Military tradition under fire

I’ve read in several British and Scottish news outlets lately that historic regimental names are at risk of being done away with. From the BBC:

MoD to ‘protect’ regiment names: The Ministry of Defence says it is seeking to preserve the regimental cap badges of Scotland’s historic army regiments.

I am very much an advocate for worthy traditions, and having served in the military, it would be a shame for any nation to strip its services of historic institutions and emblems. This is akin to telling the 1st Infantry Division that they can’t be the “Big Red One” anymore. I doubt that US military advocates would stand for this, and I hope that our UK counterparts will likewise stand for the Black Watch and protect their military heritage.

Cinco de Mayo

A great history lesson from Jesús Ávila for gringos like me who see Cinco de Mayo as the Mexican St. Patrick’s Day:

The Battle of Camarón, April 30, 1863:
I write this tedious and long entry at this time of patriotic celebrations and to celebrate that infamous battle of May 5, but the main reason is to emphasize something very specific: it is little known about the influence of historical events occurred in that have led our nation in his remembrance flags and / or foreign symbols, that is why today we will have a bit of history in a comprehensive text that can not be summarized.

On July 17, 1861 Mexican President Benito Juarez issued a moratorium on external debt of the country, suspending for a period of two years, after which pledged to resume, this problem opted as historically known as the French Intervention.

It was May 5, 1862 when General Charles Ferdinand Latrille, Earl of Lorencez, commanding the French troops ordered the assault on the forts of Loreto and Guadalupe, who defended the city of Puebla under General Ignacio Zaragoza, the army invader was repulsed with heavy losses while trying to repeatedly take the fortifications. In the end, had to leave the field and retire defeated and pursued by the Mexican cavalry.

In 1863, with the arrival of numerous reinforcements and another general, Frederick Elie Forey, it was decided to strike again Puebla. The new troops received from France were three battalions of the Foreign Legion under Colonel Jeanningros, an efficient veteran with over 30 years of service, who had participated in the Battle of Moulay-Ishmael in Algeria. Two of its battalions landed at Veracruz on March 31, 1863 and the third would in the coming days.

In March of that year, and 13,000 French soldiers marched on the Mexican subsidiary heroic city of Veracruz separating the capital. A French Legionnaires, to their disappointment, they were assigned menial tasks such as guarding convoys in the eastern section, where there were many diseases such as yellow fever and typhoid. In this regard, the commander of the French army, General Elie Forey Frederic, had indicated that he preferred that they were foreigners and French who had the responsibility to defend the most unhealthy area, ie the tropical zone between Veracruz and Cordoba, where reigned malaria.

Since its establishment in 1831 by King Louis Philippe, much of French public opinion regarded the Legion as a disgrace and was deeply offended by the fact that foreign mercenaries were employed to fight the battles of France, for all boxes, except for the officers, but were not French citizens of other countries listed under very difficult conditions.

On 15 April a convoy of 64 wagons carrying several guns intended to demolish the defenses of Puebla, ammunition, supplies and chests of gold to pay troops, sailed from Veracruz. Mexican intelligence was good, because she soon became aware of the existence of this convoy.

The civil and military governor of the State of Veracruz, Colonel Don Francisco de Paula Milan, joined a force of three infantry battalions of 400 men each: the National Guard battalion from Veracruz, the National Guard battalion of Cordoba and the National Guard battalion of Xalapa, plus 800 -500 Lancers cavalry and 300 irregular-to intercept and capture the enemy precious cargo. At first glance appeared to be an easy task, particularly because the Mexican cavalry was very efficient and was armed with repeating rifles, at the same time, maintain the safety of this convoy was of particular concern to the French, why on 27 April the commander of the Legion, Colonel René Jeanningros, who had established his headquarters in Chiquihuite, decided that the third company of the First Regiment of the Legion was to carry out the task of escorting him as tread the area of ​​responsibility. Most of that company officials were ill. Three officers volunteered: Captain Jean Danjou, assistant staff of the company, Lieutenant Napoleon Villain and Maudet Second Lieutenant. These men formed a formidable trio. Captain Danjou was a legionary with several years old who served with distinction in Algeria, Crimea and Italy. In Crimea lost a hand, which was replaced with a wooden prosthesis. Villain and Maudet apparently were French, but enlisted as a Belgian since, as noted, the Legion forbade French citizens enrolaran soldiers. These men started as privates, effectively fought and were promoted to the rank of officers in recognition of the behavior demonstrated in the Battle of Magenta. The company to which they belonged was composed of a total of 120 soldiers, but at that time only 62 men of Polish, Italian, German and Spanish, were suitable for the task.

Captain Jean Danjou

Second Lieutenant Maudet

Lieutenant Napoleon Villain 

On 29 April, four weeks after his arrival in Mexico, the troops under Danjou were prepared to perform this action routine and joined the convoy to protect the next phase of its journey. At midnight the third company, provided with 60 rounds per man, left Chiquihuite in advance mission in anticipation of the convoy to travel to check the path was clear. At 02:30 on 30, reached a post defense prepared by the Legion at Paso del Macho and the commander of this, Captain Saussier, impressed by the small number of the escort, offered a firing Danjou reinforcement, which this declined, continuing the march, for which divided his force into two sections separated by 200 meters away, while he, center, leave with the supplies. Behind was a small detachment of rear. However, lacked advanced Danjou, because the Legion did not have cavalry.

