Transcribed from A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans, written and compiled by William E. Connelley, Chicago : Lewis, 1918. 5 v. (lvi, 2731 p., [228] leaves of plates) : ill., maps (some fold.), ports. ; 27 cm.

1918 KANSAS AND KANSANS Brief History of the Militia and the National Guard



The National Guard, while founded on the Militia, should not be confused with it, as it is a very different force. The Militia was the original military organization of the colonies. When the Constitution was adopted it therefore recognized the two forms of military force, a national army, and the militia of the various states. The Constitution empowered Congress to provide for "calling forth the Militia to execute the laws of the Union, suppress insurrections and repel invasions." Also, "to provide for organizing, arming and disciplining the Militia, reserving to the States the appointment of the officers and the training of the Militia according to regulations prescribed by Congress."

Congress acted upon this authority and enacted the old Militia law, May 8, 1792. This law remained in force, with few amendments, until 1903. Under this law, Congress authorized the President to call forth the Militia, but limited the service to nine months and provided that the Militia could not be taken outside of the United States. All able bodied men between the ages of 18 and 40, with the exception of those specifically exempted, composed the Militia. Compulsory service was required in time of peace to the extent of complete enrollment, organization and an annual muster. Each enlisted man of the Militia was required to provide himself with the following arms: A good musket or firelock of a bore sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound, a sufficient bayonet and bolt, two square flints and a knapsack. A pouch with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack and powder horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle and a quarter of a pound of powder. Each officer to be armed with a sword and a hanger or spontoon.

Following this law the states, either in their constitution or their laws, recognized the Militia and provided for enrolling them, organizing military districts and appointing military commanders. Under this system the Militia could not be expected to amount to much and proved to be an utter failure. The individuals failed to provide themselves with proper arms, the arms in use became obsolete and the states did not keep up the organizations. No attempt was made at uniformity in the different states. The annual muster became a travesty. There were a number of the old Militia organizations, however, dating back to colonial times, that kept up a fair degree of military efficiency and a regular organization.

After the Civil war there arose in most of the states volunteer military organizations, made up by volunteer enlistments. The states began to recognize these organizations and to make proper appropriations for their support. The National Government also began to make appropriations for their arms and equipments. Under this volunteer plan a fair degree of military efficiency was attained, and the name of "National Guard" was adopted by most, if not all of the states, to distinguish it from the old militia system which had proved to be a failure, largely because of a lack of support by the State and Federal Government.

This National Guard made up almost the entire first call of 125,000 men for the Spanish-American war. They did not, however, enter this service as militia, but as volunteers. A special law was passed by Congress authorizing the President to accept National Guard organizations by regiments, but each individual man had to enlist under this volunteer act and there was considerable delay in transferring the regiments from the State to the National service.

Gen. Frederick Funston


The experiences of the Spanish-American war made it apparent to the National Guard that if the National Guard was to be an effective military force for war service it must be organized, equipped, and disciplined the same as the regular army. Also that there should be some means of transferring the National Guard organizations to the United States service without the delay incident to re-enlisting or volunteering. After careful study a new militia bill was prepared by representatives of the National Guard and presented to Congress and was enacted into a law January 21, 1903. This, with subsequent amendments, placed the Organized Militia, or "National Guard, where it was originally intended to be by the Constitution. This law recognized the name Organized Militia or National Guard. Congress also made additional appropriations for arms, clothing and equipment. It is now as much a recognized part of the military resources of the National Government as is the regular or standing army. It can be called directly into the service of the United States by organizations without new enlistments. The organizations as such can be called for indefinite service, each officer and man serving for the balance of his term of commission or enlistment. It is expected to be in such a state of readiness as to be prepared for immediate, active war service, and, as a matter of fact, it would form largely the first line.

The National Guard of the various states has become uniform in organization, equipment and discipline. This new function of the National Guard has brought about the necessity for a very different kind of training. In fact, it must be trained to perform all the duties required by the state in time of peace, in maintaining law and order and protecting life and property, and in addition thereto be trained in all those duties which would have to be performed in active war service. It is therefore a dual organization - state organization in time of peace and a national organization in time of war.

Few realize how much training is now required of the National Guard, but this may be classified under the following general heads:

The use and care of arms.
Sanitation and care of the wounded in the field.
The science of war.

In former times the simplicity of firearms did not require the same amount of training as at present. With modern rifles, the effective range in open country is one mile. At 1,000 yards firing should be quite accurate. The rifle itself is complicated, involving a great deal of care in keeping it in proper condition. The artillery arm is even more complicated and has an effective range of over three miles. The firing of this arm is, as a rule, indirect. That is, by a system of mathematical calculations the field piece can be fired from a concealed position without the object fired at being in view. Coast batteries are still more complex. Much time, therefore, must be spent in training men at target practice, as well as in the care of arms, before they are properly trained for war service. This, perhaps, is one of the most difficult tasks presented, requiring patience on the part of both officers and men.

