Militia (United States)

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The U.S. ideal of the citizen soldier, in the militia, depicted by The Concord Minute Man of 1775, a monument created by Daniel Chester French and erected in 1875, in Concord, Massachusetts.

The militia of the United States, as defined by the U.S. Congress, has changed over time.[1] During colonial America, all able-bodied men of a certain age range were members of the militia, depending on each colony's rule.[2] Individual towns formed local independent militias for their own defense.[3] The year before the US Constitution was ratified, The Federalist Papers detailed the founders' paramount vision of the militia in 1787.[4][5] The new Constitution empowered Congress to "organize, arm, and discipline" this national military force, leaving significant control in the hands of each state government.[6][7]

Today, as defined by the Militia Act of 1903, the term "militia" is used to describe two classes within the United States:[8]

  • Organized militia – consisting of State Defense Forces, the National Guard and Naval Militia.[9][10]
  • Unorganized militia – comprising the reserve militia: every able-bodied man of at least 17 and under 45 years of age, not a member of the State Defense Forces, National Guard, or Naval Militia.[11]

Congress has organized the National Guard under its power to "raise and support armies" and not its power to "Provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia".[12] This, Congress chose to do in the interests of organizing reserve military units which were not limited in deployment by the strictures of its power over the constitutional militia, which can be called forth only "to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions."

Etymology[edit]

The term "militia" derives from Old English milite meaning soldiers (plural), militisc meaning military and also classical Latin milit-, miles meaning soldier.

The Modern English term militia dates to the year 1590, with the original meaning now obsolete: "the body of soldiers in the service of a sovereign or a state". Subsequently, since approximately 1665, militia has taken the meaning "a military force raised from the civilian population of a country or region, especially to supplement a regular army in an emergency, frequently as distinguished from mercenaries or professional soldiers".[13] The U.S. Supreme Court adopted the following definition for "active militia" from an Illinois Supreme Court case of 1879: " 'a body of citizens trained to military duty, who may be called out in certain cases, but may not be kept on service like standing armies, in times of peace'. . . when not engaged at stated periods . . . they return to their usual avocations . . . and are subject to call when public exigencies demand it."[14]

The spelling of millitia is often observed in written and printed materials from the 17th century through the 19th century.[15][16]

First Muster, Spring 1637, Massachusetts Bay Colony

History[edit]

Early-mid Colonial era (1607–1754)[edit]

See article: Colonial American military history

The early colonists of America considered the militia an important social institution, necessary to provide defense and public safety.[17]

On August 29, 1643 the Plymouth Colony Court allowed & established a military discipline to be erected and maintained.[18]

French and Indian War (1754–1763)[edit]

See article: Provincial troops in the French and Indian Wars

During the French and Indian Wars, town militia formed a recruiting pool for the Provincial Forces. The legislature of the colony would authorize a certain force level for the season's campaign and set recruitment quotas for each local militia. In theory, militia members could be drafted by lot if there were inadequate forces for the Provincial Regulars; however, the draft was rarely resorted to because provincial regulars were highly paid (more highly paid than their regular British Army counterparts) and rarely engaged in combat.

In September 1755, George Washington, then adjutant-general of the Virginia militia, upon a frustrating and futile attempt to call up the militia to respond to a frontier Indian attack:[19]

... he experienced all the evils of insubordination among the troops, perverseness in the militia, inactivity in the officers, disregard of orders, and reluctance in the civil authorities to render a proper support. And what added to his mortification was, that the laws gave him no power to correct these evils, either by enforcing discipline, or compelling the indolent and refractory to their duty ... The militia system was suited for only to times of peace. It provided for calling out men to repel invasion; but the powers granted for effecting it were so limited, as to be almost inoperative.[19]

See New Hampshire Provincial Regiment for a history of a Provincial unit during the French and Indian War.

Pre-American Revolutionary War era (1763–1775)[edit]

Just prior to the American Revolutionary War, on October 26, 1774, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, observing the British military buildup, deemed their militia resources to be insufficient: the troop strength, "including the sick and absent, amounted to about seventeen thousand men ... this was far short of the number wanted, that the council recommended an immediate application to the New England governments to make up the deficiency":[20]

... they recommended to the militia to form themselves into companies of minute-men, who should be equipped and prepared to march at the shortest notice. These minute-men were to consist of one quarter of the whole militia, to be enlisted under the direction of the field-officers, and divide into companies, consisting of at least fifty men each. The privates were to choose their captains and subalterns, and these officers were to form the companies into battalions, and chose the field-officers to command the same. Hence the minute-men became a body distinct from the rest of the militia, and, by being more devoted to military exercises, they acquired skill in the use of arms. More attention than formerly was likewise bestowed on the training and drilling of militia.[20]

American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)[edit]

See article: List of United States militia units in the American Revolutionary War

The Battle of Lexington, April 19th, 1775. Blue coated militiamen in the foreground flee from the volley of gunshots from the red coated British Army line in the background with dead and wounded militiamen on the ground.

The American Revolutionary War began near Boston, Massachusetts with the Battles of Lexington and Concord, in which a group of local militias constituted the American side (the "Patriots"). On April 19, 1775, a British force 800 strong marched out of Boston to Concord intending to destroy patriot arms and ammunition. At 5:00 in the morning at Lexington, they met about 70 armed militiamen whom they ordered to disperse, but the militiamen refused. Firing ensued; it is not clear which side opened fire. This became known as "the shot heard round the world". Eight militiamen were killed and ten wounded, whereupon the remainder took flight. The British continued on to Concord and were unable to find most of the arms and ammunition of the patriots. As the British marched back toward Boston, patriot militiamen assembled along the route, taking cover behind stone walls, and sniped at the British. At Meriam's Corner in Concord, the British columns had to close in to cross a narrow bridge, exposing themselves to concentrated, deadly fire. The British retreat became a rout. It was only with the help of an additional detachment of 900 troops that the British force managed to return to Boston.[21] This marked the beginning of the war. It was "three days after the affair of Lexington and Concord that any movement was made towards embodying a regular army".[22]

In 1777, the Second Continental Congress adopted the Articles of Confederation, which contained a provision for raising a confederal militia that consent would be required from nine of the 13 States. Article VI of the Articles of Confederation states,

... every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia, sufficiently armed and accoutered, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, and a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage.

Some militia units appeared without adequate arms, as evidenced in this letter from John Adams to his wife, dated August 26, 1777:

The militia are turning out with great alacrity both in Maryland and Pennsylvania. They are distressed for want of arms. Many have none, we shall rake and scrape enough to do Howe's business, by favor of the Heaven.[23]

The initial enthusiasm of Patriot militiamen in the beginning days of the war soon waned. The historian Garry Wills explains,

The fervor of the early days in the reorganized militias wore off in the long grind of an eight-year war. Now the right to elect their own officers was used to demand that the men not serve away from their state. Men evaded service, bought substitutes to go for them as in the old days, and had to be bribed with higher and higher bounties to join the effort – which is why Jefferson and Samuel Adams called them so expensive. As wartime inflation devalued the currency, other pledges had to be offered, including land grants and the promise of "a healthy slave" at the end of the war. Some men would take a bounty and not show up. Or they would show up for a while, desert, and then, when they felt the need for another bounty, sign up again in a different place. ... This practice was common enough to have its own technical term – "bounty jumping".[24]

The burden of waging war passed to a large extent to the standing army, the Continental Army. The stay-at-home militia tended then to perform the important role of the internal police to keep order. British forces sought to disrupt American communities by instigating slave rebellions and Indian raids. The militia fended off these threats. Militias also spied on Loyalists in the American communities. In Albany County, New York, the militia established a Committee for Detecting and Defeating Conspiracies to look out for and investigate people with suspicious allegiances.[25]

United States militia guerrilla actions in the American Revolutionary War (1775–1783)[edit]

The United States militias fighting on the side of the American Revolutionaries were very capable of conducting guerrilla actions against the British and their allies. The American militia were able to perform ambushes, raids, firing behind cover or concealment, harassing actions, or surprise attacks. The United States militias' guerrilla tactics contributed significantly to the American cause. It wasn't the factor, but one of the factors that helped the Americans achieve their independence.

Thomas Sumter’s hit-and-run attack at Rocky Mount[edit]

Thomas Sumter wanted to conduct a surprise attack on Rocky Mount. Thomas Sumter had assembled a force of about 500-600 militiamen. Sumter prepared to attack either on July 31, 1780 or August 1, 1780. Sumter sent William Richardson Davie on a diversionary raid at Hanging rock to draw away attention. Sumter was told by a spy who may have been a double agent for the Loyalists that the Loyalist outpost Rocky Mount had weak walls that musket balls can shoot through. However, the Loyalists had reinforced and fortified their outpost by erecting a second set of interior walls that would prevent musket balls from penetrating the structures. Plus, the Loyalist outpost of Rocky Mount had abatis set as a line of defense. Sumter launched his surprise attack at Rocky Mount but Sumter’s force was detected. Some parties of Sumter’s militia riflemen advanced under the cover of rocks and trees and kept up a fire upon the outpost. Sumter ordered his other large groups of men to launch frontal assaults on the outpost. But three separate attacks were repelled from the heavy fire of the Loyalist garrison. Sumter then sent two militiamen to set the outpost buildings on fire. However that failed too after it started raining thus putting the fire out. Sumter lacked any artillery for destroying the outpost. So Sumter called off the attack and withdrew his force. The Loyalists were victorious as Thomas Sumter and his whole militia force withdrew from their raid at Rocky Mount. British Loyalist losses are believed to be 20-22 men killed or wounded. While the American militia losses are believed to be 12-15 killed or wounded.[26][27]

William R. Davie’s diversionary raid at Hanging Rock[edit]

American militia commander Thomas Sumter wanted to attack the outpost Rocky Mount. So Thomas Sumter ordered his lower militia sub-commander William Richardson Davie to conduct a diversionary raid at Hanging Rock to draw away most of the British/loyalist attention from Sumter’s attack on Rocky Mount. William Richardson Davie took with him an eighty-man force of 40 mounted militia riflemen with 40 dragoons to raid Hanging Rock. Davie had arrived at Hanging Rock either on July 31 or August 1st, year 1780. Davie reconnoitered the enemy position to fix upon the point of attack. Davie received information that three loyalist companies of mounted infantry were returning from some excursion that had halted at a farmer’s house in full view of the enemy camp. Davie's militia mounted riflemen wore clothing similar to the Loyalist militia standing guard at the outpost. He sent them to infiltrate the outpost and start the attack. Davie’s mounted riflemen rode casually towards the outpost while his dragoons rode into positions to also take part in the attack. Davie’s mounted militia riflemen passed the enemy camp sentries without being challenged, dismounted, and gave the enemy a well directed fire. The astonished loyalists fled but Davie’s dragoons rode in from multiple directions and surrounded all the loyalists. The American dragoons cut down all the loyalists since it was not possible to safely take prisoners. William Richardson Davie wrote in his accounts of sketches how apologetic he was that he had no choice but to kill all the fleeing loyalists in the heat of battle. Davie’s combined force of mounted militia and dragoons took 60 valuable horses with their furniture and 100 muskets and rifles. The whole British loyalist camp beat to arms and Davie’s mounted raiding force immediately withdrew safely.[28]

