porter, Adam||Ensign, 4th Co., 1st Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Reeves, George||Captain||Mentioned Mar. 24, 1807|
|Reeves, George, Jr.||Constable, Reeves' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Reeves, Jesse||Lieutenant, 1st Co., 2nd Battn.||Mar. 25, 1794|
|Rider, Bennet||Ensign, __ Co., 1st Battn.||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Roark, Charles||Lieutenant, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Roark, Timothy, Jr.||Ensign, Stone's Co., 2nd Battn.||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Roark, Timothy, Jr.||Constable||Aug. 25, 1810|
|Robertson, John||Captain, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 26, 1794|
|Robinson, John||Major, 2nd Battalion||Oct.1806|
|Robinson, Thomas||Ensign, __ Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 1806-Oct. 26,1811|
|Scott, James||Ensign||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Smith, George||Lieutenant||Mar. 27, 1810|
|Smith, George||Lieutenant||Oct. 1806|
|Smith, George||Lieutenant||Oct. 25, 1809|
|Snider, Henry||Ensign||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Snyder, John||2nd Lt., Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Mar. 10, 1810|
|South, Joseph||Constable, Hay's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Spencer, John19||Lieutenant||Aug. 1806-Mar. 28, 1809|
|Stamper, William||Constable, Hash's Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Stone, John||Major, 2nd Battalion||May 21, 1793-Oct.15, 1793|
|Stone, Stephen||Ensign, 2nd Co., 2nd Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Stone, Stephen||Captain||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Stone, Stephen||Constable, 2nd Co., 2nd Battn.||Dec. 17, 1793|
|Stone, William||Constable, Jones' Co.||Mar. 24, 1807|
|Swift, Elisha20||Lieutenant||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Swift, Flower||Lieutenant Colonel, Regiment||May 21, 1793-Mar. 27, 1810|
|Swift, Thomas||Captain, Cavalry Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 1806|
|Terrell, William||Ensign||Mar. 28, 1809|
|Thomas, Jonathan||Lieutenant, 4th Co., 1st Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Thomas, Moses||Constable, 1st Battn.||Aug. 1807|
|Thomas, Owen||Ensign||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Tremble, John||Captain||Mar. 27, 1810|
|Trimble, John||Ensign, Nuckolls' Co.||Aug. 1807|
|Trimble, John||Constable, 1st Battn.||Mar. 24, 1808|
|Vaughn, Archilous||Ensign, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Oct. 1806|
|Vaughn, David||Lieutenant, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Mar. 25, 1794|
|Vaughn, David||Captain, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Aug. 1806|
|Vaughn, Nathaniel||Ensign, 1st Co., 2nd Battn.||May 27, 1794|
|Vaughn, William||Lieutenant, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793-Promoted|
|Vaughn, William||Captain, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Aug. 1806|
|Vaughn, William||Captain, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Mar. 25, 1794-Oct.28,1794|
|Ward, Jonathan||Captain, 1st Co., 2nd Battn.||May 21, 1793-|
|Waugh, William||Captain, Rifle Co., 2nd Battn.||Oct. 28, 1794|
|Webb, James A.||Constable, 1st Battn.||Mar. 24, 1808|
|Welborne, Isaac||Lieutenant, 3rd Co., 2nd Battn.||Mar. 25, 1794|
|Welch, Andrew||Constable||Jun. 28, 1809|
|West, William||Ensign, Edward's Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 29, 1810|
|Williams, John||Ensign, 2nd Co., 1st Battn.||Apr. 23, 1794|
|Williams, William||Captain, 3rd Co., 1st Battn.||Aug. 25, 1793|
|Williams, William||Lieutenant, 1st Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793-Promoted|
|Williams, William||Ensign, Rifle Co., 1st Battn.||May 27, 1794|
|Wilson, John||Lieutenant, Rifle Co., 1st Battn.||May 21, 1793|
|Worrell, _______||Captain||Mentioned Dec. 17, 1793|
|Young, Thomas||Captain||Oct. 26, 1811|
|Young, Thomas||Lieutenant||Aug. 29, 1810-Promoted|
- Weaver, Jeffrey C. 63rd Virginia Infantry
- Second Amendment, U.S. Constitution
- Muster rolls, Newell's Company, Montgomery County, Virginia Court Records, Christiansburg, Virginia.
- Calendar of State Papers, Vol. VII, pp. 164-7.
- Calendar of State Papers, Vol. VIII, pp. 404-406.
- Hennings, Statutes at Large.
- Mintues, Grayson County Court, May 18, 1812.
- Weaver, Jeffrey C. 63rd Virginia Infantry
- Harman, John Newton, Sr.Annals of Tazewell County, Virginia from 1800 to 1922. W. C. Hill Printing Co., Richmond. pp. 29-30.
- Wallace, Lee A., Jr. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations 1861-65 pp. 273-274.
- Fields, Bettye-Lou. Grayson County: A History in Words and Pictures. pp. 61-63.
- Grayson County Court Records for the period from 1794-1806 are missing. It, therefore is not possible to track the military succession in each company.
- May 21, 1793 was the date these men were recommended by the county court. By August 25, 1793, most had received their commissions from Governor Henry Lee.
- Vacancy made when part of Patrick County was annexed to Grayson County in 1810.
- Removed on August 29, 1810.
- Moseman was accused of beating and abusing James. Lee, a laborer, by word of Lee. Disposition of this case of police brutality is unknown, but Moseman retained his position as constable.
- Removed from office.