12 Jul 2022


Military of the Revolutionary War as the National Guard of today’s times

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Academic level: College

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The National Guard of the United States of America refers to the reserve military force, which is part of the components of the armed forces of this country. It is made up of the National Guard military members or the units of every state as well as the terrorists of Guam, Columbia and the Virgin Islands. It is vital to know that all members of the U.S National Guard are also part of the country’s militia. Moreover, it has to be understood that all the units of the National Guard are controlled by the federal and state governments. Soldiers who are members of the National Guard only serve in this category on part-time terms, but have a civil regular and full-time job. The constitution of the United States of America together with its amendments has significantly influenced the development of the National Guard since its establishment. Importantly, it is the Congress that has had much influence on the development of the National Guard through its role of appropriation. The change of the National Guard has also been based on the generational wars like the Civil War, WWI, WWII, Vietnam, Korea and in Iraq. The contemporary National Guard is properly and sufficiently funded and equipped with the most effective work machinery. Moreover, it is common knowledge that the contemporary National Guard has very highly trained members, who play a significant role in the conflicts that erupt across the world. Therefore, the role of the Congress in the development of the National Guard through appropriation is noteworthy in this paper. This paper also focuses on the way the military who participated in the Revolutionary War became the current National Guard of the United States of America. 

How the military that fought during the Revolutionary War became the National Guard 

The military that fought during the Revolutionary War is the origin of the today’s National Guard. Its formation was initiated by the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, after the passage of an act providing for the creation of 3 regiments. These regiments would be formed through organization of the existing separate militia companies in towns within Boston. The reason for the creation of the three militia regiments, was the then perceived necessity of providing defense for the Bay Colony against the American Indians. There was also the perceived need to protect the colonists and members of the military from the other countries of Europe that carried out operations in North America. 

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According to the requirement of the General Court, the members of the regiments were to be individuals with able-bodies and men. Moreover, there was limitation on the required height, which was supposed to be between the ages 16 and 60 ( Cooper, 2002) . This people were to be drawn from the colony’s militia. The militia was divided into the North, South and East Regiments. The members of the militia equipped themselves and participate in regular training. They would report to their units only when called. 

The Revolution War 

Increased tensions between the British Government and the American colonists in the 1760s and 1770s made people to begin creating, organizing, equipping and training private militia units. This move was meant to ensure there were troops, which would not be controlled and influenced by the royal governors. The members of the militia units served during the Revolution War. They mostly operated near their homes, but for very short periods. Their other functions included serving in combats and doing the duty of guarding the prisoners ( Kline et al., 2010) . It is also important to mention that the work of garrisoning of forts and performing local patrols was also done by these militia units. Therefore, their functions were akin to those of the National Guard of today. 

Constitutional Convention 

The Constitutional Convention of 1787 also shaped the development of the National Guard. It is in this convention that the Federalists delegates argued in support of a federal government that was powerful. They wanted the federal government to have full control of the militias. In their view, the felt the militias could be used to defend the country when needed. At this time, the militias were under the control of the states. Subsequent debates and legislative decisions have been implemented bringing continued change and development of the National Guard. 

National Guard 

The term ‘National Guard’ was used for the first time in the 1820s. This term was used during the American tour of Lafayette. He was welcomed to the New York City by the 2nd Battalion of the 11th New York Artillery, among other units. This specific unit then adopted the title ‘National Guard’ as an honor for the service of Lafayette in the French Revolution. This term was later commonly used by militia units in the United States of America. States started using this term to refer to their organized militia and then it earned so huge population that the Constitution recognized it. 

Generational wars and their impact on the National Guard 

Mexican–American War 

As mentioned, the National Guard got significant changes and development after each generational war. The Mexican-American War is one of these generational battles that had very significant impacts on the National Guard. At the start of this war, which was about the struggle to extend slavery, there was an army of close to 9,000 soldiers. There was great enthusiasm for this war, particularly in the south, a phenomenon that led increased interest in the use of militia units commonly known as the National Guard. Therefore, membership of these militia units started to grow ( Griffith, 2007) . Therefore, this war created the impetus for the emergence and development of the National Guard. 

