Militia Resource Guide

From its inception in the Colonial era and its prominence in the Revolutionary War through the various wars and campaigns that the United States has engaged in, the militia filled a necessary niche in military service. Militia service in Pennsylvania dates from the first Associators organized by Benjamin Franklin in 1747 (although opposed by Quaker leaders in the province) which consisted of military unitscomprised of volunteers to meet temporary emergencies. The Pennsylvania Militia was recognized as officially being organized on March 17, 1777 through the first militia act. This established compulsory service which was phased out and replaced entirely with a volunteer system. The state, in an attempt to promote voluntary enrollment to reduce costs to the State, enforced a small fine on those able-bodied men between the ages of 18 and 45 who were not part of a volunteer unity. Certain officials (federal and state) as well as ministers were usually excused from service and the imposed fee. Following the Civil War, the Postbellum period saw the transition from the Pennsylvania militia to the National Guard of Pennsylvania, later known as the Pennsylvania National Guard.

As early as 1788, volunteer companies were recognized by law when "it was provided that forty volunteers from any battalion might form a company if they were willing to equip and uniform themselves." Prior to 1793, a battalion was the largest formation possible in the militia. Later, regiments, brigades, and divisions were created with companies still maintaining the smallest unit of men. Soldiers were placed according to county and were given county numbers for identification; later, in 1799, state numbers were used when brigades began to be composed of volunteers from multiple counties. The formation of militia companies was strongly encouraged after legislation removed the restrictions limiting the number of volunteer companies allowed in a battalion. In 1818, the Pennsylvania Legislature brought into existence more permanent organized companies of the militia which consisted of volunteers who provided their own uniforms.

As the initial militia system degenerated, volunteer companies became favored. In 1849, a new organization of volunteer companies emerged fully replacing the preexisting Pennsylvania militia. Exemptions were granted to anyone who had served for five years as a volunteer or who had served in the Mexican War; all others were levied an annual fee. Exemptions for service were granted on a case-by-case basis by county commissioners. This act provided additional exemptions including those who were currently serving in the Army or Navy, those with honorable discharges in those services, ministers, teachers, judges, and those who had served in a volunteer company or in the militia as an officer for five years or as an enlisted soldier for seven years.

The new militia system was not as regimented or as well staffed as the regular army. Typically, the soldiers had little more training than what was provided in previous iterations of the militia with few required and structured service days. Despite that, "they were equipped, uniformed, and willing to serve when called." By 1870, the Pennsylvania militia was known as the National Guard of Pennsylvania which continues to function to this day.

The following guide is intended to aid researchers in accessing the Pennsylvania State Archives' collections of records relating to the Pennsylvania militia. For convenience, the Record and Manuscript Groups are arranged chronologically by period and thereunder alphabetically by series or collection title. Manuscript Groups contain personal papers, manuscripts, and non-governmental records while Record Groups are archival records created by the General Assembly, State Judicial System, Executive Branch departments, boards and commissions, county and municipal governments, and school districts.

The guide includes a general index of records mentioned followed by a list which includes links to the series' holdings and brief descriptions of the documents within the series pertaining to the Pennsylvania militia. The periods this guide covers are: Colonial, 1682-1776; Revolutionary, 1776-1783; Federal, 1784-1812; War of 1812, 1812-1815; Antebellum, 1815-1860; Civil War, 1861-1865; and Postbellum, 1865-1870.


General Index to Militia Resources

RG/MG Collection Name Date Range
   
Colonial Period (1682-1776)  
RG-27 Appointments File: Military {#27.20} 1775-1790
RG-21 Executive Correspondence {#21.4} 1682-1775
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
RG-21 Minutes of the Provincial Council {#21.8} 1862-1775
     
