1878 Militia

For many years in the early history of the county the “State militia” organization held their regular semi-annual drills, which was always a source of much pleasure, and a gala day for all. The company drills were held in the spring in various portions of the county, but in the fall all of the militia-men assembled at one place, when regimental exercises were observed. During the meantime the officers had their drill muster, when instructions were given. Thomas McKee was chosen Major in 1838, and for several years held the office. In 1846, when the war between the United States and Mexico commenced, Major McKee gave orders to his captains to have the men assemble at Knoxville on a certain day. The captains informed the non-commissioned officers, and they in turn circulated the call among the rank and file. Upon the appointed day about 1,500 of the militia men assembled. After the usual preliminary forming and marching the Major formed them into a hollow square; then mounting a wagon which stood in the centre, he addressed them on the subject of enlisting in the service of their country in the war with Mexico. After his stirring speech, which aroused and fired the patriotism of the men, the martial band took up the call and in musical strains discoursed from the drum and fife many of the soul-stirring national airs of the day, which raised their patriotic spirits to a still higher pitch. When the Major at the head of the band called out as they marched off, “Now, gentlemen, all you that want to go to Mexico, come along,” immediately 109 men joined him, showing thereby their willingness to go to the front. It was the Major’s desire to start right off that night for Springfield to have the company accepted; but many of the older men thought him too hasty; that he had not considered matters sufficiently; that such a course would be rash and uncalled for: so at their solicitation he sent the report of his company having been raised, by mail. As the quota of the State was only six regiments, of course it was soon filled; so, when the letter from Major McKee reached Springfield, every company asked for had been furnished and no more would be accepted, which completely dampened the military ardor of the Major and his men. They remained, however, in readiness to answer a call at a moment’s warning, but happily for them none was ever made, as they were not needed.

Contributed by Pat White and Charlotte Babicki, extracted from the 1878 History of Knox County, Illinois, published by Charles C. Chapman & Co., Chicago, page 121

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