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HISTORY OF THE MILITIA AND THE NATIONAL GUARD

John K. Mahon

© 1983, John K. Mahon, used with permission.

Chapter One, The English Background
Chapter Two, Militia in the Colonies
Chapter Three, The American Revolution
Chapter Four, Militia in the Early National Period
Chapter Five, Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 This file
Chapter Six, Decline of the Militia; Rise of the Volunteers
Chapter Seven, Civil War
Chapter Eight, Reconstruction; Birth of the National Guard
Chapter Nine, The War with Spain
Chapter Ten, Reorganization, 1900-1916
Chapter Eleven, The National Guard in World War I
Chapter Twelve, The National Guard Between World Wars
Chapter Thirteen, World War II
Chapter Fourteen, The Immediate Post War Period
Chapter Fifteen, The Eisenhower Administration
Chapter Sixteen, The Turbulent 1960s
Chapter Seventeen, The Guard in the 1970s
Chapter Eighteen, Conclusion

CHAPTER FIVE

Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812

So great was the ideological difference between the Federalists and the Republicans revealed during the election of 1800 that insurrection loomed large. But the peaceful inauguration of Thomas Jefferson demonstrated that the young Republic had staying power. Much of the Federalist heritage was too firmly hardened into place for the new administration to attempt to dislodge it; one feature cemented in was a standing military establishment. Although Jefferson said, "None but an armed nation can dispense with a standing army," 1 he did not eliminate the Federalist army. All he did was to scale it down drastically. At his behest, Congress cut the army appropriation down from $2,093,000, where it stood in 1801 to $680,000 in 1803, and the navy from $3,000,000 to $1,000,000. 2

In Jeffersonís view, the only force competent to defend the nation against attack was the militia, since there were innumerable points at which an enemy might strike from overseas or across the borders of Canada or New Spain. 3 If the militia was properly organized and disciplined every able-bodied man of military age would have some training and weapons. Since Jefferson was determined to rely heavily on this System, he must know its size. Accordingly, the administration jogged the adjutants general of the states, through the governors, to turn in the reports mandated to be sent in annually to the president. So little had this stipulation of the Act of 1792 been heeded that it was 1804 before the secretary of war could even approximate a comprehensive report The figures were not encouraging; there were 525,000 men enrolled in the militia, most of them in the infantry and only one in

63

64 History of the Militia and the National Guard

ten reporting possession of a firearm 4 The statesí arms were badly out of balance— Massachusetts had 40 percent of the artillery— but more serious than this imbalance was the glaring discrepancy between the strengths mandated by the Uniform Militia Act and those actually existing. Whereas the Act called for 770 men per regiment of infantry, Rhode Island had only 400 while South Carolina had 850. 5 Plainly, the state units could not serve as interchangeable parts of a federal reserve.

The Jeffersonians never ceased to believe that the militia could be shaped up. Jefferson himself had no personal experience as a member of any militia unit, but it was plain to him that the system was in theory the best of all for a free people. His experience as governor of Virginia for two years during the Revolution did little to change his viewpoint. Providentially, the Peace of Amiens, which went into effect in the spring of 1802, gave him time to work on the militia as a national instrument. During this breather in the struggle between Napoleon and the various coalitions formed to fight him, Jefferson kept the army small, drydocked most of the oceangoing navy, and secured authority to build 263 gunboats, which, manned by naval militia, were to protect the coasts He also agreed to put the United States Military Academy into operation, in part to be the center from which military knowledge could radiate out to the militia, and in part to train a corps of officers who were not unbending Federalists. The High Federalist slant of the officers of the army seemed to the president to be a threat to the future of America as a republican society. 6 Finally, his administration, and his Republican successors, supported in the private sector of the economy the ability to supply the nation with war materials when necessary. Jefferson never questioned the need to be prepared to use war as an instrument of national policy, but this posture did not require maintaining large standing forces.

When Louisiana was acquired during the Peace of Amiens, Jefferson called on the militias of the adjacent states to stand by to suppress insurrection if the French, Spanish, and Indian peoples who had been annexed without their consent rebelled; but there was no insurrection.

Jeffersonís dream of an America lightly burdened with military expenses evaporated when war broke Out again in Europe in 1803 Almost at once United States shipping began to be squeezed between the giant belligerents, and national sovereignty with it. Congressís response was to authorize 30,000 volunteers, who would be liable during two years to be called up and who would serve one year if so called. 7 Jefferson referred to this new type as those militiamen "to whose habits and enterprise active and distant service was congenial" 8

In March, the president asked Congress for the power to use the regular forces to suppress insurrections and enforce the laws of the


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 65

United States. This was radical action for one of Jeffersonís convictions, the Constitution seemed to imply that only the militia would be I for internal discipline. 9 It is certain that if the Federalist administrations had asked for such power, the Jeffersonians would have regarded it as primarily a menace to them.

