(Primarily those during
the Civil War)
By CPT Sam Reinert
As of January 26, 2012
The sources for this photo history are so numerous that it would
be impossible to credit them all, so I’ll just mention the major
contributors: Mr. Andy Watson, Branch and Command Historian, US Army
Military Police Corps, Wikipedia, Mr. Roger T. Zeimet; past MP Branch
Historian, The National Archives, The Washington Times, Clyde C. Walton
of the Illinois State Historical Library, COL Virgil Ney and Mr. Wilton
P. Moore of the American Military Institute, Library of Congress, The
New York Times, Major General Ambrose E. Burnside and the 545th MP
Company Association Archives.
Since Valley Forge, there have been Provost Troops and they were usually
Cavalry units that were given this assignment as an additional duty for
a short term. The Military Police Corps was not to exist for many years
so Provost Marshals and Provost Troops were only assigned on an as
needed basis and usually only during times of war or unrest.
U.S. ARMY MILITARY POLICE CORPS REGIMENTAL HISTORICAL VIGNETTES
June 1987 Number 16
A VETERAN OF THE VETERAN RESERVE CORPS
While the Military Police Corps is a relatively young branch of
the U.S. Army Military Police type units in the Army existed as far back
as the days of the American Revolution, and have been present in
virtually all the major conflicts which this nation has fought. One such
organization was the Veteran Reserve Corps which existed during the
Civil War. Established in 1863, it consisted of officers and men deemed
unfit for full combat duty but still capable of performing limited
service. Regiments composed of ten companies were the basic units of the
Corps. Each regiment contained two battalions, with the 1st Battalion
consisting of 6 companies of men still able to bear arms and thus
capable of serving as guards, prisoner escorts, and garrison troops,
while the remaining four companies composing the 2nd Battalion contained
more severely disabled men who served as nurses, cooks, and clerks. By
December 1863 the Corps' strength was approximately 20,000 men.
At first the War Department designated the Corps as the invalid Corps.
It became the Veteran Reserve Corps in 1864 because its original
initials coincided with the letters stamped on worn out equipment
meaning "Inspected--Condemned." The
Uniform of the Corps' members also distinguished them from the rest of
the Union Army. Instead of wearing the standard issue dark blue jacket
and cap they wore a sky--blue jacket and cap.
As a rear echelon element of the Union Army the Veteran Reserve Corps
has not been the subject of extensive historical study. Little therefore
has been written about its activities, and primary source material from
its members is scarce. One such source is the memoirs of Private Alfred
Bellard of New Jersey. They offer individual insight into the workings
of the Veteran Reserve Corps. A native of England who had migrated to
the United States in the early 1850s with his parents, Bellard was 18
when the Civil War broke out. In August 1861 he enlisted for three years
in the Fifth New Jersey Infantry Regiment. He then went on to serve with
that unit in the Army of the Potomac seeing extensive action in
Virginia. He fought in the Peninsula Campaign (March - July 1862), the
Second Battle of Bull Run (August 1862), the Battle of Fredericksburg
(December 1862), and the battle of Chancellorsville (May 1863). During
the latter engagement he received a serious wound in his right leg
which, following his recuperation during the summer of 1863, led to his
transfer to the Veteran Reserve Corps.
Stationed in Washington, D.C., Bellard's duties consisted mainly
of guarding prisoners and deserters. His first assignment was to serve
as a member of a squad which escorted 15 bounty jumpers and deserters
from Washington to an Army prison located on Governor's Island near
Manhattan. He also participated in street patrols which checked the
passes of off-duty soldiers and ensured that they did not frequent
off-limits saloons and houses of ill-repute.
Bellard did see front line action one more time while he was in the
Veteran Reserve Corps. This event occurred in July 1864 and resulted
from an invasion of Maryland by a Confederate Force led by General Jubal
Early. Early's Raid, as it came to be known, was an effort to relieve
the pressure on General Robert E. Lee's army that was then under siege
by General Ulysses S. Grant at Petersburg near the Confederate capital
of Richmond. The Confederates believed that by threatening the Union
capital they would compel Grant to weaken his army by sending
reinforcements northward. This Grant did, but the effect on Lee's
situation was minimal at best.