Shortly before 06:00, the third company passed through the village of Camarón, or “Camerone” as the name given by the French, which, like all villages in the region, was half destroyed by the war. The main building, known as the Hacienda de la Trinidad, was a modest little house with adobe buildings around. A mile and a half of shrimp, Danjou ordered his troops to stop for breakfast rations, and as a preventive measure ordered to deploy some sentries. A few minutes later came the alarm. The Legionaries noted that a strong contingent of Mexican cavalry was approaching the place. Danjou immediately ordered his men to prepare their rifles and defensive form a rectangle. The Legionnaires had only a natural advantage in that open field, what was the profuse vegetation, which became a natural barrier against cavalry opponent. When Mexicans were within walking distance, the legionnaires, shouting “Long live the Emperor!” Opened fire blocking their advance. Mexicans chose not to risk a charge and ejecutarron a maneuver to encircle them. Danjou then ordered a retreat to the only place where they could organize and maintain a sustained defense, not the Paso del Macho as some claimed, but the Shrimp farm. In small groups, the Mexican cavalry harassed the company of the Legion while it was heading towards its goal, making your withdrawal hell. Legionnaires twice stopped and drove back with shock. Finally Danjou and most of his men reached their objective but at the cost of rations and ammunition mules. Forty-six of them reached the farmhouse, some wounded, others 16 were intercepted and captured by the forces of Milan. The worst thing for the French was that the Mexicans were able to reach the shrimp almost simultaneously, which were located in the upper and one of the stables located at the corners.

The Legionnaires were in a very difficult position. The outer walls of the ruined property had a perimeter of 50 meters wide and 50 long and a height of three meters. Two large doors on the west side and a hole in the east were the points of access. Furthermore, only had 60 rounds per man. But Danjou was a veteran accustomed to impossible situations. He immediately ordered the clear barricade and deployed his men into defensive position. For Legionnaires’ bad luck, the courts were exposed to fire from above and Mexican Danjou could do nothing to neutralize them. Another part of the Mexican cavalry dismounted and ran fierce attacks, but the Legionnaires refused. Shortly after 09:00, in the midst of a scorching sun, Colonel Milan sent a Mexican officer of French origin, the young lieutenant Ramon Laine, demanding the surrender of the legionaries. Danjou dismissed the suit with a resounding no and then went to each of his men who promised to fight to the end.

At approximately 11:00 a bullet fired by a sniper, possibly hidden in the stables, took the lives of Danjou. Villain Lieutenant quickly took command of the defense. Around noon the legionnaires heard the sound of bugles, and the Zouaves, located on the roofs, they observed a column of soldiers approaching. There was a general enthusiasm thinking that it was French military reinforcements, but the excitement soon faded when he realized that Mexican reinforcements were ordered by Colonel Milan, consisting of three battalions of infantry Vercruz the National Guard, the National Guard Xalapa National Guard and Cordoba. The situation was complicated Legionnaires, as well as the loss of their energetic commander, were now surrounded by two thousand enemy soldiers. With these troops, the Mexican fire became more intense and raids occurred more frequently. The hours passed, the heat increased, and the legionaries began to suffer the effects of thirst and dehydration, as water from their canteens had a good time was up. Villain had a defense as courageous as that of Danjou, but around 14:00 hours fell riddled with intense Mexican fire. The command fell to second lieutenant Maudet.

Again Colonel Milan, a man of honor, prouso the surrender of the legionaries, ensuring life. Maudet refused. The Mexicans decided it was the right time to launch a frontal assault and reduce once and for all his enemies. One however was not enough. Consequently, waves of attacks attempted to break the tight defense but the accurate shooting of the disciplined French troops held them. On several occasions Maudet men crossed the yard to help their fallen comrades, which was usually fatal. Failed attacks, Mexicans set fire to the surroundings of the French position, which was becoming a living hell. Great courage was displayed by both parties while the struggle reached its climax. Even the poorly trained Mexican irregular fought with stoic courage during repeated attempts to enter through the doors and windows. The vast majority of them were killed by impact of bullets and bayonets of the legionaries, and their bodies were returned helpless on the patio.

Colonel Francisco de Paula Milan

Around 17:00 hours only 12 remained standing Legionnaires to contain the Mexican offense. New calls were made to surrender not accepted. Surrounded by the corpses of their comrades in arms, were willing to die. At 18:00 hours only had five legionaries, capes Maine and Berg and soldiers Constantin, Leonard and Wensel, who had very little ammunition. Over the next few minutes Maudet, who by then was wounded, ordered his men to shoot the last volley of bullets, bayonets and charge prepare Mexican troops to die with honor. During the fight the legionnaires had fired over 3,000 rounds. In seeking to perform this action Maudet again received a bullet and fell unconscious, while two of his men were killed. The survivors, capes Maine and Berg and satin Wensel, a Polish-retreated to be shoulder to shoulder against one of the walls of the hacienda, presenting their bayonets as the only defense.

Before this show Mexican soldiers hesitated whether to finish them or spare their lives. His doubts were resolved with the emergence of a Mexican officer, Colonel Lucio Cambas Angel, who also was of Gallic origin. After appeasing his men, he addressed his adversaries in perfect French with the words: “Now I guess you will pay.”

Corporal Maine realized that although this man had the bearing of a Frenchman and spoke perfect French language was as Mexican as Juarez and therefore an enemy, who, for purely humanitarian reasons, wanted to save their lives. Watching his two comrades, said: “We surrender, but let us stay with our arms and care for our wounded.” Colonel Cambas responded with a military salute, and raising his sword in sign of respect said: “A man like you is granted whatever”. Cambas demonstrate an attitude of chivalry and the behavior of a true soldier, with a high sense of honor to the army uniform who fought with courage. He immediately ordered the wounded Legionnaires were served.

