Guard celebrates 448th First Muster anniversary

1565-FIRST-MUSTERThis Friday, Historic City News has learned that the Florida National Guard will celebrate the 448th anniversary of the first known muster of citizen-soldiers in the continental United States during a celebration in St Augustine, September 13th beginning at 9:00 a.m.

Re-enactors from Florida Living History will join Guardsmen to help tell the story of the citizen-soldier in Florida and will participate in a ceremony to spread packets of soil on the parade field in front of the Florida National Guard headquarters.

“Over the past two years the Florida National Guard has collected soil samples from battlefields around the world where the Florida National Guard – or its militia predecessors – served and fought,” Master Sergeant Thomas Kielbasa told local reporters. “These 19 different soil samples represent National Guard militia traditions dating back to the 1560’s, continuing through the wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, and as recently as the deployments to Southwest Asia.”

Officer and enlisted platoons will form at 9:00 a.m. for the ceremony, and members of Florida Living History will demonstrate a traditional Spanish firing detail on the St Francis Barracks parade field of the Florida National Guard Headquarters, located at 82 Marine Street in St Augustine.

The “first muster” took place on September 16, 1565; when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers who had accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine.

As he prepared to march to the French settlement of Fort Caroline, near the mount of the St. Johns River, Menendez drew upon Spanish laws governing the militia in an imperial province. Because his plan called for the use of the majority of his regular soldiers, as both the civil governor and the commander-in-chief of the military establishment, he had the authority to call all free male settlers to active service.

The exact location of this “first muster” is unknown, but historians and archeologists believe it lies a few miles north of the Florida National Guard headquarters, most likely near the present site of the Fountain of Youth and the Mission of Nombre de Dios.

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