It is important to note the fact that the regular army did not always consider the members of the militia units as reliable to perform well in war. Moreover, the disagreement on whether the militia units could be involved in places outside the U.S had not been settled. As a consequence of this situation, the Congress legally expanded the Army by approving the formation of 10 regiments and employment of 50,000 volunteers. Volunteers, in this case, were people who were not part of the regular Army and members of the militia units under the control of the state. The militia veterans gave a very significant service in the Mexico-America War. 

The American Civil War 

The Union and the Confederacy employed the militia units during the Civil War. The Union had about 75,000 militia members. President Abraham Lincoln used the members of the militia units to suppress the insurrection. However, the participation of these militias was limited by the law to just 90 days. However, Lincoln later on called a huge number of militia who would serve for a period of 3 years. These group of militia soldiers offered great service to the Union throughout the American Civil War. The defeat at the First Battle of Bull Run was a result of the imminent expiration of the 3-month term of the militias. The administration of Lincoln had the intentions of employing them before they mustered out. The Union simply lost to another militia from the Confederacy. 

In this case, the Union used the volunteer system in order to expand the size of the Union Army. It avoided the limitations imposed on the length a militia group could serve in an employment. The militia members were usually enlisted in masses. Militia veterans got commissions in the Union Army. 

After the American Civil War, the Congress prohibited former Confederate states from organizing militia groups. It is the U.S Army that was tasked to enforce law and order in the course of the Reconstruction period. The Army also guarded the presidential poll of 1876. Congress passed a law that limited the powers of the president in employing the militias. However, the state governors still maintained their influence in controlling the use of militias. States started using their militias as National Guard purposes. 

Spanish–American War 

In the Spanish-American War, the U.S federal government employed the use of the volunteer concept in order to enlarge the Army. There were units of militia, which volunteered and joined in the fight. The recruitment process would be done in mass or simply at individual level. 

Pancho Villa Expedition 

During the Pancho Villa Expedition, there were many National Guard units, which were activated for service along the Mexico-United States border. It is important to note that a lot of the leaders of the regular Army leaders served in the National Guard unit first. 

World War I 

The World War I is yet another very significant generational war that greatly impacted on the current state of the National Guard. The World War I brought in new roles for the National Guard units. In the U.S war against Germany, the National Guard played a very major role. The units of the National Guard at that time were federalized and arranged in divisions based on the state of origin. The divisions of the National Guard were rated differently and given various roles. Therefore, this particular changed the way the National Guard units were organized introducing the use of divisions. 

World War II 

There was also World War II, which was called into federal service for a period of 12 months. The number of men called up was 400,000. In fact, the National Guard soldiers were the first ones to enter this war. During the World War II, the National Guard veterans received huge resistance with plans replacing them in the regular Army top ranks. The units remained relevant throughout this war. 

After World War II, the Air National Guard unit was formed. Its formation was simply done based on the model of the Army National Guard. There was also development of new leadership positions within the National Guard Bureau (Vladeck, 2004). It has to be noted that the end of World War II came with reorganization of the National Guard based on the experiences of the battle. A lot of Infantry and Armor divisions were the main focus of this reorganization of the National Guard units. This reorganization was also necessitated by the existent Cold War, which assumed there would be need for very large number of soldiers and tanks in order to stop any invasion. 

Korean War 

The National Guard was also applied in the U.S-Korea War. During this war, 4 infantry divisions of the National Guard were activated. Virtually 700 Army National Guard units had been mobilized by the end of the Korean War. Moreover, many volunteers and soldiers were activated since they had critical skills needed in the battle. Therefore, it is important to note that the Korean War was yet another generational battle that strengthened the organization and structures for today’s National Guard. 

In the aftermath of the Korean War, there was again realignment of the National Guard as well as the Army Reserve divisions. This realignment was based on the Pentomic structure. There was an attempt by the regular Army to lower the number of planned National Guard divisions to a level of 21 from the point it had been previously. However, this move led to a controversy that was only resolved when the number of divisions was put at 27 instead of the intended 21. Therefore, by the year 1959 the Army National Guard had been reorganized into 21 infantry and 6 armored divisions (Vladeck, 2004). For the case of the non-regimental combat teams, they were substituted by a combination of arms brigades. The aftermath of the Korean War was a huge reorganization of the National Guard with the introduction of significant changes into its structure. 