On being informed of the surrender, Colonel Milan said: “But these are not men, are demons”. The Mexicans gave their opponents the major considerations. Twenty-three legionaries were assisted by the troops and 16 of them survived their wounds. He did his best to save the life of Lieutenant Maudet and sent along with a sergeant, also severely wounded, hospital Huatusco, a distance of 80 kilometers. Given the precarious situation of the hospital, Maudet was finally brought home from Marredo Juana Gomez, distinguished Mexican lady known for her charitable work. Despite the efforts provided by Dona Juana, the French officer pass away, but not before writing the following words: “I left a mother in France, I found another in Mexico.”
The Mexicans caused the Legionaries 26 deaths: three officers and 23 soldiers, but to turn 300 of his men lay dead and wounded. Nor could they take possession of guns nor the spoils, as the convoy, heard the shots and found a distance, managed to evade the action, bringing the initiative to march in advanced Danjou gave an appropriate result for French interests. The next day, Colonel Jeanningros Shrimp arrived at the head of a column of rescue, but it was too late. The Mexicans had departed, leaving only the bodies of legionaries killed in action. Beside them stood a wounded man, who was presumed dead, with eight bullets in his body, who narrated the heroic episode starring his comrades before superior forces. From prison, Corporal Berg Evaristo was able to get a note to Jeanningros which concluded with these words:

“The 3rd Company of the 1st Regiment Colonel’s dead, but she did too, and so it can be said, had a few brave soldiers.”
The return from captivity Berg would be promoted to officer. The other prisoners involved in the incident Shrimp, including the 16 Legionnaires captured during the retreat to the farm, ie a total of 32 men, were exchanged for Mexican officers captured by the French and most remained at the legion. The Maine place was also promoted to officer and attained the rank of captain. The other survivors and Wensel, Schaffner, Fritz, Pinzinger and Brunswick were made Knights of the Legion of Honor of France, while the classes Magnin, Palmaert, Kunassec, Schreiblick, Groski Rebares and received the Military Medal.

This extraordinary act of courage, which lasted continuously for eleven hours, was a victory for the French unprecedented moral being fought against all odds. And while a valuable combat unit made up of men loyal and determined to give his life for the French cause had been exterminated, their action helped save a valuable convoy and raised the morale of the soldiers who fought for the implementation of the French strategy in Mexico. More importantly for the traditions of the Legion, the wooden hand of Captain Danjou was found by Colonel Jeanningros in the ruins of the Shrimp and became the most precious relic of the military. Such was the impact of the action of the third company of the first regiment of the Legion, for the rest of the French occupation of Mexico, that country’s troops had to stop and present arms when crossing against the estate of Camarón.

The date of the Battle of Camarón was erected in 1904 in a ritual event for the Foreign Legion, and today is celebrated with great pomp and respect in the courtyard of the headquarters of the Legion in Aubagne, near Marseille. The hand of Captain Danjou, stored in a small urn, is displayed in front of the regiments and a count of the battle is read each of the units of the Legion on the day of the ceremonies. The ashes of others killed in the shrimp are preserved in a reliquary, while the Mexican eagle, which became the flagship of the first regiment is paraded around the chapel. The word “Camerone” is inscribed in gold letters on the walls of Les Invalides in Paris.

The celebrations have spread to Mexico. In 1892 France was authorized to erect a monument, renovated in 1963 by the Mexican government, at the one hundredth anniversary of this battle, whose inscriptions read: “There were less than sixty opposed to an army. Life these French soldiers left before that courage the April 30, 1863. ” The ceremonies are attended by French citizens living in that country and Mexican army officers, for whom of course not surprising the maximum of the Legion: “Every legionnaire Shrimp has carved his heart.”

Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia

[N.B. I originally wrote this article in 2012 and it has been by far the most popular of anything I’ve written on this site. Occasionally I’ll update it, but to the best of my knowledge, it’s still one of the most in-depth studies into the topic of Honorary Alabama Colonelcy.]

Most people are familiar with the institution of Kentucky Colonels through the most famous Kentucky Colonel, Colonel Harland Sanders. Another famous Colonel is worth mentioning is Colonel Tom Parker, Elvis Presley’s manager. He received his commission from the Governor of Louisiana in 1948. He proudly bore the moniker for the rest of his life. Kentucky Colonels even have a non-profit organization for benevolent activities and to promote the Commonwealth of Kentucky. What many people may not know, however is that many states, especially in the South, also maintain similar, but less high-profile traditions of Honorary Colonels.

I have recently had the privilege of being commissioned an Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia. There was no fanfare nor trip to the State Capitol for this recognition, but I am very proud to be amongst such an elite cadre. I received a certificate from Governor Robert Bentley’s office that stated the following:

Jeremy B. Blevins, having been deemed of meritorious character, is hereby commissioned as an Honorary Colonel in the Militia of the State of Alabama. He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of the office to which he is appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Alabama, or of the General or other Superior Officers set over him, according to the laws for the regulation and government of the Alabama State Militia.

So what is an Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia?

Composition and Administration of the State Militia Generally

To determine what an Honorary Colonel in the Alabama State Militia is, how one is appointed, and what one’s duties are, the reader must dissect the sections of the Alabama Code pertaining to the militia in general. The “laws for the regulation and government of the Alabama State Militia” are cataloged in Title 31 of the Alabama Code: “Military Affairs and Civil Defense”. § 31-2 is the military code for the State of Alabama. § 31-2-2 states:

The militia of this state shall consist of all able-bodied male citizens, and all other able-bodied males who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, between the ages of 17 and 45, and who are residents of the state, and of such other persons, male and female, as may upon their own application, be enlisted or commissioned therein pursuant to any provisions of this chapter, subject, however, to such exceptions and exemptions as are now, or may hereafter be created by the laws of the United States, or by the Legislature of this state, it being specifically provided that, in the event federal laws or rules and regulations promulgated pursuant thereto authorize and permit service in units or organizations of the organized militia, as defined in this chapter, by persons of more than 45 years of age, such persons are hereby authorized to continue to serve in the organized militia for so long as may be allowed by such laws, rules or regulations, all other conditions, qualifications or requirements as to eligibility for service being complied with. All affairs pertaining to the state military forces shall be administered by the State Military Department, which shall be headed by the Adjutant General, who shall be responsible to the Governor as Commander in Chief.
(Acts 1957, No. 591, p. 828, §1; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §2.)

