The Volunteers

A Call to Action

The US volunteer regiments of 1812 mustered into service in all states of preparedness. Many regiments had long histories of militia service and turned out well-drilled, completely equipped and uniformed. Many, as was the case of the Kentucky volunteers at New Orleans, turned out with nothing but the clothes on their backs. As the war progressed states began negotiating with the federal government to completely uniform and equip state regiments from federal stores, much like states did later in the Civil War.

Of the uniformed units, the uniforms varied a great deal depending on the funds available to the state or local community. The Napoleonic Wars, which had been on going since 1798, had a great deal of influence on clothing taste and equipment adopted by the fledgling U.S. military. The United States military founded on a British tradition and equipped with French arms and uniforms began a long history of copying the uniform style of the most recent victorious armies.

Before the War of 1812, the uniforms of state troops and regulars were decidedly French in style. However, the Russian campaign of 1812 changed the status of the victorious French armies and uniforms of the regular army began to take on the appearance of the British Army as they defeated French armies in Spain.

The 1st Regiment of Infantry (1st REGT) is portraying a prewar standing state regiment. We are doing this to represent the typical volunteer unit as they could have looked in the swamps of Ohio and Michigan, the Niagara peninsula and the East Coast. In general we will be wearing civilian trousers, shirts, cravats and vests. The coats will be uniform tailed regimentals, gray wool or white linen/cotton drill roundabout jackets or linen/Linsey-woolsey fatigue/hunting frock coats. Black round hats with black leather goods, uniform backpacks, haversacks, canteens and gaiters will complete the soldierly appearance. This impression is very typical of state troops throughout the war.
The Muster: A Martial Tradition and a Social Conduit

Second Militia Act

The second Militia Act, passed May 8, 1792, provided for the organization of the state militias. It conscripted every “free able-bodied white male citizen between the ages of 18 and 45 into a local militia company overseen by the state”. Militia members were to arm themselves “with a musket, bayonet and belt, two spare flints, a cartridge box with 24 bullets, and a knapsack. Men owning rifles were required to provide a powder horn, 1/4 pound of gun powder, 20 rifle balls, a shooting pouch, and a knapsack. By order of President Washington, men were required to report for training twice a year, usually in the Spring and Fall.  These events became a form of community interaction where men, women and their families contributed their time towards the young nation’s collective defence. From this nucleus, the 1st Regiment has taken form.