Until recent years, little attention was paid to sanitary laws in active field service, neither was the individual man trained in the methods of caring for himself in the field. Without going into unnecessary details, it may be stated in a general way that much time and effort is now spent in training men not only to understand but to observe proper sanitary regulations.

In the care of the wounded in the field much attention is given. All men are taught the application of first aid to the wounded. They are provided with simple bandages and taught the use of same. All wounds not serious are dressed on the field of battle, thereby saving much loss of life. Thousands of well-trained men slightly wounded are returned in a few days or weeks to their proper commands.

The word "dicipline"[sic] is used here in its broadest sense. It means prompt and cheerful obedience to orders, accurate and faithful performance of duty, and, above all, the proper co-ordination of each unit to all others, orderly administration of all departments; in general, all those things which make an army move like a well adjusted piece of machinery, each part fitting into the other, and each part adjusted to do the particular thing for which it is designed.

It takes more time, probably, to secure good discipline than any other part of the soldier's training. It requires the constant supervision of officers, the frequent bringing together of each branch of the service; it requires a thorough knowledge of customs, forms and regulations.

Officers must be schooled in the effective training and handling of men in the field, not only in preparation for battle, but in battle itself. This is done by active service in the field. Under present plans, frequent mobilization of the National Guard with the Regular Army is particularly important, especially in co-ordinating these two branches of the service. This training is obtained by performing the same kind of duties in the open country as might be required in actual war, scouting, reconnaissance, patrolling, advance and rear guard, extended order, battle exercises, making and reading maps, judging distances and elevations, plans of battle, issuing of orders in proper form, etc.

In the absence of the opportunity for field service, military problems are worked out on maps devised for this purpose. There is no limit to the amount of work that can be done along this line. The National Guard is now being trained in all these duties and it is becoming, in fact as well as in name, a military organization.

Under this law the National Guard attained a strength of 130,000 officers and men, and this number, by increasing organizations to war strength, would be almost doubled.

To secure the efficient training of the National Guard involved a greater expense than could well be afforded by the states. The National Government adopted a fairly liberal policy in providing arms, clothing and equipment. The great difficulty under this law was that the training, particularly for National service, involves an amount of time and effort which the National Guardsman could not afford to give without some reward. It was manifest that we had arrived at a point where some compensation should be provided by the National Government.

To accomplish this a bill was presented to Congress providing for compensation on the basis of a percentage of the pay for the Regular Army. This bill together with a complete revision of the Militia Law passed by Congress in 1903 was passed by Congress and was approved by the President, June 3, 1916. The benefits of such a bill in securing a higher degree of efficiency, can hardly be estimated, and it should therefore receive the hearty support of all citizens.

The National Guard is particularly commended to the earnest consideration of all employers. It is believed that if they thoroughly understand its importance and value they will unhestitatingly encourage the young men in their employ to enlist, and will willingly grant them the amount of time from their regular work to properly perform the military duties required.

"That a man shall serve his country in time of war is noble, brave and patriotic; but that a man shall properly prepare himself in time of peace to serve in war is all of these things and more. It is noble with a nobility which is real, not ideal. It is brave with a bravery which assumes in time of unemotional peace many burdens, among them that of bearing the lack of appreciation of those who do not consider military preparation or training necessary."

This country should certainly feel proud of its National Guard and should stand ready to support it in every possible way. Its success will depend, as almost everything depends, upon the good will of the people at large. It is doing all it can to merit this good will.

It is believed that in the development of this special form of militia, that is, the volunteer organization or National Guard, in conjunction with the Regular Army, the future problems of the military policy of this country are solved. It meets all the conditions required. In developing this force, no matter to what extent, men are not withdrawn from their regular vocations, and therefore from the productive capacity of the country. While filling their regular positions in life, they voluntarily devote a part of their time in preparing themselves for military service. This form of military training does not encourage a prejudice in the minds of the people, but, on the contrary, makes military service popular.

The value of the National Guard does not rest alone upon the fact that it is an effective military force for war service. It is also a great educational institution. No one who understands the training can fail to come to the conclusion that the discipline required, the development of intelligence, the precise and orderly performance of duties required, the development of physical health and endurance, makes a better class of citizens.

No other institution is doing as much to develop the patriotism of the country. The influence of the national guardsmen reaches out into every walk of life and into every community. It is a leaven which raises the average patriotism of our citizens. It is a military school which is preparing thousands of young men for the defense of their country. These men will rally to the colors whenever the safety of our country and its institutions require it.