This provides a basis for the well regulated Militia as mentioned in the Second Amendment of the United States Constitution within the context of the citizenry of the State of Alabama.  § 31-2-3 further defines this well regulated militia into organized and unorganized components:

The militia of the state shall be divided into the organized militia, the retired list and the unorganized militia, which together shall constitute the state military forces. The organized militia shall be composed of: an army national guard and an air national guard which forces, together with an inactive national guard, shall comprise the Alabama National Guard; the Alabama Naval Militia; and the Alabama State Guard, whenever any such force is organized by the Governor pursuant to existing laws. The National Guard, army or air, shall consist of such organizations and units as the commander in chief may from time to time authorize to be formed, all to be organized in accordance with the laws of the United States affecting the National Guard, army and air, and the regulations issued by the appropriate Secretary of the Department of Defense.
(Acts 1957, No. 592, p. 829, §2; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §3.)

Note that the Alabama State Guard (the Alabama State Defense Force, “ASDF”) is included in the organized militia. There is no additional definition of the unorganized militia here, but § 31-2-5 more clearly defines the opening sentence of  § 31-2-2:

The unorganized militia shall consist of all able-bodied male resident citizens of the state and all able-bodied resident males who have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States, between the ages of 17 and 45, and of such other persons, male and female, as may, upon their own application, be enlisted or commissioned therein, subject to any existing law, who are not serving in any force of the organized militia and who are not on the state retired list.
(Acts 1957, No. 592, p. 829, §3; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §5.)

Given that the text of the commission never uses the words “State Guard” or “State Defense Force” it is understood that the title of Honorary Colonel exists within the context of the unorganized Militia, and does not automatically place one in the organized ranks of the ASDF. The cadre of the ASDF muster at regular intervals, train, and have a rank structure patterned after the United States Army.

Uniforms and Decorations

§ 31-2-17 – 21 deal with the issue of the wearing of a uniform, which summarized says that an individual is not to wear  a uniform of the United States armed forces if they are not entitled to, and when off-duty, under specific circumstances. Note should also be made with reference to State Defense Forces and the requirement that their uniforms meet a criteria that they “shall include the distinctive mark or insignia prescribed by the Secretary of Defense to distinguish such uniform from the uniform of the United States armed forces” (§ 31-2-17). Were the unorganized militia to be ordered up, they would fall under the ASDF and then be subject to § 31-2-17.

Further down in the code, § 31-2-77 : “Service Medals and Decorations Authorized for Wear with National Guard and Naval Militia Uniforms” defines the wear of decorations on the uniforms of the National Guard and the Naval Militia. The ASDF has its own regulations (ASDF 670-1) as to the wear of decorations that follows Department of Defense Instruction 1334.01 “Wearing of the Uniform”, as well as service-specific manuals such as Army Regulation 670–1 “Wear and Appearance of Army Uniforms and Insignia”. One would assume that if a uniform is allowed for Honorary Colonels, that it would follow this regulation as well. As a veteran of the Alabama Army National Guard, I have both federal and state decorations that I would be proud to wear on an authorized Honorary Colonel uniform, but the wear of awarded decorations is authorized on civilian clothes per AR 670-1 §30-1b:

For civilian attire, individuals may wear only those awards, decorations, or insignia authorized by this regulation for wear on civilian clothing, in the same manner and approximate location as the equivalent military uniform.

Also AR 670-1 § 30-6:

Retired personnel and former members of the Army (as described above) may wear all categories of medals described in this regulation on appropriate civilian clothing. This includes clothes designed for veteran and patriotic organizations on Veteran’s Day, Memorial Day, and Armed Forces Day, as well as at formal occasions of ceremony and social functions of a military nature. Personnel may wear either full-size or miniature medals. Personnel who wear medals on civilian clothes should place the medals on the clothing in approximately the same location and in the same manner as for the Army uniform, so they look similar to medals worn on the Army uniform.

I am not certain what the guiding regulation is for other branches of service, but I am confident in saying that they are surely similar. Military decorations can look outstanding on a tailcoat for an white tie event. The Department of Veterans Affairs has also encouraged veterans to wear their decorations on Memorial Day. This practice is carried out frequently by organizations such as the American Legion and the Veterans of Foreign Wars, who wear decorations and other patriotic emblems on the sides military-style head gear.

I am aware of other states’ Honorary Colonels having official dress uniforms, which bear some resemblance to a mess dress uniform as worn by the Army. I understand that some Kentucky Colonels wear such a uniform to the Kentucky Derby. Stephen Lautens is a Kentucky Colonel sporting such a uniform. The Honorable Order of Kentucky Colonels mentions uniforms on their site.

In relation to uniforms, § 31-2-78 protects the private military property of an individual:

The personally owned uniforms, arms and equipment, required by laws or regulations of every commissioned, warrant and noncommissioned officer, musician and enlisted man of the armed forces of the state, shall be exempt from sale under any execution or other process for debt or taxes.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §105; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §79.)

Commissions and the holding of Public Office

The next section to deal with the unorganized militia, though indirectly is §31-2-36:

Any citizen of this state may accept and hold a commission or warrant or enlisted membership in the armed forces of the state and reserve components of the United States without vacating any civil office, position or commission held by him. The acceptance or holding of any such military or naval commission or membership and the receipt of pay therefrom shall not constitute such holding of an office of privilege and trust under the government of this state and of the United States as shall be incompatible with holding of any civil office, executive, legislative or judicial, or position or commission under the government of this state.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §37; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §37.)

Most states, if not all, have a similar provision. One can look to Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina to see this. According to his Senate web site: “Graham continues to serve his country in the U.S. Air Force Reserves and is one of only three U.S. Senators currently serving in the Guard or Reserves. He is a colonel and is assigned as a Senior Instructor at the Air Force JAG School.“. By the definition of the unorganized militia in § 31-2-2, it is clear that §31-2-36 applies to there as well.