On June 22, 1807, the British Frigate Leopard fired a shot across bow of the U. S. Frigate Chesapeake, and Captain Humphreys of the Leopard demanded that his officers be allowed to remove from the American crew British deserters whom he knew to be aboard. Captain James Barron of course refused, since the demand was a gross Infraction of American sovereignty, whereupon the British ship opened fire, killing three and wounding twenty Americans. Since the Chesapeake was unable to return the fire, because she had put to sea with her guns unmounted, the British officers boarded and removed four men. American newspapers spread the knowledge of this humiliation widely and rapidly. Americans became fighting mad, but not the president. Determined to avoid war if possible, he pushed an embargo through Congress designed to keep United States ships out of the way of trouble with British warships, and at the same time to deny indispensable goods to England, which American ships had been carrying as a neutral power. Put into operation early in 1808, the embargo imposed the herculean task of trying to prevent movement of ships from more than 2,000 ports and inlets, and interdicting the passage of goods for England across the Canadian border. Both regular service and the militia were not enough to achieve complete enforcement, but they tried. The government designated a reliable militia officer near each port or navigable inlet and ordered him to respond rapidly whenever the port collector called for help. 10 When Vermont militia would not enforce the embargo along the Canadian border, Jefferson sent regular artillery there. 11

Reluctantly, the administration urged Congress to enlarge the army and thereby precipitated a sharp debate which continued off and on for the next three years. Dissident Republicans, now known as Democrats, opposed enlargement because, as John Randolph put it, the administration had never defined the role either of the army or of the militia clearly enough. 12 Peter Bud Porter, a successful commander of New York militia, offered a definition: the militia, he said, was the shield of the Republic, and the regular force, its sword Randolph and some of his followers doubtless agreed with Porterís definition, but they opposed Jeffersonís plan because they saw no need for the sword. 13 So great was the political power of the president that the debate came to an end Congress had agreed to enlarge the army to six times its previous size.

Various aspects of the militia received examination. Porter


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demonstrated that it penalized the poor. Many a man was incapable of spending $15.00 to equip himself with a firearm, but he was subject to fine if he did not. In contrast, well-to-do persons escaped service by paying the fines, which deprived them of very little. Thus it happened that men who served owned less than 1 percent of the property they helped to protect. 14

Some debaters argued that the traditional restriction on the use of militia outside the United States was invalid. Might not a preemptive invasion by an American force sometime be necessary to repel an imminent invasion? Also, these men argued, was not a declaration of war by Congress a law whereby under the Constitution, militia could be used without restrictions to enforce? 15

In 1808, Congress appropriated $200,000 per year to arm the militia. This sum was to be divided among the states according to the number of militiamen shown in their annual return to the secretary of war. 16 It would hardly buy arms for the men who became eighteen each year— to arm the militia fullywould have required $50,000,000— but it was important because the act committed the federal government to the principle of providing arms to the citizen soldiers.

Jeffersonís alternative for war did not work; the embargo proved to be a heavier burden in costs, at least, than war itself It was repealed in March 1809 after fifteen months of operation. British naval captains continued to impress sailors from American ships, until by 1812 they had forcibly removed about 6,000. Except for expressions of indignation and the enlargement of the army, America presented no martial reaction to this outrage. As new territories came into the Union through the Louisiana Purchase and turned into states, the need for effective militia increased, but the territorial militias did not measure up to it. Until the very eve of the War of 1812, the system as a whole actually declined The average number of training days dropped from six to four per year. In some states the militia became more a money game than a training program. These states commenced to charge fees against many persons whom state laws exempted from duty, and to collect fines with more vigor. Where there was need for prolonged service to garrison sensitive places, the states maintained small state armies. Massachusetts, Virginia, and Georgia had such forces at various times. In the larger cities, militia units bigger than battalions formed These were useful for ceremonial purposes, except that party politics permeated some of them: there were Federalist brigades and Democratic brigades. When John Adams became president, partisan feeling ran so high that some of the Republican units in Philadelphia would not be part of his escort through the city. Conversely, the three firmly Federalist troops of the Philadelphia City Cavalry would not parade in honor of the acquisition of Louisiana. 17


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 67

By 1812, the debate in Congress focused on volunteers. This was because they could be used for longer terms and farther afield than militia. Nevertheless, Senator William Branch Giles of Virginia argued that they had no standing under the Constitution. Other debaters considered volunteers to be subject to militia limitations. 18 Supporters of volunteers denied both arguments and insisted that these troops were to be preferred to hastily raised, raw regulars, who invariably were riffraff 19 The supporters in the end won Out, and Congress authorized up to 50,000 volunteers. One provision of the new law awarded 160 acres of land to the family of any volunteer killed in the line of duty. It prompted one Ohio man to write thus to his senator: "Who the devil would turn out to get himself killed for 160 acres of land? Many wished every member of Congress had 160 acres . . . stuffed up his — — —." 20

By the time the United States declared war on Great Britain on April 18, 1812, Congress had authorized a formidable land force: 35,925 regular army; 50,000 volunteers and 100,000 alerted militiamen. 21 Neither the regular army nor the volunteers ever reached such large numbers, but the militiamen who came and went for short tours of duty exceeded 100,000. Not all the states accepted the war declaration, however. The governor of Connecticut, John Cotton Smith, with the concurrence of his council, said that the cruising of a hostile fleet did not constitute invasion or prove that invasion was imminent; nor was there an insurrection to suppress or any unusual need warranting militia help to enforce the laws. He added that he could not legally place Connecticut officers under United States officers. For all these reasons, he concluded, the presidentís call was unconstitutional 22 Governor Strong of Massachusetts refused his stateís militia, too. He could not, he said, detach the portion of the militia required by the president without dangerously weakening the whole state system. He did call out three companies, simply to cope with lawless people on the Massachusetts border. He gave no orders to his militia but exhorted them "duly to notice the solemn and interesting crisis. , . and to meet it with constancy and firmness." Later, in 1813, both Connecticut and Massachusetts consented to place men in federal service, but only to guard their own coasts. 23 In the end the United States paid for other coast guarding detachments.

