War of 1812 Era Essex Guards Documents

2 rosters, orders for guard duty, and an Massachusetts Militia appointment for this Salem, Mass. light infantry company.

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At the start of the War of 1812, there were about 9 companies of militia in Salem, Massachusetts, and one such unit was named the Essex Guards.  Records in the Essex Institute in Salem, Ma. were none existent as of 1824, when what history was available through period journals, diaries, letters, newspapers of the era, were researched and then published.

The Essex Guards, in essence were a local, home guard body of citizens, that were called to perform guard duty at local fortifications when alarms were sounded by possible attacks by British Naval vessels, or the fear of enemy landings on New England shores. This collection of four documents gives a good account of the members of the companies, and some of their duties during the War of 1812.  An article in the Salem Gazette of May 13, 1814, makes mention of this newly incorporated company, so assuming that May of that year was their beginning.

  • “We the Subscribers to for(m) ourselves into a Military Company of similar standing with the company called the New England Guards of Boston, and make immediate application for an act of incorporation, and assume the name of the ESSEX GUARDS.”  PS  Uniforms to be Black or Blue coats & pantaloons & black boots, round Hats, cockade & plume – white Belts.”   62 names were written by one individual on this manuscript roster, and seven of the names for what ever reason were inked out.  The docket reads, “Subscription Papers to raise the company of Essex Guards.  The paper is watermarked with an English crown and vignette of a goddess with spear. There are some very old repairs to the folds using period paper.
  • “Roll of Essex Guards, 1814.”  This manuscript roster contains far more names than the previous, and in alphabetical order, except for the initial list of the company officers; Capt. Williams (commanding).  Also recorded are four musicians belong to the Guards.  The document has two older tape repairs.
  • A sergeant’s appointment in the Essex Guards, also enrolled into the Massachusetts Militia, and bearing the seal of the state. The newly promoted sergeant on July 4th, 1814 was Ephraim Emerton (who’s name also appears in the list of officers and NCOs in the last document).  The printed form appointment was signed by Captain Israel Williams.  The docket reads, ” E. E’s warrant as fourth Sergeant Essex Guards 4th July 1814.”
  • The smallest piece in the collection is another 1814 dated list of persons that were assigned to guard duty at Salem Court House 1 November, 1814, on a “Court Martial for the Trial of Capt. Downing of Lynn furnished by the Essex Guards   Lieut Saunders Officer of the Guard, Sergeant Briggs, ” Emmerton….etc.   This document has similar repair to the central fold along one edge.

Israel Williams (1771-1831) was a sea captain by trade. He was first elected as captain of the Salem Independent Cadets in 1801, and served as captain until 1805, when he went back to sea.

For historical record, a published “Rules and Regulations for the Guards was published in June of 1814, and from that it list the final record of uniform adopted since the initial inception of the company a month earlier;

“A uniform of plain blue coat, bright yellow buttons, white white waistcoats and white pantaloons (made of jean or Dimity), nankeen gaiters to be worn under the pantaloons; in cold weather blue cloth pantaloons with boots, Round Black hat with pressed leather cockade and white ostrich feathers, Bandolier belt with white dressed leather, with a narrow counter strap crossing the shoulder, the cartridge box without ornament, seal skin knapsack, wooden canteen, painted blue with white hoops.”

Whether more of this militia paper has been found, I know in all the years of collection New England militia material, this is the first Salem militia paper from the War of 1812 I have come across.

Overall in very good – to fine condition for the age.  I purchased this material from a Pennsylvania dealer at a Baltimore, Maryland show several years ago.

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Weight 1 lbs