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The Society of Descendants of Militia Officers

serving from 1607 to 1861

Florida Militia and the Seminole Wars

by Walter G. Green III, Ph.D., published in The Assembly Number 2015-03.

Largely complete sets of Militia muster rolls for embodied service in any war are rare.  The rolls of Florida Militia in the Second and Third Seminole Wars are such a set, and offer many opportunities for historical and genealogical research.

The first attempt to publish such a roll occurred in response to a tragedy, the destruction of a significant collection of militia muster rolls in the Great Fire of 1901.  As a result of this loss, the legislature passed Chapter 5203 of the Laws of Florida to locate, compile, and publish the surviving rolls.  Fred L. Robertson complied the available rolls for the Third Seminole War, the Civil War, and the Spanish-American War, and the Board of State Institutions published the result, Soldiers of Florida in the Seminole Indian - Civil and Spanish-American Wars, sometime after 1903.  This volume is available in paperback reprint, date unknown, publisher unknown, ISBN 9781482356250. His coverage of the Third Seminole War does not appear to be complete, although it does include General Hopkin's 1852 expedition roll that has not generally been reported.
 
One of the weaknesses of Robertson's compilation is that he was denied access to material from the Second Seminole War of 1835-1843 (and to material on the Mexican War) by the War Department.  Fortunately the Florida Department of Military Affairs was able to arrange for photostatic copies, and for the members of the Jacksonville Genealogical Society to transcribe them.  The result is a 10 volume collection of rolls indicating when units were ordered into Federal service, where they mustered in, ages, and other data depending on the vagaries of the individual mustering officer.   And there is an extensive index as a separate volume.   These were not widely distributed, but the good news is that the entire collection has been digitized by the University of Florida's George A. Smathers Libraries and is online at http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00047719/00011/1j.  The link leads you to the index - to access individual volumes click on the pull down <All Volumes> and then on <Tree View>.  Once you are in the roll, the navigation buttons are on the top of the text display, <First>, <Previous>, <Next>, and <Last>.    

Massachusetts in King Phillip's War

by Walter G. Green III, Ph.D., published in The Assembly Number 2016-01.

King Phillip's War from 1675 to 1677 was one of the bloodiest and most destructive wars between European settlers and Native Americans in American history.  On the one hand British colonists suffered a long series of defeats that resulted in the loss of a substantial part of the population of Massachusetts, the widespread destruction and abandonment of frontier towns, and disruption of agriculture and commerce.  On the other hand, the Native American tribes of Massachusetts suffered heavy losses, both in people and in leaders, that effectively devastated their civilization.

The War was fought by colonial troops raised by impressment from the ranks of the militia.  Time after time, colonial units demonstrated that a low level of training and tactical sophistication would result in catastrophic losses, especially when opposed by superior numbers skilled in the use of surprise.  It was a lesson relearned time and time again in subsequent wars against Native Americans.
 
In 1891 George M. Bodge published in Boston 100 copies of his work Soldiers in King Phillip's War Containing Lists of the Soldiers of Massachusetts Colony, Who Served in the Indian War of 1675-1677.  Bodge is a dated source, has language we would now consider inappropriate, and lacks the application of modern approaches to history.  However, his book is a core volume for anyone studying the War and the role of the Massachusetts forces in it.

Bodge tells the story of each Captain and Major from Massachusetts and of their units, one chapter for each.  The volume is essentially a series of small unit histories.  He transcribes a variety of the contemporary documents available to him, providing a detailed look at the administration of the Massachusetts forces.  In addition, he provides extensive lists of soldiers and the periods of their service for each unit.

If you remember our coverage several issues ago of the term "Garrison" in our military technology column, this is a book that brings the role of the Garrison house to life.  Bodge details the role of the Garrisons in protecting the residents of exposed towns.  And he provides a list of soldiers stationed in Garrisons and their pay. 

In 1896 Bodge published a second volume, Soldiers in King Philip's war; being a critical account of that war, with a concise history of the Indian wars of New England from 1620-1677, official lists of the soldiers of Massachusetts colony serving in Philip's war, and sketches of the principal officers, copies of ancient documents and records relating to the war, also lists of the Narragansett grantees of the United colonies, Massachusetts, Plymouth and Connecticut, which includes the complete text of the 1891 volume, along with coverage of the Pequod War, and list of some Militia units in the intervening years.  The 1891 volume can be found in paperback  by several reprinters and in chapters at Google Books at https://books.google.com/books/about/Soldiers_in_King_Philip_s_War.html?id=BtGm3zlgdNoC.  The 1896 volume can be found at https://archive.org/details/soldiersinkingph00inbodg.

New Jersey in the Revolutionary War

by Walter G. Green III, Ph.D., published in The Assembly Number 2015-05.

