The American Home Guard: The State Militia in the Twentieth Century

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Since colonial times Americans have used the militia to maintain order during both war and peacetime. Barry M. Stentiford tells the story of these militia units - variously called home guards, State Guard, National Guard Reserve, and State Defense Forces. Stentiford traces the evolution of the militia over the past century, demonstrating its transformation from an amalgamation of state units into the National Guard. Ironically, the National Guard made the creation of other militia forces necessary during periods of war, as the home guards were organized to fill the vacuum left when the National Guard was called up. Stentiford analyzes the challenges faced by State Guards as they built their new militia with leftover men and material. He also examines the role of the State Guard: providing relief during disasters, providing military training for future draftees, and broadening participation in military units during wartime by giving a role to men who, because of their age or occupation, could not join the federal forces. Today modern state militias must define a role for themselves in a society that increasingly views them as anachronistic. They must also compete with so-called unorganized militias for the title of true heir to the American militia tradition.