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Muster Days at Muster Field Farm: New Hampshire's Muster Day Tradition, 1787-1850

Muster Days at Muster Field Farm: New Hampshire's Muster Day Tradition, 1787-1850
Jack Noon
Civilian military duty in New Hampshire was required by law until 1851, when the state had 42 regiments. Local companies of militia would gather annually for parade and inspection at their regiment's fall muster--often involving a thousand or more men from half a dozen towns. Food and alcohol vendors, showmen, fiddlers, auctioneers, charlatans, gamblers, and several thousand spectators turned these gatherings into regional festivals in an era of few suck diversions. Muster days thus structured social interactions among a regiment=s towns in ways not duplicated since.

Patriotic enthusiasm from the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812 carried over into musters, but by 1830, muster days were under attack from those who resented the required participation. They were joined by temperance advocates, who objected to the considerable public drunkenness attending each muster, and later by critics of the Mexican War, who claimed that the existence of a peace-time militia had in fact led to this conflict. Ironically, the abandonment of muster days and the militia system left New Hampshire totally unprepared for the Civil War.

Researched from state and town archives, town histories, early newspapers, and private collections of unpublished letters and documents, this study sheds light on a little known aspect of the Granite State's past.

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