Posted by: Democratic Thinker | September 20, 2009

Militia Act of 1792

American Papers

The full text of the Militia Act of 1792 (passed by the same congress which passed the Bill of Rights). For applicable current federal law see 10 U.S.C.§311


Approved, May 8, 1792.—Chap. XXXIII, p. 128.


An Act more effectually to provide for the national defence, by establishing an uniform militia throughout the United States.

Sect. 1. BE it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective states, resident therein, who is or shall be of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years, (except as hereinafter excepted,) shall, severally and respectively, be enrolled in the militia by the captain or commanding officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this act. And it shall, at all times hereafter, be the duty of every such captain or commanding officer of a company, to enrol every such citizen, as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of eighteen years, or, being of the age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years, (except as before excepted,) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall, without delay, notify such citizen of the said enrolment, by a proper non-commissioned officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket, or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein to contain not less than twenty-four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or, with a good rifle, knapsack, shot pouch and powder horn, twenty balls, suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear, so armed, accoutred, and provided, when called out to exercise, or into service; except, that when called out on company days exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned officers shall, severally, be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that, from and after five years from the passing of this act, all muskets for arming the militia, as herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound. And every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition, and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions, or sales, for debt, or for the payment of taxes.

Sect. 2. And be it further enacted, That the Vice-President of the United States; the officers, judicial and executive, of the government of the United States; the members of both houses of Congress, and their respective officers; all custom-house officers, with their clerks; all post-officers, and stage-drivers, who are employed in the care and conveyance of the mail of the post-office of the United States; all ferrymen employed at any ferry on the post-road; all inspectors of exports; all pilots; all mariners, actually employed in the sea-service of any citizen or merchant within the United States; and all persons who now are, or may hereafter he, exempted by the laws of the respective States, shall he, and are hereby, exempted from militia duty, notwithstanding their being above the age of eighteen, and under the age of forty-five years.

Sect. 3. And be it further enacted, That within one year after the passing of this act, the militia of the respective states shall be arranged into divisions, brigades, regiments, battalions, and companies, as the legislature of each state shall direct; and each division, brigade, and regiment, shall be numbered at the formation thereof, and a record made of such numbers in the adjutant-general’s office in the state; and when in the field, or in service in the state, each division, brigade, and regiment shall, respectively, take rank according to their numbers, reckoning the first or lowest number highest in rank. That, if the same be convenient, each brigade shall consist of four regiments; each regiment of two battalions; each battalion of five companies; each company of sixty-four privates. That the said militia shall be officered by the respective states, as follows: To each division, one major- general and two aids-de-camp, with the rank of major; to each brigade, one brigadier-general, with one brigade-inspector, to serve also as brigade-major, with the rank of a major; to each regiment, one, lieutenant-colonel commandant; and to each battalion, one major; to each company, one captain, one lieutenant, one ensign, four sergeants, four corporals, one drummer, and one fifer or bugler. That there shall be a regimental stuff, to consist of one adjutant and one quarter-master, to rank as lieutenants; one paymaster; one surgeon, and one surgeon’s mate; one sergeant-major; one drum-major, and one fife-major.

Sect. 4. And be it further enacted, That out of the militia enrolled, as is herein directed, there shall be formed, for each battalion, at least one company of grenadiers, light infantry, or riflemen; and that, to each division, there shall be at least one company of artillery, and one troop of horse: there shall be to each company of artillery, one captain, two lieutenants, four sergeants, four corporals, six gunners, six bombardiers, one drummer, and one fifer. The officers to be armed with a sword, or hanger, a fusee, bayonet and belt, with a cartridge box, to contain twelve cartridges; and each private, or matross, shall furnish himself with all the equipments of a private in the infantry, until proper ordnance and field artillery is provided. There shall be, to each troop of horse, one captain, two lieutenants, one cornet, four sergeants, four corporals, one saddler, one farrier, and one trumpeter. The commissioned officers to furnish themselves with good horses, of at least fourteen hands and a half high, and to be armed with a sword, and pair of pistols, the holsters of which to be covered with bearskin caps. Each dragoon to furnish himself with a serviceable horse, at least fourteen hands and a half high, a good saddle, bridle, mail pillion, and valise, holsters, and a breastplate and crupper, a pair of hoots and spurs, a pair of pistols, a sabre, and a cartouch box, to contain twelve cartridges for pistols. That each company of artillery and troop of horse shall be formed of volunteers from the brigade, at the discretion of the commander-in-chief of the state, not exceeding one company of each to a regiment, nor more in number than one-eleventh part of the infantry, and shall be uniformly clothed in regimentals, to be furnished at their own expense; the colour and fashion to be determined by the brigadier commanding the brigade to which they belong.