Revolutionary Era (1776-1783)  
RG-27 Accounts {#27.7} 1776-1777 & undated
RG-27 Appointments File: Military {#27.20} 1775-1790
RG-27 Council of Safety Executive Correspondence {#27.8} 1776-1777 & undated
RG-27 Committee of Safety Executive Correspondence and Petitions {#27.2} 1775-1776 & undated
RG-27 Committee of Safety Minute Book {#27.3} 1775-1776
RG-27 Committee of Safety Minutes (Rough Copy) {#27.4} 1775-1776 & undated
RG-27 Council of Safety Minute Books {#27.9} 1776-1777
RG-27 Council of Safety Minutes (Rough Copy) {#27.10} 1776
RG-27 Provincial Convention, Executive Correspondence, 1776 {#27.6} 1776
MG-147 John Anderson Papers {#147m} 1684-1904
MG-71 John Hays Collection {#71m} 1777-1783
RG-27 Letter Books {#27.30} 1782-1789
RG-27 Memoranda Book {#27.32} 1780-1787
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
RG-27 Military Returns {#27.33} 1777-1790
RG-4 Militia Absentee Return Record for Philadelphia City {#4.34} 1777-1791
RG-4 Militia Fine Exoneration Records {#4.36} 1777-1793
RG-4 Militia Loan Accounts {#4.37} 1781-1792
RG-13 Militia Officers Index Cards {#13.36} 1775-1800
RG-13 Militia Unit Identification Cards {#13.37} circa 1776-1830
RG-17 Muster Rolls (Actually Lists of Unpaid Militia Fines for Absent Soldiers) {#17.167} 1782-1834
RG-4 Philadelphia City General Muster Roll Books {#4.42}
1777-1784
RG-4 Philadelphia City Lieutenant's Office General Return Book of Militia Called into Actual Service {#4.43} 1777-1782
RG-4 Revolutionary War Associators, Line, Militia, and Navy Accounts, and Miscellaneous Records Relating to Military Service {#4.51} 1775-1809
RG-13 Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File {#13.50} 1785-1893
RG-2 Revolutionary War Pension File {#2.60} 1809-1893
RG-28 Revolutionary War Pension List Book {#28.82} 1834-1838
RG-4 Revolutionary War Pension Files and Related Accounts {#4.52} 1785-1809
RG-33 Revolutionary War Soldiers' Claims and Related Papers {#33.98} 1786-1789
RG-27 Second Council of Safety Executive Correspondence, {#27.14} 1777
RG-27 Second Council of Safety Minute Books {#27.15} 1777
RG-27 Second Council of Safety Minute Book (Rough Copy) {#27.16} 1777
RG-27 Supreme Executive Council Minute Books {#27.34} 1777-1790
RG-27 Supreme Executive Council Minute Books (Rough Copies) {#27.35} 1777-1790
RG-27 Supreme Executive Council Executive Correspondence and Petitions{#27.28} 1777-1790 & undated
   
Early Republic (1784-1812)  
RG-27 Appointments File: Military {#27.20} 1775-1790
MG-66 Edward Hand Papers {#66m} 1777-1788
MG-72 Hiester Family Papers {#72m} 1750-1865
RG-27 Letter Books {#27.30} 1782-1789
RG-27 Memoranda Book {#27.32} 1780-1787
RG-26 Military Commission Books {#26.65} 1800-1944
RG-26 Military Commission Books Card Index {#26.142} 1800-1860
RG-26 Military Commission Files {#26.66} 1790-1860
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
RG-2 Military Pension Accounts and Related Papers {#2.53} circa 1789-1883
RG-27 Military Returns {#27.33} 1777-1790
RG-4 Militia Absentee Return Record for Philadelphia City {#4.34} 1777-1791
RG-2 Militia Accounts {#2.54} 1809-1864
RG-24 Militia Certificates Received from the Receiver General {#24.14} 1789-1793
RG-26 Militia Election Returns {#26.67} 1790-1863
RG-4 Militia Exemption Books {#4.35} 1801-1813
RG-4 Militia Fine Exoneration Records {#4.36} 1777-1793
RG-13 Militia Law Chronological Index Cards {#13.35} circa 1791-1870
RG-13 Militia Law Index Cards by Unit {#13.34} circa 1791-1870
RG-4 Militia Loan Accounts {#4.37} 1781-1792
RG-26 Militia Muster Rolls and Inspection Returns {#26.21} 1792-1794
RG-13 Militia Officers Index Cards {#13.36} 1775-1800
RG-13 Militia Unit Identification Cards {#13.37} 1776-1830
RG-4 Revolutionary War Associators, Line, Militia, and Navy Accounts, and Miscellaneous Records Relating to Military Service {#4.51} 1775-1809
RG-13 Revolutionary War Military Abstract Card File {#13.50} 1785-1893
RG-4 Western Expedition (Whiskey Rebellion) Accounts {#4.71} 1794-1804
   