Francis Marion's raid at Horse Creek[edit]

After the battle of Camden which ended in defeat for the Americans. Lord Cornwallis was in possession of numerous American patriot prisoners. On the evening of August 19, 1780. Francis Marion was camped at Nelson's Ferry with his fellow militiamen. Marion encountered a deserter from the pro-British Tory militia that there were 150 American prisoners under the guard of 36 enemy soldiers which included British regulars and Loyalist militia. Francis Marion had 52 militia partisans with him. Francis Marion decided to mount a rescue operation to free the 150 prisoners. The British and Loyalist column stopped at a plantation at the Santee Swamp to rest. A few British guards manned their posts around the prisoners while most of the other guards slept in the house with their firearms stacked at the door under another guard. The American militia would attack before dawn on Sunday, August 20, 1780. Marion with the majority of the men would attack the British position by approaching the house from the rear. Another American militiaman Hugh Horry and a force of 16 men would block the road leading from the plantation house at a force across Horse Creek. The American militia partisans arrived near the plantation before first light, probably around four or five o'clock in the morning. Hugh Horry and his men were concealed in the foliage of live oaks and cedars to take their positions. While Marion and his men were still some distance from the house, Horry's party met an alert enemy sentry who fired at them, sounding an alarm. Hugh Horry and his sixteen men mounted on horses rode at full tilt to the house. His force made as much noise as possible in hopes that the British would think them a much larger body of men and surrender to what seemed to be overwhelming odds. Marion's men silently, yet quickly, closed the distance to the house. Horry secured the pile of firearms, leaving some of his men to secure it. Horry and the remainder of his men burst into the house while Marion charged from the rear. Marion and Horry overpowered the British/Loyalist force. All the British/Loyalist troops were killed, wounded, or captured. The American militia force suffered no casualties. Francis Marion's force freed all 150 American prisoners. Most of the Continental prisoners refused to join Marion's band and only three joined Marion's guerrilla group. About 60 Continental prisoners would rejoin their units while others just departed. After completing this rescue raid, Francis Marion and his men withdrew to Port's Ferry on Britton's Neck.[29]

Battle of Wahab's Plantation[edit]

American militia commander William Richardson Davie conducted a hit-and-run surprise attack at the Wahab's Plantation against British loyalists. While Davie was conducting his guerrilla campaigns against the British, he learned that companies of Loyalist dragoons and British light infantry were encamped to the rear of Cornwallis's army at Wahab's Plantation. Davie decided to conduct a surprise attack. On September 20, 1780, William Richardson Davie sent a company of militia through the cornfield to take the plantation house while he moved up the lane toward the camp. The militia conducted their surprise attack and the loyalists who were attacked fled leaving 15 dead and 40 wounded. David knew after his surprise attack that the British/loyalist force would form up to retaliate. Davie and his militiamen took away 96 horses, 120 muskets, and retreated safely to the north. The American militia force only suffered 1 wounded.[30]

Ambushing and capturing a British Convoy[edit]

This American militia ambush of a British convoy took place on February 23, 1781. American militia commander Thomas Sumter learned of the approach of a British convoy of twenty wagons, with an escort of at least 50 British soldiers. Sumter laid an ambush behind the tangled vines and evergreens on Big Savannah. When the British convoy came into view, the American militia under a militia sub-commander Bratton sprang their ambush and attacked. The British quickly formed and returned the fire. After some firing of seven rounds, an American militia leader Lacey with more numbers of militia joined to reinforce Bratton. Seeing this, the British surrendered and raised the white flag. In spite of the enemy's signal for a parley, the American militia discharged their muskets, killing seven of the British and wounding seven others. The British wrote a letter of outrage to the Americans for firing on and killing surrendering troops. The captured wagons were loaded with arms, ammunition, and clothing for three regiments. The American militia also found several heavily banded chest used in shipping gold. Sumter loaded the plunder into flatboats, and ordered an American Robert Livingston to pilot the craft to a rendezvous below Nelson's Ferry. But Robert Livingston who may have been a pro-British loyalist rowed the boat with the plunder to the British occupied Fort Watson.[31]

Confederation period (1783–1787)[edit]

Politically, the militia was highly popular during the postwar period, though to some extent, based more on pride of victory in the recent war than on the realities.[32] This skepticism of the actual value of relying upon the militia for national defense, versus a trained regular army was expressed by Gouverneur Morris:

An overweening vanity leads the fond many, each man against the conviction of his own heart, to believe or affect to believe, that militia can beat veteran troops in the open field and even play of battle. This idle notion, fed by vaunting demagogues, alarmed us for our country, when in the course of that time and chance, which happen to all, she should be at war with a great power.[33]

Robert Spitzer, citing Daniel Boorstin, describes this political dichotomy of the public popularity of the militia versus the military value:[32]

While the reliance upon militias was politically satisfying, it proved to be an administrative and military nightmare. State detachments could not be easily combined into larger fighting units; soldiers could not be relied on to serve for extended periods, and desertions were common; officers were elected, based on popularity rather than experience or training; discipline and uniformity were almost nonexistent.

General George Washington defended the militia in public, but in correspondence with Congress expressed his opinion of the militia quite to the contrary:

To place any dependence on the Militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender Scenes of domestic life; unaccustomed to the din of Arms; totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill, which being followed by a want of confidence in themselves, when opposed to Troops regularly trained, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge and superior in Arms, makes them timid, and ready to fly from their own shadows ... if I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole, I should subscribe to the latter.[34]

In Shays' Rebellion, a Massachusetts militia that had been raised as a private army defeated the main Shays site force on February 3, 1787. There was a lack of an institutional response to the uprising, which energized calls to reevaluate the Articles of Confederation and gave strong impetus to the Constitutional Convention which began in May 1787.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, a political atmosphere developed at the local level where the militia was seen with fondness, despite their spotty record on the battlefield. Typically, when the militia did act well was when the battle came into the locale of the militia, and local inhabitants tended to exaggerate the performance of the local militia versus the performance of the Continental Army. The Continental Army was seen as the protector of the States, though it also was viewed as a dominating force over the local communities. Joseph Reed, president of Pennsylvania viewed this jealousy between the militia forces and the standing army as similar to the prior frictions between the militia and the British Regular Army a generation before during the French and Indian War. Tensions came to a head at the end of the war when the Continental Army officers demanded pensions and set up the Society of the Cincinnati to honor their own wartime deeds. The local communities did not want to pay national taxes to cover the Army pensions, when the local militiamen received none.[35]

Constitution and Bill of Rights (1787–1789)[edit]

The delegates of the Constitutional Convention (the founding fathers/framers of the United States Constitution) under Article 1; section 8, clauses 15 and 16 of the federal constitution, granted Congress the power to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the Militia", as well as, and in distinction to, the power to raise an army and a navy. The US Congress is granted the power to use the militia of the United States for three specific missions, as described in Article 1, section 8, clause 15: "To provide for the calling of the militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections, and repel invasions." The Militia Act of 1792[36] clarified whom the militia consists of:

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act.

Civilian control of a peacetime army[edit]

At the time of the drafting of the Constitution, and the Bill of Rights, a political sentiment existed in the newly formed United States involving suspicion of peacetime armies not under civilian control. This political belief has been identified as stemming from the memory of the abuses of the standing army of Oliver Cromwell and King James II, in Great Britain in the prior century, which led to the Glorious Revolution and resulted in placing the standing army under the control of Parliament.[37] During the Congressional debates, James Madison discussed how a militia could help defend liberty against tyranny and oppression. (Source I Annals of Congress 434, June 8, 1789) Though during his presidency, after enduring the failures of the militia in the War of 1812, Madison came to favor the maintenance of a strong standing army[citation needed].

Shift from States' power to Federal power[edit]

A major concern of the various delegates during the constitutional debates over the Constitution and the Second Amendment to the Constitution revolved around the issue of transferring militia power held by the States (under the existing Articles of Confederation) to Federal control.

Congress shall have the power ... to provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress

— US Constitution, article 1, section 8, clause 15

The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States; he may require the Opinion, in writing, of the principal Officer in each of the executive Departments, upon any Subject relating to the Duties of their respective Offices, and he shall have Power to grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States, except in Cases of Impeachment.

— US Constitution, article II, section 2, clause 1[32]

Political debate regarding compulsory militia service for pacifists[edit]

Records of the constitutional debate over the early drafts of the language of the Second Amendment included significant discussion of whether service in the militia should be compulsory for all able bodied men, or should there be an exemption for the "religiously scrupulous" conscientious objector.

The concern about risks of a "religiously scrupulous" exemption clause within the second amendment to the Federal Constitution was expressed by Elbridge Gerry of Massachusetts (from 1 Annals of Congress at 750, 17 August 1789):

Now, I am apprehensive, sir, that this clause would give an opportunity to the people in power to destroy the constitution itself. They can declare who are those religiously scrupulous, and prevent them from bearing arms. What, sir, is the use of a militia? It is to prevent the establishment of a standing army, the bane of liberty. Now it must be evident, that under this provision, together with their other powers, congress could take such measures with respect to a militia, as make a standing army necessary. Whenever Governments mean to invade the rights and liberties of the people, they always attempt to destroy the militia, in order to raise an army upon their ruins.

The "religiously scrupulous" clause was ultimately stricken from the final draft of second amendment to the Federal Constitution though the militia clause was retained. The Supreme Court of the United States has upheld a right to conscientious objection to military service.[38]

Concern over select militias[edit]

William S. Fields & David T. Hardy write:[39]

While in The Federalist No. 46, Madison argued that a standing army of 25,000 to 30,000 men would be offset by "a militia amounting to near a half million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves ..." [119] The Antifederalists were not persuaded by these arguments, in part because of the degree of control over the militia given to the national government by the proposed constitution. The fears of the more conservative opponents centered upon the possible phasing out of the general militia in favor of a smaller, more readily corrupted, select militia. Proposals for such a select militia already had been advanced by individuals such as Baron Von Steuben, Washington's Inspector General, who proposed supplementing the general militia with a force of 21,000 men given government- issued arms and special training. [120] An article in the Connecticut Journal expressed the fear that the proposed constitution might allow Congress to create such select militias: "[T]his looks too much like Baron Steuben's militia, by which a standing army was meant and intended." [121] In Pennsylvania, John Smiley told the ratifying convention that "Congress may give us a select militia which will in fact be a standing army", and worried that, [p.34] with this force in hand, "the people in general may be disarmed". [122] Similar concerns were raised by Richard Henry Lee in Virginia. In his widely-read pamphlet, Letters from the Federal Farmer to the Republican, Lee warned that liberties might be undermined by the creation of a select militia that "[would] answer to all the purposes of an army", and concluded that "the Constitution ought to secure a genuine and guard against a select militia by providing that the militia shall always be kept well organized, armed, and disciplined, and include, according to the past and general usage of the states, all men capable of bearing arms.