Prior to the arrival of Grant's troops the defense of Washington was in
the hands of what few local forces were available. Since the Veteran
Reserve Corps was one of the few organized bodies of troops in the area
it was deployed to the capital city's defense lines. Bellard went with
his unit to the vicinity of Fort Stevens, the focal point of Early's
advance on the afternoon of July 12. While filling canteens with water
from a stream, Bellard fired a lone shot at the rebel lines drawing a
return shot for his efforts. Neither shot did any damage. The next day
the rebels were gone.
The hasty arrival of regular troops from Grant's army convinced Early
that his chances of successfully assaulting the Union defenses were
The following month Bellard's enlistment expired and he received
his discharge papers. He then returned to New Jersey and subsequently
married his childhood sweetheart, had one child, a daughter, and worked
successively as an engraver and a florist. Following his death in 1891
in a soldiers' home, his hand written memoirs, colorfully illustrated
with his own drawings, remained neglected until the 1960s when an
antique dealer purchased them. Little, Brown and Company then decided to
publish them and contracted with Civil War historian David Donald to
edit them. After extensive research by Donald to verify the accuracy of
Bellard's recollections, they were published in 1975 complete with
Bellard's drawings. They today stand as one of the best primary sources
on the Veteran Reserve Corps, a direct ancestor of today's Military
Police Corps Regiment.
ROGER T. ZEIMET Branch Historian
Sources: David Herbert Donald, ed.,
Gone for a Soldier: The Civil War Memoirs of Private Alfred
Bellard (Boston: Little, Brown and Company,
1975); Mark Mayo Boatner III, The Civil War
Dictionary (New York: David McKay Company, Inc., 1959); Patricia
L. Faust, ed., Historical Times Illustrated
Encyclopedia of the Civil War (New York: Harper & Row, 1986).
Or Provost Troops
As the United States Army expanded for the impending conflict of the
American Civil War, the services of policing soldiers were once again
needed. Although most units performed self-regulation and guard duties,
provosts marshal and provost guard units were considered necessary for
large-scale enforcement. Provost detail after the Revolutionary War
usually lasted for a short period of time and was always a temporary
assignment. During the Civil War these provisional details would give
way to a new permanency and formality of military police duties.
Provost Marshals and their provost guard units continued to
serve on a semi-rotational basis in some units. The Army of the Potomac
maintained an overall provost marshal, corps and divisional Provost
Marshals, and provost guard units from 1861 to 1865. The newly created
Provost Marshal Bureau would be commanded by the Provost Marshal of the
Army. This office and position existed from 1863 to 1866. The Veteran
Reserve Corps (VRC), formerly the Invalid Corps, operated from 1863
to1866 as a branch of the Provost Marshal Bureau. The VRC was an
organization composed of Union soldiers wounded in the line of duty, no
longer able to serve on the front lines but often assigned to maintain
order and guard prisoners.
“Study of an Infantry Soldier on Guard”,
by William J. Jackson, Sergeant Major
12th New York Volunteers sketched near
Fredericksburg, Virginia. January 27th, 1863
Detail, Library of Congress LC-USZC4-4998
The Need for Order…
Preparing for attack, state militia and volunteer regiments hastening to
the defense of Washington, gathering at the nation’s capital during the
summer of 1861. Occasionally minor disturbances involving volunteer
soldiers reached such proportions that the military authorities detailed
regular troops to patrol the city and arrest disorderly soldiers. In
June the regiments received their first pay, and drunken pandemonium
broke out in Washington. Some volunteers broke up bars and restaurants;
others wrecked a house of ill repute, carrying off ornaments and
Dismayed by the lack of organization and numerous thefts,
General Irvin McDowell issued General Order No.