The unorganized militia in active service

The next portion of the Code to deal with the unorganized militia is § 31-2-46, which states:

The commander in chief may at any time, in order to execute the law, suppress riots or insurrections, or to repel invasion, or for the purpose of aid and relief of citizens in disaster, in addition to the active National Guard, the inactive National Guard and the Naval Militia, order out the whole or any part of the unorganized militia. When the armed forces of the state, or a part thereof, are called to duty under the Constitution and laws of the United States or the Constitution and laws of this state, the Governor shall first order out for service the National Guard or Naval Militia, or such part thereof as may be necessary, and, if the number available be insufficient, he may then order out such part of the unorganized militia, as he may deem necessary.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §54; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §47.)

§ 31-2-47 continues defining the use of the unorganized militia for active service:

Whenever any part of the unorganized militia is ordered out for active military service, or other service which may be necessary in the discretion of the Governor, it shall be governed by the same rules and regulations, and be subject to the same penalties, as the National Guard or Naval Militia. The Governor, in his discretion, may appoint and commission emergency officers in the state militia at any time. Such commissions shall expire at the end of five years from the effective date thereof.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Acts 1939, No. 509, p. 774; Code 1940, T. 35, §53; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §48.)

The verbiage in the commission for an Honorary Colonel has no time limitations, this commission is clearly different in that it has a five year expiration.

§ 31-2-48 deals with the creation of units and appointment of officers if the unorganized militia is ordered out:

The Governor shall, when ordering out the unorganized militia, designate the number. He may order them out either by call for volunteers or draft. The unorganized militia may be attached to the several organizations of the National Guard or Naval Militia, or organized into separate divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, companies or detachments as the Governor may deem best for service. He shall appoint the commissioned officers and warrant officers in the same manner as provided in this chapter for the appointment of officers and warrant officers of the National Guard and Naval Militia.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §55; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §49.)

With regards to Honorary Colonels, there are two issues to address here. One is that this deals with appointing officers after the unorganized militia has been ordered up, and the second is that the Governor will appoint officers in the same manner as he would officers of the National Guard and Naval Militia. That process is defined in § 31-2-69: 

Officers of the armed forces of the state, including the Adjutant General, shall be appointed, and shall be subject to suspension, discharge, removal or compulsory retirement as such solely on the basis of military proficiency, character and service, as determined by Department of Defense regulations and the military usages sanctioned by the military laws of the United States. The qualifications of personnel of the federally recognized National Guard shall be as prescribed in pertinent regulations and policies of the United States Department of Defense.
(Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §70.)

Given that National Guard officers are commissioned through the Reserve Officer Training Corps or Officer Candidate School, § 31-2-48 does clearly does not apply to Honorary Colonels. It might be within the prerogative of the President, Governor, or a field grade officer to conduct a field commission of an individual, but for the past several decades, such a practice has fallen out of precedent.  Next, § 31-2-49 states:

If the unorganized militia is ordered out by draft, the Governor shall designate the persons in each county or city who are to make the draft and prescribe rules and regulations for conducting the same, which shall conform as nearly as possible to the selective service machinery that is now or may hereafter be provided for by the government of the United States in a national crisis.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §56; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §50.)

Given the advent of the Department of Homeland Security, this function of the unorganized militia would appear to be superseded.What FEMA cannot handle alone, the National Guard most assuredly could handle.

§ 31-2-50 penalizes those who would refuse duty in the circumstances outlined above:

Every member of the militia ordered out for duty or who shall volunteer or be drafted, who does not appear at the time and place ordered, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §57; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §51.)

§ 31-2-79 protects members of the militia while in active service:

Members of the militia in the active armed forces of the state shall not be arrested on any process issued by or from any civil officer or court, except in the case of a felony or a breach of the peace, while going to, remaining at or returning from any place at which he may be required to attend for military or naval duty; nor in any case whatsoever while actually engaged in the performance of his military or naval duties, treason and murder excepted, unless with the consent of his commanding officer.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §106; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §80.)

If § 31-2-79 protects, then § 31-2-83 allows for punishment:

Whenever any portion of the militia shall be called into the active service of the state to execute the law, suppress a riot or insurrection, repel invasion, protect lives and property or in aid and relief of citizens in disaster, the law, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice, the acts of Congress and rules and regulations of the Department of Defense and the regulations prescribed for the United States armed forces shall be enforced and regarded as a part of this chapter until said forces shall be duly relieved from such duty. As to offenses committed when such laws are so in force, courts-martial shall possess, in addition to the jurisdiction and power of sentence and punishment vested in them by this chapter, all additional jurisdiction and power of sentence and punishment exercised by like courts under such laws, including the Uniform Code of Military Justice and acts of Congress and rules and regulations of the Department of Defense and the regulations or laws governing the United States armed forces or the customs and usages thereof; but no punishment under such rules and regulations authorizing the taking of life shall in any case be inflicted except in time of war, invasion or insurrection, declared by a proclamation of the Governor to exist, and then only after approval by the Governor of the sentence inflicting such punishment. Imprisonment other than in a guardhouse shall be executed in county or city jails or other prisons designated by the Governor for that purpose.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §113; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §84.)

There are many other sections of the Code that deal with the ordering out of soldiers, with most oriented toward the National Guard. Bear in mind that all discussion of active service with regards to active service and Honorary Colonels is purely academic. Honorary Colonels, having their commission in the unorganized militia, upon being ordered up, would become organized militia, and thus would receive a commission as an officer of the ASDF. They would not forfeit their honorary commission, but hold two, much as was the case in the wars prior to World War I.

Role of the Governor as the State’s Commander in Chief

§ 31-2-51 states:

The Governor of Alabama, or any other person lawfully administering the duties of the Office of the Governor of the state, shall be commander in chief of all the military and naval forces of the state, except when they shall be called or ordered into the service of the United States, and he shall have the power to embody the militia to repel invasion, suppress insurrection and enforce the execution of the laws, but shall not command personally in the field unless advised to do so by resolution of the Legislature.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §58; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §52.)