Note: In Federalist Paper 29 Hamilton argued the inability to train the whole Militia made select corps inevitable and, like Madison, paid it no concern.

Federalist period (1789–1801)[edit]

In 1794, a militia numbering approximately 13,000 was raised and personally led by President George Washington to quell the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania. From this experience, a major weakness of a States-based citizen militia system was found to be the lack of systematic army organization, and a lack of training for engineers and officers. George Washington repeatedly warned of these shortcomings up until his death in 1799. Two days before his death, in a letter to General Alexander Hamilton, George Washington wrote: "The establishment of a Military Academy upon a respectable and extensive basis has ever been considered by me as an object of primary importance to this country; and while I was in the chair of government, I omitted no proper opportunity of recommending it in my public speeches, and otherwise to the attention of the legislature."[40]

Early republic (1801–1812)[edit]

In 1802, the federal military academy at West Point was established, in part to rectify the failings of irregular training inherent in a States-based militia system.[40]

War of 1812 (1812–1815)[edit]

Kentucky Mounted Militia riflemen at the Battle of the Thames in October 1813, riding into battle as mounted infantry.

In the War of 1812, the United States militia, because of a lack of discipline and poor training, were often routed in battle on open ground by well trained and equipped British regulars.[citation needed] They fared better and proved more reliable when protected behind defensive entrenchments and fixed fortifications, as was effectively shown at Plattsburgh, Baltimore, and New Orleans. Because of their overall ineffectiveness and failure during the war, militias were not adequate for the national defense. Military budgets were greatly increased at this time and a smaller, standing federal army, rather than States' militias, was deemed better for the national defense.[citation needed]

United States militia guerrilla actions in the War of 1812[edit]

Although most of the times in the War of 1812, the United States militia performed poorly on open ground against well trained and equipped British regulars. The United States militia can also stand a better chance if they fought unconventionally using guerrilla-like tactics against the British and their allies. Whether it would be setting ambushes, firing behind cover, raiding, harassing, or conducting surprise attacks. A number of the United States militia's guerrilla actions were successful and some had mixed results.

Duncan McArthur’s deep penetration raid into Thames[edit]

It was July 13, 1812. The American militia and regulars were conducting paramilitary operations in their invasion of Canada. American intelligence claimed they found a group of enemy Indian fighters. American militia commander Duncan McArthur with one hundred American militiamen went in pursuit. The American militia chased the enemy fighters and fell upon their rear. The enemy Indian fighters dispersed into the woods and escaped. Duncan McArthur was about to return, when Captain Smith of the Detroit dragoons overtook him with orders to push forward into enemy territory to the settlements on the Thames in search of provisions. McArthur obeyed and penetrated as far as the Moravian towns, sixty miles from its mouth. There was a house McArthur encountered in his raid in Thames. The owner had fled, but the house was guarded by a file of British soldiers. The group of British soldiers were captured, disarmed, and paroled. McArthur and his militia raiding force seized the boats along the stream and loaded them with enemy supplies they commandeered. On July 17, 1812. McArthur and his militia raiding force returned back to an American base camp with about 200 barrels of flour, 400 blankets, and a quite large quantity of military stores. These were chiefly public property, collected for the British troops at Malden and yet American commander Hull gave a receipt for the whole, public and private.[41][42]

Militia Colonel Lewis Cass’s surprise assault at a bridge at Canard River[edit]

It was July 16, 1812. Lewis Cass who was an American militia colonel at the time of the American invasion of Canada was ordered to reconnoiter ahead for intelligence. Militia colonel Lewis Cass led a force of at least 250 men with the majority of them being Ohio militia and a company being regulars. Upon reaching Aux Canards River, Cass found a bridge guarded by a detachment of the British 41st and some Indians. Cass ordered a company of riflemen to conceal themselves by the tall grass near the bridge. The concealed American riflemen were to fire upon the enemy when the main attack force made their surprise assault on the British. The plan succeeded. Cass formed his other riflemen on the wings, with two companies of infantry in the center, under James Miller. The main body advanced stealthily. Lewis Cass and his force approaching was not observed by the enemy until he came, unexpectedly to a deep inlet, which compelled him to diverge from his line of march. The movement gave the enemy time to form and make his arrangements, and they opened a distant but not effective fire. The American riflemen who were concealed by the tall grass at the bridge opened fire and the main American attack force fired their volley. The British force was driven off and retreated. Cass halted the pursuit as it was getting dark. Cass regrouped his force at the bridge and made camp near the battlefield. The Americans suffered no casualties. For British casualties, one report claims that the British lost over a dozen killed or wounded. But another source says that the British lost one killed and one wounded prisoner.[43][44][45][46][47]

Raid at Toussaint’s Island[edit]

In September 15,1812. There was a British naval convoy with goods and stores. New York State Militia Captain Elisah Griffen set out on a gunboat with 18 American militiamen with a six pounder cannon to ambush and raid the convoy and commandeer the goods. The American militia landed at Toussaint at night, opposite the town of Lisbon, near the place where the enemy lay. The only family on the island was secured. But a man of the family escaped by swimming and gave the alarm. The British convoy now laid at the north shore, behind the island preparing to fight. The militia under Elisah Griffen took a position near. The American militia fired at the British with their cannon. The American militia and British forces fired at each other for a while. When it seemed unlikely that the convoy could be captured safely, the American militia withdrew back to their lines. The Americans only suffered one killed and one wounded. The British are reported to have lost 2 killed and several wounded.[48][49]

Militia Colonel James Findlay's hit-and-run raid against the Ottawas[edit]

American militia colonel James Findlay came to St. Marys with 350 horse mounted Ohio militiamen on September 16, 1812. Then colonel Findlay and his 350 mounted militia riders rode north into the Great Black Swamp to raid and destroy the Ottawa villages of Lower Tawas on Tawa Run and Upper Tawas on the Blanchard River since the Ottawa there gave aid to the British. The mounted militia raiding force destroyed these Ottawa villages. Then Findlay and his mounted raiders withdrew to St. Marys on September 24th, 1812.[50][51][52]

Raid on Gananoque[edit]

20 New York Militiamen under militia Captain Samuel McNitt took part in a joint raid with 90 soldiers of the American Regiment of Riflemen under the command of Benjamin Forsyth. American commander Jacob Jennings Brown ordered Benjamin Forsyth and Samuel McNitt to conduct the raid. The American riflemen and militia covertly traveled in boats on September 21, 1812 to Gananoque. The combined American force of riflemen and militia conducted made a commando assault after landing at their destination overwhelming the Canadian militia. The Americans took 3,000 ball cartridges, 41 muskets, and other provisions. The American raiders burned 150 barrels of provisions. 8 enemy Canadian militiamen were killed while another 8 were captured. Then the American militia and riflemen withdrew safely back to friendly lines with their booty and prisoners in their boats.[53][54]

First Battle of Ogdensburg[edit]

American militia general Jacob Brown was in charge of the defense of Ogdensburg. Brown prepared for a possible British attack. On October 4, 1812. A British colonel who was described as “rash and ineffective” by historian John M. Austin led the British attack with a force of about 700 men in 25 boats accompanied by two gunboats to raid Ogdensburg. However, Brown’s combined force of militia and regulars took hidden positions behind buildings and ramparts on both sides of the Oswegatchie. As the British fleet neared the American base at Ogdensburg. The hidden militia and regulars opened heavy fire with their cannons on the British who were caught in the open in their boats. The British tried to land as soon as possible and fire back. But it was too much for the British as the American militia and regulars were well hidden and sheltered behind ramparts and buildings. The British retreated in confusion without completing their raid. The Americans suffered none killed or wounded. Historian Benson Lossing claimed in his history book that the British suffered 3 dead and four wounded. But historian John M. Austin wrote in his history book that the British suffered 2 deaths.[55][56]

Commando raid at St. Regis[edit]

While the War of 1812 was beginning.[57][58]There was this neutral Indian ground type of area which both American and the United Kingdom agreed with each other to never use it as a staging area for attack against the other.[57][58] However, British government agents visited the Indian tribes and presented them with gifts.[57][58] The British agents tried to persuade the Indians in St. Regis to take arms and attack the Americans.[57][58]But the Indians refused and the British agents returned with no success of raising a proxy force in St. Regis.[57][58]The Americans found out about this and came to their own logic that the British had violated the agreement of keeping St. Regis neutral.[57][58]So thus the Americans felt that they had the right to retaliate saying they didn't need to follow the rules of involving a neutral St. Regis in a war since the British broke it first.[57][58][59]

The British further violated the agreement by stationing a military base in St. Regis.[57][58][60] So the American military command ordered Major Guilford Dudley Young of the American Troy militia to conduct a retaliatory commando raid on St. Regis on the British military base.[57][58][61]On October 23rd, 1812.[57][58] Major Guilford Dudley Young brought with him 200 New York State militiamen.[57][58] The American militiamen infiltrated the area onboard rafts and canoes silently without attracting the notice of the enemy.[57][58] The American militia then conducted a surprise guerrilla assault.[57][58] The Americans killed 8 of the British and captured 40.[57][58]The American militia also captured 38 muskets, two bateaux, a flag, a quantity of baggage, and 800 blankets.[57][58] The American militia raiding force withdrew back to American lines with all the booty and prisoners.[57][58] But a few American militiamen remained to occupy the outpost at St. Regis.[57][58]

Militia Colonel Allen Trimble hit-and-run raid against enemy Indian base villages[edit]

American militia colonel Allen Trimble traveled to reinforce the American Fort Wayne with 500 mounted militia and a company of dragoons on October 5, 1812. Trimble was ordered to conduct a raid towards the Eel River to seek and destroy Indian villages. However, Trimble could only order 250 of his mounted force of militia and dragoons to accompany him on the raid. With just 250 mounted men of the militia and dragoon, Allen Trimble leading his raiding force rode to Eel river and destroyed two enemy village bases. To avoid a retaliatory Native American counter-attack, the mounted raiding force under Allen Trimble withdrew safely back to Fort Wayne on October 25th, 1812.[62]

Raid on Elizabethtown[edit]

On February 7, 1813. An American force of 200 men from the New York Militia and Regiment of Riflemen under the command of Benjamin Forsyth conducted a raid on Elizabethtown in Canada. The combined Militia and Riflemen force under Benjamin Forsyth crossed the ice on the St. Lawrence River, and captured 52 enemy combatants, freed 16 prisoners, captured 120 stands of arms, ammunition, and two casks of powder. The militia and riflemen burned the makeshift barracks. After completing their raid, the American raiding force of militia and riflemen under Benjamin withdrew safely back to American lines with their booty, 52 prisoners, and 16 liberated hostages.[63][64]

