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Appendix III – The End of the Militia System in the Whitewater Country

            The following amusing sketch of the end, in this region, of the once popular and (to the Quakers) formidable Militia system, is from the racy reminiscences of the Hon. O. H. Smith, which are now in course of publication in the newspapers.  I am credibly informed that the picture of the doughty Major Lewis is not essentially over-drawn.

            “In the early history of Whitewater, the military spirit ran high, and all aspirants for honors and place were solicitous to make stepping-stones of militia offices.  But in time the military spirit began to abate, and officers to resign.  One instance I recollect: Our statute required all inferior officers to serve five years, unless the Brigadier General, for sufficient cause, would accept a resignation.  Capt. William R. Morris, of Brookville, tendered his resignation to Gen. John T. McKinney, and assigned his reasons: ‘First, I am not fit for the office; second, the office is not fit for me.’  Gen. McKinney:  ‘Resignation accepted on the first ground.’  The whole system seemed to be on its last legs, when all at once there arose into public notice, in the county of Wayne, the man for the occasion, in the person of Major Lewis.  He was a young man, like Julius Caesar, of a weak body, but with the military ambition of a Charles the XII.  Although but a Lieutenant, he became a candidate for Major, and, having no opposition, he was triumphantly elected.  The first step of the Major was to provide himself with a splendid blue uniform coat, covered with gold lace and large gilt eagle buttons; a coat that Napoleon himself might have worn while commanding at Austerlitz; a chapeau, in imitation of the one worn by Gen. Jackson at the battle of the Horse Shoe, surmounted by a towering red plume, with a white tip; epaulets that might have graced the shoulders of Blucher as he led the Prussian army to the aid of Wellington at Waterloo; a true Damascus blade in its brilliant scabbard, reaching to the feet; boots of the swatara order, reaching up to his seat, with a pair of gold-plated spurs with shanks a foot long.  The great military parade, which was to revive the spirit of the Revolution, was soon to come off, near the East Fork of Whitewater, under the command of Major Lewis in person.  Captains were required to be early in the field, with their respective commands, ‘armed and equipped as the law directs.’  The great and memorable day at last arrived.  The parade-ground was early filled with waving plumes and crowds of anxious citizens.  The Aid-de-Camp of the Major came galloping into the field in full uniform, directly from the headquarters of the Major, and halted at the marquee of the Adjutant.  In a few minutes the order from the Major was given, in a loud military voice, by the Adjutant mounted on a splendid gray charger: ‘Officers, to you places; marshal your men in companies, separating the barefooted from those who have shoes, or moccasins, placing the guns, sticks and cornstalks in separate platoons, and then form the line, ready to receive the Major.’  The order was promptly obeyed, in true military style, when at a distance Major Lewis was seen coming into the field, with his aids by his side, his horse rearing and plunging, very much unlike old ‘Whitey’ at the battle of Buena Vista.  The brilliant uniform of the Major and his high, waving plume pointed him out as distinctly as the military bearing of my friend James Blake, when marshal of the day in after years, marked him to the eye of thousands, who were looking for Gen. Wm. O. Butler.  The line was formed; the Major took position on a rising ground, about a hundred yards in front of the battalion; rising in his stirrups, and turning his face full upon the line, said, ‘Attention the whole!’  Unfortunately the Major had not tried his voice before in the open air, and with the word ‘Attention’ it broke, and ‘the whole’ sounded like the whistle of a shrill fife.  The moment the sound reached the line, some one at the lower end, with a voice as shrill as the Major’s, cried out, ‘Children, come out of the swamp; you’ll get snake bit.’  The Major pushed down the line at full speed.  ‘Who dares insult me?’  No answer.  The cry then commenced all along the line, ‘You’ll get snake bit, you’ll get snake bit.’  The Major turned and dashed up the line, but soon had sense enough to see that it was the militia system that was at an end, and it was not Major Lewis that was the main object of ridicule.  He dashed his chapeau from him, drew his sword and threw it upon the ground, tore his commission to pieces, and resigned his office on the spot.  The battalion dispersed, and militia musters were at an end from that time forward in the Whitewater country.”

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