18, on July 18, 1861. This order defined the authority of the
provost marshal for the Army of Northeast Virginia. McDowell directed
the commander of each regiment to send a commissioned officer to serve
as its regimental provost marshal, along with ten enlisted men to act as
a police force. Almost before the newly appointed regimental provosts
marshal could familiarize themselves with their new duties, Union forces
were routed at the nearby First Battle of Bull Run. The confused retreat
back to Washington further disrupted the organization of the army.
The Life of Major-General McClellan, (1864)
T.B. Peterson & Brothers
Military Police Archives
The Army of the Potomac’s new commander, Major General George B.
McClellan, took command on July 26, 1861 and immediately began
reorganizing the troops. He expanded on McDowell’s provost system by
appointing an overall provost marshal with assigned units. On July 30,
1861 Colonel Andrew Porter, commander of the 16th Infantry Regiment, was
appointed as temporary Provost Marshal of Washington. Colonel Porter
commanded of a provost guard comprised of approximately one thousand
infantry soldiers, a battery of artillery, and a squadron of cavalry.
His troops would maintain order and suppress mutinous units. Porter
initiated a curfew and required passes for certain areas of the city and
Major General McClellan listed the following as concerns for the
new provost marshal:
Suppression of marauding and depredations, brawls, and
Suppression of gambling-houses, drinking-houses or bar-rooms,
Enforcement of orders prohibiting the sale of intoxicating
liquors, whether by tradesmen or sutlers.
Conduct searches, seizures, and arrests.
Administration of sentences of general courts-martial involving
imprisonment or capital punishment.
Separate deserters from enemy prisoners of war.
Passes to citizens within the lines and for purposes of
Complaints of citizens as to the conduct of the soldiers.
Prevention of straggling on the march.
“A Sutlers tent near H.Q”, August 1862
by Arthur Lumley
Detail, Library of Congress LC-USZC4-5246
A contemporary New York Times reporter described a raid in which provost
guard soldiers enforced the curfew and curtailed liquor sales:
“Last night the Provost-Marshal made a descent upon two saloons
which had been selling liquor to soldiers. This morning each party was
fined $25. The regulations requiring the saloons to close at 9 o'clock
were very generally observed tonight.”
Eventually order was restored to Washington and the surrounding areas.
Colonel Porter was promoted to brigadier general and became the
permanent Provost Marshal for the Army of the Potomac in February of
1862. After the Battle of Antietam in September 1862, General Porter was
relieved of his duties due to illness, but returned to Washington to
serve as provost marshal of the city until 1864. Brigadier General
Marsena Randolph Patrick would then become Provost Marshal for the Army
of the Potomac until March 13, 1865, when General
Patrick was appointed provost marshal for all armies operating against
Brigadier General Andrew Porter, possibly post-war image.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B814- 3825
The Provost Marshal
Mounting guard inspection, Fort Wagner, South Carolina April
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B811- 3491
“Provosts marshal are of two kinds: The strictly Military Provost
Marshal is a Military Police officer, whose duty it is to suppress
marauding and depredations, and to prevent all kinds of disturbances; to
keep order and regulate drinking establishments and other resorts, and
prevent drunkenness, and all kinds of disorders; to enforce orders with
regard to the conduct of a camp or city, and …to make searches,
seizures, and arrests; to execute sentences of military courts,
involving imprisonment and corporal or capital punishment.
The provost marshal takes charge of all prisoners, whether
captured from the enemy, or otherwise held; he arrests stragglers and
other offenders of the command, and forwards them to their proper
regiments and companies, with the written charges against them; he has
the supervision of the passes of officers and soldiers, and signs the
passes to citizens authorized within the lines for trade or other
purposes; he investigates complaints of citizens arising from the
conduct of the troops; and may have charge of scouts and spies employed
in the command.
In the field the Provost Marshals were selected from the line
officers, and varied in rank from Lieutenants to Generals. They were
attached to brigades, divisions, corps, and armies, and often local
provosts marshal for cities, towns, and districts were appointed, and
even detachments, operating independently …had their provosts marshal
for the time being to look after stragglers, marauders, and pillagers,
and to take charge of prisoners.
