Digging through reports from a hundred years ago in search of a single name of a south Florida man may not seem like an exciting way to spend one’s last semester in college, but for me it has proved to be immensely beneficial giving me insight into a community which many historians avoid.
My internship is as a research assistant for the Florida National Guard’s History department where I have spent the last few months building up a database of Florida National Guard unit histories. The detective work involved in tracking the development and evolution of local militias that predate the organization of today’s National Guard and reserve units is quite rewarding.
From the time that Florida was colonized by the Spanish, there have been local militias aiming to protect its population. Though what is now known as the National Guard was organized in 1903, modern units trace their linages back to the militias of the nineteenth century. My job involves tracking these linages in reports and orders from the Adjunct General (the commanding officer of the Florida National Guard) to tell the story of how these militias evolved into today’s professional force.