The Governor, as Commander in Chief of the militia forces of the state leads in the same capacity that the President does as Commander in Chief of the United States armed forces, as a civilian who empowers his Generals to execute his commands. The Governor’s duties with this regard are defined in § 31-2-52, which states:

(a) The Governor of Alabama, as Commander in Chief, shall have power and is hereby authorized and directed to alter, increase, divide, annex, consolidate, disband, organize or reorganize any organization, department or unit, so as to conform as far as practicable to any organization, system, drill, instruction, type of uniform or equipment, or period of enlistment now or hereafter prescribed by the laws of the United States and rules and regulations promulgated thereunder by the Secretary of Defense for the organization, armament, training and discipline of the militia or national guard, or by the Secretary of the Navy for the organization, armament, training and discipline of the Naval Militia. For that purpose, the number of officers, warrant officers and enlisted men of any grade in any organization, corps, detachment, headquarters or staff may be increased or diminished and the grade and number of such officers, warrant officers and enlisted men may be altered to the extent necessary to secure, as far as practicable, such conformity.

(b) The Governor, as Commander in Chief, shall have the power in case of war, invasion, insurrection, riot, tumult, breach of peace, natural disaster or imminent danger thereof, to call or order all or any portion or class of the armed forces of the state into the active military or naval service of the state, to increase the land and naval forces of this state and to organize the same in accordance with the existing rules and regulations governing the armies of the United States, or in accordance with such other system as the Governor may consider the exigency to require, and such organization and increase may be either pursuant to, or in advance of, any call, draft or order of the President of the United States.

(c) The Governor may authorize all or any part of the National Guard or Naval Militia to participate in any drill, parade, review or other public exercise, or to engage in service for escort duty, and may prescribe all regulations and requirements therefor, and such expenses incidental thereto as he may authorize shall be paid as provided in this chapter for the militia in the active military or naval service of the state.

(d) The Governor of Alabama, as Commander in Chief, is hereby authorized and empowered to do and perform all acts, and to make and publish such rules and regulations, and to organize and maintain the National Guard and the Naval Militia of Alabama in every respect up to the standards required by the laws and regulations of the United States now existing or which may hereafter be enacted for the benefit of the National Guard and Naval Militia of the United States.

(e) The Governor, as Commander in Chief, is authorized to call out all or any such portion of the National Guard as he may deem advisable, upon his determination that a state of emergency exists.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §59; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §53; Acts 1980, No. 80-360, p. 480.)

Having established the powers and authorities of the Governor as Commander in Chief, § 31-2-53: provides the basis for commissioning Honorary Colonels:

The personal military staff of the Governor shall consist of one officer with the rank of colonel and as many other officers as the Governor may consider appropriate with the rank of lieutenant colonel or commander, all of whom shall be appointed and commissioned by the Governor and shall hold office at his pleasure. All such officers shall be commissioned in the State Militia as aides-de-camp to the Governor, but no such officer shall be barred, by reason of being a member of the staff, from holding an active commission in the Alabama National Guard or the Alabama State Guard or a reserve commission in the Armed Forces of the United States or any civil office or employment under this state or any agency or political subdivision thereof. No member of the staff shall by virtue of such membership exercise any command or control over any part of the Alabama National Guard.
(Acts 1939, No. 509, p. 774; Code 1940, T. 35, §61; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §54.)

While not using the term “Honorary Colonel”, this section states several things to lead to that conclusion. The personal military staff hold their office “at his pleasure”. They are not barred from holding an active commission in the National Guard, State Guard, or United States armed forces. And finally, they cannot exercise command over any part of the National Guard.

§ 31-2-69 delineates the appointment of officers per DoD regulations:

Officers of the armed forces of the state, including the Adjutant General, shall be appointed, and shall be subject to suspension, discharge, removal or compulsory retirement as such solely on the basis of military proficiency, character and service, as determined by Department of Defense regulations and the military usages sanctioned by the military laws of the United States. The qualifications of personnel of the federally recognized National Guard shall be as prescribed in pertinent regulations and policies of the United States Department of Defense.
(Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §70.)

This wording conflicts with the commissions “at his pleasure” in the section previously mentioned, thus clearly excluding individuals commissioned under § 31-2-53 from the provisions outlined in § 31-2-69.

Unauthorized Military Organizations

While not directly related to Honorary Colonels, pretender, or rump, militias are dealt with in § 31-2-125:

Any two or more persons, whether with or without uniform, who associate, assemble or congregate together by or under any name in a military capacity for the purpose of drilling, parading or marching at any time or place or otherwise take up or bear arms in any such capacity without authority of the Governor, must, on conviction, be fined not more than $1,000.00. This section does not apply to any school or college where military training and instruction is given under the provisions of state or federal laws, nor to the order of Knights of Templar, Knights of Pythias, Patriarchs Militant or Uniform Rank Woodmen of the World.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §176; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §126.)

There are some who debate the constitutionality of such a clause and that argument made is elsewhere. In the historical context, and given the definition of the unorganized militia previously stated, this section of the Code would seem to refer to groups intent on the overthrow of state or federal government. The leaders of these organizations, acting only in the capacity of private citizens, set up for themselves a private military structure. One can wonder why these individuals, if they want to serve, wouldn’t just join the federal armed forces, the National Guard, or their state’s State Defense Force (Note: not all states have a SDF)? 

Powers and Duties of Honorary Colonels

§ 31-2-70, in dealing with powers and duties of National Guard and Naval Militia officers, states:

In addition to the powers and duties prescribed in this chapter, all officers of the National Guard and Naval Militia of Alabama shall have the same powers and perform the same duties as officers of similar rank and position in the armed forces of the United States insofar as may be authorized by federal law. They are authorized to administer oaths in all matters connected with the service.
(Acts 1936, Ex. Sess., No. 143, p. 105; Code 1940, T. 35, §82; Acts 1973, No. 1038, p. 1572, §71.)

