The history of Kentucky Guard Day

By John Trowbridge, Kentucky National Guard

Members of the 2nd Kentucky Militia, a War of 1812 re-enactment group, march during a bicentennial commemoration event in Frankfort, Ky., June 22, 2012. The National Guard evolved from state militias, which Kentucky’s was created June 20, 1792. (Kentucky National Guard photo by Sgt. Scott Raymond)

The need for an effective military establishment in frontier Kentucky, then a part of Virginia, was first voiced in the commonwealth’s first constitution.  In 1792, Kentuckians living on the American frontier faced attacks from Native American tribes and the framers of the state’s constitution, many of whom were veterans of the American Revolutionary War, realized the necessity of having an effective militia organization to protect the inhabitants of the new state.

A Constitution, or Form of Government, For the State of Kentucky,

done in Convention at Danville, April 19, 1792.

Article II, section 7, stated that the Governor “shall be Commander-in-Chief of the army and navy of this Commonwealth, and of the militia, except when they shall be called into the service of the United States.”

Article VI,  

Section 2.  The free men of this Commonwealth shall be armed and disciplined for its defense.  Those who conscientiously scruple to bear arms shall not be compelled to do so, but shall pay an equivalent for personal service.

Section 3.  The field and staff officers of the militia shall be appointed by the Governor, except the battalion staff officers, who shall be appointed by the field officers of each battalion respectively.

Section 4.  The officers of companies shall be chosen by the persons enrolled in the list of each company, and the whole shall be commissioned during good behavior, and during their residence in the bounds of the battalion or company to which they shall be appointed.

On the first day of June 1792, the Commonwealth of Kentucky became the 15th State in the Union.  On June 20th, Gov. Isaac Shelby approved and signed Enrolled Bill entitled, “An Act to arrange the Militia of this State into Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Battalions and Companies, and for other purposes.”  Four days later he established and organized the structure of the organization.

“An Act to Arrange the Militia of this State into Divisions, Brigades, Regiments, Battalions and Companies, and for other purposes.”

Be it enacted by the General Assembly that this State shall be divided into two Divisions, viz, all that part lying South of the Kentucky River to compose the first Division; and the residue of the State lying North of the said River to compose the second Division; and the said Divisions shall be divided into Brigades as follows, the Counties of Jefferson, Shelby, Nelson, Washington and Logan to compose the first Brigade; the counties of Lincoln, Madison, and Mercer to compose the second Brigade; the counties of Fayette and Woodford to compose the third Brigade and the counties of Scott, Bourbon and Mason to compose the fourth Brigade; which Divisions and Brigades shall be officered agreeable to the above recited Act: and shall be divided into Regiments as follows: the Counties of Jefferson and Shelby to form the first Regiment, a Battalion in each County; that part of the County of Nelson lying Northwest of the Beech Fork including Bards Town as far up as the Washington line to form the second Regiment; the residue or the said County including Logan County to form the third Regiment, a Battalion in each County; the County of Washington to form the fourth Regiment; the County of Mercer the fifth; the County of Lincoln the sixth; the County of Madison the seventh; the County of Fayette to be divided into three Regiments; all that part of the County lying between the roads leaving from Lexington to Limestone and Tates Creek to form the eighth Regiment; all lying between the said Tates Creek road and the road leading to General Scott’s, including the Town of Lexington to form the ninth Regiment; and the residue of the said County to form the tenth Regiment; the County of Woodford to form the eleventh Regiment; the County of Scott to form the twelfth Regiment; all that part of the County of Bourbon lying between the road leading from Lexington to Paris and from thence, to the Blue Licks to compose the thirteenth Regiment, the residue of said County lying above said roads and including the Town of Paris to form the fourteenth Regiment; and the County of Mason to form the fifteenth Regiment.

And each Regiment shall be divided into Battalions and the Battalions into Companies, and the bounds of each Battalion and Company shall be ascertained by the Field Officers of each Regiment.

And as is directed by the Constitution, the officers of Companies shall be chosen by the Persons enrolled in each Company.

Be it enacted that the Militia Companies within the several Counties in the State shall on the twenty-first day of July next meet at some convenient place in the bounds of their respective Companies, and by ballot choose a Captain, Lieutenant and Ensign, balloting for the Captain first, and so on in order until the whole are elected, and if there are more candidates than one for any office, and neither have a majority of votes on the first ballot, the two highest in the vote shall be again balloted for, and if each should have an equal number of votes, they shall continue to ballot for the same until one is elected.