At the start of the war, the governor of Vermont was sympathetic to the Madison administration, and he filled the stateís quota. Then, in 1813, Federalist Martin Chittenden became governor by a plurality of one vote-i he reversed the previous posture, ordering the Vermont brigade serving in New York to come home at once. The officers of the brigade, being war sympathizers, flatly refused to obey. Some of the enlisted men, however, started home to bring in the harvest,


68 History of the Militia and the National Guard

whereupon the officers sent out detachments to round them up. In the resulting confrontation, at least one man was killed. By September 18 14, the governor was urging cooperation with the United States. 24

The attitude of Connecticut and Massachusetts deprived the nation of its best militia; more important, it precluded cutting the British jugular vein, the St. Lawrence River. It forced the government to operate far to the west in an area nowhere near as critical to British control as the river itself The reaction of these two states to the presidentís call underscored a problem created by the Constitution. Each militia had two commanders-in-chief a governor and the president, and if those two disagreed on policy, the several militias could not function as a national reserve.

At the start of the year 1812, the regular army had a few less than 7,000 enlisted men in it Ití, as Peter Bud Porter had said, the standing army was the sword of the Republic and the militia its shield, the sword was little more than a dagger, totally inadequate to invade Canada. For this reason, the Madison administration made the mistake of trying to use the shield for cutting and thrusting, a function it could not perform, since it was a defense mechanism only. For its first thrust, the strategy makers sent Brigadier General William Hull to invade Canada from Detroit with a small army of mixed components. The Ohio militia with Hull refused, on statutory grounds, to cross into Canada Hull had developed a deep distrust of militia during his service as an officer in the American Revolution, and militia action once again shook his confidence. For this and other reasons he surrendered his force to an inferior one on August 17, 1812. When tried many months later for cowardice and other military crimes, he testified that his failure had been due in large part to the rawness, lack of discipline, and insubordination of the militia. 25

That militia was completely unsuitable for invasion was illustrated also at the other (eastern) end of the Ontario Peninsula. There, Major General Stephen Van Rensselaer, New York militia, led 350 regulars and 250 volunteers across the Niagara River on October 12, 1812, making a defendable lodgment on high ground at Queenstown, Canada. He had three men to the British one, but most of his force was still on the United States side of the river. It only remained to bring them into the fight to win the action, but the militia refused to cross into foreign territory. No more regulars were available to cross because their commander was unwilling to be subordinate to a militia officer. The senior militia officer over the men who had crossed, General Wadsworth, turned the command over to Colonel Winfield Scott, U. S. Army, but nothing could rescue that detachment from surrender save reinforcements, which did not come. 26


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 69

After this fiasco, Brigadier General Alexander Smyth, who had refused to serve as second in command to Van Rensselaer, took charge. He planned to cross again on December 1, and issued a bombastic proclamation to stir the citizen soldiers to make the crossing. He needed 3,000 men, but got less than half that number, since the militiamen continued to refuse to invade. Soon Smyth lost the command, left the area, threatened by the citizen soldiers, and thereafter was dropped from the rolls of the army. Like Hull, he blamed his failure the militia. 27
Such American strategy as there was called for coordinated penetrations of Canada along a front 600 miles long, most of it trackless wilderness. The expected coordination did not occur. Hull surrendered in August before the offensives to the east had got under way. Van Rensselaer surrendered his invasionary detachment in October, when Major General Henry Dearborn was just arriving at the Canadian border in the Lake Champlain region. Once Dearborn at last was ready to invade, two-thirds of his militiamen announced that they were not required to cross an international boundary and would not do so. Thereupon Dearborn canceled the invasion and put his army into winter quarters. 28

Brigadier General Zebulon Pike, operating in the same area as Dearborn, although a regular, was a more charismatic leader of citizen soldiers than Dearborn he was able to lead 400 New York militiamen with some regulars into Canada. His regulars were in one column, his irregulars in another, and in the gloom of early morning, they fired a volley or two at each other. Later in 1813, New York militia refused to cross with Major General Wade Hampton. 29 The early months of the war demonstrated that militia could not be used as an offensive force.

