Given the dates, we went looking for “John H.’s” in the online listing of headstone transcriptions from 1899 from the Hill cemetery, Hatfield’s oldest cemetery. The name did not look like John Hubbard, but looked like it could be one of the two John Hastings listed – one who died in 1845 at age 80 and the other who died in 1811 at age 73. Our visitor was happy to have a name to explore and we were happy to get to see (and share) this 200+-year-old artifact of militia garb.
Of course the mystery of the shoulder belt plate’s owner was only the first mystery. Ensuing mysteries for me included what role the local militia played, as opposed to the military, how long the militia were around, and how their uniforms, insignia and accessories differed from official military ones. Here’s an extremely informative ebook I found that answered a lot of my questions, American Military Insignia (1800-1851), by J. Duncan Campbell and Edgar M. Howell, the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C., 1963. Check out what the authors say about the “volunteer” or “independent” Militia companies. Fascinating!