The federal government recognized the need for a militia. It is mentioned in the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. The 2nd Amendment states "A well-regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed."
Delaware dates its militia from the early Swedish settlers of 1656 attempting to defend the territories from the Dutch.
In the 1600s the meaning of militia became "a military force raised from the civilian population of a country or region, especially to supplement a regular army in an emergency, frequently distinguished from mercenaries or professional soldiers." In other words militia members are not paid soldiers but volunteers to protect the freedom of their home and country.
Delaware is divided into three counties and the counties are again divided into hundreds. The intent of the hundreds, other than being a subdivision, is not clear. One definition of a hundred is; "A piece of land large enough to provide a hundred men to serve in time of war." This in itself could be the first Delaware militia as intended by William Penn.
The Delaware Assembly passed the militia act in 1776 that remained in effect throughout the Revolutionary War. The act provided that, except
for clergymen, judges, jailors, and indentured servants, all white males aged 18 to 50 were to enroll in militia companies. They were to report nine times a year for drill. The act could be compared to the Selective Service Act today.
Article VI of the Articles of Confederation, 1777, states, "....every State shall always keep up a well-regulated and disciplined militia sufficiently armed and accustomed, and shall provide and constantly have ready for use, in public stores, a due number of field pieces and tents, a proper quantity of arms, ammunition and camp equipage."
In late December 1774, when tensions with Great Britain were beginning to escalate, Delawareans began to push for a revival of their militia. In March 1775 the delegation formally met and formed the New Castle County, Sussex, and Kent County militia.
In December 1776, 500 men in the New Castle County militia were called up when it was learned that the Crown Forces would seize Philadelphia after General Washington's defeat in New York.
On September 3, 1777, when the British looked to advance on Philadelphia, there was a Battle that took place at Cooch's Bridge in Pencader. The New Castle County Militia under the command of Major Thomas Duff were part of the forces that took part in the action near Iron Hill. According to firsthand accounts Major Duff had his
horse shot out from under him during the engagement.
The uniform regulations for the New Castle county militia were as follows: "The field officers of the militia agreed that the upper, middle, and lower regiments should be uniformed in short light blue coats, lined white, with slash pockets, and blue slash sleeves, plain small white buttons and button holes on each side of the breast, black garters, white stockings, small round hat, without buttons on loops, bound black with a ribbon around the crown the color of the facings. The upper regiment wore cuffs and capes of white, the middle wore blue, and the lower wore green."
Through the years Delaware's need for recognition of the militia changed. The 1783 law read as follows: "Whereas a well-regulated militia is the proper and natural defense of every free state. And as the several laws enacted by the Legislature of this state for the regulation of the militia there have been found to require material alterations: in order to which it has been thought more advisable to revise the whole system, than to amend it by supplementary statutes."
In 1933, with the passage of the National Guard Mobilization Act, Congress finalized the split between the National Guard and the traditional state militias by mandating that all federally funded soldiers take a dual enlistment commission...creating
a federal reserve force.