William Henry Harrison was the type of officer who could get the most out of irregulars. When very young, he had served in the regular army, but he became a general officer during the War of 1812 through the Kentucky militia. He commanded in 1813 in the theater where Hull had failed. Loyal to Kentucky, he turned to that state for men at a time when 10,000 Ohio militiamen were already on the march to join him. One of his great skills was persuasion, and he used it in this case to halt the Ohio column and turn it around The column was led by the governor himself, Return Jonathan Meigs, who of course resented the preference shown for Kentucky troops. One of Meigsís officers lamented: "The militia of Ohio have been made pack horses and merely served as convenience for others to receive the honor and glory" 30

Honor and glory had to be postponed while Harrisonís army was detained for many months until the navy could secure control of Lake


70 History of the Militia and the National Guard

Erie. The troops lived in mud and cold, but Harrison was able to hold them together and at the same time establish depots of supplies for the future advance. Clad in common hunting garb, he rode through his sprawling theater talking with the citizen soldiers. A master of harangue, with a superb voice, he persuaded men to his will "as a father would his children." Moreover, if his men endured the rain all night without tents, so did he, sitting on his saddle, wrapped in his cloak. propped against a tree. 31

Even Harrison could not keep militiamen beyond the tour for which they had contracted Pennsylvania and Virginia militia, their terms up, marched away from Ft. Meigs on the Maumee River in February 1813, leaving only 400 men to man works built for 2,000. There followed a race between the British, to capture the fort while it was weak, and Harrison, to get more troops into it. Finally, on May 5, 1813,800 Kentucky militiamen dashed in, quickly overran the British batteries that were harassing the place, and then, without bothering to spike the guns, loped off in undisciplined pursuit. The British raffled and killed or captured all their pursuers. Harrison ascribed the disaster to the overconfidence which he said always attended militia. However in the same report he praised a militia company that had held its ground against four times its number. 32

Once the navy had secured control of Lake Erie in September 1813 Harrison led his army into Upper Canada and virtually wiped out British control there. His campaign displayed almost the perfect use of citizen soldiers. Due to the depots he had established while immobilized the previous winter, his column kept moving, thus avoiding boredom among the men. Also, the morale of his troops was high because Isaac Shelby himself governor of Kentucky and popular hero of the Revolutionary War, led them. In addition, although horse costs were usually considered prohibitive, Harrison allowed the Kentuckian a to ride from home to the point of embarkation. Finally, because the men were away only three months, their crops and businesses suffered a minimum of loss. 33 Viewed as part of a planned, coordinated war effort, the campaign was far from perfect. Instead of 7,000 regulars, as the administration had intended, Harrison commanded only 2,500 regulars plus a horde of citizen soldiers; and the latter sewed under conditions set not by the administration but by the governor of Kentucky. Harrisonís army was good for one campaign only.

Along the northern border of New York there was no such triumph as Harrison enjoyed in the west. Quite the contrary! On July 20, 1813, 1,900 British troops landed close to Plattsburgh on Lake Champlain and advanced toward the town. Brigadier General Benjamin Mooers called out the local militia en masse but brought forth only 300 men


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 71

and one small cannon. The British brushed aside this token resistance and plundered the town. Westward in the Niagara region, the defense utterly. American troops still held Ft. George on the Canadian side of the Niagara River, but in November the tour of the volunteers ended and they marched out, leaving sixty regulars and forty volunteers to try to save the place. Brigadier General George McClure, New York militia, issued a call for the militia to turn out en but only 400 men responded, and none of them for service in McClure talked so bitterly over this showing that he became dangerously unpopular with the militia and was replaced by Major General Amos Hall, also New York militia. 34 Hall, too, sent out a frantic summons for local soldiers, but the militiamen had stood too many drafts and been away from home too much to care. The small force Hall was able to assemble faded away before the invaders. Consternation replaced order, and the Niagara frontier lay naked before the enemy. The British, with Indian allies, arrived, burned Black Rock and Buffalo, looted as much as was profitable, and, having met almost no resistance, departed. This fiasco shook faith in the belief that men would fight to the last to defend hearth and home, and the secretary of war announced that the New York militia had shamefully failed to do their duty. 35

Not all citizen soldiers on the New York frontier, however, were supine. When the British attacked Sackettís Harbor, the principal United States naval base on Lake Ontario May 20, 1813, Major General Jacob Brown emerged as a towering leader of the militiamen. Brown held his force of irregulars together on the beach to oppose the landing as long as he could, but at last it began to give way and the men abandoned the field. Now Brown sent runners out on all roads to announce an American victory. The men, not wishing to lose out on the honor, returned. Brown was able to get them into cohesive formations and drove the British back to their ships. 36

In the months that followed this success, Brown shifted to western New York and engaged the main British force in two of the bloodiest battles of the war. He restored some order on the distracted Niagara region with the aid of Brigadier General Peter Bud Porter, an able Commander of citizen soldiers. Porter was as delighted to serve with Brown as Brown was to have his services, for Porter found the regulars difficult to work with. "It is certain," he said, "that no militia general is to gain any military fame while united to a regular force and Commanded by their officers." 37

During September 1814, the British encircled Ft. Eric, the last installation that Americans held on the Canada side of the Niagara River (General McClure had abandoned Ft. George in November


72 History of the Militia and the National Guard

1813). British siege batteries cruelly punished the defenders. At this juncture, Peter Bud Porter persuaded 1,500 New York militiamen to cross into Canada. This remarkable development made General Brown decide to attempt a sortie from the beleaguered fort, even though half of his men were Porterís militia. At the zero hour, the American force poured out of the security of the fort and overran the punishing batteries, causing the British to lift the siege. Everyone who had worked with militia knew that this was an astonishing feat, and Brown retracted his earlier derogation of the New York militia, who, he said, had redeemed their character. 38