The Commanding Officer of each Battalion shall appoint some fit person in each Company to superintend the election for officers who shall without delay transmit to such Commanding Officer the names of the persons elected and the number of votes that each person so elected shall have, who shall immediately transmit the same to the Colonel, who shall without delay send the same to the Governor; and if anyone of the Candidates or any other person supposes that the person returned is not duly elected or that any undue influence hath been made use of to gain his or their election, such Candidate or other person or persons, shall immediately at the close of the election or within three days thereafter give notice thereof to the Superintendent or to the Commanding Officer who shall cause the same to be enquired into and if it shall appear to such Commanding officer, that the person or persons complained of is not fairly elected, he shall order another election and the name of the person or persons so elected shall be transmitted as aforesaid.

And the Officers commanding Battalions shall as soon as possible after the bounds of each Battalion is ascertained appoint an Adjutant to the respective Battalions.

This Act became effective immediately, and under it, on June 24 and 25, 1792, Gov. Shelby appointed the staff officers, and over the following month the regimental commanders were appointed.

1st Division (South):  Benjamin Logan, Major General, June 25, 1792.

1st Brigade (Jefferson, Shelby, Nelson, Washington and Logan): John Hardin, Brigadier General, June 25, 1792.

1st Regiment (Jefferson and Shelby): John Thruston, Lieutenant Colonel, July 5, 1792.

2nd Regiment (Nelson): Jasper Lewis, Lieutenant Colonel, July 9, 1792.

3rd Regiment (Nelson and Logan): Patrick Brown, Lieutenant Colonel, July 6, 1792.

4th Regiment (Washington): John Caldwell, Lieutenant Colonel, July 1, 1792.

2nd Brigade (Lincoln, Madison and Mercer): Thomas Kennedy, Brigadier General

5th Regiment (Mercer): Thomas Barbee, Lieutenant Colonel, June 29, 1792.

6th Regiment (Lincoln): Thomas Todd, Lieutenant Colonel, July 7, 1792.

7th Regiment (Madison): John Miller, Lieutenant Colonel, June 30, 1792.

 

2nd Division (North):  Charles Scott, Major General, June 25, 1792.

3rd Brigade (Fayette and Woodford):  Robert Todd, Brigadier General, June 24, 1792.

8th Regiment (Fayette): Levi Todd, Lieutenant Colonel, June 26, 1792.

9th Regiment (Fayette): James Trotter, Lieutenant Colonel, June 28, 1792.

10th Regiment (Fayette): William Russell, Lieutenant Colonel, July 3, 1792.

11th Regiment (Woodford): William Steel, Lieutenant Colonel, July 3, 1792.

4th Brigade (Scott, Bourbon and Mason):  Benjamin Harrison, Brigadier General, June 24, 1792.

12th Regiment (Scott): Robert Johnson, Lieutenant Colonel, June 27, 1792.

13th Regiment (Bourbon): Thomas Jones, Lieutenant Colonel, July 10, 1792.

14th Regiment (Bourbon): Horatio Hall, Lieutenant Colonel, July 8, 1792.

15th Regiment (Mason): Henry Lee, Lieutenant Colonel, July 4, 1792.

 

Since the establishment of the Kentucky Militia, there have been many laws and legislative changes over the years concerning the State Militia and eventually the Kentucky National Guard.  On March 29, 2000, an Act of the Kentucky Legislature was approved establishing each June 24 as Kentucky National Guard Day in the Commonwealth.

CHAPTER 242 (HB 780)

AN ACT relating to designation of Kentucky National Guard Day.

WHEREAS, the members of the Kentucky National Guard have unhesitatingly answered the call to serve in conflicts such as the War of 1812, the Mexican War, in both the Union and Confederate armies in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, the Mexican border wars, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, the Persian Gulf, Somalia, Rwanda, and Bosnia-Herzegovina; and

WHEREAS, the Kentucky National Guard continues to train and maintain readiness for war, as well as answering the call of the people of the Commonwealth by responding to disasters as a result of tornadoes, snow storms, and floods; and WHEREAS, the Kentucky National Guard keeps peace during times of civil conflict, assisting the state’s law enforcement agencies engaged in the war on drugs; and

WHEREAS, on June 24, 1792, the Militia Act was signed into law by Governor Isaac Shelby, which recognized the formation of a Kentucky Militia;

NOW, THEREFORE,

Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the Commonwealth of Kentucky:

SECTION 1. A NEW SECTION OF KRS CHAPTER 2 IS CREATED TO READ AS FOLLOWS:

The twenty-fourth day of June of each year is designated as Kentucky National Guard Day in the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

Approved March 29, 2000