After the South issued a call to arms in April 1861, volunteers rapidly assembled, and Confederate officials took over the defense of Virginia. Infantry units were organized, training camps were established, and the new army began.
Even before Virginia officially seceded, local officials started calling out the state militia. In the Richmond Dispatch of April 15, 1861 a number of official notices like this one appeared: “ATTENTION, 4th COMPANY, 2d BATTALION 19th REGIMENT VIRGINIA MILITIA.-Assemble for instruction in Drill, at Leigh Street African Church on TUESDAY, the 16th inst., at 4 o'clock P.M.” In case individuals did not know that they were members of this company, the notice went on to state: “This Company District is bounded as follows: Commencing on the Northwest corner of Duval and 2d streets; thence North side of Duval street to Brooke Avenue; thence East side of Brooke Avenue to the corporation line; thence along the corporation line to the West side of 2d street; thence along 2d street to the place of starting. All persons subject to militia duty within this district will report promptly. This parade is required by law, and all absentees will be fined to the fullest extent of the law.”
Men who were already in pre-war volunteer companies were exempt from universal militia service, and such militia, anyway, would not be considered of a quality good enough to do much serious fighting. The volunteer companies would make up the main line of Virginia's forces.
At first men in volunteer companies tended simply to gather together at their customary meeting places, armed and ready to move as directed. One of many notices in the same paper as called out the universal companies called for a typical volunteer company muster: “MONTGOMERY GUARD, COMP'Y C, 1st REG'T VA. VOLS. Drill on the Capitol Square, Monday EVENING, 15th inst., at a quarter before 8 o'clk, with Rifle-Muskets, Waist Belts, Bayonet Scabbord, Cap Boxes, and ten [percussion] caps each man.” On April 17, 1861 Virginia's