Later in 1814, for some unaccountable reason, the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, ordered Major General George Izard to leave the Lake Champlain zone, where invasion was imminent, and to go to the Niagara area to take command Izard was finely trained in European warfare, but he did not adapt well to the unpredictable conduct of irregular soldiers Accordingly, late in November he acknowledged to the secretary that Brown was better qualified than he to handle the northern army, and requested to be relieved Brown once assumed the command. 39

The threat in the Champlain area resulted from the transfer of an army of seasoned British troops from Europe. Napoleonís abdication in April 1814 and subsequent exile enabled the British government to address the American problem. It sent one army under Lieutenant General Sir George Prevost to advance into the United States via the Richelieu River and Lake Champlain. A second army, under Major General Robert Ross, was to operate in the Chesapeake Bay region in order to provide a diversion for the northern column. Ross landed 4,500 men at Benedict, thirty miles from Washington, D.C., and moved inland to feel out the resistance. Since almost none developed, he and Admiral Sir George Cockburn, who was marching with him, could choose whether to aim toward the capital or toward Baltimore and Philadelphia. They picked Washington in order to disrupt American morale. Neither United States regulars nor militia obstructed the roads, no surprise to Admiral Cockburn who after marauding in the area earlier with a minuscule force had developed scorn for the American spirit. 40

On the American side, the government as early as July 4, 1814, L alerted 93,500 militiamen from the Middle Atlantic States. Ir response, Pennsylvania authorities informed the United States commander that their state could not compel any man to serve because of a new militia law which temporarily deprived the officers of their authority. The stateís militia system was undergoing reorganization when it was most needed in the field. 41


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 73

Brigadier General William Winder was the United States commander but he could not actually call any of the 93,500 supposedly men into federal service until the Secretary of War, John Armstrong, gave him permission. Armstrongís permission arrived even as the British column was moving across the undefended countryside, Winder at once summoned the men of Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and the District of Columbia en masse. His frantic call brought out only 6,000 men, some of whom arrived at Bladensburg. where had determined to take a stand behind the eastern branch of Potowmack River, at the moment when the British were preparing to force a crossing of the stream. In the resulting battle, certain militia units and some regulars stood stoutly until overrun, but a majority of citizen soldiers fled with such speed that the action became known the Bladensburg Races. 42 One member of the invading force who observed the conflict wrote that had the Americans "conducted them with coolness and resolution, it is not conceivable how the could have been won." 43 Rossís column brushed aside the few resolute resisters, marched into the District of Columbia, burned some of the public buildings, and then, having no further mission there, returned to their ships. The militia in this instance, as on the Niagara, less than a year before, had seemed to make a myth of the general that they would fight to the death to protect their homes and hallowed monuments.

Very soon, however, the militia of the Chesapeake region performed as a majority of believers expected them to. Ross and Cockburn turned their army toward Baltimore whereupon that community responded with an energy that Washington had not shown. Command fell to Major General Samuel Smith of the Maryland militia, who let it be known that he would not take orders from the federal commander. He was backed in this stand by the governor of Maryland, a relative of William Winder. Smith put the civilian population, free and slave, to work digging defensive works and summoned the entire militia of Baltimore and of two Maryland counties. They responded in numbers that when the British landed and marched toward the City, Baltimoreís defenses bristled. Two young citizen snipers shot General Ross dead off his white horse, and his successor found the defending earthworks so formidable and the position so unfavorable for help from the British navy that he gave up the attempt and returned to the shipping. 44

While the British diversionary army in the Chesapeake area scattered the United States government, how did the main British fare moving southward from Canada? Its prospects seemed since the American command before it was constantly


74 History of the Militia and the National Guard

shifting from one officer to another. The invading column, time containing nearly 20,000 seasoned veterans of the Napoleonic Wars, once more approached Plattsburgh. The federal commander there, a young brigadier, Alexander Macomb, having only a scant force to work with, asked for militia help. General Mooers called out his entire command but received just 700 men. He reported to Governor Daniel D. Tompkins that "a portion of the militia entailed eternal disgrace upon themselves." 45 Macomb bandied his tiny force with skill, but he could not stem the British advance by land It was the United States Navy that halted it with a stunning victory on the Lake Lieutenant Thomas Macdonoughís four small warships and ten gunboats wrecked the smaller British lake squadron, thereby exposing the flank of the invading column on its water side lieutenant General Sir George Prevost was not willing to advance under such conditions and marched his powerful force back to Canada.

President Madison had removed John Armstrong after the Washington fiasco and had appointed James Monroe as Secretary of War. The new secretary was an unswerving optimist, and the withdrawal of the British army into Canada meant to him a real resurgence of American prospects. Looking northward from Washington, Monroe saw Daniel D. Tompkins, governor of New York, as the man of the hour, and accordingly he appointed him to be commander of the United States Third Military District. Since the District included New Jersey, Jerseyís governor immediately protested that the governor of New York could not legally command New Jersey militia within the boundaries of New Jersey. Monroe wrote off ten pages in his own hand to demonstrate to the dissident that Tompkinsís attributes as governor were phased out when he functioned as federal commander. The result was that Tompkins retained the command, but without any milltaiy rank whatever. 46

