United States Volunteers in the Spanish American War
The regular army on 1 Jan. 1898, just prior to the declaration of war with Spain, consisted of 2,157 officers and 25,350 men, all told. War being imminent, the Congress during March and April, 1898, passed certain acts for the better organization of the line of the army, which authorized a maximum enlisted strength of 65,000 men; increased the artillery by two regiments; added to each infantry regiment a third battalion of four companies each; provided for additional non-commissioned officers for the regiments, squadrons, and battalions, and for the troops and companies; and the enlisted strength of each unit was considerably augmented.
By an act approved 22 April 1898, the Congress made provision for accepting into the service the militia (National Guard organizations) and volunteers from the various States, and made the following declaration with respect to the National forces: "All able-bodied male citizens of the United States, And persons of foreign birth who shall have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States . . . between the ages of 18 and 45, are hereby declared to constitute the National forces, and with such exceptions and under such conditions as may be prescribed by law, shall be liable to perform military duty in the service of the United States. That the organized and active land forces of the United States shall consist of the army of the United States and of the militia of the several States when called into the service of the United States: Provided, that in time of war the army shall consist of two branches which shall be designated, respectively, as the regular army and the volunteer army of the United States. That the regular army is the permanent military establishment, which is maintained both in peace and war according to law. That the volunteer army shall be maintained only during the existence of war, or while war is imminent, and shall be raised and organized (as prescribed by the statute) only after Congress has, or shall have authorized the President to raise such a force or to call into the actual service of the United States the militia of the several States."
The law authorized enlistments to be made for the term of two years, unless sooner terminated, and that all officers and men composing the volunteer army should be discharged when the purposes for which they were called into service were accomplished, or on the conclusion of hostilities.
The law further prescribed that the President should issue his proclamation, when it became necessary to raise the volunteer army, stating the number of men desired (within the limits prescribed) ; enjoined the Secretary of War with the duty of examining, organizing (as prescribed for in the regular army), and receiving into the service the men called for, and as far as practicable these troops were to be accepted only in proportion to the population of the several States and Territories. The law also required that the organizations of the volunteer army should be maintained as near their maximum strength as was deemed necessary by the President, and prohibited the acceptance of new organizations unless those already in service from the States were kept fully recruited.
The law also authorized (in addition to those already provided for by law) the appointment of general, and general staff officers of volunteers, sufficient for the proper command of the combined forces, and permitted of regular officers holding volunteer commissions without prejudice to their regular army status. Of this army, three regiments of engineer troops, three of cavalry, and ten of infantry were United States volunteers recruited from the nation at large - all of the officers being commissioned by the President. As fast as the State troops were presented properly organized, they were mustered into the service of the United States. The total number furnished for the war with Spain was 10,017 officers (387 officers of the regular army received volunteer commissions) and 213,218 enlisted men.
The close of the war brought into operation the provisions of the acts of 22 April and 26 April 1898, which required that at the end of the war the entire volunteer forces should be discharged and the regular army reduced to a peace basis, thus making necessary the discharge of about 35,000 regular troops, 110,000 volunteers, and substantially all of the 5,000 volunteer line and staff officers.
The act of 2 March 1899, was passed in view of the insurrection in the Philippine Islands, and gave authority to again increase the regular army to a strength not exceeding 65,000 men, and to raise a force of not more than 35,000 volunteers to be recruited from the country at large - the field officers being appointed from among the officers of the regular army, 233 officers holding such commissions. All the volunteers authorized by this act were recruited and forwarded to the Philippine Islands by January 1900, and there actively employed in military operations. During that year about 42,000 men of the regular army and 31,000 of the volunteers were in service in the Philippine archipelago. This act contained the provision that all general staff and line officers appointed, and the volunteer troops raised, under its provisions, should be discharged not later than 1 July 1901 and the regular army reduced to the number as provided by law prior to 1 April 1898, exclusive of the addition made to the artillery.
The Congress, recognizing the necessity for a larger and more perfectly organized army, passed a law, which was approved 2 Feb. 1901, providing for an increase of line organizations from 25 regiments of infantry to 30, and 10 regiments of cavalry to 15, and from 7 regiments of artillery, including 14 field and 2 siege batteries, to the equivalent of 13 regiments (organized into 30 batteries of field artillery and 130 companies of coast artillery), and 5 companies of engineers to 12 companies, representing 3 battalions. The minimum and maximum numbers of enlisted men for the different arms were established by the same statute, so that the total number of enlisted men might be varied by the President according to exigencies from a minimum of 59,131 to a maximum of 100,000 (including a corps of Philippine Scouts, which is limited to 12,000), the commissioned personnel remaining the same.
The act of April 22, 1898, did not recognize the difference between militia and volunteers, but since the Spanish-American war the militia laws have been entirely reorganized, and under the 1903 Dick bill the militia is recognized as an entirely separate organization from the volunteers. In that act there is a definite recognition of three different classes of troops, namely, the Regular Army, the militia, and the volunteers, and it is provided that the organized militia shall be called into the service of the United States before the volunteers are organized. The volunteer bill proposed in 1910 was intended to provide an organization for these volunteer troops - United States Volunteers - which shall be called out after the organized militia has been mustered in.
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