The District Provost Marshals were appointed from civil
life, and are under the orders of the Provost Marshal of the State, and
receive their orders and instructions from the Provost Marshal General
in Washington. Provosts marshal are appointed for each Congressional
District, each Territory, and the District of Columbia, and deputy
marshals to assist them were authorized, who, in addition to enrolling
and drafting, were charged with the arrest and confinement of deserters,
spies, and persons resisting or interfering with the enrollment or
As defined in:
Kautz' Customs of Service for Officers of the Army (1864)
August V. Kautz
Capt. Sixth U.S. Cavalry, Brigadier and Brevet Major General
Kautz would also serve as a member of the military commission that tried
Provost Marshal General
Most notable among the Civil War Provosts Marshal were Brigadier General
James Barnet Fry, the Provost Marshal of the Army, and Brigadier General
Marsena Rudolph Patrick, Provost Marshal for the Army of the Potomac.
Brigadier General James Barnet Fry (1827-1894)
James Barnet Fry attended the United States Military Academy, graduating
in 1847, and served in the artillery during the War with Mexico. At the
beginning of the Civil War he was chief of staff to General Irvin
McDowell in the Army of the Potomac and later to General Don Carlos
Buell in the Army of the Cumberland before he was appointed Provost
Marshal General on March 17, 1863.
"Fry is the firmest and soundest man I’ve met," wrote presidential aide
John Hay in his diary. “He seems to combine great honesty of purpose
with accurate and industrious business habits and a lively and patriotic
Fry directed the newly created Provost Marshal Bureau, and was
recommended for the post of Provost Marshal General by General Ulysses
S. Grant. Much of Fry’s work concerned recruiting, conscription, and
desertions. He appointed provosts marshal for each Congressional
district, who in turn named deputy marshals for the counties. In July of
1863 Fry was faced with the difficult task of enforcing the draft in New
York City. Widespread riots erupted and numerous troops were sent in to
quell the fighting.
Washington, D.C., July 14, 1863.
Hon. E. M. STANTON,
Secretary of War.
enforcement of the draft was yesterday seriously resisted in the ninth
district of the city of New York. The mob, variously estimated in
numbers up as high as 30,000, attacked the officers of this bureau in
the performance of their duty, and destroyed the building in which the
draft had been conducted, and many of the rolls, records, and
appurtenances connected with the draft. The military and the police
force of the city on duty there were overwhelmed and dispersed.
present condition of things, I do not think the draft can be made
without additional force. I therefore recommend that four regiments of
infantry and a battery of artillery be sent immediately to New York
City, and, without intending to travel beyond the line of my duty, I
would state that I think the public interest, so far as my department is
concerned, would be greatly promoted if Major General McDowell can be
assigned to such command as will enable him to direct the military
operations necessary to enforce the draft in the State of New York and
New England. The numbers and importance in this riot are doubtless
greatly exaggerated, but I deem it sufficiently serious to justify the
suggestions herein made.
I am, sir, very respectfully, your obedient servant,
JAMES B. FRY,
Report of Col. James B. Fry. Provost-Marshal-General, U. S. Army, with
JULY 13-16, 1863.--Draft Riots in New York City, Troy, and Boston
Ruins of the Provost Marshal’s office in New York City destroyed during
The office had also served as conscription center.
Harper’s Weekly. August 1, 1863
The riots were quelled and Fry continued to oversee the conscription of
troops. Colonel Fry was promoted to Brigadier General April 21, 1864 and
later brevetted to Major General on March 13, 1865. Fry remained the
Provost Marshal of the Army until 1866, when the office and Provost
Bureau were abolished. After the Civil War, Fry continued his military
career until 1881, when he turned his talents to writing books about the
Army, including New York and the Conscription of 1863.
