Thursday, 20 July 2017 06:00

This week I came across two books kept by a local militia called the Washington Grey Artillerists. It was organized in 1842 by Jesse B. Davis, who was captain of the troop. The members were mostly drawn from Lower Providence Township.

The first book contains the constitution for the group, which begins with this preamble:
“Whereas one of the most surest bonds which can perpetuate the Union of the United States consists in the preservation of that spirit which created it a free government, and as much as the formation of Military bodies of citizens, for the defense of the nation, is one of the most effectual means of keeping alive that spirit, therefore, We, the subscribers, do agree to unite ourselves as an Infantry Corps, and for that purpose adopt for our government the following Constitution.”

If you’ve noticed a discrepancy between the group’s name and the preamble, you’re not alone. Edward Hocker addressed this in his 1934 article about the Washington Greys. “Most of the so-called artillery companies of the time were really infantry.” In fact, the financial records in the account book indicate that the militia never owned a cannon.

member form

A blank membership form.

The group’s annual meeting was February 22 of each year (Washington ’s Birthday). I don’t have photos or drawings of the Washington Greys, but according to their constitution, their uniforms consisted of a grey coat with yellow gilt button, black collar and cuffs.
Davis was educated at the Mantua Military and Classical Academy, graduating in 1832 as a second lieutenant. He trained with the local Democratic troop (according to Moses Augé the Davis family were all Democrats) for seven years before starting his own group.

The Washington Greys Artillerists were called into Philadelphia in 1844 during nativist riots there, but their meeting minutes give no details about it.

The group disbanded in 1855 in part because the state laws regulating militias changed.  Jesse B. Davis, who was known as Captain Davis in Norristown, went on to be Clerk of the Courts and later served as prison inspector. He remained involved in the Pennsylvania militia, serving with several different companies.

Captain Davis died in 1896 and is buried with his wife in Montgomery Cemetery.

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