Illinois State Militia

State: Illinois

The Illinois Constitution of 1818 provided for a militia consisting of all able-bodied white males between the ages of eighteen and forty-five. On March 26, 1819, the General Assembly passed the first act establishing a general system for the militia of the State. The General Assembly amended this act in 1821, 1823, and 1825. In January 1826, the legislature superseded the 1819 act with new legislation for the organization and government of the militia. The General Assembly further amended this act in 1827 and 1829. The militia's primary military service during the antebellum years was in the Black Hawk War, during which Abraham Lincoln was a member. The war revealed the need to revise and strengthen the state's militia laws, and in March 1833, the General Assembly passed a new militia act dividing the militia into five divisions. As the state grew and new counties came into existence, politicians and the public clamored for expansion of the militia and revision of the militia law. In March 1837, the General Assembly passed an act amending the 1833 act, dividing the militia into six divisions. It also enacted an act encouraging volunteer companies that could be incorporated into the militia. The Mexican War gave further impetus to legislation expanding and augmenting the militia. With the outbreak of the Civil War, much of the militia was nationalized.

“An Act Organizing the Militia of this State,” 26 March 1819, Laws of the State of Illinois (1819), 270-96; “An Act Amending an Act Entitled “An Act Organizing the Militia of this State,” 8 February 1821, Laws of the State of Illinois (1821), 106-112; “An Act to Amend an Act for the Organization of the Militia of this State,” 15 January 1825, Laws of the State of Illinois (1825), 117-18; “An Act for the Organization and Government of the Militia of this State,’’ 25 January 1826, Laws of the State of Illinois (1826), 3-44; An Act to Amend an Act entitled "An Act for the Organization of and Government of the Militia of this State," Approved March 2, 1833; An Act Encouraging Volunteer Companies; Newton Bateman and Paul Selby, eds., Historical Encyclopedia of Illinois (Chicago: Munsell, 1901), 376-77.