"Nothing to Report"
One night around 1880,
while the old Victorian war horse Lord Napier of Magdala was serving as
Governor of Gibraltar, an officer who had taken on board too much champagne lost
his way trying to get back to his quarters, walked off the Rock, and fell to
his death. The following morning, having
read the report of the officer of the day, a Lt. O'Donohue, Napier summoned that
worthy to his office.
When O'Donohue arrived,
Napier asked, "You were officer of the guard at the Elphinstone Guard
"I was, sir."
was killed by walking over the rock."
"He was, sir."
"And yet you said in
your report that nothing extraordinary had happened on your guard?"
"I did, sir."
O'Donohue, don't you think it extraordinary that a lieutenant walks over the
rock, falls one thousand feet, and is killed?"
came the swift reply, "I would think it a good deal more extraordinary if
he had fallen that distance and not been killed!"
State Line Forces During the War of 1812
Technically speaking, under the terms of the Militia Act of
1792, on the eve of the War of 1812 the several states were able to provide a
combined militia force of 719,499 officers and men, organized into over a
thousand regiments and commanded by some 300 generals, so that more than
9-percent of the American people were under arms, at least on paper.
Unfortunately, most militiamen were poorly trained, if at
all, and usually lacked equipment, even appropriate firearms. Most officers were hardly better prepared
than their men, often owing their positions to political or family ties rather
than training and experience. As for compulsory
militia musters, they were, as one contemporary put it more often characterized
by the rites of Bacchus than those of Mars, the troops usually being liberally
supplied with liquor, whether or not they had any military equipment.
When the United
States went to war in 1812 more problems
appeared. Many militiamen refused to
serve beyond the nationís borders, claiming, with some validity, that the
Constitution limited the militia to repelling invasions or suppressing insurrections. Then too, there was much confusion over the
chain of command when militia units from different states served together or
served alongside Regulars, while many Regulars often refused to serve under
militia officers, even quite able officers who had been placed over them by the
So the war turned out badly.
By 1814, even as Congress prepared to introduce
conscription, many states began to raise standing forces that would be
full-time state line troops. Now the
Constitution prohibits states from maintaining "troops of war" --
that is, standing forces -- in peacetime, but the matter is less clear in
wartime. During the colonial period and
the Revolutionary War states had often maintained standing forces on their own
budgets, raised from volunteers or through drafts on the militia, organizations
which often attained considerable skill.
As a result, a majority of the 18 states raised or had begun to raise their
own standing forces.
|Connecticut|| 1,000 || for three years |
|Kentucky|| 3,000|| for six months service|
|Maryland|| 4,500|| for five years service or for the duration of the war, whichever was shorter|
|New Jersey|| *|
|North Carolina|| *|
|New York|| 20,000|| with 8,000 in reserve units|
|Pennsylvania|| 2,000|| for the war|
|Rhode Island|| *|
|South Carolina|| 5,000||* for the war|
|Virginia || 1,400|| for the war; 7,000 more proposed |
|* Measure not passed before the war ended.|
The war ended, of course, late in 1814. A few weeks later there came Andrew Jacksonís
spectacular victory at New Orleans. Although the battle was won by a combination
of Regulars, volunteers, militiamen, and even a few pirates, not to mention considerable
British ineptitude, it was widely cited as proof of the effectiveness of the
militia, which effectively prevented efforts to reform the institution for generations.
best account American regulars and militiamen in the war is Robert S. Quimby's
two volume The U.S. Army in the War of 1812 : An Operational and Command Study (2 Vol Set)