War of 1812 (1812-1815)  
RG-19 Brigade Inspectors' Returns {#19.6} 1812-1862
MG-72 Hiester Family Papers {#72m} 1750-1865
MG-405 McQuaide Family Papers {#405m} 1813-1864 & undated
RG-26 Military Commission Books {#26.65} 1800-1944
RG-26 Military Commission Books Card Index {#26.142} 1800-1860
RG-26 Military Commission Files {#26.66} 1790-1860
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
RG-2 Military Pension Accounts and Related Papers {#2.53} circa 1789-1883
RG-2 Militia Accounts {#2.54} 1809-1864
RG-26 Militia Election Returns {#26.67} 1790-1863
RG-4 Militia Exemption Books {#4.35} 1801-1813
RG-19 Militia Officers Index Card File {#19.222} 1800-1861
RG-2 War of 1812 Index of Soldiers {#2.61} undated
RG-2 War of 1812 Militia Accounts {#2.62} 1812-1827
RG-2 War of 1812 Militia Accounts: Final Settlements with the United States {#2.63} 1812-1838
RG-2 War of 1812 Partial List of Pensioners {#2.64} circa 1868
RG-2 War of 1812 Pension File {#2.65} 1866-1896, bulk 1866-1879
RG-2 War of 1812 Pension Receipts for Philadelphia City and County {#2.66} 1871-1876
     
Antebellum Period (1815-1860)  
RG-19 Brigade Inspectors' Returns {#19.6} 1812-1862
RG-19 Board of Officers' Decision Books {#19.5} 1840-1844
MG-318 Edward C. Williams Family Papers {#318m} 1848-1923
MG-176 General Richard Coulter Papers {#176m} 1786-1908
RG-2 Journal {#2.18} 1826-1830
MG-405 McQuaide Family Papers {#405m} 1813-1864 & undated
RG-26 Military Commission Books {#26.65} 1800-1944
RG-26 Military Commission Books Card Index {#26.142} 1800-1860
RG-26 Military Commission Files {#26.66} 1790-1860
RG-2 Military Pension Accounts and Related Papers {#2.53} circa 1789-1883
RG-2 Militia Accounts {#2.54} 1809-1864
RG-26 Militia Election Returns {#26.67} 1790-1863
RG-26 Militia Letter Book {#26.22} 1839-1861
RG-19 Militia Officers Index Card File {#19.222} 1800-1861
MG-436 National Guard of Pennsylvania, 2nd Regiment, 108th Field Artillery Records {#436m} 1847-1947
RG-2 Register of Recruits, 1st and 2nd Regiments, Pennsylvania Volunteers {#2.59} 1847-1848
RG-19 Salary Ledger {#19.70} 1824-1843
MG-17 Samuel Penniman Bates Papers {#17m} 1853-1895
MG-337 Solomon B. Bowerman Papers {#337m} 1823-1922
RG-19 Supply Ledger {#19.83} 1839-1842
     
Mexican War (1846-1848)  
MG-176 General Richard Coulter Papers {#176m} 1786-1908
RG-2 Mexican War Accounts and Related Papers {#2.50} 1846-1880
RG-19 Mexican War Service Index {#19.41} 1846-1848
RG-26 Military Commission Books {#26.65} 1800-1944
RG-26 Military Commission Books Card Index {#26.142} 1800-1860
RG-26 Military Commission Files {#26.66} 1790-1860
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
RG-26 Militia Election Returns {#26.67} 1790-1863
RG-19 Register of Militia and Volunteers {#19.63} 1841-1844
     