Partly due to Monroeís unflagging spirit, the Madison administration kept up its courage, even when manpower for the war effort seemed out of reach. From South Carolina came word that the courts of the state had made the militia dependent on the willingness of individuals to serve in it. 47 From several states came protests about attempts to place regular officers over their militias. No less a figure than Samuel Smith, savior of Baltimore, resigned as major general rather than continue under the command of Winileld Scott, who was one of the finest of the regular officers. With Smith wentJohn Stricker commandant of the militia of Baltimore. 48 In New England, a convention at Hartford, Connecticut, resolved that it was unconstitutional to put regular officers over militia, and while at it resolved also


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 75

that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to try to classify a stateís militia. 49

Monroe, apparently convinced that the militia system had failed, proposed the formation of a national reserve of 100,000 men independent of the states. Although he did not say so, his plan required ription. Daniel Webster in Congress recognized this and denounced it with his usual eloquence. "Not one half of the ripts," he said, "will ever return to tell the tale of their sufferings. will perish of disease or pestilence, or they will leave their bones whiten in fields beyond the frontier. [Such a law] cannot be executed." 50 The bill was not enacted.

If the militia system had often failed upto this point, there was one ea in which it had been highly successful It had pushed upward outstanding leaders of citizen soldiers, among them William Henry Jacob Brown, Peter Bud Porter, Richard Mentor Johnson, and Samuel Smith. Its most conspicuous graduate was Andrew Jackson, who owed much of his rise in prominence to the militia. His mother had urged her sons, when boys, to involve themselves with the local units, and Andrew had done so. The system operated democratically, indeed, was an important adjunct of politics, and in l796 Jackson presented himself to the officer corps of the new state of Tennessee as a candidate for major general. All he had for credentials were experience as a boy-orderly for a Carolina dragoon outfit during the Revolution and a charismatic presence. This did not win for him the office he coveted, but he commenced then to build for a future chance. The time seemed to have come in 1802 when he presented himself against John Sevier, a man of long experience in frontier style fighting. The vote was a tie, and the governor of Tennessee, allied withJackson politically, broke the tie in his favor. Sevier and Jackson fought a bloodless duel and were never reconciled Jacksonís success split the politics of Tennessee., Jackson became the dominant political figure in the western segment of the state, Sevier in the east. Lack of military experience did not result in any lack of confidence; the general kept close in spirit to his troops. "My pride," he said, "is that my soldiers has (sic) confidence in me; and in the event of war I will lead them on, to victory and conquest." 51

No sooner had the second war with Britain begun than Andrew Jackson wrote Madison offering himself and his Tennessee troops to go anywhere to "repel hur (sic) [the United Statesí] enemies without Constitutional scruples of any boundaries." 52 Politically tainted by some relationship with Aaron Burr, Jackson was not acceptable to the commander-in- chief, who ignored his offer. Jackson had to wait until 1813, every day of the wait frustrating to him, for his chance. The


76 History of the Militia and the National Guard

administration directed the governor of Tennessee to raise a force volunteers and move southward to engage the Creek Indians, allies of the English foe. As Jackson at all times considered Indians to be in the way of progress, the assignment was a welcome one, but he had to assert himself to get it He was seriously crippled and ill from a brawl of some months earlier, and the governor considered him too unwell to take command. Jackson, whose will always overcame pain and physical debility, dragged himself out of bed and demanded the command as his right, being major general. Since the federal government authorized only the grade of brigadier general for this excursion, he accepted the rank and proceeded to lead the Tennesseans deep into territory. There, short of supplies and, so they claimed, at the end of their tour of duty, the men became determined to go home. Jackson denied their right to leave service, cajoled them at first, then screamed oaths at them, and, when these methods failed, threatened them with the cannon of a regular artillery outfit. Having imposed his will on soldiers, Jackson turned to stiffening the backbone of Willie Blount, Governor of Tennessee. "Arouse from yr lethargy; despise fawning smiles and snarling frowns— with energy exercise yr functions— the campaign must rapidly progress or. . . yr country ruined." 53 Blount could have removed his general for insubordination, but he and Jackson were political allies, and he understood the man. He found supplies and recruits to keep Jacksonís army in the field. At Horseshoe Bend of the Tallapoosa River on March 27, 1814, that broke the fighting power of the Creeks in one of the major battles of the War of 1812, although not a Britisher was present. This victory, conspicuous among so many American defeats, made Jackson known all over the United States and brought to him a commission as major general in the U. S. Army.

The main British strategic focus was by this time upon New Orleans, and Jackson received orders to go there and defend this, the finest city of the South. As usual, the general turned to his Tennesseans for troops as well as to Kentucky. To his dismay, Kentucky forwarded to him unarmed militia in disreputable condition, but his long-time friend, business partner, and personal defender, John Coffee, marched Tennessee horsemen to the scene without sleep to arrive in record time. Speed was essential, for Jacksonís intelligence service had failed and the invaders were already within eight miles of the city on a good road running beside the Mississippi River. Here was a crisis, the best possible environment to bring out the highest form of leadership in Andrew Jackson. Too ill from chronic dysentery to stand, Jackson radiated energy from a couch. Citizens working alongside slaves dug earthworks, patrols scoured the area for any firearm that would shoot;


