George Washington (1772 portrait) wears a colonel's uniform of the Virginia Regiment. Washington disliked the militia system: In both the French and Indian War and the American Revolution he sought to create a full-time, professional force.
|Country||Colony of Virginia|
|Allegiance||George II of Great Britain|
|Commander||Joshua Fry (1754)
George Washington (1754-58)
The Virginia Regiment was formed in 1754 by Virginia's Royal Governor Robert Dinwiddie, initially as an all volunteer militia corps. He promoted George Washington, the future first president of the United States of America, to its command upon the death of Colonel Joshua Fry. Washington, who had previously been a lieutenant colonel of the Virginia militia, received a promotion to colonel when he assumed command. The regiment served in the French and Indian War, with members participating in actions (all under Washington's command) at Jumonville Glen and Fort Necessity in 1754, the Braddock expedition in 1755, and the Forbes expedition in 1758. Small detachments of the regiment were involved in numerous minor actions along Virginia's extensive wilderness frontier. One of his junior officers was William Trent, a fur trader and merchant from Philadelphia who had bought extensive lands in the Ohio Country.
Most recruits were characterized by Washington as "loose, Idle Persons... quite destitute of House, and Home." Hampered by frequent desertions because of poor supplies, extremely low pay and hazardous duty, Virginia Regiment recruiters went to Pennsylvania and Maryland for men. Washington said of them, " and not a few... have Scarce a Coat, or Waistcoat, to their Backs". Later drafts pulled only those who could not provide a substitute or pay the £10 exemption fee, ensuring that only Virginia's poor would be drafted. White males between 16 and 50 were permitted to serve, although the regiment's size rolls report men as young as 15 and as old as 60 in the ranks, along with references to a small number of drafts with partial African and native American ancestry.
The Virginia Regiment is noteworthy in the colonies because it was the first all-colonial professional military force. Although colonials had served in the British Army, and local militias were common, the regiment was the only unit at the time to drill regularly and wear a standard uniform.
The formation of the Virginia Regiment presaged later attempts to more formally professionalize the militia in the colonies:
- "WHEREAS it is necessary, in this time of danger, that the militia of this colony should be well regulated and disciplined...And be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That every person so as aforesaid inlisted (except free mulattoes, negroes, and Indians) shall be armed in the manner following, that is to say: Every soldier shall he furnished with a firelock well fixed, a bayonet fitted to the same, a double cartouch-box, and three charges of powder, and constantly appear with the same at the time and place appointed for muster and exercise, and shall also keep at his place of abode one pound of powder and four pounds of ball, and bring the same with him into the field when he shall be required...And for the better training and exercising the militia, and rendering them more serviceable, Be it further enacted, by the authority aforesaid, That every captain shall, once in three months, and oftner if thereto required by the lieutenant or chief commanding officer in the county, muster, train, and exercise his company, and the lieutenant or other chief commanding officer in the county shall cause a general muster and exercise of all the companies within his county, to be made in the months of March or April, and September or October, yearly; and if any soldier shall, at any general or private muster, refuse to perform the command of his officer, or behave himself refractorily or mutinously, or misbehave himself at the courts martial to be held in pursuance of this act, as is herein after directed, it shall and may be lawful to and for the chief commanding officer, then present, to cause such offender to be tied neck and heels, for any time not exceeding five minutes, or inflict such corporal punishment as he shall think fit, not exceeding twenty lashes..." —An Act for the better regulating and disciplining the Militia, April 1757
- Militia Act of 1757 at virginia1774.org