from William Dana Orcutt. Good Old Dorchester, p. 171
Mr. George Fowler, an old resident of Dorchester, gives the following interesting account of the training and muster days, which were important institutions at this time (1830s). He says:--
“There were two days in the year, in the olden time, much cherished by the boys: these were May training and the annual muster. The military force of Dorchester consisted of a rifle company and an artillery company. All the boys believed that the former possessed the finest snare drummer, and the most ear-splitting fifer, in the whole world. The artillery company owned a bass drummer by the name of Jordan, always called ‘Jerdon,’ who was supposed to be hors concours. He was a portly man, with a red face, who flourished his drumsticks in such an artistic manner, and produced such deafening sounds, that it was really wonderful; it was not advertised as a recital. The single drum of the artillery band, as the snare drum was then called, was operated on by a gentleman by the name of Henley, who, I think, was in the masonic and white-wash business. The artillery band also embraced a Kent bugle and a fife, four pieces against the rifles’ two. Jordan had been in the service of the rifle company, but had deserted to the artillery.
“The uniforms of the two companies were of similar cut,--the rifles being grey, the artillery blue. The caps were the leather, bell-crowned caps of the English foot-guards; and the plumes suggested magnified admiration marks, being jet black, and about twenty-six inches in length. When the troops marched, these plumes bowed solemnly at every step. They made the soldiers out to be eight feet high, every man of them. The brass six-pounders of the artillery company had been captured from the Spaniards by the French, from the French by the English, and from the English by the Americans,--at least so asserted the boys with all the force of conviction.
“The muster, which always occurred in the fall, was on Captain Harrods ground, called Bowdoin Hill; now, I believe, promoted to a mountain. The troops marched up Harrods yard and through the cow-yard to the tented field. There were booths on two sides of the ground, where refreshments could be obtained,--the liquid part being varied and extensive, the solid consisting principally of ginger-bread and custard-pie, with raw oysters at six cents a plate. There was always a sham fight, in which the ununiformed militia participated, and were always beaten by the rifles and the artillery. The general commanding wore very tight, brimstone-colored knee-breeches, top-boots, spurs, and a blue coat, the breast of which lay back in enormous lappels [sic]. A three-cornered hat covered his head. He was very deferential to his horse, and it always seemed to me that he hailed the approaching sunset with inaudible cheers.”
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Created: December 22, 2012 Modified: December 22, 2012