ACWS Archives - Veteran Reserve Corps
VETERAN RESERVE CORPS (V.R.C)
On a number of occasions during last year and at the start of this year's campaigning season I have been challenged whilst in uniform by Federal Sentries, which I hasten to state I have no problem with as that is what they are there for. However, it made me wonder, do my comrades in arms recognise a Veteran Reservist? I know we few in numbers and fewer since the sad passing of Ashley Eltringham. At Hoghton Tower a Federal Cpl. Asked me to which regiment did I belong and was very interested to hear of the V.R.C. This made me think that others may wish to know a bit about the Corps. So I have taken this information from Philip Katcher's ,i>The American Civil War Source book.
On the 7th April 1862, the Federal War Department authorised the employment of convalescents as nurses, hospital attendants and cooks. Later on the 20th March 1863, General Order No 69 called for the organisation of patients unfit for field duties into detachments to serve as guards, clerks, nurses and cooks. On the 28th April 1863 General Order No 105 created the Invalid Corps. Staffed at company level by convalescents and volunteers from those discharged because wounds or sickness after honourable service. Command of what later became the Veteran Reserve Corps bureau fell to a Colonel appointed by the Provost Marshall General who held overall command responsibility for the Bureau.
Companies were in one of three battalions. The first Battalion were able to bear a musket and do garrison and other active duties. They were fully armed and equipped albeit not with first class arms. The 6th Regiment skirmished with Jubal Early's Confederates outside Washington using smooth bore muskets against rifled muskets. The Second battalion was formed by amputees or those weakened by illness and were armed with pistols and non-commissioned officers swords. There was in fact never a Third Battalion , those unfit for the First ended up in the Second. Command of the Second Division passed to the Surgeon General on 27th December 1864. On the 18th March 1864 General Order No 111 changed the Invalid Corps to the Veteran Reserve Corps. After that month the only troops in Washington were those of the Corps. Previously in May 1863 General Order no 124 stated that men in the V.R.C. would wear sky blue trousers and dark blue forage caps distinguished in some regiments by the enlisted infantryman's cap insignia. Their jackets were also sky blue kersey with a standing collar and epaulets trimmed in dark blue as were the cuffs. According to a member of the 6th Regiment V.R.C. "When out on a pass we must have our jackets buttoned to the chin, waist belts on and wear white gloves." By November 1863 there were 24 Reserve Corps Regiments carrying out garrison, prison and guard duty and hunting deserters. There were at this time 27,974 enlisted men in 236 1st Battalion Companies and 159 in 2nd Battalion Companies. Their worth in the field can be seen in the action 20th June 1864, when the 18th Regiment V.R.C. Successfully defended the post White Horse, Virginia against Hampton's Raiders. Twice during the engagement an aide enquired of Colonel Johnson, V.R.C. "Will your invalids stand?" "Tell the General" was the answer "that my men are cripples and they can't run."
The last Union enlisted volunteer, Private William Sadler. Co B 9th V.R.C. Regiment mustered out of service on the 4th October 1868.
Article supplied by by Michael Wilson, Private V.R.C., 19th Indiana Volunteers
The above article first appeared in the ACWS Newsletter, August 2003