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National Guard Divisions Before the Great War

In 1910 the first definite step toward combining the organized militia with the regular army in a tactical way in time of peace, for mobilization for field service operations in time of war, was taken. General orders were issued on February 28, 1910, giving the details of the proposed organization.

The first step since the enactment of the militia law of 1903, looking to the organization of the militia into higher tactical units, was taken in 1910 in this organization of the "First Field Army" set forth in General Orders. No. 35, War Department series 1910. The field army contemplated by this order embraced the militia organizations of New York and the New England States and the Regular Army regiments stationed in those States. It was to comprise three divisions of three brigades each.

Officers and enlisted men of the First Field Army created by General Orders No. 35, when in the field, were to wear on the left side of the service hat a badge in the form of a shield, the division being indicated thereon by a numeral. The badge formed a part of the uniform of the officers and enlisted men of the Regular Army and Organized Militia that were attached to the First Field Army, and will, when in the field, be worn by those officers and enlisted men as long as they are so attached. The badges were to be issued gratuitously to enlisted men and at cost price to officers. If lost, the badges must be replaced, and in the case of enlisted men the cost price was to be charged against them on the pay rolls of the organizations to which they belonged. For division headquarters troops, and for cavalry and field artillery, the background for the division numeral would be of red, white, and blue; for troops of the first brigade it will be of red; for those of the second brigade, of white; and for those of the third brigade, of blue.

The units of the Regular Army were to be distributed among the divisions and brigades. By this order seventeen divisions were organized, with all the elements which should go to constitute a military division, including infantry, field artillery, cavalry, engineers, signal troops, sanitary troops, and supply units:

  1. the first division included the organized militia bodies from Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, and New York, together with certain portions from the regular army of the United States;
  2. the second division includes the organized militia of New York State with certain Lmted States troops;
  3. the third division includes the organized militia of New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island;
  4. the fourth division includes the organized militia of New Jersey and Eastern Pennsylvania;
  5. the fifth division includes the organized militia of Pennsylvania;
  6. the sixth division, which has a separate regiment of infantry, includes the organized militia of Pennsvlvania, West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the District of Columbia;
  7. the seventh division includes the organized militia of Virginia and North and South Carolina;
  8. the eighth division includes the organized militia of Georgia, Morida, and Alabama;
  9. the ninth division includes the organized militia of Mississippi, Louisiana, and Texas;
  10. the tenth division includes the organized militia of Kentucky, Tennessee, and Arkansas;
  11. the eleventh division includes the organized militia of Ohio;
  12. the twelfth division includes the organized militia of Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin;
  13. the thirteenth division includes the organized militia of Illinois;
  14. the fourteenth division includes the organized militia of Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and South Dakota;
  15. the fifteenth division includes the organized militia of Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma;
  16. the sixteenth division includes the organized militia of Montana, Wyoming, Idaho, Colorado,
  17. the seventeenth division includes the organized militia of Washington, California, New Mexico, and Arizona.

It became apparent, however. that this organization did not have the necessary qualities of permanency, as it comprised elements of different degrees of training and readiness for service. An organization of this character was sure to be disrupted upon the occurrence of the first emergency requiring the immediate services of the regular troops, and it was probable that a considerable time must elapse before the less thoroughly trained elements would be capable of engaging in the same character of operations as the better trained. For this reason. the project of combining militia organizations with regular troops for the formation of higher tactical units, was abandoned. In 1912 the plan to develop the Organized Militia into a complete and independently organized force, was adopted. This plan was formulated as a result of detailed study of the question by the General Staff and the Division of Militia Affairs and after consultation with the State authorities. The plan contemplated the formation of 12 tactical divisions corresponding to 12 groups of contiguous States.

