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386th Anniversary of the “First Muster”

386th Anniversary of Massachusetts National Guard Rendering of “First Muster” on Saturday, April 22, 2023

On behalf of the Massachusetts National Guard, the 2nd Corps of Cadets Veteran Association, and the Salem Veterans Council, all are invited to attend the 386 th Anniversary of the Massachusetts National Guard’s rendering of the “First Muster’. Beginning at 10 am on Saturday, April 22, 2023, the occasion will be featuring over 600 troops on the Salem Common, a 155mm howitzer cannon salute, and (weather permitting) a National Guard helicopter will land and help deliver the official charter. Additionally, a military jet flyover is planned to mark this historic occasion. This year, special attention will be paid to the rededication of the newly renovated Washington Arch.

Schedule of Events:

8:00am ~ Gen. Abbott ceremony in front of St. Peter’s Church

9:00am ~ Ceremony at Armory Park

9:30am ~ Parade of units to the Salem Common

10:00am ~ Muster Ceremony on Salem Common begins with a U.S. Army ‘Loach’ helicopter  landing, Air Force flyover, 500 Soldier Pass in Review, and Cannon Salute

** Free parking/refreshments will be available at O’Donnell’s at 84 Washington Square Please contact 978-745-0883 for additional information

PLEASE NOTE: This event will produce loud cannon noises and aircraft above the Salem Common

“All the veterans of Salem are proud to be such an integral part of our country’s unique military history,” says Salem Veteran Council Commander, LTC (ret) Joe Cole.

Acting Mayor Bob McCarthy adds, “Salem takes great pride in being the birthplace of the American National Guard. The annual commemoration on Salem Common has become a beloved community tradition that acknowledges and celebrates the city’s rich military history and Salem’s Veterans.”

This year, special attention will be paid to rededication of the Washington Arch, which has been restored by the Salem Common Neighborhood Association (SCNA).

In 1801, wealthy merchant families funded the transformation of Salem Common into a park enclosing a training ground for the militia. In 1805, these families and the town commissioned Salem’s own Samuel McIntire, a distinguished wood carver and architect, to design and construct four decorative entrances to the park. The main entrance, styled after a Roman triumphal arch, was designated “The Washington Arch” as a tribute to Washington’s legacy.

The Washington Arch featured McIntire’s ornate carvings, including an oval portrait of Washington flanked by swags of drapery and topped by a golden eagle, symbolizing the recently formed country. The Arch stood in the Common until it was removed in 1850 when the park underwent extensive renovations including new walkways and the addition of an elaborate cast iron fence. The streets around the Common were renamed in Washington’s honor.

In 1976, Salem’s Bicentennial Commission authorized the creation of a smaller replica of the original Washington Arch to be located near the Hawthorne Hotel. Unfortunately, this Arch deteriorated in subsequent years. In 2010, the City authorized relocating the Arch to its current location and requested that the SCNA raise funds to restore the Arch. Having raised the needed funds, the SCNA worked with the City in 2022 to repaint the Arch, and add decorative brickwork, new landscaping, and an explanatory sign.

In April 2023, restoration was completed with the unveiling of the carvings of Washington, the accompanying swags and the shining golden eagle. We recognize the work of carver Skylight Studios for their stunning recreations of McIntire’s originals, which had been carefully preserved by the Peabody Essex Museum.

History of the First Muster

On December 13th, 1636, the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony ordered that the Colony’s militia to be organized into three regiments: the North, South, and East Regiment. All males between the ages of 16 and 60 from that day forward were required to bear arms and participate in the community’s defense. In response to the growing threat of the Pequot Indians, the militia prepared with weekly drills and guard details. On an unspecified date in 1637, the East Regiment officially mustered for the first time on the Salem Common to mobilize in its defense. This event marked the birth of the modern day National Guard. On May 4th, 2002, the monument was dedicated to honor its historical significance.

In January of 2013, President Barack Obama signed legislation sponsored by Massachusetts Congressman John Tierney, which officially designated Salem as the birthplace of the National Guard. Each year, the city honors the First Muster with a ceremony conducted by service members, veterans, and community supporters.

About The Washington Arch

Beginning in 1775 with “Leslie’s Retreat,” the first armed resistance to British authority, Salem began its significant role in the American Revolution. Its privateers would account for over half of all captured British vessels. Six years after the war ended, President George Washington used his first year in office to visit all 13 states to build support for the new federal government. On October 29, 1789, celebrations were held throughout Salem when President Washington visited to thank local militiamen and sailors for their wartime service. Washington predicted a great future for Salem and his words proved prophetic.

In the decades following, Salem’s hugely profitable trade with China and East Asia transformed this hardscrabble seaport into a global powerhouse. By the early 1800s, Salem had become the wealthiest city per capita in the United States and its port was one of the world’s busiest.

In 1801, wealthy merchant families funded the transformation of Salem Common into a park enclosing a training ground for the militia. In 1805, these families and the town commissioned Salem’s own Samuel McIntire, a distinguished wood carver and architect, to design and construct four decorative entrances to the park. The main entrance, styled after a Roman triumphal arch, was designated “The Washington Arch” as a tribute to Washington’s legacy.

The Washington Arch featured McIntire’s ornate carvings, including an oval portrait of Washington flanked by swags of drapery and topped by a golden eagle, symbolizing the recently formed country. The Arch stood in the Common until it was removed in 1850 when the park underwent extensive renovations including new walkways and the addition of an elaborate cast iron fence. The streets around the Common were renamed in Washington’s honor.

In 1976, Salem’s Bicentennial Commission authorized the creation of a smaller replica of the original Washington Arch to be located near the Hawthorne Hotel. Unfortunately, this Arch deteriorated in subsequent years. In 2010, the City authorized relocating the Arch to its current location and requested that the Salem Common Neighborhood Association (SCNA) raise funds to restore the Arch. Having raised the needed funds, the SCNA worked with the City in 2022 to repaint the Arch, add decorative brick work, new landscaping and an explanatory sign.

In April 2023, restoration was completed with the unveiling of the carvings of Washington, the accompanying swags and the shining golden eagle. We recognize the work of carver Skylight Studios for their stunning recreations of McIntire’s originals, which had been carefully preserved by the Peabody Essex Museum.

Thanks to the men and women of the Massachusetts National Guard who have included the Arch in their Annual Muster. We honor their unbroken service since 1636 and memorialize the Common as the site of their first muster in 1637. The lineage of the original North, South, and East regiments continues today in the 181st and 182nd Infantry, the 101st Field Artillery, and the 101st Engineers, earning the Massachusetts National Guard the title of “Nation’s First.”

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