Engagement at Tipton’s Island[edit]

This engagement at Tipton’s Island took place in April 1813 against a Shawnee war party. During the War of 1812, the Shawnee were allied to the British. A Shawnee war party killed 3 white American settlers and wounded a few more near the American Fort of Vallonia. The Shawnee party then fled. An American militia group of 30 men from the Indiana territory known as the Indiana Rangers were led by Major John Tipton pursuing the Shawnee war party. The Shawnee party who thought they had lost their pursuers set up camp on an island in the east fork of the White River. John Tipton and his militia tracked down the Shawnee group. Major Tipton ordered his rangers to maintain absolute silence, and tied one ranger to a tree when he kept talking. The militia rangers silently advanced further and quietly took positions along the bank of the river. The American militia rangers opened fire taking the Shawnee by surprise. The Shawnee and American militia rangers fired at each other for about half an hour. One Shawnee was killed. The Shawnee then escaped across the flooded White River, but 3 Shawnee warriors drowned to death when trying to swim to safety. Several other Shawnee were wounded while escaping. The militia rangers could not pursue the Shawnee across the river. So John Tipton and his Indiana Rangers of the Indiana militia who suffered no casualties withdrew back to Fort Vallonia.[65][66][67]

American militia defense at Havre-de-Grace[edit]

On May 3, 1813. British admiral Cockburn conducted a large amphibious raid on Havre-de-Grace. When the British marines landed and marched in. A number of the American militia commenced a teasing and irritating fire from behind their houses, walls, trees, etc. Cockburn hated this type of guerrilla warfare. He complained that the American militia took “every opportunity of firing their rifles from behind trees or haystacks, or from the windows of their houses upon our boats...or whenever they can get a mischievous shot at any of our people without being seen or exposed to personal risk in return.” However, Cockburn still succeeded in pillaging the villages, destroying 45 cannons, burning down houses, and destroying facilities. Cockburn only suffered one wound. A British first Lieutenant was shot through the hand. The American militia suffered only one killed. Despite the number of American militiamen putting up a guerrilla-type of resistance in defense of Havre-de-Grace. The British forces under Cockburn still accomplished their raid. [68][69]

Second Battle of Sackets’ Harbor[edit]

On May 29, 1813. A large British force traveling by ships were going to attack the American base at Sacekt’s Harbor. American Lieutenant Colonel Electus Backus commanded the U.S. Regulars. At least 500 American militia were hastily gathered from the surrounding community to join forces with the American regulars and volunteers. American militia general Jacob Brown who was in command of the American defense decided to use the American militia unconventionally. Brown placed the militia behind a ridge of sand which had been thrown up west of the village, where their fire would sweep that part of the shore which offered the only good landing-place for the enemy. On the militia’s right were posted the volunteers with a single artillery cannon. The militia were well concealed and covered behind the sand ridge. When the British ships landed and their troops were marching at the shore. The militia and volunteers rose out of their concealment and fired into the British troops. The militia made it very difficult for the British to pass. A British soldier who was at the shore describes “so heavy and galling a fire from numerous but almost invisible foe, as to render it impossible for the artillery to come up.” As the British troops with gunboats providing fire support came closer, the militia gave them another volley from behind their concealed cover of the sand ridge and then fled into the woods. Leaving the only artillery gun. General Brown reached up to the fleeing militia and rallied at least about 80 militiamen. General Brown posted the 80 militiamen behind a huge fallen log at the edge of a small open field. From behind this cover, the militiamen fought in a guerrilla style way and fired three or four volleys, and then retreated. The American right, composed of volunteers, retired slowly skirmishing with the British. At the second line of defense, the American volunteers took position on the left, the dismounted American light dragoons occupied the right, the center was occupied by the American regulars and artillery. The second American line of defense held up for an hour. An American drummer boy picked up a musket and killed a British Colonel named Gray. The Americans were driven to their third last defense which included a stronghold. During this time, General Brown was using this time to rally the rest of the militia. Brown succeeded in rallying about 300 militiamen. Brown emerged from the woods and had his militia make a feint of marching for the British boats. The British commander George Prevost thinking he was about to be surrounded by a superior force and entrapped ordered a retreat. The British hastily retreated without securing any result for a victory or even bearing off their wounded. Later after the humiliating retreat, Prevost sent a flag of truce requesting the Americans to surrender, which was refused. Then Prevost sent another flag of truce asking that his dead and wounded be properly cared for, and after the Americans reassured him that his dead and wounded would be cared for, Prevost sailed away in defeat. The American casualties were 170 killed, wounded, or missing. The British casualties were about 260.[70][71][72]

Surprise raid at Sugar Loaf[edit]

On June 16, 1813. Cyrenius Chapin and his militia forces mounted on horses made a deep raid into British territory, and surprised some enemy forces 15 kilometers west of Fort Erie at what was called the Sugar Loaf (near present day Port Colborne). Chapin’s mounted force captured 11 enemy combatants.[73]

American militia defense at the Hampton village in Virginia[edit]

It was June 25, 1813. A large British fleet carrying 2,500 troops under British General Sir Sydney Beckwith was advancing to attack the Hampton village in Virginia. There were at least 600 American militiamen under the command of militia Major Crutchfield. Among the militia were militia riflemen under the command of militia commander Richard B. Servant. Richard B. Servant concealed his militia riflemen in the woods in ambush near the road where the British would be approaching. When the British column arrived, Richard B. Servant sprang his ambush and his riflemen opened a well directed and destructive fire on the head of the invading British column. Major Crutchfield advanced with his own militia at a different location when he got ambushed by British troops hidden in a set of trees with small arms fire, two 6 pounders, and congreve rockets. Major Crutchfield with some of his militia are driven off while other militia try to regroup with Richard B. Servant’s militia riflemen.

American militia cavalry officer Captain Cooper and his horse mounted militia harass the British left flank. But the superior numbers of the British forced the American militia to surrender ground. The American militia artillerymen with their cannons provided fire support. The American militia who were being pursued by the British continuously stopped at and took cover behind a fence or ditch to open fire at the British, then retreat again in intervals. The American militia artillerymen continued to open fire with their cannons until the British closed in on their positions. The militia artillerymen spiked their guns and jumped into the creek. The militia artillerymen swam away to safety with no losses on their group. Somewhere on the battlefield, Richard B. Servant again concealed his militia riflemen to ambush another advance guard of the British which were 300 French riflemen. When the 300 British allied-French riflemen walked into the killzone, the American militia riflemen opened a heavy fire and 30 French riflemen fell dead on the spot.

The British and their allies charged in mass. Richard and his riflemen retreated to safety. After putting up a fierce resistance, all the American militia including the militia commanders Richard B. Servant and Major Crtuchfield withdrew from the field. The British and their French allies proceeded to burn houses, rape women, execute some unarmed civilans, loot, and then withdraw. The Americans sent letters of outrage to the British for this uncivilized conduct, but the British justified their actions falsely claiming that when a British vessel was sinking and British sailors were stranded in the water. The American militia fired upon the British sailors stranded in the water and killed many of them. However, the American commander Taylor investigated these allegations and it turned out the American militia never fired upon the stranded British sailors. Only one British sailor who was trying to escape was fired upon, and he got away uninjured. The American militia actually went into the water and tried to save the British sailors. American commander Taylor sent a letter of this truth as evidence to the British high command. The British command having no more useful excuses or any good allebi for their actions in Hampton did not reply back.

The casualties for the American militia was 7 killed, 12 wounded and 12 missing. For British casualties, one report claims that the British sustained 90 killed and 120 wounded. Most likely excluding the British allied-French casualties. However, the British claimed they only suffered 7 killed, 12 wounded, and 11 missing most likely also not including the British allied French casualties. Whichever report is true of the British casualties being high or low, this battle showed the resilience and resourcefulness of the American militia to ambush, harass, and annoy the British.[74][75][76]

Ambush at Black Swamp Road[edit]

In July 1813, Benjamin Forsyth who was a commander of the American Regiment of Riflemen with the aid of Seneca Warriors and American militia under the command of militia commander Cyrenius Chapin conducted a successful ambush against the British allied Mohawks near Newark, Ontario. The American riflemen and Seneca warriors would hide on both sides of the road. While a group of Seneca and American militiamen on horses led by Cyrenius Chapin would lure the Mohawks to the ambush site by conducting a feigned retreat. Cyrenius Chapin and his combined group of mounted militia and Seneca riders rode near the Mohawks, taunted them, and rode back down the road. The Mohawks pursued. When the enemy entered the kill zone, Benjamin blew his bugle as a signal. The hidden American riflemen and Seneca gunners rose out of their concealment and opened a heavy fire on the Mohawks. The Mohawks lost 15 killed and 13 captured including a British interpreter. A few of the Mohawks escaped. The American riflemen, militia, and Seneca allies withdrew back to friendly lines with their prisoners.[77]

Ambush at Norfolk in Virginia[edit]

The date of this successful American militia ambush at Norfolk was on July 13, 1813.[78] At Norfolk in Virginia, a British naval party was landing on shore to dig a well and retrieve water.[78] Captain Richard Lawson brought with him a company of American militia from Princess Anne County to intercept the British party.[78] The British landing party composed of two lieutenants, 16 sailors, and 8 Marines.[78] Captain Richard Lawson and his fellow American militiamen set an ambush concealing themselves behind a benign sand hill.[78] When the British party landed on shore, the American militiamen sprang their ambush and opened a heavy fire.[78] The surprised British were overwhelmed and taken captured.[78] Three British marines were killed. One Lieutenant, two sailors, and three marines were wounded among the whole captured British party.[78] The American militia destroyed the British boat, took the British brass cannon, took all the provisions, and returned back to their town with the prisoners.[78] The American militia suffered no casualties.[78]

Raiding and ambushing the British Navy in the Battle of Cranberry Creek in New York[edit]

On July 18, 1813. New York Militia commander Lieutenant Colonel Jehial Dimock set out on a raiding mission with American naval mariner Samuel Dixon. The militia commander and naval mariner would be setting out with a combined force of at least 50 New York City Militiamen under their command out of Sackets Harbor in Sloops Neptune and Fox to raid a British shipping convoy. On July 19,1813, the American militia in the two sloops surprised the British convoy. The convoy had one British gunboat called Spitfire with a single carronade that was escoring 15 transport boats. The American militia captured the entire convoy by surprise without firing a shot. The American militia captured 250 barrels of pork, 300 bags of pilot bread, ammunition, and assorted stores. The militia also captured 67 prisoners.

