The Connecticut National Guard, 1865--1919

Date of Completion

January 2002


History, United States




From the Reconstruction period through the American intervention in World War One, the Connecticut National Guard was consistently one of the best-organized and funded Guard establishments in the United States. Formed in 1865, the Connecticut Guard, an all-volunteer force, evolved out of a colonial militia system that had become moribund by the early nineteenth century. Supported by political and business leaders, who desired an “organized militia” to guarantee law and order in an increasingly urban, industrial, and multi-ethnic state; and garnering recruits chiefly from among working-class men, who enjoyed the camaraderie, prestige, and material benefits of military service; the Guard secured broad-based support in Connecticut. Indeed, excepting Massachusetts, no state regularly appropriated more public money per Guardsman than did Connecticut. Responding to the lobbying efforts of military and civic leaders, the General Assembly spent considerable sums on the construction of armory facilities in many cities. ^ Following the Spanish-American War (1898), and particularly after congressional passage of the Dick Act (1903) and National Defense Act (1916), the federal government increased funding of and control over the various National Guard establishments. These federal initiatives, influenced and in large measure supported by state military advocates, resulted in the gradual reorganization, modernization, and reorientation of the Connecticut organized militia. In addition to acting as a state constabulary, the Guard became part of a reserve force meant to reinforce and supplement the United States Army in the event of a major war. Between 1865 and 1919, the Connecticut National Guard participated in numerous state and national ceremonial and commemorative events, a function of state military units that has been overlooked by many historians. Interestingly, the Connecticut military engaged in strike and police duty on only nine occasions during the period. Finally, Connecticut Guard units mobilized for service during the Spanish-American War, the 1916 Mexican border crisis, and World War One. Despite increased federal funding and oversight, however, the part-time citizen-soldiers of the Connecticut Guard, in common with most of their counterparts from other states, proved ill-prepared to engage in protracted military operations. ^