- The Ohio militia can be traced back to the initial settlement at Marietta, Ohio, in July 1788.
- Rooted in the English and early colonial tradition of citizen-soldiers providing local protection and law enforcement, these Revolutionary War veterans and their families quickly organized into local militia units.
- Reflecting the provisions of the U.S. Constitution establishing the need for "a well regulated militia being necessary for the security of a free state," the federal government passed the Militia Act of 1792 which required all able bodied men ages 18 to 45 to serve in their local militia units and provide their own weapons and equipment.
- It further authorized the Governor of each state to appoint an Adjutant General to enact the orders of the Governor and to supervise unit training and organization.
- Because the Founding Fathers' distrust of a large standing army, it strictly limited the ability of the militia to serve outside of their state borders and placed effective control with the Governor rather than the federal government.
War of 1812
- After achieving statehood in 1803, Ohio continued the law creating a body of "state troops" and each significant village or county providing its own local unit.
- With the advent of war with Great Britain in 1812, there was renewed interest in beefing up the size and effectiveness of the militia.
- The Mexican-American War in 1848 saw a renewed interest in vitalizing the militia throughout the entire country. With the regular U.S. Army at a strength of just over 13,000, it became evident that any successful military campaign against Mexico was going to require extensive militia involvement. Ohio played a significant role, raising several regiments of infantry and artillery batteries from existing militia units and volunteers. The 1st Ohio Volunteers comprised part of the army under Gen. Zachary Taylor and took part in the battlefield victories of Monterrey and Buena Vista.
The American Civil War
- Ohio played a critical part in the Union war effort and was one of the leading contributors of manpower (including a crop of gifted generals to include Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, McPherson, Griffin,). As most of the existing militia units (Ohio Volunteer Infantry/OVI) were incorporated into federalized volunteer regiments.
- At the start of the Civil War, numerous battalions were organized statewide that were for the first time titled "National Guard.”
Spanish American War
- On February 15, 1898 the U.S. battleship Maine exploded in the Havana Harbor. On April 20, 1898, Congress approved a resolution for use of military force to secure independence from Spain for Cuba and other Spanish territories.
- Although many Ohio soldiers were eager to participate in the war, only three Ohio regiments left the United States and experienced combat. The 6th and 8th Ohio Infantry were both sent to Cuba, while the 4th Ohio Infantry took part in the invasion of Puerto Rico.
Ohio Military Reserve
- The Ohio Military Reserve had its roots in the Ohio Militia, which was formed in 1803.
- Despite the existence of the National Guard, Ohio still maintained its own militia force. The Dick Act prohibited states from retaining their own militia systems. Ohio was one of the states that chose not to follow the federal mandate and to maintain such a force. A principal reason for the continuation of the Ohio Militia was the desire to protect Lake Erie. There was no Naval National Guard. With Ohio having a water boundary with Canada, Ohio leaders felt the need to maintain a naval component to its militia force. In 2006, Ohio was one of only five states with a naval force.
- Following World War II, the Ohio government established the Ohio Defense Corps, which is now known as the Ohio Military Reserve. The Ohio Defense Corps was a continuation of the Ohio Militia.
- In 1961, Ohio implemented a law that made all of Ohio's men and women between seventeen and sixty-seven years of age eligible for duty in the Ohio Military Reserve.
- Its primary purpose was to expand quickly to assist Ohioans in case of natural disasters or enemy attack.
- However, if the Ohio National Guard was either unavailable or in need of assistance, the Ohio Military Reserve stood ready to support the Guard.