However, a nearby Canadian local witnessed what happened and notified the British authorities. The British sent a large force including 4 heavily armed gunboats. The Americans retreated to Cranberry Creek to set up an ambush. They pulled their boats further up the creek until it narrowed to the point of maneuvering almost impossible. They cut trees into the creek to block the British force further and constructed barricades. The British fleet moved to the creek and fell into the American militia’s ambush. As the British sailors attempted to clear the felled tree trunks and brush blocking their path. Dimock and Dixon sprang their trap from the north bank of the creek. The Americans opened a heavy fire with their muskets. The British tried to dislodge them but the terrain disallowed them from doing so. The heavily wooded area and breastworks gave the American militia plenty of good cover to fire behind. The British could not maneuver or aim their guns properly in the rough terrain. So the British retreated. The British had 4 killed and 17 wounded. The American militia under Dimock and Dixon then withdrew safely back to American lines with all their prisoners, captured goods, and captured enemy vessels. [79][80]

Intercepting and raiding a pro-British Indian Creek supply train[edit]

On July 27, 1813. Spain, who was an ally of the British, supplied Creek Indian chief Peter McQueen with provisions, supplies, and gunpowder to resist American expansion. But only enough as to not openly antagonize the United States of America. Peter McQueen and 300 of his Indian Warriors were traveling back to their tribal village with their supply train. American militiamen under militia Colonel James Caller and militia Captain Dixon Bailey headed out to raid the Creek supply train. The American militia were joined by Samuel Dale and his fellow American militiamen numbering a total of at least 180 militiamen altogether. When the militia reached the location of the supply train, the Creek Indians were making camp and let down their guard. Colonel James Caller and his militia quietly dismounted and cautiously approached the Indian camp.

Then the American militia launched a surprise attack. The Indians were taken completely by surprise. The militia charged in while firing their weapons and the panicked Indians fired back to little effect running off. After the Indians fled, many of the militia let down their guard and immediately started looting the supply train without setting proper security. While most of the militia were distracted and too busy to loot, the Indians regrouped and launched a surprise counter-attack at the militia. At least 80 of the militia including Captains Samuel Dale, Dixon Bailey, and Smoot faced the Indians and bravely fought them. After 3 hours of fighting, the American militia retreated to safety. Even though the Creek Indians won tactically driving off the militia raiders, the militia were able to successfully carry off many of the pack-horses and their loads of supplies in their withdrawal back to American lines. The Creek Indians had 10-12 killed and 8-9 wounded. While the American militia had only 2 killed and 15 wounded.[81][82][83]

Harassing the British at the town Queenston in Maryland[edit]

It was August 7, 1813. A large British force traveled in 45 barges to attack the American militia under Major Nicholson at Queenston in Maryland. The American militia only had 280 troops while the British had 1500 men. The British landed but was detected by an American militia Captain named James Massey who commanded a platoon of militia. Captain James Massey deployed 18 of his militiamen behind a fence in the dark setting an ambush. The militia waited patiently for the British column to reach near point-blank range. When the British reached the fence, the militia opened a heavy fire on the British.

After delivering the heavy volley, Captain Massey and his militia retreated on a ragged route. After a while, the militia set another ambush behind a fence. When the unsuspecting British reached the fence, the militia again opened a heavy fire on the British. Then Captain Massey and his militia withdrew again to safety. All the American militia under Major Nicholson and Captain Massey with all their civilians withdrew to safety. The British is reported to have sustained a few men killed or wounded.[84]

Battle of Waterman’s Bluff[edit]

An American militia General Buckner F. Harris, who was from the state of Georgia commanded an American militia rebel group known as the Patriots in Spanish, Florida. The territory of Spanish Florida was allied to the British. On August 8, 1813. The Spanish sent a large force of at least 60 soldiers in boats to attack the Patriot militia under Buckner F. Harris who was camped on a bluff. The Spanish boats were restricted to the narrow channel that wound through the tall marsh reeds, and were clearly visible for a quarter mile. But Buckner Harris was prepared for the Spanish attack and prepared an ambush. On the bluff, Buckner Harris and at least 30 Patriot militiamen concealed themselves behind trees and fence railings. When the Spanish attack force arrived, Buckner Harris and the American Patriot militia sprang their ambush and opened a heavy fire. The American militia ambush successfully routed the Spanish. Spanish casualties were reported: 6 killed and 12 wounded. Buckner F. Harris claimed in his report that his militia killed or wounded at least 20 of the Spanish.[85]

Cyrenius Chapin’s hit-and-run attack outside of Fort George[edit]

American forces of militia and regulars were in control of Fort George in Niagara-on-the-lake, Canada. On the morning of October 6, 1813. American militia commander Cyrenius Chapin conducted a hit-and-run attack with companies of volunteers, 12 militiamen, and 20 allied Indians against the British. Chapin and his force advanced out of the fort to a town. Chapin encountered American Adjutant Chesebro who had previously left the fort earlier with 20 or 30 men. Chesebro and his men had previously fired on a few British soldiers who were picking apples. Chesebro and his men joined Chapin’s force. Chapin halted his men after some traveling and went out alone to personally reconitter the enemy position. Chapin returned to his men and formed his men into combat formation. Chapin attacked the enemy. The attacked enemy retired and took refuge in a house and barn. Chapin advanced with a quick step and entered the house and barn and drove the enemy off further to the edge of the woods. The British then brought some field pieces into the edge of the woods and opened fire with them. With the British now strongly reinforced with artillery, Chapin then gave orders to retreat to retreat back to the fort which was done in good order and without further molestation. The American force under Chapin withdrew safely back to their fort. The Americans lost 2 wounded and 1 killed. The British suffered 7 killed and 2 taken prisoner by the Americans.[86]

Cyrenius Chapin’s second hit-and-run attack outside of Fort George[edit]

It was the afternoon of October 6, 1813. American militia commander Cyrenius Chapin was dining in the Fort. American Colonel Scott informed Chapin the enemy was in the town. Colonel Scott was going to use his artillery battery to bombard the enemy. But Chapin insisted he would attack the enemy personally with his volunteers and militia. Chapin and his force of volunteers and militia marched under the cover of the houses about half a mile from the fort. While Chapin was advancing, he encountered the enemy. The enemy poured in a heavy fire. Chapin’s force returned heavy fire. A Captain and a handful of men of Chapin’s force fled back to the fort. A bit later, Chapin received reinforcements of about 100 militiamen and about 60 allied-indians. Chapin and his reinforced army of militia, volunteers, and allied Indians drove the enemy out of their positions in the bushes and the trees. The enemy had neglected to reinforce his flanks. Chapin had succeeded in cutting off the enemy’s left flank and pursued him across the farm into the woods. Chapin annoyed the enemy and broke the enemy’s lines. American militia colonel Caleb Hopkins came with a militia reinforcement of 60 or 70 men. Chapin ordered Hopkins to take a position on the left while ordering Adjutant Chesebro to break the enemy’s right flank which were both well obeyed with good precision. After pursuing the enemy for a while, it was nighttime. Chapin decided it was inconvenient to fight any longer. Chapin and his entire force of militia, volunteers, and Indians withdrew back to the fort. Before arriving back at the fort, Chapin met several parties of Americans who said they were coming to relieve his force. The American force only suffered 3 killed and 6-8 wounded. While the British suffered 18 killed and 2 taken prisoner.[87]

Hit and run raid at the village of Littafuchee[edit]

During the Creek war against the Creek Indians who were proxies of the British. American General Andrew Jackson conducted operations against the Creek Indians. Jackson sent a militia Lieutenant Colonel named Robert H. Dyer with his 200 Tennessee militiamen to raid nearby villages for food. Robert H. Dyer with his 200 militiamen mounted on horses and rode out on their raiding mission on October 29, 1813. Dyer and his mounted militia raided the village of Littafuchee on Canoe Creek in present day St. Clair County. The militiamen achieved complete surprise, capturing 29 Creek prisoners, including some women and children. The militiamen burned the village and seized cattle and corn. Then Robert H. Dyer and militiamen withdrew back to Jackson’s army with their prisoners and food they captured from their raid on Littafuchee. [88]

Samuel Dale’s hit-and-run attack on British allied-Creek Indians[edit]

This hit-and-run attack by Samuel Dale and his fellow militiamen on British allied-Creek Indians occurred on November 12, 1813. Samuel Dale took charge of Fort Glass, a small stockade about a quarter of a mile from Fort Madison. Dale had at least 50 American partisans under his command. During the day sentinels were posted around the fort. At night, Samuel Dale illuminated the approaches, for a circuit of one hundred yards, by a device of his own. Two poles, fifty feet long were firmly planted on each side of the fort; a long lever, upon the plan of a sell sweep, worked upon each of these poles; to each lever was attached a bar of iron about ten feet long, and to these bars the Americans fastened, with trace-chain, huge parts of light-wood. The illumination from such an elevation was brilliant, and no covert attack could be made upon Samuel’s position. As a precaution against the Indian torch, Samuel had his block-houses and their roofs well plastered with clay. The Americans displayed themselves in arms frequently, the women wearing hats and the garments of their husbands, to impress upon the spies that the Americans knew were lurking around an exaggerated notion of American strength. Sometime later, Samuel’s scouts brought news of 80 or a hundred Indians camped on the eastside of Alabama, near what is now called Dale’s Ferry. Samuel Dale took 60 militiamen to attack the enemy if practicable. Crossing the river in two canoes, which Samuel Dale previously concealed, the Americans spent the night in the canebrake. At daylight, he manned each canoe with five picked men, and directed them to move cautiously up the river, while the rest of the American militia followed the trail which ran along the bank. When the Americans reached Bailey’s, whose cabins were on the east, and his corn-crib and field on the west bank, the Americans discovered two Indian canoes, laden with corn, paddling up stream. Samuel Dale ordered fellow militiaman Jerry Austill to lay his canoes under the bluff and conceal his men from the Indians until Samuel could get ahead of them. Samuel and his militiamen pushed on at a lively rate, George Foster and Samuel being a hundred yards in advance of the other. At an abrupt turn of the path they suddenly encountered five warriors. Samuel shot one down while militiamen Foster shot the next, and the rest broke into the cane-break. Afterwards, Samuel put 30 of his militiamen on the east bank while he kept the western bank with 20 militiamen. Soon, he saw 11 Indian warriors in boats. So Dale with 7 militiamen chased the Indians. After intense fighting, Samuel and his men killed all 11 Indian warriors. Samuel Dale and his men got their canoes, crossed them all over, and withdrew safely back to their fort.[89]

Hit-and-run raid at Autossee[edit]

American militia Brigadier General John Floyd had a force of 940 militiamen with at least more than 300 friendly Lower Creek warriors reinforcing them. Since Floyd lacked the resources for a sustained offensive, he planned a hit-and-run raid against the large Red Stick town of Autossee on the Tallapoosa River, south of Tallassee. General Floyd moved out on November 24, 1813 with five days’ rations, he reached Autossee unopposed on the 28th. Floyd, his militia, and friendly lower creek allies stormed and burned the town on November 29, 1813. Floyd only suffered 11 men killed and 54 wounded including himself. About 200 enemy Red Stick Creek warriors were killed. With the enemy base town raided and destroyed, Floyd and his force of militia and Lower Creek allies withdrew back to Fort Mitchell in the Georgia frontier.[90]

Militia artillery damaging a British barge[edit]

