Saturday, 17 January 2015

New York Militia in the War of 1812

New York Militia in the War of 1812

New York, Kentucky and Maryland were the three most heavily involved American militias in the War of 1812. And while Kentucky lost more men in the war (in part because of native massacres at French Town and Fort Meigs), New York had more troops involved and were at more battles than any other. 

The state of New York had over 159 regiments of infantry, usually a brigade was formed from around 4 regiments. There were 40 brigades of infantry. In the field a New York militia brigade was around 300 to 500 men, about the size of a battalion. Rifles were almost always made up of volunteers and were formed into battalions. There were also 10 regiments of cavalry; all volunteers who furnished their own equipment. There were also 6 battalions of guns. There were volunteer fusilier and light infantry infantry companies as well. Altogether, in theory, the State of New York's militia could field a force about the size of the entire regular army. 

New York Militia Organization

1. 159 Militia Regiments; 
*either with round hats, blue jackets and red lapels and facings or no uniform at all.
These were not volunteers but every able bodied man in New York; as much as 100 000 men. These did Attack Queenston Heights in the first big action of the war, then refused to cross border for the rest of the war. Volunteer New York units were present at many battles however. 

2. Volunteers
There were 10 regiments of cavalry, plus other independent troops. Many of these were attached to armies which invaded Canada. Each was between 100 and 150 men.
1st NY Dragoons
2nd NY Dragoons
3rd NY Hussars
4th Unknown Type
5th Unknown Type
6th Unknown Type
7th NY Dragoons
8th NY Light Dragoons
9th NY Light Dragoons
10th Unknown Type

There were several regiments of Volunteer Infantry. Many invaded Canada with the main army. These were either equipped and armed as line infantry, or had their own chosen uniforms ( which may have been the state uniform seen above). Below are volunteers from 1814.

There were several regiments of volunteer rifles. Regiments were made by combining volunteer rifle companies into one unit. A regiment might be 200 to 500 men. Many crossed into Canada or took part in the defence of New York.  The majority of these would be uniformed the same as the line rifles but with round hats. The Brooklyn Rifkes below are an average representation, but there were a lot of variations.

There were 6 battalions of volunteer artillery companies. None crossed into Canada.


  1. I own a blue with red lapels, senior officer's coatee of the War of 1812, 1st Regiment of the New York State Militia in excellent condition. I am trying to find out if it is an infantry, cavalier, or artillery officer. It has gold braid trim throughout (lapels, collar, down the back, etc), two upside down gold chevrons on each sleeve just above the cuffs, eagle buttons with "1" on a shield, a beaded star with sequins, and BLUE lining of the tails (not white) which makes me think artillery. Anyone know what outfit within the 1st Regiment this could be? It is definitely a senior officers coatee. I also have the rounded hat in very good condition in its original hat box.

  2. Hi John,
    Usually only the infantry in the New York had round hats. It is most likely from an infantry unit IMO. Could be from 1st New York Volunteers or from the 1st NY militia unit. Two chevrons suggests a corporal perhaps (at least in current uniforms). A high ranking officer usually would have a bicorn, though not always. All NY artillerymen were to have bicorn hats. Sounds like a great find!