The Virginia War Effort, 1775-1783 : Manpower Policies and Practices

McBride, John David, Corcoran Department of History, University of Virginia
Abott, W.W., Department of History, University of Virginia
Williams, Alan D., University of Virginia

The Virginia war effort depended in large part on the ability of the state's militia officers to control Virginia's population, particularly its white males of military age. The drafting of Continental soldiers, the mobilization of militiamen for service with the Continental army, the protection of the western frontier against Indians and of the tidewater against British privateers, the control of the slave population, the suppression of political dissent and disaffection, and even the manufacture of equipment and the collection of supplies for the Continental army, all succeeded or failed according to what local militia officers did. Many of these activities interfered with one another; the mobilization of large numbers of militiamen for field duty, for example, might prevent the execution of draft laws or seriously hamper the operation of the Continental quartermaster department. It became the militia officers' responsibility to reconcile the competing demands on the state's manpower.

Local militia officers, acting collectively through their county court martial, possessed authority and autonomy comparable to that of the justices of the peace who comprised the county civil courts. The General Assembly might pass a draft law, but the militia officers chose how, when, and whether to enforce it. The governor might call out militia, but the local officers decided the extent to which their county would obey the order. The state government could control the general population through the militia officers, but it could not impose strict discipline on the officers themselves. The militia officers' ability to ad just state policies to local circumstances helped to maintain political stability and social order, but also resulted in military inefficiency. The reorganization of the militia system in the years immediately after the war sharply reduced the degree of autonomy enjoyed by the local militia officers./p>

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Virginia -- Militia, Virginia -- History -- Revolution, 1775-1783

Digitization of this thesis was made possible by a generous grant from the Jefferson Trust, 2015.

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