The above photo is of an Arkansas militia company, the Hempstead Rifles, with the Washington Band and Color Guard, but the Newton Rifles of Mississippi were probably pretty much like it. Photo from Wilson’s Creek National Battlefield, National Park Service, Department of the Interior.

Not long after Mississippi seceded, Francis Marion Poore enlisted in the Newton Rifles, the first company of militia organized in the county for the Civil War.

During Mississippi’s frontier period, militia gatherings were important social events. Musters provided entertainment for everyone in the county. Crowds listened to political speeches, watched feats of skill and cheered drills by the militia.

Newton County was not much out of its frontier period when the Civil War began. In his History of Newton County from 1834-1894, author A. J. Brown said that for 15 years before 1861 there had been no militia muster in the county. Now it would take some time to make the men of Newton County practiced in the ways of war.

As the Newton Rifles awaited the governor’s call to service, Francis and his comrades trained. They drilled and learned to handle their rifles in military fashion. They stood sentinel duties and learned how to pack their knapsacks for long marches.

Francis’ younger brothers, John, 19, and William, just 13, in 1861, probably spent as much time as they could watching Francis and the other young men of the county going through their drills. In due time, they, too, would practice these drills with deadly purpose.

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