Civil War Era (1861-1865)  
MG-340 Benjamin L. Forster Collection {#340m} 1835-1917, 1931, 1944, & undated
MG-226 Christian Geisel Collection {#226m} 1862-1868
RG-19 Civil War Muster Rolls and Related Records {#19.11} 1861-1866
RG-19 Civil War Veterans Card File {#19.12} 1861-1866
RG-19 Commanders of Pennsylvania Volunteers and Militia Lists {#19.13} circa 1862-1863
RG-19 Descriptive Books of Regiments and Companies {#19.21} 1861-1865
MG-176 General Richard Coulter Papers {#176m} 1786-1908
MG-231 Jacob R. Hill Collection {#231m} 1864-1889
MG-389 James A. Beaver Papers {#389m} 1790, 1796, 1841, 1849-1915, & undated
MG-141 John D. Black Papers {#141m} 1815-1923, bulk 1861-1923
RG-26 Military Commission Books {#26.65} 1800-1944
RG-26 Military Commission Files {#26.66} 1790-1860
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
RG-2 Militia Accounts {#2.54} 1809-1864
RG-26 Militia Election Returns {#26.67} 1790-1863
RG-13 Militia Law Chronological Index Cards {#13.35} circa 1791-1870
RG-13 Militia Law Index Cards by Unit {#13.34} circa 1791-1870
RG-26 Militia Letter Book {#26.22} 1839-1861
RG-19 Miscellaneous Discharge Certificates {#19.45} 1861-1866
MG-436 National Guard of Pennsylvania, 2nd Regiment, 108th Field Artillery Records {#436m} 1847-1947
RG-19 Population Record Books of the Pennsylvania Soldiers' and Sailors' Home {#19.52} 1864-1883
RG-19 Records of Drafted Men and Substitutes, Including County and Township Draft Lists, Muster and Descriptive Rolls, and Lists of Deserters and Conscientious Objectors {#19.59} circa 1862, 1864-1865
MG-246 Records of the First City Zouaves; Company A, 127th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; Harrisburg City Grays; and Company D, 8th Regiment, National Guard of Pennsylvania {#246m} 1862-1917
RG-19 Records of the Reserve Brigade of the First Division of the Pennsylvania Militia during the Schuylkill County Riots {#19.60} 1862
RG-19 Report on the Total Strength of the Ninety Day Militia {#19.67} 1863
RG-47 Soldiers' Burial Record Books, Dauphin County, Prothonotary {#47.92} 1902-1933
RG-19 Special Returns Relating to Enrollment {#19.81} 1861-1866, and undated
RG-19 Tables of Quotas for the Militia {#19.84} 1861
     
Postbellum Period (1865-1870)  
MG-340 Benjamin L. Forster Collection {#340m} 1835-1917, 1931, 1944, & undated
RG-19 Enlistment Records, Including "201 Files" {#19.99} 1867-1945
MG-474 John F. Hartranft-Shireman Family Papers {#474m} 1865-1899
RG-26 Military Commission Books {#26.65} 1800-1944
RG-26 Military Commission Files {#26.66} 1790-1860
MG-7 Military Manuscripts Collection {#7m} 1758-1931
MG-19 Military Organization and Commission Books {#19.111} 1866-1929
RG-2 Military Pension Accounts and Related Papers {#2.53} circa 1789-1883
RG-47 Military Roll Books of Men Enrolled in Militia, Westmoreland County, Board of County Commissioners {#47.436} 1919
RG-26 Militia Election Returns {#26.67} 1790-1863
RG-19 Militia Enrollment Books for Philadelphia City and County {#19.112} 1867-1869, 1870-1872
RG-2 Militia Enrollment Lists and Related Records for Philadelphia City and County {#2.55} 1870-1872
RG-13 Militia Law Chronological Index Cards {#13.35} circa 1791-1870
RG-13 Militia Law Index Cards by Unit {#13.34} circa 1791-1870
RG-19 Muster Rolls, Payrolls, Quarterly Returns and Related Papers {#19.119} circa 1867-1917
MG-436 National Guard of Pennsylvania, 2nd Regiment, 108th Field Artillery Records {#436m} 1847-1947
RG-19 Population Record Books of the Pennsylvania Soldiers' and Sailors' Home {#19.52} 1864-1883
MG-246 Records of the First City Zouaves; Company A, 127th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry; Harrisburg City Grays; and Company D, 8th Regiment, National Guard of Pennsylvania {#246m} 1862-1917
RG-19 Register of Applications for Federal Pensions {#19.62} circa 1864-1868
RG-2 Register of Military Claims (Submitted Under Act of April 16, 1862) {#2.58} 1863-1905
MG-124 Robert Taggart Papers {#124m} 1861-1864
MG-17 Samuel Penniman Bates Papers {#17m} 1853-1895
RG-47 Soldiers' Burial Record Books, Dauphin County, Prothonotary {#47.92} 1902-1933
MG-379 State Fencibles Collection {#379m} 1875-1885, 1891, 1898, & 1911-1981
RG-19 Veterans Card File {#19.135} circa 1867-1948
RG-47 Veterans Grave Registration Records, Cumberland County, Veterans' Affairs Office {#47.305} 1935, 1948, 1950
MG-511 William Neel Papers {#511m} 1861-1878