Citizens More than Soldiers
The Kentucky Militia and Society in the Early Republic
Publication Year: 2007
Published by: University of Nebraska Press
Title Page, Copyright
The single name of an author on any published work is gravely misleading. Behind that individual stand scores of people who provide assistance and support, all of whom cannot be named but deserve thanks nonetheless. For their contributions to this work, I would like to thank the librarians and staff of the David Library of the ...
1. Rethinking the Social Role of the Militia
In Requiem for a Nun, William Faulkner introduces the fictional town of Jefferson, Mississippi, located in the equally fictitious Yoknapatawpha County. Central to his story, set in the 1830s, is the capture of a gang of ruffians: “A gang—three or four—of Natchez Trace bandits . . . [was] captured by chance by an incidental band of civilian more-or-less militia ...
2. The Hunters of Kentucky
The militia was not designed as an agent of social, economic, or political transformation, nor did citizen-soldiers necessarily see themselves in that role. Yet that was indeed the role the militia played in the early republic, and it played the role well. Nevertheless, citizen-soldiers maintained their traditional responsibility as a military force commanded by ...
3. Public Gatherings and Social Order
“The American Fair—Although the last toasted the first in our hearts.” Thus concluded the afternoon’s festivities in July 1800, just beyond the dusty roads of Lexington at Maxwell’s Spring, where town fathers, the militia, and citizens had gathered under a canopy of shade trees to mark the anniversary of the nation’s birth. The day began, reported the Lexington Kentucky Gazette, as previous ...
4. Stability and Security in a Time of Transition
In the early republic, Americans had yet to establish professional police forces that could maintain civil order or put down insurrections. Communities instead looked to sheriffs, justices of the peace, and town watchmen, but when circumstances required greater force, they issued a call for the militia. Citizen-soldiers performed a number of tasks ...
5. Proponents of Democracy and Partisanship
In the summer of 1810, Charles Curryman, a self-described “old man,” took time from the demands of the small farm he rented to write a letter to the Lexington Kentucky Gazette in nearby Lexington. Curryman’s sons had recently returned from the local militia muster, telling stories not of marching and drilling but of speeches promising “great things” ...
6. A Refuge of Manhood
The men who came of age after the American Revolution could easily have identified with Thomas Paine’s 1776 observation that the times were trying for men’s souls. Although ratification of the Constitution settled the issue of an American system of government, the country struggled to preserve its independence, adjust to the volatile market economy, ...
7. Fighters, Protectors, and Men
“We have completed a company of dragoons,” Capt. W. T. Ward of Greenburg wrote to Governor William Owsley in 1846, “numbering eighty four brave stout and chivalrous souls as brave as ever buckled on a sword or mounted a steed. . . . If ever human beings panted to face the enemy of our common country our cavalry and Capt Maxey[’s] Green river boys ...
Conclusion: Citizens More than Soldiers
The militia’s range of activities and its influence on definitions of masculinity provide evidence of the citizen-soldiers’ continued relevance and vitality in the early republic. The prevailing interpretation of the militia as either defunct or irrelevant, as manned by tipsy semi-soldiers under the command of clownish colonels, does not survive close scrutiny. The ...