Southwestern Historical Quarterly
The president, as the commander-in-chief, had constitutional
authority to call on the states for militia units, an authority which
came in time to include volunteer organizations. Normally the
president operated through the department of war in making
requisitions of the states. When slow communication made it
necessary, the secretary of war could delegate to general officers
authority to call on state governments for military assistance. The
extent to which they, in turn, could redelegate the authority is
The purpose of this study is to examine the operation of the
volunteer system, not in its entirety, but as it worked in the case
of five separate Texas companies which were enrolled in the
summer of 1846 to screen the western limits of the settled area
from Castroville to the forks of the Trinity. These companies
experienced most of the difficulties inherent in the laws then
To see the story with reasonable clarity, it is necessary to look
first at an earlier time. In the summer of 1845, when General
Taylor moved the first elements of his small army of occupation
into Texas, he became responsible for the security of the republic
from both the Indian and the Mexican. Because his attention was
primarily on the more imposing threat from south of the Rio
Grande, he sought to leave the other threat to the Texans, who
had been fighting Plains Indians for as long as two decades.
In a letter to President Anson Jones, he recommended that the
companies then in existence on the frontier be continued in serv-
ice as state troops mustered into federal service.2 Within a month
General Taylor had ordered the mustering in of four companies,
stationed near Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, and Goliad,
respectively, and had taken note of three detachments of about
thirty men each, whose position made it impracticable to muster
them in at the time.8 These companies were called under the act
of February 28, 1795,' which limited the time a man could be
2Taylor to Jones, August 16, 1845, Senate Documents, 29th Cong., ist Sess. (Serial
No. 476), Document No. 337, p. 93.
8Taylor to Adjutant General of the Army, September 14, 1845, ibid., 99.
'William L. Marcy to Taylor, May 28, 1846, House Executive Documents, 29th
Cong., 2nd Sess. (Serial No. 500), Document No. 119, pp. 11-12.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 66, July 1962 - April, 1963. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101196/. Accessed May 1, 2016.