An old-time Muster.
The mystery of the cannon-balls, recently exhumed in Medford
, was soon solved.
While the Register (which had the story in advance of the daily papers) was being printed, Capt. Albert A. Samson
, who, when a boy of nine years, resided near Salem street, told the story of the target practice of a Boston artillery company at present Cherry street.
His story has been printed in the Medford Mercury
, as also the recollections of same event given by Elisha Curtis
, who was also interested in the quest of facts.
A week had not passed when another old Medford
boy sent to the editor a letter relating thereto, telling practically the same story and differing but few years in time from their dates, and also adds a bit to our local history well worth reading.
This last is immaterial as it is highly probable that several similar events occurred in Medford
Those were the ‘piping times of peace’ for even though the Mexican War
took place it was unpopular in New England
From conversation with the adjutant-general
's assistant at the State House
we learn that Massachusetts
, in 1840, had twenty-six artillery companies and eighty-three of infantry, a much larger proportion of artillery than in later years.
Each company had two six-pounders and one caisson, and houses were built or hired for the storage of their guns.
Many of these were, according to report, in bad repair, unless, indeed, kept in order by the companies at their own expense.
The local trainings and parades were always sources of interest to the ‘Young America
’ of those days.
The annual musters of the State
militia were looked forward to with interest and attended by crowds.
These latter were hardly deemed complete unless a sham fight was included, such as Mr. Stetson
This and various other features hardly served to keep the military spirit alive in Medford
(for in 1840 there was here no military company), though perhaps this ‘Cornwallis’ may have roused some, as the next year the Brooks
Phalanx was organized.
The temperance reformation that was gaining ground was in no way friendly to the dissipation attendant on the old musters, and which were deprecated by many, because of their demoralizing tendencies.
Few people of today know what a ‘Cornwallis’ was, but that was the term usually applied to a mock battle and surrender.
, in ‘Biglow Papers
,’ says:— [p. 96]
. . . . Ana a feller could cry quarter
Ef he fired away his ramrod arter tu much rum and water,
Recollect wut fun we hed, you'n I ana Ezry Hollis,
Up there to Waltham plain last fall, a-havina the Cornwallis?
His ‘Glossary’ styles this to be ‘a sort of muster in masquerade
, supposed to have had its origin soon after the Revolution, and to commemorate the surrender of Lord Cornwallis.
It took the place of the old Guy Fawkes
Doubtless the Cornwallis
was as grotesque in its features as were those of Guy Fawkes Day. The irregularity, and often absence of uniform and equipment—some having a salt fish strapped on the back instead of blanket or knapsack—bordered somewhat on the ridiculous.
All these developed in later time into the ‘Antique and Horrible’ parade of Fourth of July morning.
's use of the word ‘inadvertently’ brings to our notice an incident that occurred about the same time.
The Lexington Artillery was encamped near the home of its captain in Woburn
While the company were at dinner some reckless one fired a solid shot at ‘Rag Rock,’ a lofty ledge near by, but with such poor aim that the shot went over the hill and fell beyond it.
We have never heard of its being found.
Should it ever be, let none (as some did in Medford
) attribute it to the British
attack on Bunker Hill
, but to a dare-devil recklessness, induced by ‘tu much rum and water,’ presumably the former.
The allusion to the shot from the farm in Lexington
has raised this query among military men: Is there any record
of the firing
of cannon there on that eventful day in 1775?