There are a number of online databases of Revolutionary War soldiers.  One of the easiest to use, and one of the most valuable, is the database maintained by the New Jersey State Library at http://www.njstatelib.org/research_library/new_jersey_resources/digital_collection/revolutionary_war_officers_and_men/.

It is a transcription and conversion of the New Jersey Adjutant-General's Office's Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War, published in 1872, under the guidance of Adjutant General William S. Stryker.   When you click on the hyperlink below the text explanation, the site leads you to a page of searchable publications.  If you want to browse through the entire volume, click on the hyperlink for <Official Register of the Officers and Men of New Jersey in the Revolutionary War>.  Because you move from page to page by clicking a next link, browsing is a slow process, but reveals tables of officers for units including the Continental Line, State Troops, and Militia.  Detailed coverage of the Militia starts at page 330.

If you are looking for a specific individual, click on the radio button for the Revolutionary War and enter the name in the search box further down the page.  This will bring up a list of matching entries, especially useful if you are looking for a last name.  The search result from a selected entry is a specific page in the original Register which is organized by rank.  So, if I search for Putnam, as an example, I will get a page of Captains ranging from Peter Pumyea to a Captain Reed from the Fourth Regiment.  Because the entries are brief, consisting of unit and location in most cases, browsing page by page from the start of the database to understand where the unit names fit may be a necessary effort.

Colonial North Carolina

by Walter G. Green III, Ph.D., published in The Assembly Number 2015-04.

Colonial governments generated an amazing documentary record, most of written by hand.  A surprising percentage of this record has survived, through the destruction of the Revolution, and in the South of the Civil War, normal loss, deterioration, etc.  Accessing this material provides a treasure trove of information on the colonial Militia, as well as on the general functioning of government and on individuals, both great and small.

If you are doing research in history in North Carolina, the University Library of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has made the state's colonial and early state records available online as part of its Documenting the American South project.  The Colonial and State Records of North Carolina in print is a  26 volume series, with a 4 volume master index, of transcribed documents covering from early settlement through the ratification of the United States Constitution.     First published between 1886 and 1907, it is widely accepted as an important collection of colonial documents, collected not only from North Carolina repositories, but also from those in other states and in Europe.  The University Library effort to put all 30 volumes online is ongoing, but a substantial part of the project is complete at http://docsouth.unc.edu/csr/.

Using the online version requires understanding that both the original print version and the online version are not completely sequential collections of documents.  Paging from one document to the next may result in a document removed from the previous one by months or years.  Use of the Index is a must, and that Index is extensive and thorough. 

Using the online version also requires attention to detail in citing the source.  Each webpage for a document indicates the volume and page range in the header.  However, the webpage is for the document and may cover multiple pages of the original print volume.  Page references for the documents are embedded in the text.

Our work on the Militia in the War of the Regulation and its organization early in the Revolutionary War depends heavily on this collection.  However, we have only scratched the surface of the contents.  If you research early North Carolina history, this is a key resource you should include in your efforts.

North Carolina Militia and the War of 1812

by Walter G. Green III, Ph.D., published in The Assembly Number 2015-01.

The Militia in the various colonies and states in some cases had a sophisticated system for calling its members to active service.  Although it has been portrayed as being as simple as someone rings the church bell and everyone gathers on the village green, this is only part of the picture.  One case in point is how North Carolina responded to requisitions from the President to provide Militia troops in 1812 and 1814.  By volunteer or by draft, militia companies were formed, apparently as composite units, from each of the County Regiments, to form new numbered Regiments and Brigades and a Division.  These soldiers, once embodied, were "detached" from state Militia service and held ready to respond to wartime taskings (and actually deployed in 1813 and 1814). 

Two important sources exist to document who served and in what units.  The first documents who was embodied (and as such meets our requirement for service for membership) in the detachment.  The Adjutant General of North Carolina compiled the surviving muster rosters of the detached force in 1852 and had them published as Muster Rolls of the Soldiers of the War of 1812: Detached from the Militia of North Carolina in 1812 and 1814 (Raleigh, North Carolina, 1852), at https://archive.org/details/musterrollsofsol00nort.  The rolls list each officer and soldier, the detached unit, and the organized militia regiment from which it was drawn.  

Of course, listing as embodied does not show that the individually actually served under arms in the field.  Fortunately, for at least some of those who served approximately 5000 pay vouchers exist.  It is important to note that it is known that some Militia members were activated for service, served, but may never have been paid - the Militia unit that formed the garrison of Fort Johnston in August 1812 is an example (see Sarah McCulloh Lemmon's  North Carolina and the War of 1812, North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources, Raleigh, North Carolina, 1971).  However, the pay vouchers that do exist provide the soldier's name, county, and unit commander, as well as the actual pay.   These vouchers are available in the online digital collection of the State Archives of North Carolina at http://www.digital.ncdcr.gov/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16062coll7.