SALEM, Mass.— The Salem Muster marks a point in early American history when the Massachusetts Bay colonists organized as the North, South and East Regiments on December 13, 1636; creating the first official militia in the country. Today’s National Guard and U.S. Army trace their roots to these three regiments.
In honor of that history, Soldiers of the Massachusetts National Guard, the modern-day descendants of those militia regiments, conducted a wreath-laying ceremony at Armory Park then marched to Salem Common for an inspection and pass in review by Maj. Gen. L. Scott Rice, The Adjutant General (Acting), Massachusetts National Guard, as part of an annual celebration of the First Muster here April 14.
The day began with a ceremony at Armory Park of the Peabody-Essex Museum. Fallen heroes of wars past and present were honored with a 21-gun salute and the playing of Taps by the 215th Army Band.
Lt. Col. Paul Melanson, commander, 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment, gave special reverence to the Soldiers that his unit lost in battle during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom: Sgt. Michael Kelley and Sgt. Robert Barrett (respectively). A wreath was then placed at the Revere Bell, a monument constructed in 1801 to honor the fallen of the Massachusetts militia.
The 101st Field Artillery then marched to Salem Common, led by the Second Corps of Cadets, and followed by historical re-enactors of major time periods, including colonial-era pike men, the Revolutionary War militia, and the Yankee Division during World War I, as well as the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston.
On the field of Salem Common, the 101st Field Artillery, descendant of the South Regiment, joined with the other descendants of the First Muster, including the 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment and the 1st Battalion, 182nd Infantry Regiment, descendant of the North Regiment, and the 101st Engineer Battalion, descendant of the East Regiment. These units finished their march and stood in formation on the same green as their ancestors 375 years ago, signifying the direct lineage and distinguished history of the National Guard.
Rice, joined by a delegation of politicians and military officers from Paraguay, as part of the Massachusetts National Guard’s partnership with the South American nation, inspected the units in formation.
“We know and admire your history,” said Lt. Gen. Gral Ramirez,
When the people of Paraguay declared independence from Spain they took up arms and started their own militia on the same day in their fight for independence, said Ramirez. He added that his country was also “born in battle.” Paraguay’s military also began with farmers taking up arms to become Soldiers, like the citizens of Massachusetts Bay, , explained Ramirez.
U.S. Rep. John Tierney, 6th Congressional District, Mass., addressed the Soldiers and the crowd who had gathered on the green and let them know that he recently put forward a bill to the U.S. House of Representatives making Salem the official birthplace of the National Guard. The bill passed the House and now waits for the Senate’s vote. Tierney also thanked the Soldiers for their sacrifice and commitment to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
“Salem has an amazing history, from our beginnings in sailing, to the witch trials,” said Kimberly Driscoll, the mayor of Salem, Mass., “but we are most proud of that piece of Salem history where men who gathered with whatever arms they had would start the National Guard.”
Rice thanked the Soldiers for their service and sacrifice as well as Rep. Tierney for helping to make Salem the official birthplace of the National Guard.
“You Soldiers have effectively and responsibly served. You are the heart of the National Guard since the First Muster and from each generation, Massachusetts has sustained the liberty and freedom of our nation,” said Rice. “You are indispensible to our nation, and if history is any guide, 375 years from today, our descendants will celebrate the finest military in this nation, the Massachusetts National Guard,” said Rice.