These divisions and groups as subsequently amended were as follows:

  1. Fifth Division, the New England States.
  2. Sixth Division. New York.
  3. Seventh Division, Pennsylvania.
  4. Eighth Division, Delaware, New Jersey, Maryland, District of Columbia, Virginia. West Virginia.
  5. Ninth Division, North Carolina. South Carolina, Florida, Georgia.
  6. Tenth Division, Alabama, Mississippi, Tennessee, Kentucky.
  7. Eleventh Division, Michigan, Ohio.
  8. Twelfth Division. Illinois, Indiana.
  9. Thirteenth Division, Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa.
  10. Fourteenth Division, Missouri, Kansas, Nebraska, Colorado, Wyoming.
  11. Fifteenth Division, Arkansas, Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma. Louisiana.
  12. Sixteenth Division, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington.
At the time of the adoption of the plan the Organized Militia in the United States, comprised the following units: 1,584 companies of infantry, 64 batteries of field artillery, 80 troops of cavalry, 22 companics of engineers, 22 companies of signal troops, 15 ambulance companies, 23 field hospitals. For the 12 tactical divisions there were required: 1,296 companies of infantry, 144 batteries of field artillery, 144 troops of cavalry, 36 companies of engineers, 24 companies of signal troops, 48 field hospitals, 48 ambulance companies. There was thus a shortage of the following units: 64 troops of cavalry, 80 batteries of field artillery, 14 companies of engineers, 2 companies of signal troops, 25 field hospitals, 33 ambulance companies, and an excess of 288 companies of infantry.

The divisional plan was further developed by the publication of Circular No. 19, D.M.A., 1914, in which the quotas of auxiliary troops required to complete the tactical divisions were assigned to the several States in accordance with their population.

Due to the immediate necessity for the presence of troops on the Mexican border, regiments were at first ordered to border stations as rapidly as they could be prepared for service. As troops were ordered to stations where their presence was most required in the order of their arrival in the Southern Department. regiments from the same division were often located at widely separated points. Many regiments were, moreover, held at their mobilization sites until other regiments were returned from the border for muster out. The result was that the divisional plan never materialized, and it was necessary to regroup the units serving on the border into provisional divisions and brigades which did not in any way correspond to the original scheme.

Under instructions from the War Department, dated August 4, 1916, the commanding general, Southern Department, provided for an organization of the National Guard in Federal service into 10 provisional divisions and 6 separate brigades. At this time many of the units included in the provisional organization were located at the mobilization centers of the several States, and when they were ordered to the border, others were returned to the place of muster in, so that even the provisional organization never became a concrete fact.

As very few of the regiments in Federal service had attained a sufficient degree of proficiency to enable them to participate with profit in the training of the higher units, the failure of the divisional plan to materialize can not be considered to have resulted in any great actual loss. Efficient participation in maneuvers and operations of the higher units implies that the lower units have been brought to a state of proficiency by the thorough and progressive training of each of the component organizations. It can not be expected with the short periods of training required of the National Guard that company, battalion, and regimental units will ever attain this degree of proficiency in time of peace or for some months after their mobilization for service. The divisional plan. even if fully carried into effect in time of peace, cannot therefore be expected to. result in the constitution or divisions available for immediate service.

The plan had, however, certain distinct advantages that should not be lost from view. It establishes a standard toward the realization of which all efforts can be concentrated and without which such development of the National Guard as may take place would be entirely haphazard and unregulated. The result of such a development would be a product which would be unsuited for field operations and which would have to be entirely remodeled upon the occurrence of an emergency calling for the mobilization of the National Guard. The countless details which are represented or implied in the plan would have to be worked out under very difficult circumstances. It may indeed be doubted whether any well-digested plan for higher organization could be devised if the drafting of the organizational scheme were deferred until the occurrence of the emergency. If the plan is completely realized it will enable future calls to be framed in terms of the higher units, and the process of mobilization can be decentralized by charging commanders or chiefs of staff of the divisions with the supervision of the details of the mobilization of each division.

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Page last modified: 05-07-2011 01:34:20 ZULU