The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West

By Thomas D. Clark | Go to book overview

CHAPTER IX
GENTLEMEN OF RANK

A TRAVELER making his way through any part of the West met with much the same experience of N. Parker Willis, who said that "You seldom drive up to one [a tavern] without alighting amid a group -- oftener a crowd -- and the titles flying from mouth to mouth soon inform you that all the judges, generals and colonels possible to the size of the population are among the company."1

The western country was the great spawning ground for gentlemen who desired distinguished ranks. It was a place where a man with even a limited amount of ingenuity could create his own high rank. Continuous attacks by savage Indians and obstreperous British troopers threatened frontier safety. Trans-Appalachian citizens stood in momentary readiness to fight for their protection. Every community had its militia company which drilled with regularity in the neighboring cornfields or down community roads or village streets. At the head of each of these companies marched at least three titled dignitaries who were resplendent in their brightly colored sashes and gaily plumed hats.

Local militia companies were organized without any thought of uniformity. Clothing ranged from that of the old Continental Line to the ragged, dirty and ill-fitting linsey-woolsey of the byways. Weapons were equally as diverse; one man might come armed with a flintlock, another with a modified "cap-and-ball," while others shouldered sticks instead of guns. Drills were seldom if ever conducted by a uniform manual. The commanding officers perhaps were in a quandary at times as to the whereabouts of their right and left hands. No one was so silly as to believe that drills should be conducted according to form. Inde-

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The Rampaging Frontier: Manners and Humors of Pioneer Days in the South and the Middle West
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Acknowledgments ix
  • Preface xi
  • Chapter I - The Backwoods 17
  • Chapter II - Varmints 39
  • Chapter III - Green Un's 57
  • Chapter IV - Boom Poles and Paddle Wheels 79
  • Chapter V - Somebody in My Bed 102
  • Chapter VI - Servants of the People 120
  • Chapter VII - Where the Lion Roareth and the Wang Doodle Mourneth for His First-Born 142
  • Chapter VIII - Bench, Bar and Jury 163
  • Chapter IX - Gentlemen of Rank 183
  • Chapter X - Liars 205
  • Chapter XI - Qurater Hosses 224
  • Chapter XII - Keards 239
  • Chapter XIII - Fiddlin' 259
  • Chapter XIV - Foolin' with the Gals 281
  • Chapter XV - Yankees B'Gad 301
  • Notes 321
  • Bibliography. 341
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