Florida celebrates 449th ‘First Muster’ and Patriot Field dedication

Re-enactors from Florida Living History fire a replica cannon during the 449th First Muster ceremony at the St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine, Fla., Sept. 12, 2014. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brownfield

Re-enactors from Florida Living History fire a replica cannon during the 449th First Muster ceremony at the St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine, Fla., Sept. 12, 2014. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brownfield

Photos of First Muster ceremony on Flickr Photostream

ST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. (Sept. 13, 2014) – The Florida National Guard celebrated nearly four-and-a-half centuries of military tradition in Florida yesterday, as Soldiers, Airmen and civilians gathered for the annual First Muster ceremony at the St. Francis Barracks.

Although Sept. 16 is officially Florida’s anniversary of the 449th “First Muster” of citizen-Soldiers in the continental United States, the Florida National Guard and Department of Military Affairs commemorated the event Friday, Sept. 12 with a command retreat and traditional Spanish firing detail by historical re-enactors from Florida Living History.

The Florida Army National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Jared Papesh and a re-enactor from Florida Living History place a cannister of soil representing a historic battlefield along the side of the newly dedicated "Patriot Field" during the 449th First Muster ceremony at the St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine, Fla., Sept. 12, 2014. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brownfield

The Florida Army National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Jared Papesh and a re-enactor from Florida Living History place a cannister of soil representing a historic battlefield along the side of the newly dedicated “Patriot Field” during the 449th First Muster ceremony at the St. Francis Barracks, St. Augustine, Fla., Sept. 12, 2014. Photo by Staff Sgt. Jeremy Brownfield

“As the first National Guard in the United States, with roots dating back to 1565, we take immense pride in all that has been sacrificed and accomplished by all our men and women in uniform over the past four-and-a-half centuries,” Florida National Guard historian Alison Simpson said during the ceremony.

The ceremony also served as a dedication of the parade field in front of the Florida National Guard headquarters, officially naming the field “Patriot Field” in honor of all military members who have served Florida since the 16th century. Last September the Florida National Guard placed soil samples on the parade field from battlefields around the world where the Florida National Guard – or its militia predecessors – served and fought. These 19 different soil samples represented National Guard militia traditions dating back to the 1560s, continuing through the wars in the 19th and 20th centuries, and ending with recent deployments to Southwest Asia. This year special markers commemorating the soil were placed along the western edge of the field by the Florida Army National Guard’s Staff Sgt. Jared Papesh and a re-enactor from Florida Living History representing a Spanish militia member.

Volunteers from Florida Living History of St. Augustine also performed a “Load and Fire” battle drill with replica 1700s cannon and muskets. Adjutant General of Florida Maj. Gen. Emmett R. Titshaw Jr. and Florida Army National Guard State Command Sgt. Maj. Robert Hosford joined the re-enactors by firing the replica-cannon alongside the elaborately garbed “Spanish militia” during the ceremony.

According to historians, the “first muster” took place on Sept. 16, 1565, when Pedro Menendez de Aviles gathered around him the soldiers of his small Spanish army, as well as the civilian settlers who accompanied him to the newly established presidio town of St. Augustine. He was about to march north to the French settlement of Fort Caroline near the mount of the St. Johns River. Because his plan called for the use of the majority of his regular soldiers, Menendez drew upon Spanish laws governing the milicia, or militia, in an imperial province. As both the civil governor and the commander-in-chief of the military establishment, he had the authority to call all free male settlers in the presidio province to active service.

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