Jeffersonian Militia and the War of 1812 77

Jean Lafitte and his pirates offered themselves as skilled gunners, and Jackson accepted them to get not only their skills but also the stores of unition they controlled. The general reviewed the militia, including the black units of New Orleans, and keyed them to fighting pitch. Drawn finally together in less than ten hours, his mongrel army ck the British at night in their camp beside the river on December 1814. Thereafter, in a series of battles, culminating on January 8, 1815, the ragtag American army stopped the advance of British regulars who had been part of the force that defeated Napoleon, icting 2,444 casualties to 336 suffered, a ratio of seven to one. 54 It did not matter that the Battle of New Orleans took place two weeks after a peace document had been signed far off in Ghent, Belgium. This victory shaped American military policy for decades to come by fostering the conviction that every American citizen soldier could, even with scant training, whip at least seven of the finest soldiers. Moreover, it confirmed what Americans wanted to believe, namely, that the nation could draw together a fighting force at the moment of need, not before, without elaborate and expensive preplanning.

Neither did it matter that an inordinate number of men were used to achieve the scant results flowing from the War of 1812. There were 398,000 individual enlistments of men who served less than six months, and 60,000 more who served only a little more than six Volunteers for twelve months or longer, with no restrictions on where they could serve, totaled only 10,000 of the 50,000 authorized at the beginning. These 10,000 were the best type of citizen soldiers in the action. Claimants of some sort continued to receive pensions for this war as late as 1946, and the total of pensions paid from 1872, when they began, to 1946 totaled $65,000,000. 55 (Pensions for military service do not go only to soldiers who served, but to their wives and sometimes other dependents. Older veterans not infrequently married very young women, and these wives in some uses were quite long-lived).

As in the Revolution, militia was indispensable in the War of 1812. What is striking is that its performance was less efficient than in the Revolution even though the United States had had a quarter of a century under the Constitution to tighten up a loose union. More than any other, this war revealed the weaknesses of the militia system, but at te same time it included a few of the most inspiring examples of superior fighting of citizens turned soldiers when commanded by officers who understood how much and how little they could expect from irregulars. 1. "Jefferson to (recipient unknown)," in The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, 20 vols. (Thomas Jefferson Memorial Assn., Washington, D.C., text@note1

2. Acts of 2 March 1801 and 3 March 1803, II USSL, pp. 108, 227. text@note2

3. "Jefferson to Congress, 8 Dec. 1801," in James D. Richardson, Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 10 vols. (GPO, 1899), vol. 1, p. 329. text@note3

4. Returns of the Militia of the U. S. transmitted to Congress 5 Jan. 1803, ASPMA, vol. I, p. 159. text@note4

5. John K. Mahon, The American Militia: Decade of Decision, 1789-1800 (Univ. of Florida Press, 1960), p. 63n; and "The Citizen Soldier in National Defense, 1789-1815 (unpublished Ph.D. diss., UCLA, 1950), p. 229. text@note5

6. James Ripley Jacobs, The Beginnings of the United States Army, 1783- 1812 (Princeton Univ. Press, 1947), chaps. 10 and 11; Theodore Joseph Crackel, "The Founding of West Point: Jefferson and the Politics of Security," Armed Forces and Society, VII (Summer 1981), pp. 529-543. text@note6

7. Act of 24 Feb. 1807, II USSL, p. 236. text@note7

8. Circular, Jefferson to the Governors of Territories Adjacent to Spain, 21 March 1807, MS, NA, Old War Records. text@note8

9. Act of 3 March 1807, II USSL, p. 443; "Use of the Militia and the National Guard by the Federal Government in Civil Disturbances" (typescript, Center for Military History, Depít. of the Army, Wash., D.C. n.d.), p. 10, printed, Robert W. Coakley, same title, in Bayonets in the Streets, ed. Robin Higliam, (Univ. Press of Kansas, 1969). text@note9

10. Secretary of war to governors, 18 Jan. 1809, MS, NA, Old War Records. text@note10

11. Coakley, "Use of Militia," p. 10. text@note11

12. Annals of Congress, 10 Cong., 1 sess. (26 Oct. 1807-25 April 1808), pp. 1903-191 1. text@note12

13. Ibid., 12 Cong., 1 sess. (4 Nov. 1811-6 July 1812), p.731. text@note13

14. Ibid., 11 Cong., I & 2 sess. (22 May 1809-1 May 1810), p. 1589. text@note14

15. Ibid., 12 Cong., 1 sess. (4 Nov. 1811-6 July 1812), p. 35. text@note15

16. Act of 23 April 1808, II USSL, p. 490. text@note16

17. Mahon, "Citizen Soldier," pp. 213-232. text@note17

18. Annals of Congress, 12 Cong., 1 sess., pp. 45, 737, 782. text@note18

19. Ibid., p. 58. text@note19

20. "J. H. Campbell to Thomas Worthington, 17 June 1812." Thomas Worthington and the War of 1812, ed. Richard C. Knopf (Columbus, Ohio, 1957), p. 96. text@note20

21. John K. Mahon, The War of 1812 (Univ. of Florida Press, 1972), p. 4. text@note21

22. Smith to secretary of war, 2 July 1812; Roger Griswold to secretary of war, 13 Aug. 1812; Gov. of Connecticut to secretaryofwar, 25 Aug. 1814; ASPMA, vol. I, pp. 325, 326, 618. text@note22