Along the waterways of the Virginia landscape, a British barge came to pick up British troops. But Virginia militia who were concealed with their cannon behind some trees bombarded the ship and damaged the British vessel.[91]

Ambush at the south shore of the Middlesex banks[edit]

It was December 1813.[92] The American Middlesex militia, along with the American King and Queen and Caroline militia, had gathered to oppose any British landing that might occur.[92] Two British deserters came ashore on the evening of the sixth and told the Virginians that British Captain was going to attack Urbanna.[92] To make their escape, the two British deserters stole two barges.[92] They assured the American militia that their former mates would be back to reclaim them.[92] American Captain Thomas C. Hoomes of the King and Queen militia saw an opportunity to ambush the enemy should they return.[92] Captain Thomas C. Hoomes had his fellow militia haul the barges up on the shore to entice the British to return.[92]

The plan worked, at sunrise the next morning a British force returned to reclaim the barges. The American militia in hidden positions sprang their ambush and opened heavy fire with muskets and rifles.[92] The American militia claimed they saw at least some of the British fall either dead or wounded.[92] The American militia kept up their fire until several other British barges showed up with a small cannon which opened on the militia positions.[92] Running low on ammunition and not wishing to risk any of its men getting seriously wounded or killed, the American militia retreated to safety thus allowing the British to retrieve the barges.[92]

Surprise attack on a Red Stick camp[edit]

This surprise attack near the Alabama River happened on December 24, 1813. After militia General Ferdinand Claiborne attacked and destroyed Econocha in the Battle of Holy Ground. Claiborne’s militia troops fanned out to raid and destroy other Creek enemy satellite villages and farms. An American militiaman Jeremiah Austill accompanied Pushmataha and his party of Pro-American Choctaw warriors on a raid across the Alabama River. After the militiaman Jeremiah Austill and his allied Choctaw warriors crossed the river in a canoe, they surprised a Red Stick camp. They killed three enemy Creek Indians while the rest of the Creek Indians fled, leaving their supplies.[93]

Raiding and destroying enemy Creek villages[edit]

American militiamen Samuel Dale rode with Major Cassel’s American horse mounted militiamen to raid and destroy Creek villages. The militia rode near an upriver and destroyed an enemy Red Stick village at the mouth of Pintlala Creek. The American militia raiders set camp on December 25, 1813. Samuel Dale and his militia then rode on raiding and destroying other Creek enemy villages and farms in the neighborhood. The raiding militia force then rode back to Fort Deposit. Then Samuel Dale and his fellow militia raiders withdrew back to Fort Clairborne.[94]

Hit-and-run attack in New York[edit]

On January 8th, 1814. Lt. Colonel Caleb Hopkins and General John Swift who were both American militia commanders led a hit-and-run surprise attack on a British contingent that was out collecting wood. Caleb Hopkins and John Swift led 70 American militiamen in this engagement. The American militia surprised the British party. The British suffered 4 killed and 8 captured. The American militia only suffered 1 killed. The Americans withdrew back to Canandaigua with their prisoners after their successful surprise attack.[95][96]

Battle of Norwood’s Cove[edit]

This battle took place in Southwest Harbor on August 9, 1814. There was a large number of British troops in a few boats with few guns. The British had with them an elderly American man as a prisoner. The British spotted an American who was the son of the elderly prisoner. who was accompanied by American militiamen who were covered and concealed behind trees,brush, and other natural breastwork. The British tried to persuade the young American son to surrender. But the elderly man stood up defiantly and shouted to his son and the American militia to open fire at the British. The American militia complied and opened a heavy fire. The British also opened fire trying to find their targets. But the American militiamen fired behind covered and concealed positions behind trees and natural breastworks covered with a thicket above. This enabled the American militia to rest their guns, pick off their enemies, and at the same time remain unseen. An American militiaman Isaac Lurvey who took part in this battle would show years later the tree he took cover behind that was riddled with seventeen bullets. The British who could not see the concealed and covered militia decided to retreat to their ships. Some time later, two boys who were on board the British ship selling raspberries testified to the Americans that they witnessed 7 dead British soldiers being carried off and at least 12 British wounded soldiers being treated. However, a British soldier in his accounts only mentions 3 badly wounded British soldiers. The American militia only suffered one slightly wounded. Although the number of British casualties could not be accurately determined, this battle showed that American militia can fend off professional British troops if in an advantageous position of terrain behind cover and concealment.[97]

Battle of St. Mary river between Georgia and Florida[edit]

This battle of St. Mary occurred along the St. Mary’s River on the border of Georgia and Florida on February 24, 1815. This was the last engagement between America and Great Britain in the War of 1812. A British task force of 250 men boarded six barges under the command of Rear Admiral Sir George Cockburn were going to conduct a raid. As the British fleet were nearing the Florida bank of the river, about 30 American Patriot militia riflemen hidden behind towering pines sprang an ambush and opened a heavy fire on the British boats. Quickly the British barges veered toward the Georgia shore. Then 20 or more American militiamen from the state of Georgia under the command of militia Lieutenant Colonel William Scott hidden in the trees also sprang their ambush firing into the British boats. The trees and scrubs covered and concealed the American militiamen on both river banks who continued to fire on and harass the British fleet.

The British decided not to complete their raiding objective and were sailing away. As the British barges again neared the Florida shore, the Patriot militia marksmen fired deadly volley after deadly volley into the confused British. As the British continued to sail on, the Georgian and Patriot militia cut directly across the necks of land formed by the crooked river and out-distanced the barges and awaited their coming. Then open a heavy fire on them. Again and again the American militia riflemen were left behind only to appear once more at a lower river bend opening heavy fire on the British. The British were finally able to withdraw out of the area. According to some reports, the British suffered between 100 and 160 casualties. Which may be an exaggeration. However, the British report claimed they suffered 29 killed and wounded. While the American militias of the Patriots and state of Georgia only suffered 2 killed.[98][99]

Antebellum era (1815–1861)[edit]

By the 1830s the American frontier expanded westwards, with the Indian wars in the eastern United States ending. Many states let their unorganized militia lapse in favor of volunteer militia units such as city guards who carried on in functions such as assisting local law enforcement, providing troops for ceremonies and parades or as a social club. The groups of company size were usually uniformed and armed through their own contributions. Volunteer units of sufficient size could elect their own officers and apply for a state charter under names that they themselves chose.[100]

1826 North Carolina militia roster of 86 men, standard wage of 46+12 cents per day. Text reads: "A List of that Part of the Millitia Commanded by Elisha Burk an went after the Runaway Negroes. ... The within is a True Return of that part of the Millitia Commanded by Elisha Burk While out after the Runaway Negroes: Given under my hand this 15th day of August 1826". (signed) Elisha Burk Captain.

The states' militia continued service, notably, in the slave-holding states, to maintain public order by performing slave patrols to round up fugitive slaves.[citation needed]

Responding to criticisms of failures of the militia, Adjutant General William Sumner wrote an analysis and rebuttal in a letter to John Adams, May 3, 1823:

The disasters of the militia may be ascribed chiefly, to two causes, of which the failure to train the men is a principle one; but, the omission to train the officers is as so much greater, that I think the history of its conduct, where it has been unfortunate, will prove that its defects are attributable, more to their want of knowledge or the best mode of applying the force under their authority to their attainment of their object than to all others. It may almost be stated, as an axiom, that the larger the body of undisciplined men is, the less is its chance of success; ...[101]

During this inter-war period of the nineteenth century, the states' militia tended towards being disorderly and unprepared.

The demoralizing influences even of our own militia drills has long been notorious to a proverb. It has been a source of general corruptions to the community, and formed habits of idleness, dissipation and profligacy ... musterfields have generally been scenes or occasions of gambling, licentiousness, and almost every vice. ... An eye-witness of a New England training, so late as 1845, says, "beastly drunkenness, and other immoralities, were enough to make good men shudder at the very name of a muster".[102]

Joseph Story laments in 1842 how the militia has fallen into serious decline:

And yet, though this truth would seem so clear, and the importance of a well regulated militia would seem so undeniable, it cannot be disguised, that among the American people there is a growing indifference to any system of militia discipline, and a strong disposition, from a sense of its burdens, to be rid of all regulations. How it is practicable to keep the people duly armed without some organization, it is difficult to see. There is certainly no small danger, that indifference may lead to disgust, and disgust to contempt; and thus gradually undermine all the protection intended by this clause of our National Bill of Rights.[103]

Due to rising tensions between Latter-day Saints and their Missourian neighbors, in 1838, General David R. Atchison, the commander of the state militia of Northwestern Missouri, ordered Samuel Bogart to "prevent, if possible, any invasion of Ray County by persons in arms whatever".[104] Bogart, who had participated in former anti-Mormon vigilante groups, proceeded to disarm resident Latter-day Saints and forced them to leave the county. In response David W. Patten led the Caldwell County militia to rescue Latter-day Saint residents from what they believed was a "mob". The confrontation between these two county militias (Ray and Caldwell) became known as the Battle of Crooked River and is a primary cause for Governor Lilburn Boggs issuing Missouri Executive Order 44. This order, often called the "Extermination Order", told the commander of the Missouri State Militia, General John B. Clark, that, "The Mormons must be treated as enemies, and must be exterminated or driven from the state if necessary for the public pease—their outrages are beyond description."[105] In the following days Missouri militia killed 17 Latter-day Saints at Haun's Mill, laid siege to Far West, Missouri and jailed Latter-day Saint church leaders, including Joseph Smith.[106]

The Mormon militia, in 1857 and 1858, fought against US federal troops in the Utah War over control of government territory.

During the violent political confrontations in the Kansas Territory involving anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery "Border Ruffians" elements, the militia was called out to enforce order on several occasions,[107] notably during the incidents referred to as the Wakarusa War.

During John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry, local militia companies from villages within a 30-mile radius of Harpers Ferry cut off Brown's escape routes and trapped Brown's men in the armory.[108]

American Civil War[edit]

At the beginning of the American Civil War, neither the North or the South was nearly well enough prepared for war, and few people imagined the demands and hardships the war would bring. Just prior to the war the total peacetime army consisted of a paltry 16,000 men. Both sides issued an immediate call to forces from the militia, followed by the immediate awareness of an acute shortage of weapons, uniforms, and trained officers. State militia regiments were of uneven quality, and none had anything resembling combat training. The typical militia drilling at the time amounted to, at best, parade-ground marching. The militia units, from local communities, had never drilled together as a larger regiment, and thus lacked the extremely important skill, critically necessary for the war style of the time, of maneuvering from a marching line into a fighting line. Yet both sides were equally unready, and rushed to prepare.[109]

Confederate militia[edit]

The most important:

Union militia[edit]

New York state militia, Civil War
Company "E", 22nd N.Y. State Militia, near Harpers Ferry.

