On 17 February 1864, the Confederate States Congress passed an act which extended the age of conscription to include all white men between the ages of 17 and 50. All men between the ages of 18 and 45 were retained in service for the duration of the war; those between the ages of 7-18 and 45-50, were to constitute a reserve force for State defence and detail duty. Companies, Battalions and Regiments of reserves were allowed to elect their own officers. The reserves were not required to perform service outside the State and while in actual service they were entitled to the same pay and allowance as the other troops in the field.
27 July 1864, the War Department announced that all detailed men, including those between 18 and 45 years of age, would be organized into companies which were to be armed, disciplined and regularly drilled. Companies of detailed men were not to be called into the field except in emergencies for the defense of the area in which they resided. They were not required to serve beyond the limits of the area in which they were formed.
16 September 1864, reserve forces of Virginia comprised 144 companies, averaging 90 men to a company. The reserves were organized into 5 brigades, embracing 19 regiments and battalions besides detached companies. Brigades averaged 2,600 men each.
The Virginia Militia system, like those of other States, was based on the Federal Militia Act of 1792. All men within the State between the ages of 18 and 45 were liable for military duty. Specified Federal, State and County officials were exempt from all military duty; certain persons such as millers, ferrymen, lock gate keepers on the James River canal, firemen, police, school commissioners and school trustees were exempt from "ordinary duties" [they were not required to attend annual musters]. This constituted the compulsory or "line militia".
There had existed, since 1792, another class of militia within the system known as the "volunteer corps". These were voluntary companies who were uniformed and armed at their own expense. Volunteer companies were attached to line regiments and drilled with them at annual musters. Volunteer companies held their own periodic drills and musters, maintained their own armories and participated in parades. It served as an outlet for those who enjoyed being citizen-soldiers, much like the re-enactors of today. In 1851 the General Assembly passed an act authorizing the formation of volunteer regiments and in 1852 volunteer battalions were authorized. By November 1860 there were 3 Regiments and 4 Battalions; by April 1861, there were 5 Regiments and 6 Battalions of volunteers. By the outbreak of hostilities the volunteers had been organized into 5 Divisions, 28 Brigades and 198 Regiments of the line.
Artillery and Cavalry units were formed only by volunteers and organized into 5 Regiments of each, 1 to each Division.
Volunteering for active service with the State forces in the spring and summer of 1861 withdrew membership in the militia units.
29 November 1861, Convention adopted an ordinance which reorganized the militia into two classes. All men between the ages of 21 and 31 constituted the active militia classa and those that remained comprised the reserve. Company and Regimental districts were rearranged by uniting two districts into one. One company of active militia and one of reserves were to be formed in each company district. Each regimental district was to be formed of two regiments, one active and one reserve; they would bear the same number but be referred to as either active or reserve.
There were other adjustments made in 1862 and in 1863. By 1864 the militia system was basically terminated.
In 1816 the General Assembly passed an act establishing three arsenals for the storage of public arms; one in Richmond, one west of the Alleghany Mountains and one in Lexington. For each arsenal there was to be a company of State Guards, station as to protect the arms stored there. After the establishment of the arsenal in Lexington, the duties left a lot of free time for the guards and they became an objectionable element in the town. In 1834 the General Assembly created a military school for the guard company at Lexington. In March, 1839, the Virginia Military Institute was created, which was to provide through military training for its cadets, an important source of competent military officers, trained engineers and teachers. In 1861, the graduates proved to be the greatest source for the States' officer corps. The cadets, under Major Thomas L. Jackson, was taken to Richmond in April 1861 to serve as instructors at Camp Lee.
On April 30, 1862, Major General Jackson called for the asistance of the Cadet Corps, consisting of 4 companies or about 200 cadets, under General Smith. They reached Stanton the next day. The cadets formed Jackson's reserve in the McDowell campaign, but were never actively engaged.
11 May 1864, Maj Gen John C. Breckinridge called for the Cadets. They arrived at New Market on 15 May 1864 and actively engaged the enemy. They comprised 4 companies under Lt Col Scott Shipp, about 279 Cadets. 5 were killed, 4 mortally wounded and 48 wounded.
The Corps then went to Richmond and passed in review of President Davis, received a new stand of colors from the Governor and public thanks from Congress. They then served in the defenses of the City of Richmond.
6 June 1864 they returned to Lexington to face union Gen David Hunter. 11 June Hunter's artillery shelled the institute; resistance was futile and the Cadets retreated to Balcony Falls. 12 June Hunter burned the barracks and other out buildings of the institute. The Cadets returned to Lexington on 25 June and were housed at Washington College.
15 October 1865, the institute reopened.
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