56th Virginia Militia — 1814-1816
Thos. Gregg (Capt. In the 56th Reg’t) to the Governor – May 18, 1814, Loudoun County, Virginia.
It is with extreme reluctance I take upon myself to trouble you, but I consider it a duty incumbent on me as an officer and a citizen to address you on a subject in which hundreds and perhaps thousands, of the citizens of Virginia are deeply interested. I regret to see the great sacrifice of property that is about to be made; the hones and good citizens of this Commonwealth seized on and dragged to prison like criminals, who look up to you as a father and defender of their legal rights, and hope for that protection they have failed to receive from a Court Martial.
The Geneal Orders from the Adjutant-General’s office, Richmond, March 24th, 1813, called out a certain portion of Militia detailed for Service under the General Orders of April 19th, 1812, ordering the said Militia to march to Richmond, the place established as the general rendezvous. Many failed to comply with this call; some being of that respectable denomination of people called quakers; others, for various reasons appeared willing to subject themselves to the penalties of the law, which amounted to a fine not exceeding twelve months’ pay.
A second requisition was made on this county, I believe, some time in July last. The men that were held in requisition, and failed to go to Richmond under the General Orders of the 24th of March, 1813, though the time they were called for had not expired, were again ordered under a second call from the United States to march to Alexandria. They likewise failed to comply with this call. At a special Court Martial, of which I was a member, convened at Leesburg sometime since for the purpose of assessing the lines on those of the 56th and 57th Reg’ts of Virginia Militia that failed to march to Richmond and Alexandria, according to the orders of the President of the United States. Those same men were fined for not marching to Richmond, ninety-six dollars, and not marching to Alexandria, ninety-six dollars, which fines amounted to the enormous sun of one hundred and ninety-two dollars for failing to perform military duty within the course of six months. And they are sentenced to be imprisoned one calendar month for every five Dollars they fail to pay of the said fines, though many of them, to my certain knowledge, are not worth half that sum.
I would call attention of your Excellency to the 26th section of the Militia Law of Virginia, passed January the 28th, 1804, which says a non-commissioned officer or private failed to report to the place of rendezvous, &c., shall forfeit a sum not exceeding Eighty dollars, to be adjudged and determined by their respective Bat’n Com’ts of enquiry, and moreover shall be enrolled in the class destined to perform the next tour of duty. No Bat’n Court of enquiry was held in this County last summer between the time the militia were called to Richmond and Alexandria. Of course they were not adjudged and enrolled by that Court; neither do I think that the Court had any jurisdiction over those called into service and held in requisition under the authority and by the laws of the United States, passed February 28th, 1795, under which those men were tried and fined ninety-six Dollars for each offence, although this law does not say they shall be enrolled in the class destined to perform the next tour of duty.
The 4th Section says no officer or private of the militia shall be compelled to serve more than in due rotation with every other able-bodied man of the same rank in the Bat’n to which he belongs; yet those same men have been called upon (under the laws referred to, or the laws existing in 1813), to serve two tours within the same six months under two calls from the United States, which was impossible to perform (although not one-eighth of the militia of the 56th and 57th Reg’ts were called out the first, and not so many the second call.) If these grievances are allowed to exist, the property of many Individuals will be sacrificed and the jails filled with the unfortunate people. [The Quakers]. If these grievances should legally come under your notice, I hope you will not fail to relieve the sufferers as speedily as you conveniently can, who are looking up to you with anxiety and hope. I should be glad to hear from you on the subject.