Birmingham Rifles

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The Birmingham Rifles were a militia group which trained in Birmingham, conducting public drills, participating in parades, and assisting civil authorities from time to time to maintain order in the city. The Rifles and another unit, the Birmingham Artillery Company, both used Sublett Hall as an armory.

The two units were both organized by physician James Luckie around 1876, when the Reconstruction prohibition on raising militias was lifted. They were affiliated with the Alabama State Militia, which was renamed the Alabama State Troops in 1881.

The group was asked by police to help maintain order following the lynching of Lewis Houston in Capitol Park in late November 1883, and also to protect another prisoner, Walter Posey. Those efforts would have been futile but for the arrival of additional state troops under the command of Thomas Jones.

The Birmingham Rifles were active in attempting to control angry crowds after the capture of Richard Hawes, accused of murdering his wife and daughters in 1888. Sheriff Joseph S. Smith had armed his deputies, and had ordered them to fire into the crowd when it appeared they would be overcome. Ten people were killed. Smith and police chief O. A. Pickard were placed under arrest once Alabama State Troops restored order. They were released the following day when a jury deadlocked on whether they were guilty of crimes.

In May 1898 the Rifles were mustered for service to the United States, as Company K of the 1st Alabama Volunteer Infantry, during the Spanish-American War. The militia trained at Camp Clark before being activated. They departed Birmingham from the Union Station on October 31.

The militia evolved into the 3rd Infantry Regiment of the Alabama National Guard unit prior to World War I.



  • Northrup, Jeff (1979) "The Hawes Affair, Part II." Journal of the Birmingham Historical Society. Vol. 6, No. 1