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Warren County Local History by Dallas Bogan

An Old Document - A Regimental Court of Enquiry at Deerfield 90 Years Ago

Dallas Bogan on 27 September 2004
The following is taken from Dallas Bogan's book, "The Pioneer Writings of Josiah Morrow."
Return to Index to see a list of other articles by Dallas Bogan

Relic of the Old Time Muster Days in Warren County--Names of Officers--Many Good Citizens Fined--The Old
Militia Training System--Falls into
Contempt--Is Abandoned.

May 20, 1909.

A reader of these historical sketches in the Star has kindly allowed me the use of a most interesting old manuscript, now nearly ninety years old. It was found many years ago in an old residence in Lebanon and presented to Captain William H. Hamilton who died in 1887 at the age of ninety two. Since his death it has remained in the possession of his son, .William Hamilton Jr. of Lebanon, who has placed it at my disposal.
The document is a roll made up of three sheets of strong parchment paper, fastened together with sealing wax, the whole being about three and one-half feet long and over one foot wide. Having never been folded, but kept rolled up on a smooth pine cylinder, it is in excellent preservation. Every word is apparently as legible as when first written. It is a relic of the muster days of our grandfathers and it contains the names of hundreds of officers and men of the militia of Warren county in 1819, nearly all of whom were then under forty-five years of age, but all of whom are now dead. The heading is as follows:

"A Regimental Court of Enquiry of the First Regiment, Second Brigade and First Division of Ohio Militia, held on Monday, the 20th day of September, 1819, at the house of General David Sutton in Deerfield for the assessment of fines in said Regiment,
Present member of the court:
Lt. Col. Wm. McLean, Pres't
Capt. Phineas Ross
Capt. William Snook
Capt. David Bone
Capt. David Glenn
Capt. Jacoby Hallack
Capt. .J. Benham
Capt. Adam See
Capt. Benjamin Stites
Capt. Mason Seward
Capt. James Osborne
Capt. William Hopkins
Capt. Thomas Clark
Capt. William H. Hamilton
Capt. Henry Liggitt
Lieut.Cyrus Bone
Ensign Archibald Shaw
Serg't. Maj. William Woodward
Adjt. Pro Tem, Benjamin Rue"

Militia Officers.

Some of the officers constituting this military court were prominent citizens of Warren county.
Lieutenant Colonel William McLean, a brother of justice John McLean was educated in this county and at this time was a lawyer in Lebanon. He afterward moved to Miami county Ohio and in 1822 was elected to congress and served three terms from the Piqua district.
Captain Phineas Ross, a Lebanon lawyer, was the brother-in-law and law partner of Thomas Corwin. He seems to have been captain of an artillery company.
Captain Jacoby Hallack was also a lawyer in Lebanon and afterward represented Warren county in both houses of the legislature. He was related to the family of Governor Corwin's mother.
Captain Benjamin Baldwin resided near Osceola and was perhaps the most prominent of the early residents of Harlan township. He had a commanding presence and military bearing, and became a general in the militia. He served as a justice of the peace, associate judge and representative in the legislature. In politics he was a Jacksonian Democrat.
Captain Mason Steward resided at Mason. He was a native of Fayette County, Penn., and at this time was twenty-nine years of age, and had served in the war of 1812. He afterward served as a justice of the peace and postmaster at Mason.
Captain William H. Hamilton resided near Millgrove. He was a carpenter and bridge builder and at this time was twenty-four and had lived in the county four years. He was for seven years a militia officer being an ensign, captain, adjutant and lieutenant colonel, and was generally called Captain Hamilton. For twelve years he held the office of county commissioner and during that time planned and superintended the construction of nearly all the bridges built in this county. His last years were spent in Lebanon.
Captain Adam See resided at Beedle's Station; Captain Thomas Clark in the southern part of Deerfield township, and Captain Henry Liggitt, I think, in Hamilton township. A Captain Titus, who was not present at the court of enquiry, commanded a company in the regiment, and I presume he was Timothy Titus, an early settler of Washington township, who had served in the war of 1812.
At the bottom of the old manuscript is a list of fines assessed at a regimental court of appeals for the same regiment, held at the same place on October 4, 1819, when four officers were fined in the sum of four or five dollars each. The members of this regimental court of appeals were Colonel .Daniel F. Reeder, Lieutenant-colonel William McLean and Major John Hopkins.

The Old Muster Days.