23. Strong to secretary of war, 5 Aug. 1812, ibid., p. 323; General Order to Mass. Militia, 3 July 1812, MS, Orderly Book 4, Archives of the Adjutant General of Mass. text@note23

24. "Proclamation of the Gov. of Vermont, 10 Nov. 1813." Official Letters of the Military and Naval Officers of the United States during the War with Great Britain in the Years 1812, 1813, 1814, & 1815, Comp. John Brannan (Washington, D.C., 1823), pp. 261,262; Niles Register, Vol.7, p. 65. text@note24

25. For the narrative of Hullís campaign, see Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 43-54; William Hull, Memoirs of the Campaign of the Northwest Army (Boston, 1824). text@note25

26. Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 75-81; Solomon Van Rensselaer, Narrative of the Affair at Queenstown in the War of 1812 (NewYork, 1836),pp. 10, 24, 67; John K Mahon, "Principal Causes for the Failure of the United States Militia System during the War of 1812," Indiana Military History Journal, IV (May 1979), pp. 15-21. text@note26

27. Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 81-85. text@note27

28. Ibid., p. 94. text@note28

29. Ibid., pp. 94, 95, 210. text@note29

30. John Gano to Gov. Meigs, 10 Dec. 1813, "Selections from the Gano Papers," Quarterly Publication of the Historical and Philosophical Society of Ohio, vols. 15-18 (Columbus, 1920), vol. 18, p. 11; Mahon, War of l8l2 ,pp.63, 162, 178,186. text@note30

31. Samuel R. Brown, Views of the Campaigns of the Northwestern Army (Burlington, Vt., 1814), p. 109. text@note31

32. Harrison to secretary of war, 5 & 9 May, 1813, Microcopy 221, Reel 53, H 156, NA, see also Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 159-165. text@note32

33. Ibid., p. 185; "Shelby to Harrison, 8 Aug. 1813, Messages and Letters of William Henry Harrison, ed. Logan Esarey, 2 vols. (Indiana Historical Collections, Indianapolis, 1922), vol. 2, pp. 518, 519. text@note33

34. McClure to Tompkins, 21 Dec. 1813, Letters to Daniel D. Tompkins, Gov. ofNewYork, 1812-1814, MS, NA,p. 70; same to secretaryof war, 25 Feb. 1813, ASPMA, vol. I, p. 487. text@note34

35. Secretary of war to Gen. James Wilkinson, 1 Jan. 1814, Microcopy 6, Reel 7, p. 97; Hall to Tompkins, 6 Jan. 1814, Letters to Tompkins, p. 12; Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 190, 191. text@note35

36. Ibid., p. 147. text@note36

37. "Porter to Tompkins, 29 July 1814," Documentary History of the Campaigns upon the Niagara Frontier In 1813 and 1814, ed. Ernest A. Cruikshank, 9 vols. (Wetland, Ontario, Lundyís Lane Historical Society, n.d.),vol. l,p. 101. text@note37

38. Jacob Brown to Tompkins, 20 Sep. 1814, ibid., p. 207; Mahon, War of 1812, p. 280. text@note38

39. Izard to secretary of war, 20 Nov. 1814, George Izard, Official Correspondence... (Philadelphia, 1816), p. 120. text@note39

40. For Cockburnís riverine actions in the Chesapeake area, see Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 111, 112, 115-1 17, 222, 289. text@note40

41. Secretary of Penna. to secretary of war, 25 July 1814, ASPMA, I, p. 551. text@note41

42. Gen. Winder to secretary of war, 27 Aug. 1814, Brannan, Official Letters, p. 400. text@note42

43. (George Robert Gleig), A Narrative of the Campaigns of the British Army at Washington, Baltimore, and New Orleans... (Philadelphia, 1821), p. 125. text@note43

44. Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 305-316. text@note44

45. Mooers to Tompkins, 4 Sep. 1814. Letters to Tompkins, p. 18; for a general account of the Battle of Plattsburgh, see Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 317-328. text@note45

46. Ibid., p. 316. text@note46

47. Ibid., p. 221; Charleston Courier, 30 Aug. 1813. text@note47

48. Mahon, War of 1812, p. 315. text@note48

49. "Report of the Hartford Convention," 4 Jan. 1815, Niles Register, vol 7, pp. 305-313. text@note49

50. Lillian Schlissel, ed. Conscience in America: A Documentary History of Conscientious Objection In America (E. P. Dutton, 1968), p. 69. text@note50

51. Robert V. Remini, Andrew Jackson and the Course of American Empire, 1767-1812 (Harperand Row, 1977),pp. 15,31,100,118,119,127,160. text@note51

52. Jackson to President, 15 March 1813, Correspondence of Andrew Jackson, ed. John Spencer Bassett, 7 vols. (Carnegie Inst., Washington, D.C., 1926-1935), vol. 1, p. 292. text@note52

53. Quoted in Marquis James, Andrew Jackson: The Border Captain (BobbsMerrill, 1933), p. 176. text@note53

54. Mahon, War of 1812, pp. 354-372. text@note54

55. Bicentennial Edition, Historical Statistics of the United States, 2 vols. (Dept. of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Washington, D.C., 1975), vol. 2, pp. 1140, 1146. text@note55


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