1 3/4 inches high
Salem Militia interpreters
from Old Salem
Toy soldiers in a pacifist community?
The toy soldier at left was found in the excavation of a cellar hole on Main Street in Salem that dated from the second quarter of the nineteenth century. In another excavation on nearby Church Street, the toy soldier on patrol and the toy palmetto tree (below) were found.
Through the 18th century, the Moravians of North Carolina advocated pacifism. In fact, their recognition as an ancient Protestant Episcopal Church by the English Parliament in 1749 granted them the right not to serve in armed conflicts… so the lead soldiers might seem surprising finds.
But bearing in mind that these toys date somewhere between 1825 and 1860, we find an explanation for their presence. By this time, several generations had passed since Salem’s founding in 1766, and the Moravians were no longer largely central Europeans but were native North Carolinians.
In 1831, due to fear of slave insurrections, the North Carolina General Assembly passed legislation requiring that every town raise a militia company, and the Salem Militia was formed. A number of young men of Salem joined, uniforms were ordered, muskets supplied by the state, and a band provided martial music for regular drills.
Although the residents of Salem remained Moravians, they also underwent changes that made them North Carolinians, Southerners, and Americans, and toy soldiers from the second quarter of the nineteenth century are not so surprising.