This section clearly enumerates powers of National Guard and Naval Militia officers and does not appear applicable to other officers of the organized or unorganized militia. The next several sections of the Code are likewise inapplicable with regards to Honorary Colonels. There is nowhere in the Code that identifies the powers and duties of Honorary Colonels. As they personal military staff of the Governor, and his aides-de-camp, their powers and duties are whatever the Governor deems them to be. 

The greatest clue as to what these powers might be is in the name: “Honorary Colonel”. Just as an honorary doctorate does not mean that the individual has actually done doctorate-level research, an honorary colonelship does not mean the recipient has the years of service required to lead troops.


While never explicitly using the term “Honorary Colonel” in the Alabama Code, the office past and present has a clear place in the heritage of the great State of Alabama. The Governor’s prerogative to appoint such individuals is codified in § 31-2-53.

Looking back at the Kentucky Colonels, the post is ceremonial and they serve as goodwill ambassadors for the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Likewise, the Honorary Colonels in the Alabama State Militia are goodwill ambassadors for the State of Alabama. They are individuals that the Governor has determined to present this honor to. I am very proud to have received such an honor.

Update: 19 July 2012

Since I originally created this post, I have been contacted by several individuals interested in Alabama Colonelcy. Given the dearth of information on this subject that is available online, my discussion on the matter seems to draw some attention.

I’d like to share some information that I received from Kelley Lee, the the Governor’s Proclamations Officer, on the subject. With regards to who can receive the honor, the Proclamations Office “only supplies Honorary Colonel certificates to U.S. citizens, specifically Alabama citizens and residents. “. Following that, I asked if there were any authoritative resources on the topic, to which the reply was: “It is simply something that is done for ‘fun’. They hold no official title or authority, and will most certainly never be commissioned or called upon by the Governor.” I’m a little befuddled by the “never be commissioned” statement, given that the text of the certificate specifically refers to it as a commission. It is understood that this isn’t a military commission, yet it is an honorary commission nonetheless.

However, anyone expecting military command from an Honorary Colonelcy will be as disappointed as Lord Grantham was on Downton Abbey. Lord Grantham (aka Hugh Bonneville) was devastated to learn that his Honorary Colonelcy was just that, a symbolic gesture. He could raise no troops under his command, but he did get to wear a nifty uniform and attend some great dinners.

Update: 2 August 2012

I received a phone call from Ms. Lee pertaining to a letter I had written the Governor on Honorary Colonelcy, which I had actually mailed prior to the email from her referenced above. She reiterated that the commission is “just for fun” and added that it had “always” been just for fun. I am aware of individuals who had been commissioned by other governors who believe that there was a little more to it than just for fun when they received their honor. Ms. Lee also said that she has had communication with her peers in other states and that is their view of Honorary Colonelcies as well. I’ll have to take her word on that. I don’t want to antagonize her on the issue, but I would take issue that this has always been “for fun”. I will concede and throw out another broad assumption that “no one” believes that this is a military commission that imparts on them any military authority.

So let’s look at what some of Alabama’s neighbors require for their highest honors:

Update: 1 February 2013

I’ve noticed that this particular post consistently ranks as the first or second hit in a major search engine and at this juncture in time has been viewed over 500 times. Since our topic is “just for fun”, below are the Google trends for the search terms “honorary colonel”, “Alabama colonel”, and “Alabama state militia”: ~~~
[Note: all emphasis in quoted text was done so by the author of this post.]

Update: 17 February 2019

It’s been sometime since I last updated this post, but on 17 January 2019 the honor of Honorary Colonel was re-bestowed upon me by Governor Kay Ivey. While an appointment from successive Governors is not essential to maintain the honor, as evidenced in the phrase near the end of the commissioning statement “… as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Alabama”, I am nonetheless honored to have in hand a commissioning certificate with Governor Ivey’s signature on it. In comparing it to the previous certificate, the text is slightly different.

Mr. Jeremy B. Blevins, having been deemed of meritorious character, is hereby commissioned as an Honorary Colonel in the Militia of the State of Alabama. He is, therefore, carefully and diligently to discharge the duties of the office to which he is appointed by doing and performing all manner of things thereunto belonging. And I do strictly charge and require all Officers and Soldiers under his command to be obedient to his orders as an officer of his grade and position. And he is to observe and follow such orders and directions, from time to time, as he shall receive from me, or the future Governor of the State of Alabama, or of the General or other Superior Officers set over him, according to the laws for the regulation and government of the Alabama State Militia.

I’m curious to learn what precipitated the change in verbiage, and what the significance of the addition is.

The Weapons of Our Warfare

This article from Truth Magazine may be old, but the wisdom it is based on is timeless:

The Weapons of Our Warfare:
By Leslie Diestelkamp

Paul wrote, “For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh (for the weapons of our warfare are not carnal . . .”). (2 Cor. 10:3, 4). Today it may be possible that some of us are putting too much trust in a physical weapon to help us win a spiritual victory. To allow ourselves to be thus misguided would be like trying to win a Navy victory with trucks and tanks, or like trying to win a football game with tennis balls. By use of a gun or a club a woman would seldom win the love of a man, for the weapons of her warfare in the battles of love are not those that involve violence. Just as surely as God “Dwelleth not in temples made with hands; neither is worshiped with men’s hands” (Ac. 17:24, 25), likewise His people cannot fight His battles with those things that are material in their nature. just as certainly as the mountains of Samaria and the temple at Jerusalem would both be unimportant for true worship to God, for true worship must be “in spirit and in truth” (Jn. 4:21-24, likewise today acceptableness to Him and fruitfulness in His service is determined by our use of those things that are spiritual and not carnal.

