Wednesday, September 7, 2016

1812 Militia

      When the United States was founded, instead of having a large professional army, it decided to depend on the citizens for the defense of the new nation.  After the Revolution, as most of those who served had belonged to militia, the popular believe was that the militia had won the war.  Every state had their own way to address militia service. In Massachusetts every male once they turned 18 was considered part of the militia. Twice a year towns would have "training days", where the militia was turned out for drill. Each member was expected to have a musket, bayonet, and shot bag.

      As time went on,  volunteer companies of militia were formed. These were usually better equipped and had some form of uniform. These units were usually formed along the lines of a social club and tended to be tradesmen, as the cost of belonging to a volunteer company could be quite expensive. Volunteer companies would meet regularly for drill. The volunteer companies would be named, using such terms as grenadiers, light infantry, guards, and other military terms.

    The wealthier states had more elaborate militia units. Boston had a troop of Hussars and a troop of lancers, the National Lancers. The National Lancers exist to this day, being a ceremonial unit which is still part of the state militia (but is not part of the National Guard).

     So many states actually had two militias; the volunteer militia, and the enrolled militia. The enrolled militia was basically every other male who didn't belong to a volunteer company.  Once again, in a state that had a more organized militia,  usually the enrolled militia would belong to a numbered company, the company would belong to a numbered regiment, and the numbered regiment would belong to a numbered brigade. On paper this could look impressive. In 1812 New York had 159 infantry regiments divided into 40 brigades, and 9 cavalry regiments divided into 3 brigades. However, militia units only had to serve in the United States itself. In 1812 when the United States launched an attack at Queenston, Canada, very few militia crossed into Canada. Once the fighting began, most of the militia invoked their right not to serve outside of the US, thereby turning a so far successful battle into a defeat.

    Last time I looked at Massachusetts law, every male between 18 and 45 is considered part of the "unorganized militia".

      I did something I haven't done since I started working; I took two weeks of vacation time. My wife and I are leaving for 10 days of camping. On Monday, which was a holiday, my wife worked so I did some painting. I started painting some of my Minifigs militia as "enrolled militia".  It was fun painting each figure in different clothes. I'm looking forward to using these figures when I get home. I have started working in my mind a "narrative campaign" using these figures based on the Shay's Rebellion.

      While working on this posting, I remembered a militia training manual and roster sheet  that I had bought years ago, long before I was on the internet. It dates from 1824. I took some pictures of it. One interesting point on the company roster sheet is a check list of what each member should turn out with.
My enrolled militia. They just need some final touchups.

Some of the more "dapper" members.

A group of volunteer militia.

A volunteer rifle unit.

The cover of the "Militia Instructer" from 1824

Back cover of the "Miltia Instructer" showing other military manuals available from the printer.

The annual return roster for a militia company.

The check list of what each member should be equipped with.

Back of the Annual return.


  1. We had a similar system here. I like the look of these figures, esp the Abe Lincoln look of the first bunch. I could see some of these fighting for Texas Independence as well.

    1. The more I look at these figures the more I like them. They are useful right up to the Civil War. Removing the muskets, they would also be good for regular civilian figures. I just bought a lot of the Minifigs advancing militia figures to supplement the militia.

  2. Very nice minifigs. The Militia Instructer looks fantastic, a real bit of history. I have also just started 2 weeks leave, which I have not done since being married. Enjoy the camping.

    1. If I remember correctly, the Militia Instructer is based on Baron Von Stuben's manual. I hope you have a great vacation. They go by so quick!