A satire on the pretensions and general decadence of the American local militia during the Jacksonian era. A man on a witness stand (far left) is questioned by a court-martial. Several officers sit around a table, some talking, others dozing. On the wall behind the table is a large clock, and a shelf holding gigantic military hats and a large sword inscribed with the motto "Ducit Amor Patriae" ("Guided by patriotism"). At the far right two black men converse:
"Cuff who dat fat ossifer?"
"I don't know percicely--but I guess it mus be Col Pluck or some sich great man."
The fat officer to whom they refer sits in a chair at left with a list of witnesses. In his back pocket is a pamphlet "Trial of Col. Pluck." Two of his fellow officers question the defendant:
"Colonel you will please to tell this honourable Court what you know of this business."
"In the first place then I would tell this Honourable court that I'm no Col.--I was a Col. but when the Militia got so low as to injure me in my profession I resigned."
"What is your profession?"
"A self-taught "gentleman--"When I was quite a boy I showed considerable genius for this profession & have followed nothing else for six or seven years past."
A dozing officer at the table remarks, "He had ought to be rammed into a six pounder & picked out at the touch hole." Another, sitting directly below the inscribed sword, says, "Two dollar a day besides the honour isn't so bad! but the plage of it is, it wont last more than six months." Another complains, ""I've got such a cold in my head that my nose seems inclined to run away. If it is not at hand when I want to blow it I'll have it tried by a "court martial."
On the far right a man comments, "Poor young man! so much has been said in his favour that they may do nothing more than shoot him. But I fear the worst & hope he is prepared to hear the awful--the overwhelming sentence "Deserving the Censure of This Honourable Court" with a soldier-like fortitude."