December 13, 2018 – The 382nd Birthday of the National Guard

By Faye Higbee

Today, December 13, is the 382nd birthday of the National Guard. So how is this branch of the military older than the United States itself? Because it began in the year 1636 in the Massachusetts Bay Colony as three permanent “militia” units.

Though the word “militia” conjures up negative thoughts in modern times, it was not always that way. Citizen soldiers have been with this nation from even before it was technically born.

2nd Lt Emerson Marcus wrote,

Militia involvement in the Revolutionary War marked a rebirth of the militia under the “United Colonies,” eventually the United States. The colonists resented and feared a standing military force following the abuses of the British Regular Army. Given that history, the young nation’s citizens understandably feared abuses of military power.

When George Washington argued in “Sentiments on a Peace Establishment” for a regular and standing military and a “well organized Militia; upon a Plan that will pervade all the States, and introduce similarity in their Establishment Maneuvers, Exercise and Arms,” he understood much of the nation’s distaste for federal military control.

The 1792 Militia Act, arguably the birth of the United States’ militia model, was the outcome of this compromise. It gave the president powers to call forth the militia “whenever the United States shall be invaded, or be in imminent danger of invasion,” but also provided state rule for training and the appointment of officers.

Throughout the 19th century, all free able-bodied men ages 18-45 were conscripted into local militia, divided in divisions, brigades, battalions and companies. Many of these units across the nation held varying standards of training, uniforms and organization.

Their history is a patchwork of “rebirths”from the Civil War through the modern era to reach where they are today. The National Guard is a vital part of the United States Military.

Featured Photo: Department of Defense via Twitter