Brigadier General Marsena Rudolph Patrick (1811-1888)
A graduate of the United States Military Academy in 1835, Patrick served
in both the Seminole and Mexican Wars. Briefly retiring from the Army,
he became the president of the New York State Agricultural College in
1859. With the outbreak of the war, Patrick offered his services to New
York. The governor appointed him the inspector general of the state
militia. By March 1862, he was in command of a brigade in the 1st Corps.
Patrick would become the Provost Marshal for the Army of
the Potomac on October 6, 1862, and immediately began enforcing order.
Similar to current military police, Patrick also contended with troop
movement through clogged roads and narrow bridges.
Describing one incident in which he assisted in circulation
control, Patrick’s diary portrays the scene:
"Artillery, packs, ambulances …orderlies and detached
commands, with stragglers of all kinds, began to pour in as the army
approached a narrow bridge. I was at the bridge and
thereabouts…directing the movement successfully, until every wheel and
hoof had crossed the bridges.”
On June 30, 1863, as Union troops approached Gettysburg, Patrick
wrote, "I was called into town and sent for two squadrons of cavalry to
go back to Frederick and clean out that town, which was reported full of
drunken men and stragglers."
At the Battle of Gettysburg Patrick commanded
approximately 1300 troops with responsibility for protecting the Union
headquarters, as well as keeping troops on the skirmish line. General
Patrick mentioned Gettysburg in his diary writing “I had my hands full
with those that broke to the rear, but we succeeded in checking the
disorder and organized a guard of stragglers...” After the battle his
Soldiers, which were largely composed of provost guard units, would
escort prisoners to holding camps and protect supply trains from
“General Patrick’s punishment for gamblers”.
By Alfred Waud, Published in: Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1863, p. 717
The Army of the Potomac-Gamblers at the Provost Marshal's Headquarters.
Library of Congress LC-USZC4-4185
“Patrick’s provost guard brought up a large
detachment of coffee coolers, who were put in our ranks.”
The 14th Regiment of Infantry
By Colonel Thomas Anderson, 14th U.S. Infantry
Found in History of the Army of the United States. (1896)
By T.F. Rodenbough
“Coffee cooler”, Civil War slang for a straggler. The incident mentioned
occurred before the Battle of Spotsylvania, Virginia May 1864.
Patrick and his troops constantly monitored camp activities for gambling
and disorderly behavior. Burdened with paperwork from merchant’s
requests and civilian complaints, Patrick would have a rubber stamp
created with his signature to plow through the documents.
On March 13, 1865, General Patrick was appointed provost marshal
for all armies operating against Richmond. After the war Patrick
directed the central branch of the National Home for Disabled Volunteer
The Provost Marshal in the Field
Provosts in the field would be tasked with enforcing order, straggler
control, prisoner of war management, protection of citizens’ property,
preventing mutinies, investigating crimes, apprehension of deserters,
and administering punishment. In addition to their other duties,
provosts marshal in the field were utilized for the procurement,
processing, and dissemination of intelligence. Assistant Provost Marshal
for the Army of the Potomac Colonel George H. Sharpe was tasked to
create a Bureau of Military Information in 1863 to act as an
intelligence center. It was the responsibility of this bureau to provide
the Army of the Potomac with the size,
disposition, and composition of opposing Confederate forces.
As Union forces occupied Confederate states, provost’s
marshal often oversaw the management of military government within the
area to include: passage through lines, merchant requests, citizen
complaints, criminal incidents involving the military, and
determinations of loyalty.
“Provost Marshals of 3d Army Corps”, Brandy Station, Virginia
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7088
Provost Marshal's office in City Point, Virginia January 1865
Detail, Library of Congress LC-USZ62-95863
The enforcement of order sometimes required administering punishment. In
most cases the punishment included either physical labor or public
embarrassment. In some extreme cases executions were performed by the
“The Civil War in America: Guard Tent-Punishment in the Federal Camp”
The Illustrated London News, vol. 39, no. 1116, p. 467. November 9, 1861
Image featuring several punishments: On patrol with a heavy log with
ball and chain, standing on guard while balancing on a barrel, Soldiers
that were drunken and disorderly were often bound to prevent harming
themselves or others.
