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Over fifty years ago there existed at Harvard a voluntary military organization among the two upper classes known as the Harvard Washington Corps. It was descended from an undergraduate military company of revolutionary times called the Marti Mercutian Band and was organized in 1811. Any senior or junior at least five feet, five inches in height could belong to it.
The corps was organized as a militia company with a captain, a lieutenant, and ensign, four sergeants, and a corporal to each section. There were regular drills, parades and reviews, the two gala occasions of the year being an annual visit to Medford to visit Governor Brooks of revolutionary fame, whom the corps made its hero and a visit to Boston where the father of a member of the corps entertained it at dinner. Two other events of great importance were the annual election of officers and the ceremonious installment which took place in the old Parker Hotel on Brighton street near Harvard square.
The drilling was done on Cambridge common which was then an open space and had but one obstruction, a sign-board in the centre with a gilt eagle and the inscription "Concord Turnpike." The arms were furnished by the state authorities.
The Washington Corps enjoyed its greatest prosperity about 1833 when George Peabody was captain. It was then reorganized as a battalion instead of a company and lasted until 1834, when it was suppressed on account of participation by many of its members in the "Great Rebellion" of that year. The corps is said to have been of great value at a time when there was no gymnasium for the students, and a few who remember the days of its glory maintain that it furnished far better exercise than the present athletic contests.
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