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KY National Guard History eMuseum

The Dick Act And Reorganization: (1903-1908)

Part of the State Guard on Duty at Jackson in Breathitt County, KY in 1903. Embedded image caption information reads from left: Maj. Epph Lillard, 2d Inf. K.S.G.; Adj. Gen. D. R. Murray; Detail from Artillery Battalion; Lt. Robt. G. Gordon Battery A.; Part of the Stae Guard on duty at Jackson, Breathitt County, 1903.
Part of the State Guard on Duty at Jackson in Breathitt County, KY in 1903. Embedded image caption information reads from left: Maj. Epph Lillard, 2d Inf. K.S.G.; Adj. Gen. D. R. Murray; Detail from Artillery Battalion; Lt. Robt. G. Gordon Battery A.; Part of the State Guard on duty at Jackson, Breathitt County, 1903.

After political calm had been restored there was a reorganization of the Guard and an updating of the armaments. In 1903 Congress enacted a Militia law that was similar to that which Kentucky had already adopted. The new law embraced all males from 18 to 45 and divided them into organized militia of the State; the remainder was considered to be the inactive Militia subject to call. As part of this reorganization 200 men were assigned to each congressional representative and the President of the United States was given the power to call up the State's Guard when he deemed it necessary. The purpose of this act was to add uniformity to the various State Guard organizations. In compliance with this act the Federal government made an annual appropriation of $1 million to each state for purposes of maintaining its military force.

In sum, the provisions of the bill, essentially a compromise, eliminated once and for all time the archaic Militia Act of 1792. It divided American male citizenry into two classes: the National Guard (Organized Militia), and the Reserve Militia, in which were lumped all other male citizens between the ages of 18 and 45. National Guard organization, armament, and discipline were to be identical with those of the Regular Army. Federal pay was granted for summer training camps and other activities, including joint maneuvers with the Regulars; drill and instruction periods were to take place at least twenty-four times a year. Regular officers were to be provided as inspectors-instructors. As to the Reserve Militia, this legal function at least perpetuated the original colonial concept of universal military obligations.

Meanwhile, a number of other things of interest to the Guard had also occurred. During 1908 a Division of Militia Affairs was created in the War Department. At first the Division was under the supervision of the Secretary of War. As a General Staff unit it supervised and transacted all business relating to the organized Militia, including assignment of Regular Army instructors and inspectors, except when in the Federal service. The Adjutant General of the Army formerly handled these activities. This unit would later become the National Guard Bureau.

Also in 1908, by an amendment to the Dick Bill, Congress lifted both the nine-month limitation on Federal Militia service and the restriction forbidding National Guard service outside the continental limits of the United States. However, it was apparent that the Guard, despite the goodwill of its uniformed membership, was still limping. A report by the Secretary of War in 1910, an analysis drawn by the Army War College and supported by statistical data, submitted on order from Congress, summed up the Guard's deficiencies: inadequate strength, insufficient arms reserve, and lack of combat balance of forces. Its pessimistic conclusion stated that "It is apparent that we are almost wholly unprepared for war. The things we need will take the longest to supply."

Postcard circa 1909 courtesy KHS
Postcard circa 1909 courtesy KHS

From 1905 through 1908 farmers formed an organization in Kentucky known as The Planter's Protective Association whereby tobacco was pooled in order to obtain better prices. Those who would not subscribe to this organization often incurred the wrath of the so-called "Night Riders" who were known for their violent measures. Almost every company of the Kentucky State Guard saw active service in order to curb the numerous hostile acts that were associated with these "Night Riders." The Black Patch in the Black Patch War was a slang term for Western Kentucky where "black" tobacco was grown.

The period between the passage of the Dick Bill and the entry of the United States into World War I might well be called the heyday of the peacetime National Guard. The majority of units were housed in comfortable armories whose drill floors accommodated not only military training but also the social functions that had become part of the club-like atmosphere. Wives, sweethearts and friends crowded the dance floor on these occasions, while even the weekly drill sessions had their social side, for families and friends gathered in the galleries to watch.

Most of the mounted outfits, cavalry, field artillery, and signal corps, all of whom prided themselves on their horsemanship, performed weekly in tanbark rings in a horse show--rodeo atmosphere. Guests thrilled at Roman riding: men standing on two- or three-horse teams. They gasped when limber bareback riders dismounted at the gallop to leap up again, sometimes spanning the broad backs of several animals. They cheered when opposing teams played mounted basketball or wrestled one another. Agile troopers swung slashing sabers at leather heads atop posts or, going full tilt, speared tent pegs with lances. A few cavalry units boasted polo teams, the mounts provided by well-to-do members. Highlights of the field artillery drills were, of course, the mounted battery maneuvers where guns, limbers, and caissons rolled on the tanbark in a medley of thudding hooves and spinning wheels.

 

Last Updated 10/21/2011
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