"Too fond of whiskey”
Illus. in: Harper's weekly, June 28, 1862 p. 412,
Library of Congress LC-USZ62-96119
“Life in camp, part 1”, by Winslow Homer
Published by L. Prang & Co., c1864.
Library of Congress LC-USZC4-11460
Passes and Paperwork
As Federal armies advanced into Southern territory, Confederate
civil government began to collapse and the maintenance of law and order
was assigned to the Union Army. In an attempt to improvise a system of
government in these areas, the Army extended the functions of the
provost marshal from policing the military to policing the occupied
districts and in effect, governing them. Army provosts issued travel
passes, and also issued trade permits to do business.
Provost marshal clerks, Army of the Potomac, Brandy Station,
Virginia March 1864
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7291
Provost Marshal Pass, Military Police Museum Collection, MPC 2695
Reverse, Provost Marshal pass,
Military Police Museum Collection, MPC 2695
Provost Guard Units
Serving under the provost marshal, whether temporary or semi-permanent,
these troops bore the brunt of fighting and enforcement of order.
Inspection of Provost Guard, headquarters, Army of the Potomac
Petersburg, Virginia February 1865
Combination Cavalry and 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Provost Guard.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817-7251
Concerning the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry Provost Guard, in the above
“It was frequently employed on reconnaissance with the cavalry, duty
always fatiguing and onerous.”
A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (1908)
By Frederick H. Dyer
8th U.S. Infantry Regiment’s Provost Guard, Army of the Potomac at
headquarters, Fairfax Courthouse, Virginia. June, 1863.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7503
Portions of the 8th U.S. Infantry Regiment would serve as provost guard
members for the majority of the Civil War.
“Company G took part in the battle of Bull Run, and then, with Company
F, was placed on duty in Washington as provost guard.
Companies A and D took part in the battle of Antietam and then
joined Companies F and G for duty as provost guard at the headquarters
of the Army of the Potomac. While Companies A and D were serving in
northern Virginia, Companies F and G had taken part in the Peninsula
Campaign as provost guard at General McClellan’s headquarters.
Company B arrived at Sharpsburg, October 3, 1862, and the five
companies,—A, B, D, F and G,—were now united for the first time since
their reorganization. The battalion accompanied the headquarters in all
the marches preceding Fredericksburg, in which battle it was engaged
December 13, 1862. Company C joined the battalion at Falmouth, Va.,
April 18, 1863, where the regiment remained during the Chancellorsville
campaign. It marched with the army to Gettysburg, but was not actually
engaged in the battle, its duties as provost guard keeping it employed
in other ways.
A few days after the battle of Gettysburg the regiment was
ordered to New York City to suppress the draft riots, and encamped in
the City Hall Park from July 17 to 30, 1863, and on the Battery from
July 30 to August 22. It remained in New York Harbor until April 23,
1864, being stationed on Governor’s Island until March 22, and after
that date at Hart’s Island. During this interval the various companies
performed much detached service… The most important of these duties was
the suppression of a mutiny on November 7, among certain N. Y. volunteer
regiments. Companies B and I put down the mutiny and brought the
ringleaders to Fort Columbus.
The regiment left Hart’s Island April 21, 1864, and proceeded to
Warrenton, Va., where it became the provost guard of the 9th Army Corps.
It took part in all the movements of that corps, its detail as provost
The 8th Regiment of Infantry
By Lieutenant Richard H. Wilson, Adjutant, 8th U.S. Infantry
Found in History of the Army of the United States. (1896)
By T.F. Rodenbough
107th U.S. Colored Infantry provost guard at Fort Corcoran in Arlington,
Courtesy of the United States Army Military History Institute
Camp of Provost Guard-114th Pennsylvania Infantry. Headquarters, Army of
Potomac, Brandy Station, April 1864
Note: Sergeant Major and also officers with sashes serving as “Officer
of the day”.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-USZ62-99346
“The officer of the day will examine the guard, see that they are
vigilant, that none are absent, and that their arms and accoutrements
are in order, that the officers and non-commissioned officers are
acquainted with their duty, and that the sentinels are properly posted,
and have received proper orders.”