In this state, prior to the admission of the state into the Union, the Militia consisted of volunteer companies organized in various communities of the territory, the officers of such organizations being commissioned by the territorial governor on application of the members of the company. These companies were organized for protection against Indians, bands of outlaws, etc., which were frequent at this time. When the territory became a state the constitution provided for the organization of the Militia and the Legislature enacted a law providing for the division of the state into two military districts - the Northern District and the Southern District, the Kansas River being the dividing line. There were five regiments in the Northern District and six in the Southern. These regiments were paper organizations only. These districts were sub-divided into regimental districts. Civilians in each of these districts were selected as officers of these organizations. The law required that a roll of all able bodied male citizens between the ages of eighteen and forty-five be kept on file in the county clerks' offices. These citizens were subject to call to complete the organizations which were provided for on paper in case they should be needed to execute the laws, suppress insurrections and repel invasion. In other words, an untrained body of men was subject to the call of the governor to be commanded by untrained officers.

In 1865 the state was divided into four brigade districts. The organization at this time consisted of twenty-four regiments and four separate battalions. Efforts were made at each meeting of the Legislature to enact laws to provide for the organization of an active Militia. These efforts met with little success, the active Militia of the state being comprised of but two companies in 1870, one company in 1873, and three companies in 1874. Owing to Indian troubles in 1874, the Legislature appropriated a militia fund of $4,000.00. During this year approximately 200 men were enrolled as active militiamen and participated in active service with Indians. In 1879 an attempt was made to provide for the organization of the Militia upon a satisfactory basis without results. In 1880 the National Guard Association of Kansas was organized and a meeting held in Topeka. A military convention of the officers of the Militia was also called with the view of securing legislation providing for an effective Militia organization. This bill was presented to the Legislature in session in 1881, passed the Senate but failed of passage in the House. This law finally passed both branches of the Legislature in 1885 and became a law. It provided for the dividing of the state into four brigade districts, the entire state constituting a division to be commanded by a major-general. The organization provided for by this law consisted of four regiments of infantry, one battery of artillery, with approximately 2,000 men. In 1894 this organization was reduced to three regiments and in 1897 was reduced to two regiments, which was practically the organization of the National Guard up to the passage of the National Defense Act in June, 1917. This act provided a strength of 800 enlisted men for each senator and representative in Congress from the state, making the total authorized enlisted strength for the National Guard of Kansas 8,000 and the necessary officers for said troops. Under the provisions of the law, these additional troops could not be organized until the Secretary of War designated what was to be allotted to the state. About a mouth after the declaration of war with Germany, in 1917, the Secretary of War allotted to the state the following troops, in addition to those already organized:

One brigade headquarters detachment.
Three regiments of infantry.
One regiment of field artillery.
One battalion of engineers.
Two field hospital companies.
Two ambulance companies.
One ammunition train.
One engineer train.
One field battalion signal corps.
One squadron of cavalry.

These troops have all been organized and are now training preparatory to being called into the federal service on August 5th. The total strength of these organizations and the old organizations, including officers and men, is about 10,000.

The National Guard of Kansas has made great progress and development during the past few years. Correspondence schools have been organized for the purpose of giving uniform courses of progressive instruction to all officers. These schools are conducted during the winter months, and school camps of instruction are held during the spring in order to permit the officers to make practical demonstration on the ground of the theoretical work which they have taken during the winter months. In addition to these schools, the commanding officer of each organization conducts a school for noncommissioned officers and experienced privates. These various schools have been very beneficial to the officers of the Guard, and in turn have made them better instructors of their organizations. The instruction of the various units of the Guard during the winter months is principally done in the armories of the organizations, and consists of close order drill, bayonet exercises, guard duty, practice with gallery rifles, working of problems on sand tables, and lectures. During the summer months the instruction is mostly done out of doors and consists of close and extended order drills, rifle practice, practice marches and maneuvers. The improvement made by the National Guard of Kansas has been repeatedly commented upon by the war department, and they have rated the National Guard of Kansas among the best in the United States.

In June, 1916, the National Guard of Kansas was in the Federal service for several months on the Mexican border. During this period the rate of sickness averaged less than two per cent, and sanitary inspectors sent out by the War Department reported that Kansas had the best sanitation of any of the National Guard troops on the border. Great improvement has been made along the lines of sanitation since the Spanish-American war, this being strongly demonstrated by the contrast in the sickness and death as a result of sickness in the Spanish-American war and in the service on the Mexcan[sic] border. Kansas troops were in the service over six months and only lost one man, and that by drowning.

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A Standard History of Kansas and Kansans , written and compiled by William E. Connelley, transcribed by Carolyn Ward, 1998.