Vietnam War 

Another significant development in the National Guard was brought about by the Vietnam War. In this war, the Lyndon Johnson Administration made a decision of enhancing the active duty troop by strengthening it with a small number of the National Guard and Reserves soldiers. Consequently, membership within the reserve component and the Army National Guard emerged as a way of avoiding the combat service in this war. It has to be noted that this war unpopular in the United States of America (Vladeck, 2004). It did not have the whole support of the sought. Therefore, there were those who were willing to volunteer and participate in it while others sought for ways of avoiding any participation in this war. Moreover, with the increased concerns about claims of favoritism during enlistment coupled with easy service when compared to functions done in Vietnam, there was a very huge decline in the reputation of the Army National Guard despite the increase in the number of individuals listed. 

Although there was a decision not to call up the National Guard in full force during the Vietnam War, there were a number of units activated. Moreover, individual National Guard members did volunteer to be mobilized (Vladeck, 2004). Those that were activated performed various roles including calming down the many civil disturbances that had emerged and anti-Vietnam war protests. 

It is important to note that during the Vietnam War era, the National Guard largely maintained its role as an organization under the control of state governors and performing the disaster relief role. However, there was some significant level of restructuring and reorganization made to the National Guard in the aftermath of the Vietnam War (Vladeck, 2004). This trend of changing the role and structure of the National Guard has been the norm in every generational war. For every war, the National Guard is called up for different roles to play and its performance forms the basis for the change in its organization and structure. 

How Congress played a role in its development or lack thereof through appropriations 

The United States Congress has had enormous impact on the development and sometimes lack of it when it comes to the National Guard. Through its role of appropriation and legislation, the U.S Congress has directly influenced the changes experienced with the National Guard. The Congress is the body charged with the responsibility of allocating funding for the Army and the National Guard units (Vladeck, 2004). Its funding decisions usually affect the development of the National Guard. Moreover, the Congress is the one that passes relevant and necessary laws meant to govern the operations and use of the National Guard. These laws, which are passed greatly affect the manner in the which the National Guard develops. 

Militia Acts of 1792 and 1903 

The Militia Acts of 1792 had an impact on the development of the National Guard. In this law, the Congress authorized the expansion of the Army. The Congress also gave the President authority to call up the state militias at his or her discretion if there was need for such a decision. The President could call up state militias in the case of any foreign invasion (Charles, 2011). The second Militia Act of the made the organization and training of militias a formal activity. Therefore, this is the law that legalized the organization of militias. There were other laws, which then institutionalized the National Guard (Charles, 2011). The Congress even made financial allocations for the state militias. Initially, the state militia units were needed to report to training at least twice in a year. The law also legalized reorganizations to the body of the state militia units. 

The formal origin of the modern Army National Guard was the passage of the Militia Act of 1903. This law provided the framework for the funding of the National Guard units using the federal resources (Charles, 2011). It also enhanced the relevance of the National Guard during war by increasing the control exercised by the federal government over the organized militias. Therefore, the Congress has passed laws that have enhanced the development and relevance of the National Guard. 


The modern National Guard is a body that emerged from the state militias that fought in the American Revolution War. There are other generational wars that have come and passed, leaving behind the effect of change in the National Guard. This change includes the role played by the National Guard and its structural organization (Vladeck, 2004). Furthermore, the United States Congress has also been able to implement laws increasing the funding of the National Guard by the federal government. The National Guard of today is well funded and very relevant in times of war since the president has authority of calling up its soldiers. 


Charles, P. J. (2011). The 1792 National Militia Act, the Second Amendment, and Individual Militia Rights: A Legal and Historical Perspective.  Geo. JL & Pub. Pol'y 9 , 323. 

Cooper, J. (2002).  The Rise of the National Guard: The Evolution of the American Militia, 1865-1920 . Lincoln, Nebraska: U of Nebraska Press. 

Griffith, J. (2007). Institutional motives for serving in the US Army National Guard: Implications for recruitment, retention, and readiness.  Armed Forces & Society

Kline, A., Falca-Dodson, M., Sussner, B., Ciccone, D. S., Chandler, H., Callahan, L., & Losonczy, M. (2010). Effects of repeated deployment to Iraq and Afghanistan on the health of New Jersey Army National Guard troops: implications for military readiness.  American Journal of Public Health 100 (2), 276-283. 

Vladeck, S. I. (2004). Emergency Power and the Militia Acts.  Yale Law Journal , 149-194. 

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