Following the Confederate taking of Fort Sumter, which marked the beginning of the Civil War, President Lincoln called up 75,000 States' militiamen to retake the seized Federal property and found that the militia "strength was far short of what the Congressional statute provided and required".[110]

In the summer of 1861, military camps circled around Washington, D.C. composed of new three-year army volunteers and 90-day militia units. The generals in charge of this gathering had never handled large bodies of men before, and the men were simply inexperienced civilians with arms having little discipline and less understanding of the importance of discipline.[111]

In the West, Union state and territorial militias existed as active forces in defense of settlers there. California especially had many active militia companies at the beginning of the war that rose in number until the end of the war. It would also provide the most Volunteers from west of the Rocky Mountains: eight regiments and two battalions of infantry, two regiments and a battalion of cavalry. It also provided most of the men for the infantry regiment from Washington Territory. Oregon raised an infantry and a cavalry regiment. Colorado Territory militias were organized both to resist the Confederacy and any civil disorder caused by secessionists, Copperheads, Mormons, or most particularly the Native tribes. The Colorado Volunteers participated in the Battle of Glorieta Pass turning back a Confederate invasion of New Mexico Territory. Later they initiated the Colorado War with the Plains Indians and committed the Sand Creek massacre. The California Volunteers of the California Column were sent east across the southern deserts to drive the Confederates out of southern Arizona, New Mexico and west Texas around El Paso, then fought the Navajo and Apache until 1866. They also were sent to guard the Overland Trail, keep the Mormons under observation by the establishment of Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City, and fought a campaign against the Shoshone culminating in the Battle of Bear River. In Nevada, Oregon and Idaho Territory, California, Oregon and Washington Territorial Volunteers tried to protect the settlers and pacified tribes from each other and they fought the Goshute, Paiute, Ute and hostile Snake Indians in the Snake War from 1864 until 1866. In California, volunteer forces fought the Bald Hills War in the northwestern forests until 1864 and also the Owens Valley Indian War in 1862–1863.

Reconstruction era[edit]

With passage of federal reconstruction laws between 1866 and 1870 the U.S. Army took control of the former rebel states and ordered elections to be held. These elections were the first in which African Americans could vote. Each state (except Virginia) elected Republican governments, which organized militia units.[112] The majority of militiamen were black.[113] Racial tension and conflict, sometimes intense, existed between the Negro freedmen and the ex-Confederate whites.

In parts of the South, white paramilitary groups and rifle clubs formed to counter this black militia, despite the laws prohibiting drilling, organizing, or parading except for duly authorized militia. These groups engaged in a prolonged series of retaliatory, vengeful, and hostile acts against this black militia.[114]

... the militia companies were composed almost entirely of Negroes and their marching and counter-marching through the country drove the white people to frenzy. Even a cool-headed man like General George advised the Democrats to form military organizations that should be able to maintain a front against the negro militia. Many indications pointed to trouble. A hardware merchant of Vicksburg reported that with the exceptions of the first year of the war his trade had never been so brisk. It was said that 10,000 Spencer rifles had been brought into the State.[115]

The activity of the official black militia, and the unofficial illegal white rifle clubs, typically peaked in the autumn surrounding elections. This was the case in the race riot of Clinton, Mississippi in September 1875, and the following month in Jackson, Mississippi. An eyewitness account:

I found the town in great excitement; un-uniformed militia were parading the streets, both white and colored. I found that the white people—democrats—were very much excited in consequence of the governor organizing the militia force of the state. ... I found that these people were determined to resist his marching the militia (to Clinton) with arms, and they threatened to kill his militiamen.[116]

Outright war between the state militia and the white rifle clubs was avoided only by the complete surrender of one of the belligerents, though tensions escalated in the following months leading to a December riot in Vicksburg, Mississippi resulting in the deaths of two whites and thirty-five black people. Reaction to this riot was mixed, with the local Democrats upset at the influx of federal troops that followed, and the Northern press expressing outrage: "Once more, as always, it is the Negroes that are slaughtered while the whites escape."[117]

Posse Comitatus Act[edit]

Following the Reconstruction Era, Congress passed the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act intended to prohibit federal troops and federal-controlled militia from supervising elections. This act substantially limits the powers of the Federal government to use the military serving on active duty under Title 10 for law enforcement, but does not preclude governors from using their National Guard in a law enforcement role as long as the guardsmen are serving under Title 32 or on state active duty.

Spanish–American War[edit]

Despite a lack of initial readiness, training, and supplies, the Militas of the United States fought and achieved victory in the Spanish–American War.[118]

Ludlow massacre[edit]

Militia at Ludlow, 1914

In 1914, in Ludlow, Colorado, the militia was called out to calm the situation during a coal mine strike, but the sympathies of the militia leaders allied with company management and resulted in the deaths of roughly 19 to 25 people.[citation needed]

The state National Guard was originally called out, but the company was allowed to organize an additional private militia consisting of Colorado Fuel & Iron Company (CF&I) guards in National Guard uniforms augmented by non-uniformed mine guards. The Ludlow massacre was an attack by the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel & Iron Company camp guards on a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado on April 20, 1914.[citation needed] In retaliation for Ludlow, the miners armed themselves and attacked dozens of mines over the next ten days, destroying property and engaging in several skirmishes with the Colorado National Guard along a 40-mile front from Trinidad to Walsenburg. The entire strike would cost between 69 and 199 lives. Thomas Franklin Andrews described it as the "deadliest strike in the history of the United States".[citation needed]

Mexican Revolution[edit]

American organized and unorganized militias fought in the Mexican Revolution. Some campaigned in Mexico as insurgent forces and others fought in battles such as Ambos Nogales and Columbus in defense of the interests of United States.

World War I[edit]

The Plattsburg Movement. The Hays Law.[119]

Twentieth century and current[edit]

Organized militia[edit]

Each state and most territories have two mandatory forces, namely the Army National Guard and the Air National Guard. Many states also have state defense forces and a naval militia, which assist, support and augment National Guard forces.

National Guard[edit]

The National Guard (or National Guard of a State) differs from the National Guard of the United States; however, the two do go hand-in-hand.

The National Guard is a militia force organized by each of the 50 states, the U.S.'s federal capital district, and three of the five populated U.S. territories. Established under Title 10 and Title 32 of the U.S. Code, the state National Guard serves as part of the first-line defense for the United States.[120][failed verification] A state or territorial National Guard is divided up into units stationed within their borders and operates under their respective state governor or territorial government.[121][failed verification] The National Guard may be called up for active duty by the state governors or territorial commanding generals to help respond to domestic emergencies and disasters, such as those caused by hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes.[121][failed verification]

The National Guard of the United States is a military reserve force composed of state National Guard members or units under federally recognized active or inactive armed force service for the United States.[122][123] Created by the 1933 amendments to the National Defense Act of 1916, the National Guard of the United States is a joint reserve component of the United States Army and the United States Air Force. The National Guard of the United States maintains two subcomponents: the Army National Guard of the United States[122] for the Army and the Air Force's Air National Guard of the United States.[122]

The current United States Code, Title 10 (Armed forces), section 246 (Militia: Composition and Classes), paragraph (a) states: "The militia of the United States consists of all able-bodied males at least 17 years of age and, except as provided in section 313 of title 32, under 45 years of age who are, or who have made a declaration of intention to become, citizens of the United States and of female citizens of the United States who are members of the National Guard."[124] Section 313 of Title 32 refers to persons with prior military experience. ("Sec. 313. Appointments and enlistments: age limitation (a) To be eligible for original enlistment in the National Guard, a person must be at least 17 years of age and under 45, or under 64 years of age and a former member of the Regular Army, Regular Navy, Regular Air Force, or Regular Marine Corps. To be eligible for reenlistment, a person must be under 64 years of age. (b) To be eligible for appointment as an officer of the National Guard, a person must – (1) be a citizen of the United States; and (2) be at least 18 years of age and under 64.")

These persons remain members of the militia until age 64. Paragraph (b) further states, "The classes of the militia are: (1) the organized militia, which consists of the National Guard and the Naval Militia; and (2) the unorganized militia, which consists of the members of the militia who are not members of the National Guard or the Naval Militia."[125]

The National Guard of the United States is the largest of the organized federal reserve military forces in the United States.[citation needed] The National Guard of the United States is classified (under title 10, United States Code (see above)) as the organized federal reserve military force. Under federal control, the National Guard of the United States can be called up for active duty by the President of the United States. Since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, many National Guard units have served overseas – under the Total Force Policy of 1973[126] which effectively combined the National Guard with the armed forces, making them regular troops. This can lead to problems for states that also face internal emergencies while the Guard is deployed overseas. To address such issues, many of the states, such as New York and Maryland also have organized state "militia" forces or state guards which are under the control of the governor of a state; however, many of these "militia" also act as a reserve for the National Guard and are thus a part of it (this varies from state to state depending on individual state statutory laws). New York and Ohio also have active naval militias, and a few other states have on-call or proposed ones. In 1990, the United States Supreme Court ruled in the case of Perpich v. Department of Defense that the federal government has plenary power over the National Guard, greatly reducing (to the point of nonexistence) the state government's ability to withhold consent to federal deployments and training missions of the National Guard.[127]

State defense forces[edit]

Since the Militia Act of 1903, many states have created and maintained a reserve military force known as state defense forces; some states refer to them as state military reserves or state guards. They were created to assist, support and augment National Guard forces during peacetime conditions. Also during the call up of National Guard forces for wartime deployments, state defense forces can be used to assume the full military responsibilities of the state. Their mission includes the defense of the state and the enforcement of military orders when ordered by their Governor.

Throughout the 20th century, state defense forces were used in every major war. New York Guard Soldiers patrolled and secured the water aqueduct of New York, mass transit areas, and were even deployed to France to assist in logistical operations in World War I. The Texas State Guard's soldiers suppressed a riot and maintained peace and order in Texas throughout World War II.

Today state defense forces continue to assist, support and augment the National Guard of the state. They provide logistical, administration, medical, transportation, security, and ceremonial assistance. Some states have provided additional support such as the New York State Defense Force (New York Guard) providing its Soldiers to help support and augment the National Guard CERFP Team[jargon explanation needed]. The California State Military Reserve provides the National Guard with Soldiers to assist with military police training and the Alaska State Defense Force constantly provides armed military police troops to assist with the security of Alaska. One of the major roles of the Mississippi State Guard is providing operational support during natural disasters such as hurricanes relief operations.

Unorganized militia[edit]

All able bodied men, 17 to 45 of age who are not part of the organized militia are known as the unorganized militia (10 USC). Able bodied men who are not eligible for inclusion in the reserve militia pool are those aliens not having declared their intent to become citizens of the United States (10 USC 246) and former regular component veterans of the armed forces who have reached the age of 64 (32 USC 313). All female citizens who are members of National Guard units are also included in the reserve militia pool (10 U.S.C. § 246).