The Guide to Camp and Garrison Duties (1846)
Page 50 No. 232
By Augustine Kimball
In addition to fighting on the line, the 114th Pennsylvania Infantry
Regiment, dressed in colorful “Zouave” uniforms, served as provost guard
on several occasions. They served as provost guard for the Army of the
Potomac on April 18 1864, and continue their service providing garrison
and provost duty at City Point, Virginia, from June 18, 1864, to March
“…upon the occasion of his joining the Army of the Potomac, General
Meade selected the One Hundred and Fourteenth, in recognition of its
‘discipline and soldierly bearing,’ for special guard duty at his own
After the action at Sailor's Creek, the unit was charged with escorting
to City Point the prisoners taken…”
A Compendium of the War of the Rebellion (1908)
By Frederick H. Dyer
At Gettysburg Company C of the 1st Minnesota Infantry Regiment was
detailed as the Provost Guard for the 2nd Division, Second Corps. They
provided security for 2nd Division’s headquarters and returned
stragglers to the front lines. On July 3, 1863, as Confederate Major
General George E. Pickett’s Charge neared Union forces at “the Angle”,
the provost guard was ordered forward with the rest of the 1st
Minnesota, previously held in reserve. In the ensuing fight Company C
would lose their commander but captured the colors of the Confederates’
28th Virginia Regiment.
“The battle of Gettysburg-Prisoners belonging to Gen.
Longstreet's Corps captured by
Union troops, marching to the rear under guard “,
Sketched in July 1863 by Edwin Forbes
Detail, Library of Congress LC-USZC4-2622
Veteran Reserve Corps
The Veteran Reserve Corps (VRC) was comprised of officers and enlisted
men deemed unfit for full combat duty but still capable of performing
limited service. Each of the VRC’s 24 regiments contained two
battalions, one battalion consisting of six companies of men still able
to bear arms and capable of serving as guards, prisoner escorts, and
garrison troops. The second battalion had four companies composed of
more severely disabled men who served as nurses, orderlies, cooks, and
clerks. Despite their injuries, many Soldiers still desired to serve. By
the end of the war more than 60,000 men had served in the Corps.
First established on April 28, 1863 by General Order 105, the
VRC was originally named the Invalid Corps and was similar to the
Revolutionary War organization of the same name. Although its Soldiers
continued to serve faithfully, the “Invalid Corps” name was universally
hated by the men. The Federal Army of the Civil War used “IC” to declare
worn-out gear or inedible food, in many circles it meant
“inspected—condemned”. On March 18, 1864 General Order No. 111 was
issued, renaming the Invalid Corps to the Veteran Reserve Corps. Another
point of contention was the uniform of VRC troops.
Uniforms for enlisted VRC:
“The following uniform has been adopted for the Invalid Corps: Jacket:
Of sky-blue kersey, with dark-blue trimmings cut like the jacket of the
U.S. Cavalry... Trousers: Present regulation, sky-blue. Forage cap:
General Order No. 124, issued May 15, 1863
Garrison VRC uniform
Fatigue VRC uniform with familiar dark blue Union sack coat
Officers also wore a sky blue frock coat, with dark blue velvet
collar and cuffs, similar in all other respects according to the present
pattern for officers of infantry. Shoulder straps were also to match
current patterns but with dark blue velvet. Eventually VRC officers were
allowed to wear the standard dark blue frock, and VRC enlisted wore the
dark blue sack coat, ostensibly because sky-blue uniforms soiled easily.
Later in the war some VRC soldiers would continue to wear the lighter
uniform as mark of honorable service.
Veteran Reserve Corps Soldiers frequently served as guards at
military prisons and furnished details to provosts marshal to arrest
bounty jumpers and to enforce the draft. They guarded railroads,
patrolled Washington D.C., and defended the city as Confederate
Lieutenant General Jubal Early’s forces attacked outlying forts in July
of 1864. The VRC was a branch under the Provost Marshal Bureau and was
similarly disbanded in 1866.
