National Guard August 2012 : Page 33

B ALTIMORE D EFENSE A National Guard Heritage Series painting depicts the 5th Maryland holding back battle-hardened British troops at North Point, Md., Sept. 12, 1814, in what was a key battle in the War of 1812. Don Troiani militia realized that largely untrained and poorly equipped militia brigades and divisions did not provide for national defense. It was the last war fought by the ‘enrolled militia.’” On the other hand, the forefathers of the modern National Guard did rise to the occasion against the formidable Brit-ish army and its Indian allies when they were properly led, trained and disciplined, and faced with a crisis situation. “What brought everything together was a combination of a sense of urgency and the strength of the leaders,” ex-plains University of Virginia history professor J.C.A. Stagg. S TRANGE W AR Andrew Jackson and William Henry Harrison were two Politics also played a part during a time when the Federalists such leaders. They became national heroes and, respectively, were losing clout to the Republicans but still controlled New the seventh and ninth presidents of the United States. England. Massachusetts and Connecticut, said to have the The enrolled militia, in which most white, able-bodied strongest militia forces in the country, refused to let them be men between 18 and 45 were required to serve, was born federalized until late in the war because they were still doing by two acts of Congress in May 1792: The Militia Act business with the British. of 1792 and what Guard historian Michael Doubler has Fortunately, the British waged purely a defensive cam-called the “Calling Forth Act.” paign over here in 1812 and 1813 until they defeated the Neither statute prepared the militia for war. French to end the Napoleonic Wars. Then they deployed Although they did authorize the president to call out the various state militias for national emergencies, the stat-15,000 additional troops to America. By then, the Ameri-can militia was getting its act together. utes left to the states the appointment of officers and the That required leadership, training and discipline during authority for training America’s citizen-soldiers. what can only be described as a strange war that afflicted They required the militia members to provide their every part of the country that ex-own weapons, horses and other tended to the Mississippi Valley. equipment. The “Calling Forth Act” Neither side dominated until levied penalties for not attending the Americans won three key en-training. But it was easy to circum-gagements beginning late in 1814, vent the law. when the reasons for waging war “Government leaders wanted to in the first place no longer existed find ways to put more teeth into and while peace negotiations were it because they realized it left too going on in Ghent, Belgium. much discretion to the states. But As it turned out, the Americans Congress would never move beyond did their worst when the British that,” says Stagg. “Militia men just were weakest and did their best didn’t bother to comply with the when the British were strongest. law. They didn’t have to protest. The Neither the Americans nor the penalties for noncompliance were British kept any of the territory often nonexistent. they occupied during the war, but “There the matter rested until the the defeat of Native Americans did War of 1812. People said we must open the western region for Ameri-never go to war again, as we did in can expansion. the Revolution, with an undisci-“The militia’s performance dur-plined militia. But that’s pretty much ing the war ranged quite consider-what they did. They had forgotten C APITAL F IRE A hand-colored, 18th century ably.” Stagg says. “The conditions their lessons once, and they were woodcut shows British troops burning the White House in Washington, D.C., in 1814. under which the militia performed condemned to learn them again.” North Wind Picture Archives The regular Army had fewer than 12,000 soldiers when war was declared. They were primarily deployed around the Great Lakes and along the Canadian frontier. Out of sight, out of mind was the American attitude toward the standing army, Kastor says. It was the militia, America’s leaders believed, that would save the day if the going got tough. President James Madison, for example, assumed that the state militias would easily seize Canada and that negotiations with Great Britain would follow. That didn’t pan out because of poor leadership and preparations and because many militia units refused to in-vade Canada, arguing that their commitment to homeland defense did not extend beyond the U.S. border. A ugust 2012 | 33

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