Other persons who are exempt from call to duty (10 U.S.C. § 247) and are not therefore in the reserve militia pool include:

  • The Vice President (also constitutionally the President of the Senate, that body which confirms the appointment of senior armed forces officers made by the Commander in Chief).
  • The judicial and executive officers of the United States, the several States and Territories, and Puerto Rico.
  • Members of the armed forces, except members who are not on active duty.
  • Customhouse clerks.
  • Persons employed by the United States in the transmission of mail.
  • Workmen employed in armories, arsenals, and naval shipyards of the United States.
  • Pilots on navigable waters.
  • Mariners in the sea service of a citizen of, or a merchant in, the United States.

Many individual states have additional statutes describing their residents as part of the state militia; for example Washington law specifies all able-bodied citizens or intended citizens over the age of eighteen as members of the state militia, as explicitly distinct from the National Guard and Washington State Guard.[128] In states such as Texas, the state constitution classifies male citizens between the ages of 17 and 45 to belong to the "Unorganized Reserve Militia".[129] The Texas constitution also grants county sheriffs and the state governor the authority to call upon the unorganized reserve militia to uphold the peace, repel invasion, and suppress rebellion, similar to the early "Texas Rangers".

Private militias & the modern citizen-militia movement[edit]

Laws authorizing the state governments to officially make privately-organized militias part of the state's official military force vary; Nevada, for example, allows the governor to "issue licenses to bodies of persons to organize, drill and bear arms as volunteer military companies or volunteer military organizations,"[130] whereas South Carolina prohibits any group from being enlisted into its state guard.[131] States with military histories that date back to the American revolution may officially recognize militias from that era that continue to exist and operate independently; Massachusetts law explicitly makes the National Lancers part of its organized militia and protects the right of the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Massachusetts to exist and operate as a private organization,[132][133] while Rhode Island recognizes a number of independent chartered militias as a separate part of its overall military force.[134][135] During World War II, Hawaii authorized several private paramilitary militias to operate, including the Businessmen's Military Training Corps and the Hawaii Air Depot Volunteer Corps.[136]

Since approximately 1992, there have been a number of state- and regional-level private organizations in the United States that call themselves militia or unorganized militia, some of which have been tied to domestic terrorism and extremist views, which operate without any official sanctioning or licensing by their state governments.[137] The 2000s and 2010s also saw the formation of several national-level private militia organizations, the largest of which being the Oath Keepers and Three Percenters.[138][139]

List of legislated militia in the United States[edit]

U.S. federal militia forces[edit]

U.S. states' militia forces[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Page 36. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995.
  2. ^ Justice Scalia, Opinion of the court. SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA, et al., PETITIONERS v. DICK ANTHONY HELLER: on writ of certiorari to the united states court of appeals for the district of columbia circuit. 2008. "... the 'militia' in colonial America consisted of a subset of 'the people'—those who were male, able bodied, and within a certain age range."
  3. ^ Young, David E. The American Revolutionary Era Origin of the Second Amendment's Clauses. JOURNAL ON FIREARMS & PUBLIC POLICY, Volume 23. 2011. Extended excerpt from Mason's Fairfax County Militia Plan. 1776.
  4. ^ The Federalist Papers No. 29, Hamilton, Alexander. Concerning the Militia. Daily Advertiser. 1788. "What plan for the regulation of the militia may be pursued by the national government, is impossible to be foreseen ... were the Constitution ratified ... 'The project of disciplining all the militia of the United States is as futile as it would be injurious, if it were capable of being carried into execution.'"
  5. ^ The Federalist Papers, No. 46, Madison, James Jr. New York Packet. 1788. "... the State governments, with the people on their side, would be able to repel the danger. ... a militia amounting to near half a million citizens [~1/5 of the free population] with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties, and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence."
  6. ^ U.S. Constitution, Article I, Sec. 8 : "Congress shall have the Power ... To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions; To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;"
  7. ^ U.S. Constitution, Article II, Sec. 2, Clause 1: "The President shall be the Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States when called into the actual service of the United States."
  8. ^ "[USC02] 10 USC Ch. 12: THE MILITIA".
  9. ^ 32 U.S. Code § 109 – Maintenance of other troops
  10. ^ Department of Defense, Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, Military compensation background papers, Seventh edition, page 229. Department of Defense, 2005.
  11. ^ Beard, Charles Austin: Readings in American Government and Politics, Page 308. Macmillan, 1909. "Sec. 1. That the militia ... shall be divided into two classes ... the organized militia, to be known as the National Guard ... and the remainder to be known as the Reserve Militia."
  12. ^ H.R. Report No. 141, 73rd Cong. 1st session at 2-5 (1933)
  13. ^ Oxford English Dictionary, Draft Revision March 2002.
  14. ^ Perpich v. Department of Defense, 496 U.S. 334, 348 (1990)
  15. ^ O'Callaghan, Edmund B.: The Documentary History of the State of New-York, Volume 1, Weed, Parsons, & Co., 1819.
  16. ^ North Carolina August 15th 1826 Militia Roll.
  17. ^ Wills, Garry (1999). A Necessary Evil, A History of American Distrust of Government Page 27. New York, NY; Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0-684-84489-3
  18. ^ "Records of the colony of New Plymouth in New England : Printed by order of the legislature of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts".
  19. ^ a b Sparks, Jared: "The Life of George Washington", page 70. F. Andrews, 1853.
  20. ^ a b Sparks, Jared: "The Life of George Washington", page 134-135. F. Andrews, 1853.
  21. ^ Shepherd, William (1834). A History of the American Revolution Page 67. London, England. Published I.N. Whiting
  22. ^ Sparks, Jared: The Life of George Washington, page 135. F. Andrews, 1853.
  23. ^ Adams, John: Letters of John Adams, Addressed to His Wife, page 257. C.C. Little and J. Brown, 1841.
  24. ^ Wills, Garry (1999). A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster.
  25. ^ Wills, Garry (1999). A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 36. (rebuttal of Wills book – page 16.)
  26. ^ "American Revolution: The Definitive Encyclopedia and Document Collection" by Jeremy Black pg. 1295.
  27. ^ "The Revolutionary War sketches of William R. Davie" by William Richardson Davie pg. 11.
  28. ^ "The Revolutionary War sketches of William R. Davie" by William Richardson Davie pg. 11-12.
  29. ^ "The Swamp Fox: Lessons in Leadership from the Partisan Campaigns of Francis Marion" by Scott D. Aiken pg. 106-110.
  30. ^ "Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States" by Henry Lee pg. 195-196.
  31. ^ "Gamecock: The Life and Campaigns of General Thomas Sumter" by Robert D. Bass chapter 10.
  32. ^ a b c Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995.
  33. ^ Sparks, Jared: The Life of Gouverneur Morris, with Selections from His Correspondence and Miscellaneous Papers. Boston, 1832.
  34. ^ Weatherup, Roy G.: Standing Armies and the Armed Citizens: An Historical Analysis of the Second Amendment. Hastings Constitutional Law Quarterly (Fall 1975), 973
  35. ^ WWills, Garry (1999). A Necessary Evil: A History of American Distrust of Government. New York, NY: Simon & Schuster. p. 37-38.
  36. ^ Militia Act of 1792
  37. ^ Wills, Garry (1999). A Necessary Evil, A History of American Distrust of Government. New York, NY; Simon & Schuster ISBN 0-684-84489-3
  38. ^ Robert Paul Churchill, "Conscientious Objection", in Donald K. Wells, An Encyclopedia of War and Ethics. Greenwood Press 1996. ISBN 0313291160 (p.99- 102).
  39. ^ Fields, William S.; Hardy, David T. (Spring 1992). "The Militia and the Constitution: A Legal History". Military Law Review. Archived from the original on 2008-04-10.
  40. ^ a b Cullum, George and Wood, Eleazer:Campaigns of the War of 1812–1815, Against Great Britain: Sketched and Criticized.. J. Miller, 1879.
  41. ^ "PICTORIAL FIELD-BOOK OF THE WAR OF 1812" by Benson J. Lossing chapter 13.
  42. ^ "The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 2" by William Stocking page. 995.
  43. ^ "The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest" by Alec R. Gilpin chapter 4.
  44. ^ "Outlines of the Life and Character of Gen. Lewis Cass" by Henry Rowe Schoolcraft pages. 10-11.
  45. ^ "The Life of General Lewis Cass, with His Letters and Speeches on Various Subjects" by George H. Hickman page. 8.
  46. ^ "The City of Detroit, Michigan, 1701-1922, Volume 2" by William Stocking page. 995.
  47. ^ "The United States Army: A Chronology, 1775 to the Present" by John C. Fredriksen page. 67.
  48. ^ "History of St. Lawrence Co., New York" by Samuel Durant pg. 458-459.
  49. ^ "St. Lawrence County in the War of 1812: Folly and Mischief" by John M. Austin
  50. ^ "The War of 1812 in the Old Northwest" by Alec R. Gilpin chapter 4.
  51. ^ "Remarkable Ohio". Ohio History Connection. Ohio History Connection. 2005-04-30. Retrieved 2021-12-06.
  52. ^ "The Tragic Saga of the Indiana Indians" by Harold Allison page. 218.
  53. ^ "The Encyclopedia Of the War Of 1812: A Political, Social, and Military" by Spencer C. Tucker pg. 293.
  54. ^ "The A to Z of the War of 1812" by Robert Malcomson pg. 203.
  55. ^ "St. Lawrence County in the War of 1812: Folly and Mischief" by John M. Austin chapter 1.
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Historic documents[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Cooper, Jerry M. (1993). Militia and the National Guard Since Colonial Times: A Research Guide. Research guides in military studies. Westport, Conn., United States: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-803-26428-3.
  • Dunbar-Ortiz, Roxanne (January 23, 2018). Loaded: A Disarming History of the Second Amendment. City Lights Publishers. ISBN 978-0872867239.
  • Fischer, David Hackett (1994). Paul Revere's Ride. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-508847-6.
  • Mahon, John K. (1983). History of the Militia and the National Guard. Macmillan Wars of the United States. New York: Macmillan. OCLC 9110954.
  • Newland, Samuel J. (2002). The Pennsylvania militia: Defending the Commonwealth and the nation, 1669–1870. Annville, Pa.: Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Dept. of Military and Veterans Affairs.
  • Pitcavage, Mark (1995). An equitable burden: the decline of the state militias, 1783-1858 (PhD thesis). Ohio State University. OCLC 34748696.
  • Singletary, Otis. Negro militia and Reconstruction, Austin: University of Texas Press. (1957) ISBN 0-313-24573-8
  • Smith, Joshua M. "The Yankee Soldier's Might: The District of Maine and the Reputation of the Massachusetts Militia, 1800–1812," New England Quarterly LXXXIV no. 2 (June 2011), 234–264.
  • Stentiford, Barry M. "The Meaning of a Name: The Rise of the National Guard and the End of a Town Militia," Journal of Military History, July 2008, Vol. 72 Issue 3, pp 727–754
  • Stentiford, Barry M. The American Home Guard: The State Militia in the Twentieth Century (Williams-Ford Texas A&M University Military History Series)" ISBN 1-585-44181-3

External links[edit]