Act for Raising Volunteers to Join the Grand Army, May 1778
The "Act for Raising Volunteers to Join the Grand Army," passed at the General Assembly's May 1778 session, provided for recruitment of 2,000 volunteers for the Continental army. This broadside copy of the act was widely circulated to inform recruitment officers and men who contemplated joining the army of the terms of enlistment. Volunteers were to receive a $30 bounty for enlisting plus a set of clothing and exemption from paying taxes and performing military service for one year after their discharge from the army. Most of the men who served in the war during the American Revolution had some military training. Each county in Virginia had several companies of militia, in which free, white men between the ages of eighteen and sixty had to serve. The companies were intended to serve in emergencies, such as invasions or insurrections of slaves, but the training was often not systematic or adequate. The performance of Virginia militia units during the war was uneven, and some units refused to march outside of Virginia and leave their home counties undefended. Militia from southwestern Virginia participated in the Battle of King's Mountain, in 1780, one of the more important American victories of the war in the South, and other militia units took part in the siege of Yorktown in 1781 that forced the British to surrender.
During the war, the General Assembly passed several recruitment acts to raise the quota of troops that Congress requested from each state. The acts usually offered cash bounties for enlistment, and some provided for western land after the conclusion of the war. The United States Constitution of 1789 authorized Congress to create an army, but it limited all appropriations for the army to two years to prevent the army from becoming a strong tool that could be used against either the people or the states. The Constitution also preserved the state militias and authorized the president to call the militia into federal service in time of danger. Both the creation of a national army and the role of the militia were hotly debated topics during the state ratification conventions as men debated the roles of each state in the proposed new government.
1. What kinds of incentives did the assembly offer to men volunteering in the army?
2. How many volunteers did the General Assembly request?
3. How many officers were requested from Loudoun County?
1. Why do you think there were so many different kinds of troops during the American Revolution? And what did the founders learn from coordinating those soldiers?
2. Why is defense such an important issue in planning a national government? Why was it important to keep the military strong, but in check?
This broadside was printed in Williamsburg by Alexander Purdie, the printer of the Virginia Gazette. It was dated from the act printed in William Waller Hening, The Statutes at Large, Richmond: 1821, 9:145–149.
“Military Recommendations to the Governor and Council, May 15, 1778.” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 30, no. 3 (1922): 286–289.
Sanchez-Saavedra, E.M. A Guide to Virginia Military Organizations in the American Revolution, 1774–1787. Richmond: Virginia State Library, 1978.
Wright, John W. “Some Notes on the Continental Army.” William and Mary Quarterly, 2d ser., 11, no.2 (April 1931): 82–105.