Sect. 5. And be it further enacted, That each battalion and regiment shall be provided with the state and regimental colours, by the field officers, and each company with a drum, and fife or bugle-horn, by the commissioned officers of the company, in such manner as the legislature of the respective states shall direct.

Sect. 6. And be it further enacted, That there shall be an adjutant-general appointed in each state, whose duty it shall be to distribute all orders from the commander-in-chief of the state to the several corps; to attend all public reviews, when the commander-in-chief of the state shall review the militia, or any part thereof; to obey all orders from him, relative to carrying into execution and perfecting the system of military discipline established by this act; to furnish blank forms of different returns, that may be required, and to explain the principles on which they should be made; to receive from the several officers of the different corps, throughout the state, returns of the militia under their command, reporting the actual situation of their arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, their delinquencies, and every other thing which relates to the general advancement of good order and discipline: All which, the several officers of the divisions, brigades, regiments, and battalions are hereby required to make, in the usual manner, so that the said adjutant-general may be furnished therewith: from which all returns be shall make proper abstracts, and lay the same annually before the commander-in-chief of the state.

Sect. 7. And be it further enacted, That the rules of discipline, approved and established by Congress, in their resolution of the 29th of March, 1779, shall be the rules of discipline to be observed by the militia throughout the United States; except such deviations from the said rules as may be rendered necessary the requisitions of this act, or by some other unavoidable circumstances. It shall be the duty of the commanding officer, at every muster, whether by battalion, regiment, or single company, to cause the militia to be exercised and trained agreeably to the said rules of discipline.

Sect. 8. And be it further enacted, That all commissioned officers shall take rank according to the date of their commissions; and when two of the same grade bear an equal date, then their rank to be determined by lot, to be drawn, by them, before the commanding officer of the brigade, regiment, battalion, company, or detachment.

Sec. 9. And be it further enacted, That if any person, whether officer or soldier, belonging to the militia of any state, and called out’ into the service of the United States, be wounded or disabled while in actual service, he shall he taken care of and provided for at the public expense.

Sect. 10. And be it further enacted, That it shall be the duty of the brigade-inspector, to attend the regimental and battalion meetings of the militia composing their several brigades, during the time of their being under arms, to inspect their arms, ammunition, and accoutrements; superintend their exercise and manoeuvres, and introduce the system of military discipline, before descried, throughout the brigade, agreeable to law, and such orders as they shall, from time to time, receive from the commander-in-chief of the state; to make returns to the adjutant-general of the state, at least once in every year, of the militia of the brigade to which he belongs, reporting therein the actual situation of the arms, accoutrements, and ammunition, of the several corps, and every other thing which, in his judgment, may relate to their government and the general advancement of good order and military discipline; and the adjutant-general shall make a return of all the militia of the state, to the commander-in-chief of the said state, and a duplicate of the same to the President of the United States.

And whereas sundry corps of artillery, cavalry, and infantry, now exist in several of the said states, which, by the laws, customs, or usages thereof, have not been incorporated with, or subject to, the general regulations of the militia:

Sect. 11. And be it further enacted, That such corps retain their accustomed privileges, subject, nevertheless, to all other duties required by this act in like manner with the other militia.

JONATHAN TRUMBULL, Speaker of the House of Representatives.

RICHARD HENRY LEE, President pro tempore of the Senate.

APPROVED, May eighth, 1792.

President of the United States.


Acts Passed at the First Session of the Second Congress of the United States of America.—Click to Read at Archive.Org.
Acts Passed at the First Session of the Second Congress of the United States of America.
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                     The Laws of the United States of America (1796).
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