Sunday, July 1, 2012

Calling out the Militia

Virginia State Library: Executive Papers, Office of Governors Letters
        I have mentioned before that I am working on research pertaining to early Tennessee militia. The overall goal is to place historical accounts of militia use in the Old Southwest into a context that will allow us to see to what degree militias were truly organized (not just on paper). From there the authorized militia actions could be sorted out from unauthorized or "posse" actions.

You will see some of this (hopefully) in the next month or so.

        In the meantime, to the left is an actual Federal order for the Virginia State Militia. This type of order would have come from Secretary of War, Henry Knox in this case, and would be sent to the Governor of a state or territory. This was blank form that could be tailored to the use of whichever state or territory it was sent to. Though this form is filled out for Virginia, an identical form would have been issued to the Southwest Territory.

        Specifially, it was used after May of 1792 when one the earliest of many pieces of legislation was passed to regulate and professionalize the state militias. Further, this form provided the state and territorial governments the rate of pay and forage the Federal government would allow. Only the President could order up militia into service.

        The purpose of this was to provide an alottment of militia for the Governor to allocate to the various counties or regiments in his state or territory. Governor Blount of the Southwest Territory (1789-1796) was especially strict on the authorized use of militia as they were paid by the Federal government (except for that one time at Nickajack). Unauthorized militia actions would have to be paid by the state, however they typically were not paid at all. Many soldiers petitioned for pay for several years after the unauthorized action at Nickajack and Running Water.

        Payment of militia (or lack thereof) was a chronic issue in the Old Southwest as the President and the War Department maintained a staunch defense-only position when it came to militia action and many middle Tennessee militia actions blurred the line between defense and offense. Failure to accomodate Federal policy often led to non-payment and the further alienation and disenfranchising of the settlers in the Southwest Territory.

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