By the end of the War the number of Kentuckians who had served under arms exceeded 100,000. In the Union Army there were approximately 64,000 men and, although the number in the Confederate Army is not definitely known, it is estimated that at least 36,000 Kentuckians had fought for the South while 13,000 home Guardsmen had exclusively served Kentucky. The Kentucky Guard was for the most part pre-empted by the occupation of Federal troops after the War, until 1867 when the newly elected Governor of Kentucky issued an ultimatum that Kentucky would once again manage her own internal military affairs. This was respected by the Federal government and Kentucky volunteer companies were once again raised under the jurisdiction of this State.
These new companies had the immediate task of quelling post-war disturbances chiefly caused by armed bands calling themselves "Regulators." Also, the depression of the 1870's created labor chaos and labor-organized federations such as the radical Molly Maguires who caused many anarchical outbreaks, which the Guard had to quell. During this period of time the state legislatures and commercial interests became aware of the preferred and legal use of the Guard. It allowed the State a certain dignity in not having to ask for Federal manpower.
After the railroad riots of 1877 in Louisville, the need for a more extensive Militia organization was realized and the Louisville Legion was revived. It is interesting to note that four of the Captains of this Legion had distinguished themselves in the Confederate Army while one served with the Union.
In 1878 the Kentucky Militia law was rewritten and passed by the Legislature so that all able-bodied male citizens from 18 to 45 years of age were made to constitute the State Militia. This was divided into the Active Voluntary State Guard and the Militia of Reserves.
Also under this Act the Governor was empowered to direct the organization of the State Guard into any county where it might be necessary to preserve the peace of that county. These companies were limited to a minimum of forty men and a maximum of eighty. Because of the residency of Federal troops, which had occupied Kentucky long after the War, this act excluded all military companies in the State other than those forming the Kentucky State Guard. The exception to this act were Cadet Companies, comprised of boys under 18 years of age who were not allowed to serve on active duty beyond the limits of their own county.
Because of the industrialization of labor unions and other social changes, there was considerable unrest and numerous social protests in Kentucky during this period. This unrest precipitated the use of the Kentucky National Guard to preserve peace in good order in the Commonwealth.
Examples of such incidents were the use of the Guard in 1881 to save from mob action a prisoner on trial and in 1886 to protect convicts who were working in the mines.
In 1884, 1887, and 1888 the Kentucky National Guard was once again called on to restore the peace which had been disrupted as the result of feuding in the eastern part of Kentucky. These mountain feuds were so violent and involved so much animosity that the Guard actually fought pitch battles with the participants. The lack of roads and communications in these areas further complicated the Guard's mission by increasing the hardships and contributing to ambushes.