CIVILIAN SOLDIERS IN STAFFORDSHIRE 1793 — 1823
MICHAEL R HALES
Sheffield Hallam University, 1995
The thesis is concerned with civilian soldier movements raised in Staffordshire between 1793 and 1823: - the militias, the volunteer infantry movements and the yeomanry cavalry. In order to assess standards of performance in the various movements, it has been necessary to draw comparisons with similar forces throughout the country, but more especially those in the Inland Area. In Staffordshire there were three, separate, volunteer infantry movements. The Staffordshire Yeomanry did not disband, as did many cavalry units in 1802 and again in 1815, but its nature changed, so in effect, there were three movements. There were three militias - the regular, supplementary and local militias. The work has concentrated on the procedures for raising, enrolling and financing all the movements. It has considered their service, behaviour, efficiency and their military contribution to the war effort. It has examined the use of corps as posse comitatus and the impact they made on their neighbourhoods or, in the case of the militias, their stations.
The period 1793 to 1816 covered the service of the militias and the voluntary movements during the war years. The post-war period, 1815 to 1823, has been concerned with the service of the yeomanry corps and their aid to the civil power, and the voluntary infantry raised between 1819 and 1823. Throughout the work, the relationship between the three movements has been studied, as has their relationship with the army. The work has considered the reasons given by government for raising, maintaining and financing such large civilian forces, and how happy the administrations were with so many armed civilians, in war-time, when there was a great fear of Radical activity. It has examined the bureaucracies given the task of administering and controlling the movements and the role played by Whitehall. It has sought to discover what part the civilian movements were expected to play in the event of a French invasion.
From 1793 to 1807, considerable legislation was enacted to raise the forces, to alter their status, to give government powers to direct men into voluntary movements, and to rationalise such matters as pay, training and service, so the question of national rather than local movements has been discussed. In the light of increased government involvement in the infantry and yeomanry, the voluntary nature of the two forces has been questioned.
The militia and the army were generally detested and feared. In the light of this, the thesis has sought to discover why considerable numbers of civilians were willing to join voluntary military movements, who they were, and how far they were prepared to accept military discipline and the increased demands made upon them, and their localities, by government as the wars progressed. The great civilian mobilisation, in the form it took, was unique. No modern work exists in Staffordshire, or possibly elsewhere, which has undertaken a thorough, comparative study of all three local military associations during the European and Napoleonic Wars and the post-war period to 1823. The work therefore adds to the existing knowledge of civilian movements. It advances the argument that they were social rather than military movements; it defines a continuous link between the early associations, those of mid-Victorian Britain and the Local Defence Volunteers of 1940.