United States Volunteers
United States Volunteers also known as U.S. Volunteers, U. S. Vol., or U.S.V.

Starting as early as 1861 these regiments were often referred to as the "volunteer army" (not capitalized) of the United States but not officially named (codified into law) that until 1898.

During the nineteenth century this was the United States federal government's main means for raising large forces of citizen-soldiers needed in wartime to augment the small Regular Army and organized militia
The term militia is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with...

 and National Guard. The U.S. Volunteers were the forerunner of the National Army in World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

 and the Army of the United States
Army of the United States
The Army of the United States is the official name for the conscription force of the United States Army that may be raised at the discretion of the United States Congress in the event of the United States entering into a major armed conflict...

 in World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

, and the Vietnam War
Vietnam War
The Vietnam War was a Cold War-era military conflict that occurred in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia from 1 November 1955 to the fall of Saigon on 30 April 1975. This war followed the First Indochina War and was fought between North Vietnam, supported by its communist allies, and the government of...


The U.S. Volunteers did not exist in times of peace. Unlike the militia, which, under the United States Constitution
United States Constitution
The Constitution of the United States is the supreme law of the United States of America. It is the framework for the organization of the United States government and for the relationship of the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.The first three...

, each state recruited, trained, equipped, and maintained locally, with regimental officers appointed and promoted by state governors and not kept in federal service for more than nine months nor sent outside the country, the U.S. Volunteers were enlisted for terms of one to three years, and between 1794 and 1902 fought outside the country.

Regiments and batteries became known as "Volunteers" to distinguish between state and regular army units.

War of 1812

The great majority of soldiers who served during the War of 1812
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was a military conflict fought between the forces of the United States of America and those of the British Empire. The Americans declared war in 1812 for several reasons, including trade restrictions because of Britain's ongoing war with France, impressment of American merchant...

 were volunteers, or members of state militia who were federalized for portions of the war period. There were also volunteer units directly raised by the federal government.

U.S. Volunteers were seen as "temporary regulars" because they were not state troops but rather augmented the Regular Army.

Mexican–American War

List of U. S. Army, Navy and Volunteer units in the Mexican American War

American Civil War

GENERAL ORDERS No. 15., WAR DEPARTMENT, Adjutant General's Office, Washington, May 4, 1861.

The President of the United States having called for a Volunteer Force to aid in the enforcement of the laws und the suppression of insurrection, and to consist of thirty-nine regiments of infantry and one regiment of cavalry, making a minimum aggregate of thirty-four thousand five hundred and six officers and enlisted men, and a maximum aggregate of forty two thousand and thirty-four officers and enlisted men, the following plan of organizition has been adopted, and is directed to be printed for general information:...

GENERAL ORDERS, No 126., WAR DEPARTMENT, Adjutant General's Office, Washington, September 20, 1862.

I..The following is the organization of Regiments and Companies of the Volunteer Army of the United States:

see Military leadership in the American Civil War#Militia and political leaders appointed to Union military leadership and American Civil War
American Civil War
The American Civil War was a civil war fought in the United States of America. In response to the election of Abraham Lincoln as President of the United States, 11 southern slave states declared their secession from the United States and formed the Confederate States of America ; the other 25...


Each state was given a quota of "volunteer regiments" to be raised for service lasting from three months to three years. with quotas apportioned among the States according to population,..

One was the system of voluntary enlistment in the "volunteer regiments" provided
for ... for a special draft
Conscription is the compulsory enlistment of people in some sort of national service, most often military service. Conscription dates back to antiquity and continues in some countries to the present day under various names...

 upon the militia to make up the state's quota. ...

War with Spain

Spanish–American War

Washington, April 30, 1898.

I The following acts of Congress and Proclamation by the President are published for the information and government of all concerned:

An Act To provide for temporarily increasing the military establishment of the United States in time of war, and for other purposes.

Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all able-bodied male citizens of the United States, and persons of foreign birth who shall have declared their intention to become citizens of the United States under and in pursuance of the laws thereof, between the ages of eighteen and forty-five years, are hereby declared to constitute the national forces, and, with such exceptions and under such conditions as may be prescribed by law, shall be liable to perform military duty in the service of the United States.

SEC. 2. That the organized and active land forces of the United States shall consist of the Army of the United States and of the militia of the several States when called into the service of the United States: Provided, That in time of war: the Army shall consist of two branches which shall be designated, respectively, as the Regular Army
Regular Army
The Regular Army of the United States was and is the successor to the Continental Army as the country's permanent, professional military establishment. Even in modern times the professional core of the United States Army continues to be called the Regular Army...

 and the Volunteer Army of the United States.

The law provided for a presidential call for two-year volunteers, with quotas apportioned among the States according to population, and that militia units volunteering as a body had to be accepted as units into the Volunteer Army.

See also

  • National Army (USA)
  • Army of the United States
    Army of the United States
    The Army of the United States is the official name for the conscription force of the United States Army that may be raised at the discretion of the United States Congress in the event of the United States entering into a major armed conflict...

  • United States Army
    United States Army
    The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

  • Regular Army (United States)
  • National Guard of the United States
  • United States Army Reserve
    United States Army Reserve
    The United States Army Reserve is the federal reserve force of the United States Army. Together, the Army Reserve and the Army National Guard constitute the reserve components of the United States Army....

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