In 1776, Article 1, Section 13 of the Constitution of Virginia was ratified by a majority of voters in Virginia. It recognized the militia and the right to keep and bear arms. Five years later, in 1781, members of the unorganized militia of Virginia were mustered for the purpose of fighting against the British invasion of Virginia in the Revolutionary War. A list of many of the registrants who lived in Amherst County is contained in the papers of Colonel William Cabell. On Saturday, March 7th, a copy of that list was on display at Coolwell Recreation Center in Amherst County.
About 150 current members of Virginia’s unorganized militia met at Coolwell to muster and begin organizing. The citizens were invited and greeted by Michael Routon, an Amherst native, and retired Air Force Sergeant. Seeing the current attempts by legislators and the Governor to infringe on God-given rights of citizens, Routon, along with his cousin Paul Routon and friend Charles Peters, was moved into action. In January, they began meeting and started taking the steps to prepare for the muster which occurred today. These steps included meeting with leaders from other counties, working on social media, and taking care of logistical preparations. The two Routons and Peters cleaned up and prepared the amphitheater at Coolwell, which had fallen into disrepair after years of disuse.
Patriots began arriving several hours early to prepare for the muster and assist the Routon and Peters team with the day’s activities. About 15 volunteers performed different tasks during the setup and actual registration process. Prospective registrants began arriving before noon and continued arriving after the muster began at 1 pm.
Once the Amherst County patriots were seated on the hillside of the amphitheater, Routon led the citizen militia in the Pledge of Allegiance and then explained the procedures that would be followed during the registration process. After Routon spoke, Charles Nalls, a retired Colonel and chaplain, Amherst resident, and leader of the U.S. Volunteer Corps, explained the training capabilities the Corps could provide to the militia.
He told the citizens that he had access to more than 40 ex-military personnel who could help with all aspects of training and preparation for whatever the militia might face.
After Routon and Nalls finished speaking, citizens lined up in an orderly fashion and began the registration process. There were people of all ages, both men and women. As they registered, they could give as much or as little information as they wanted. Routon explained that the only information to be stored on a computer was an e-mail address for the purpose of future communications.
Routon plans on using the militia registration information to begin forming small community groups based on voting districts. Those groups will select their own local leaders and figure out the path forward for their communities. Routon sees the county-wide organization as a group to help coordinate with the smaller units and provide standardized training and logistical plans for the units. In addition, the county organization can help coordinate with the local government, Sheriff, and groups from other counties.
Once the citizens completed their militia registration, they were invited to register to vote, if they weren’t already registered. Finally, as citizens moved out of the registration area, they could gaze on the parchment replicas of the muster register from 1781. There were many Campbells and Mays on the registration from 239 years ago, and many modern day militia members shared the same surname. Today’s Campbells wondered aloud what relation they were to their patriot ancestors.
Then, to complete the circle, today’s registrants were invited to sign a parchment document that would contain the names of the current militia of Amherst County. Routon thinks, perhaps, this document could be valuable to future historians of Amherst County.
The event culminated with informal discussions, q&a’s and fellowship of like-minded patriots. Many friendships were strengthened and new acquaintances were made. A renewed sense of purpose and focus was gained by the new militia registrants. Michael Routon said he felt like the day was a success.