Texas Military Forces Historical Sketch

1898 to 1916

Passage of the Dick Bill and a corresponding state militia law, maneuvers at Manassas, Virginia, and participation of Texas teams in the national rifle matches were some of the high spots of the Texas Guard during the period following the turn of the century and before the Mexican Border service.

Another indication of the willingness of Texans to fight was evidenced when a great number of the officers of the Texas Volunteer Guard volunteered with their companies for service in China when it seemed probable that a call for volunteers would be made by the President. Colonel J. A. Styron, commanding the Fourth Infantry, volunteered his entire regiment.

The value of the Texas Guard was also emphasized in another incident, which proved it to be valuable in peace time as well as in wartime. In September, 1900, a destructive storm struck Galveston and wreaked damage to property and injuries and death to human beings. It was the Texas Guard that rushed to the service of the people, that helped to maintain order, to aid the injured and to render one of its greatest peace-time services.

By the end of 1902, the organization of the Texas Volunteer Guard constituted one division, subdivided as follows: One signal corps of two companies, one squadron of cavalry of three troops, one battalion of artillery of four batteries, and four (white) infantry of 12 companies each, divided into two brigades of two regiments each, and one battalion of colored infantry of four companies. There were 3,000 officers and men. The act of the 26th legislature had changed the regimental formation to 12 companies in three battalions instead of eight companies in two battalions.

Three of the units owned their armories: Company A (Houston Light Guard), First Infantry, Houston, $50,000; Company H (Jeff Davis Rifles), Second Infantry, Jasper, $1,200, and Battery A, First Artillery, Dallas, $8,000.

The 27th legislature appropriated $5,000 for the Volunteer Guard for a camp of instruction and for all other military expenses, for the six months ending August 31, 1901. With this aid a Division Camp of Instruction was held at Austin, July 19-27, 1901. Another Division Camp of Instruction was also held in 1902, while the battalion of colored infantry held a Camp of Instruction at Houston, August 7-14, 1902. An encampment was held at Sherman, Texas, in honor of General Luther R. Hare for his gallant service in the Philippines. Sherman was his home town.

The most important change in the status of military forces in Texas came with the passage of the Dick Bill, which became law on January 21, 1903. The main object of this national militia law was to place the militia of the several states and territories on the same footing, and at the same time induce each state and territory to build up and perfect an organized militia, in order that the Federal government would have at its disposal, ready for immediate service, an effective force, well organized, equipped and disciplined, to be used in the common defense of the nation and which would forever do away with the necessity for an increase in the standing army.

Following the passage of the Dick Bill, the 28th legislature passed a state militia law, which became operative on July 1, 1903. By the provisions of the law, the Governor was authorized and required to prescribe and promulgate rules and regulations for the government of the Texas National Guard, which were not to be inconsistent with the laws of the State or of the United States, such rules and regulations to conform as near as practicable to the United States Army regulations. Again, this law provided that "the Articles of War and the Army Regulations of the United States, in so far as the same may be applicable, and not inconsistent with the constitution and laws of this State, shall constitute the rules for the government of the Texas National Guard, with such modifications and changes as the commander - in - chief may direct."

During this period, 11 new organizations were mustered in and 13 were mustered out, leaving the Guard with a strength of 3,254 officers and enlisted men.

The Adjutant General reported that during the years 1903-04 considerable difficulty had been found in maintaining the proper discipline in the Guard, but, in general, considering the extreme difficulties confronting the authorities, on account of the inefficiency of the laws providing for the punishment of military offenders, and the lack of experience of the officers and men, the discipline throughout the two years had been fairly good.

Another important change in the Texas National Guard was effected through the passage of the Texas Militia Act of 1905, which provided for the militia to be divided into two classes: the active and reserve militia. The reserve militia was to be composed of all able-bodied male citizens of the State between the ages of 18 and 45 years, except those specially exempted by the act, while the active militia, which was designated the Texas National Guard, was to be composed of the existing military organizations and such others as may thereafter be organized.

The morale of the militia during this period was at a low ebb, though, and many balked at reenlisting under the new law (under which it was necessary to reappoint and reenlist all officers and men). Thirteen new companies were mustered in and 15 mustered out.

The colored battalion, which had been a part of the Guard for several years, was mustered out on account of the inadvisability of having both white and colored troops in such a small organization as the State maintained. These colored companies had made an exceptionally good show at drills and parades and cared for their arms and equipment as well as the average white company. The officers of these companies, however, were not equal to the position held by them. They were too fond of the "show" feature and spent much of their time in wrangling and dissension.

With general improvements at Camp Mabry and the establishment of a rifle range with all distances up to 600 yards, Texas sent a rifle team to the national rifle matches at Seagirt, New Jersey, in 1905 and 1906. A brigade of two provisional regiments from Texas also took part in the maneuvers of United States troops and militia at Manassas, Virginia, September 5 to 12, 1904. Selection of company organizations to compose these two regiments was made by taking the companies at that time found to be in the best condition and recruiting them to a strength suitable for the occasion.

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