Brothers to the Buffalo Soldiers: Perspectives on the African American Militia and Volunteers, 1865-1917

By Bruce A. Glasrud | Go to book overview

The Last March
THE DEMISE OF THE BLACK
MILITIA IN ALABAMA

Beth Taylor Muskat

I ate on Sunday Afternoon, August 20, 1905, the Capital City Guards marched jubilantly homeward toward their armory on Dexter Avenue, Montgomery’s principal thoroughfare. The nearly one hundred black members of the Alabama National Guard were returning from a successful five-day encampment that had been held on the outskirts of the city. As the uniformed Guardsmen swung up the street leading to the capitol, the company’s brass band “made the mistake” of playing “The Battle Hymn of the Republic,” whose many parodies included the reproachful version entitled “Hang Jeff Davis on a Sour Apple Tree.”2 The twenty-year career of the Capital City Guards was soon to end abruptly; the black troops of the Alabama National Guard were stepping off their last march.

Twenty years earlier, during the summer of 1885, the city of Montgomery enjoyed “an atmosphere of confidence.” W. W. Screws, editor of the state’s most important newspaper, the Montgomery Advertiser, and one of the city’s biggest boosters, wrote that “in many ways [it was] a year of jubilee.” The capital had become a major railroad junction where four rail lines, including the Louisville and Nashville, converged. The construction of many new residences and public buildings measured Montgomery’s economic resurgence. The Weekly Citizen, a black newspaper, noted “some of the finest houses ever built in Montgomery are going up….” Although the city’s economy remained closely tied to cotton—its six to seven million dollars annual trade represented about one-fifth of Montgomery’s yearly commerce—considerable industrial

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