Are We Really Soldiers?
It often may be wise for us to be reminded that we are indeed engaged in a very real warfare. Every Christian is a soldier in the Lord’s army. We are all volunteers for the Lord does not conscript us. Yet, though we be altogether willing soldiers, we are, nevertheless real warriors, and we must accept the weapons God has given, train ourselves in their proper use, and wield them with vigor and courage.

Our enemy is Satan and his soldiers are those people who are subjects of sin and victims of deception and false doctrine. Satan’s soldiers need no special qualifications, and  transgression, ignorance and wilfulness are perhaps the three most potent snares he has to gain and to keep his soldiers. John wrote that sin is transgression (I Jn. 3:4). God said, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee” (Hos. 4:6). In 2 Peter 3:5 the Holy Spirit teaches us about those who are willingly ignorant of God’s ways and God’s word, and how that such brings destruction. Satan’s army is full of men and women who have all transgressed God’s word and who go on in transgressions, either ignorantly or deliberately. These are the soldiers against whom God’s army is arrayed. The task of God’s people is to eliminate ignorance and to try to provoke the willful ones to surrender to the Lord.

Throughout all the centuries past the faithful have been engaged in a warfare, and indeed “truth is stranger than fiction” and the stories of the battles fought in behalf of truth and righteousness are the greatest stories ever told. Because he walked so closely with God and pleased Him so completely Enoch was spared the ordeal of death and was thus given a very significant “decoration” for his victory over Satan. Abraham’s battles were fought by faith and it (the faith) was counted unto him for righteousness (Rom. 4:3). Elijah overpowered the prophet of Baal through his faith in God. John the baptizer lost his head to a wicked woman but even in death portrayed victory in righteousness. Jesus the Christ emerged as the greatest warrior of all time, for he not only demonstrated power over the winds of the sea, over the afflictions of the flesh and over the forces of gravity, but most significantly he exhibited himself to be master of sin and of death and of Satan. For us today, the example of Jesus is truly convincing, for he did his warfare entirely with the spiritual weapon, the word of God which it has also pleased Him to give to us for our use in the same kind of warfare.

Perhaps we should each ask ourself if we really qualify as a good soldier in the army of the Lord? Are we really trying to win a victory in the hearts of men and women for our Saviour and theirs? Let us remember that it is not enough for us to just volunteer, but we must fight! We are indeed added to the Lord’s army when we obey the gospel of Christ (Ac. 2:47), but such does not constitute us as truly good soldiers unless we go on from that beginning to engage ourselves in battle against sin, Satan and error.

Choosing Our Weapons
When Paul tells us that the weapons of our warfare ire not carnal, he was surely stressing the truly spiritual nature of the Kingdom of Christ. He was suggesting that the ordinary means used by men to gain their objectives in this life are not to be used in opposing Satan and in defending truth. I take it that he not only meant to forbid the use of unscrupulous ways and means but that he would also have us know that material things, even those that are honest and good in themselves, could not win spiritual victories. We need so badly
to learn this lesson today. Let us notice some ways in which we may be inclined to forget Paul’s words and lean too heavily upon fleshly, human means:

  1. The power of the old-fashioned gospel, unadulterated with the fancy phrases of modern theology, is still God’s only way to bring sinners to salvation. Paul himself said that he was sent to preach the gospel, not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of non effect – I Cor. 1 :17, and that his speech and his preaching was “not with enticing words of man’s wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power” (2 Cor. 2:4). And so today there is an evident need for the truth that will make men free, and for preaching that possesses no theological ambiguity. The cultured words of man’s wisdom may fill the church houses of our day, but only the unvarnished truth of God’s word will concert the sinner from the error of his way. The fancy technology learned in the speech classes, the illustrations and quotations from the newest and best of men’s literature and the “good mixer” qualities learned in the psychology classes (and from Dale Carnegie’s book) may all combine to make us successful “church builders,” but only the sharp, two edged sword of the Spirit separates sinners from sin and brings them to the Lamb of God to be washed in the blood He shed.
  2. Under the guise of a means to a worthy end we build great and expensive church buildings today, spending huge sums of the Lord’s money, adding much that is entirely of vanity and human pride instead of building only that which is a necessity for proper assembly. Strangely and sadly we note that so many Christians today hardly recognize the existence of the church in any community until a church building is erected. At least many do equate the presence of a church building with the existence of a church. And after the building is erected still more and more funds are poured into the “physical plant” in the form of additions and improvements. In most places any sum suggested can easily be had to pay for these physical things. But out in the destitute fields of the world the people in sin and ignorance are starving for the bread of life and the preachers of the word are often sacrificing significantly while their pleas for help fall upon deaf ears. Ask many churches for a thousand dollars for a carpet for the aisles and the rostrum and it will be forthcoming immediately, but ask the same church for one hundred dollars for support for a preacher in a new field and the appeal is not only rejected but often ignored.

    We need to remember that not one soul was ever won to Christ by a church building, either fancy or ordinary. Let us not forget that pews and carpets, air-conditioners and nurseries and all other such material things appeal only to the fleshly and not to the spiritual. When plain, commodious church buildings are filled with godly, consecrated men and women and when the Lord’s money is expended freely and abundantly for more and more spiritual food and when less and less is used for physical advantages, we will then be more closely imitating Paul and his companions of the first century.

  3. Slides, films and projectors may certainly have their place in the teaching activities of God’s people today, but such mechanical things will never replace consecrated Christians and devoted students of the word. The problem here is not so much regarding the item used but in the attitude toward it. When people must “see a show” in order to study the word of God their attitude is wrong and any action they take will likely be from a wrong concept or motivation, also. (Let this not he construed as a criticism of visual aids is such, but only as an effort to point out abuses. The same is true of former paragraphs regarding education and church buildings).

Truth Magazine, III:10, pp. 10-11
July 1959