I have looked up in Chase's Statutes the act for organizing and disciplining the militia of Ohio in force at this time. It was passed February 14, 1815, in the last month of the war with England, and is a very elaborate statute, long enough to make a large pamphlet. The counties of Hamilton, Butler, Warren, Clermont and Clinton formed the First Military Division, having one major general. The counties of Warren and Clinton composed a brigade, having one brigadier general. Each brigade was to consist of not less than two nor more than six regiments, each regiment of not less than two nor more than three battalions; each battalion of not less than four nor more than eight companies; and each company of not less than sixty-four privates.
All white male persons over eighteen and under forty-five were to be enrolled and to perform military duty. Each private was to provide himself with "a good musket, and bayonet, fusee or rifle, knapsack, blanket, canteen and two spare flints, a cartridge box to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges suited to the bore of his musket or fusee, each cartridge to contain a pro- per quantity of powder and ball, or pouch and powder horn with twenty-four balls." The staff officers were to provide themselves with a sword or hanger and a pair of pistols.
There were to be company musters, battalion musters and regiment musters. Each company was to muster twice each year, one day in April and one day in September. The military evolutions and exercises were to be performed from 10 a.m., until 3 p.m., for a single day at each muster. There was to be a muster of the officers of each brigade once each year. The place of mustering was to be fixed by the commandants of the companies, battalions and regiments. As the law required the regimental court of inquiry to be held at or near the place of the regimental muster and one week thereafter, Deerfield was in 1819, without doubt, the place of muster for the First Regiment.


The statute provided a long list of fines upon officers and men for neglect of duties. For a private, the fine for neglecting to attend a regimental or battalion muster was $1.50; for neglecting to attend a company muster, $1.00; for attending any muster without a sufficient musket, rifle or fusee, 50 cents; and for attending without a cartridge box, powder horn or bullet pouch, 25 cents. Fathers, guardians and masters were bound for the payment of the fines of sons, wards or apprentices under twenty-one years of age.
The only persons exempted from militia duty were those found to be physically infirm or disabled, certain officials of the national government, postmasters, mail contractors and ferrymen having charge of a ferry on a post-road and actually attending the same.
In the old document before me the whole number of privates fined was 303; of officers, 4. One officer was fined $5.00 and three others, $4.00 each. The fines upon the privates varied from 37 1-2 cents to $2.50. Seventy- eight persons were fined $2.50 each; seventy-five, $1.00 each; eighty, 50 cents each, while a smaller number were fined $2.00, $1.50, .75 cents and 50 cents each. The aggregate of fines assessed upon officers and men was about $400 of which, we may well believe, only a very small part was ever collected.
The most inexplicable matter in the record is the very great difference in the number of men fined in the various companies of the regiment. In one company all or nearly all the men seemed to have been fined, in another about one-half, while in one company only one man was fined. The number of men fined in each company was as follows:
Capt. Hallack's company....91
Capt. Bone's company.......40
Capt. Hamilton's company...39
Capt. Baldwin's company....26
Capt. Titus's company......20
Capt. Osborne's company....19
Capt. Benham's company.....15
Capt. Clark's company......14
Capt. Glenn's company......13
Capt. Ross's company.......11
Capt. Liggett's company.....4
Capt. See's company.........4
Capt. Hopkins's company.....3
Capt. Seward's company......3
Capt. Snook's company.......1
Total 303

In this long list are the names of many of the most reputable and law abiding citizens of Warren county. The great length of the list shows that even at a time when the military spirit of the people of Ohio had been aroused by the recent war with England, the militia training system was not held in high repute.

Militia Training Falls Into Contempt

The day appointed by law for the drill and review of the citizen soldiery was known in some parts of the country as training day; in Ohio I think, muster day was a more common term. Fortunately neither is now familiar to our people.
Numerous have been the laws passed in Ohio for organizing and drilling the militia, but all proved ineffective. The first law of the Territory Northwest of the Ohio was an act from regulating and establishing the militia. Up to the year 1833 twenty-two acts for this purpose were passed by the territorial and state legislatures and all of them were repealed or superseded.
Many persons believed that muster days while burdensome to the industrious classes by taking them away from necessary labors, were too infrequent to be of real value for military drill. The awkward movements and un- military appearance of the uniformed ranks marching with staves and the poles instead of guns brought ridicule upon them. The whole system of militia training fell into general contempt. The regimental musters brought together a vast concourse of idle spectators; the day was a holiday for the lower classes and the occasion of much drunkenness and brutal fighting.
For the purposes of military drill it was worse than useless and in the American states as well as in England compulsory enrollment in the militia was gradually given up. About 1844, the legislature of Ohio wisely abandoned all attempts to enforce the performance of military duty in time of peace and nothing was left of the old muster system but the many high military titles. In the olden time we had many more generals, colonels, majors and captains than we now have tho our population is increased many fold.
The ridiculous features of the old general muster were described by Tom Corwin in his famous reply to General Crary, of Michigan, in congress in 1840. Crary obtained his title in the militia service and he had criticized the military record of General Harrison. The materials for Corwin's speech were derived from what the orator had seen at his home, and there is a tradition that before the delivery of this speech in congress which gave him a national reputation as a wit, he had employed the same weapons of satire, used the same images and given the same description in the court of a justice of the peace at his home when ridiculing a prosecuting witness who happened to be a pompous militia officer.
It is fortunate for the active men of our own generation that they have grown up without the demoralization of the old muster days and it is creditable to them that the old love of military titles had disappeared. The farmer's boy of today is more ambitious to make a great improvement in seed corn by a new method of corn breeding than to be a major general in the militia.

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