VRC troops guarding medical supplies Washington, D.C. March, 1865.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7811
Company A, 10th U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps, Washington, D.C. May 1865
By James Gardner
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7670
The officer (missing an arm) is wearing the dark blue frock coat and the
enlisted Soldiers are wearing light blue VRC uniforms.
Company C, 10th U.S. Veteran Reserve Corps, Washington, D.C. April 1865
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7896
These Soldiers are wearing the more common Union sack coat. Note the VRC
band in the background wearing light blue uniforms.
Veteran Reserve Corps soldiers also served in the New York City Draft
Col. Robert Nugent,
Actg. Asst. Provost. Marshal-General, New York City:
SIR: Apply to
General Wool for force, if you have not done so, to quell the riot
reported in Third avenue, provided it is serious. You had better
concentrate your Invalid Corps with other forces, and act directly
against the rioters, in conjunction with the city police.
I have telegraphed General Wool. Report condition of affairs.
James B. Fry
Lincoln’s funeral Guard
After the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln on April
14, 1865, an honor guard of four VRC officers and twenty-five VRC
enlisted Soldiers escorted the president’s body on its long journey to
Springfield, Illinois. In the spirit of the time, each of these Soldiers
received the Medal of Honor, but in 1917 the medals were rescinded since
they were inappropriately awarded outside of conflict.
Veteran’s Reserve Corps Soldiers guarding President Lincoln’s Funeral
By Samuel M. Fassett
Library of Congress LC-USZC4-1832
“The grand review of the Army, Presidential reviewing stand with guests
and guard”. Washington, D.C. May 1865.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B811-3304
VRC troops providing security for President Andrew Johnson.
President Johnson and General Grant are seated to the immediate right of
the left column.
“Reading the death warrant to Wirz on the scaffold”. November, 1865.
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B817- 7752
VRC guards on the scaffold during the execution of Captain Henry Wirz,
Confederate commander of Andersonville
Prisoners of War
The vast numbers of prisoners, both from captured enemy forces as well
as criminals within the Union Army ranks, presented new problems of
confinement and control. Previously, and in the early stages of the
Civil War, prisoners of war (POWs) were “paroled” and released if they
promised to not continue their fight, often within certain geographic
areas. This freed the capturing force from employing much needed
manpower to guard the prisoners and using resources to shelter and feed
them. As the war intensified and paroled prisoners were recaptured, in
some cases several times, the practice of release was abandoned.
Prisoner exchanges continued throughout the war, but usually involved
smaller numbers of troops. Military prisons would be established for
both Union and Confederate prisoners of war.
Confinement facilities for Confederate prisoners of war often
consisted of larger buildings, converted factories or storehouses, and
when possible, removed a great distance from frontline fighting. Veteran
Reserve Corps troops and units tasked as provost guard frequently served
as guards either at the facility or while enroute with the prisoners.
Although “Andersonville”, a Confederate prison, is the most well-known
prison of this time, conditions for prisons on both sides were largely
“Guarding the prisoners” Petersburg, Virginia June 30, 1864
Contemporary sketch by Edwin Forbes
Library of Congress LC-USZ62-14641
Brigadier General William Hoffman, Union Commissary General of Prisoners
(at right) Washington, D.C. 1865
Library of Congress LC-B817- 7288
Hoffman was assigned the unenviable task of managing prisoner of
war operations. Although he created a centralized system, the lack of
supplies and capable administrators would disrupt any consistency.
Ironically, Hoffman was one of the first POWs of the Civil War. He was
captured by Confederate forces in February of 1861 at San Antonio,
Texas. He and other members of the 8th Infantry Regiment were released
or “paroled” after taking an oath not to bear arms against the
“Roll call”, Rock Island Prison Barracks
Photograph courtesy of The Rock Island Arsenal Museum, Rock Island,
Note VRC uniformed Soldiers in front, behind them prisoners are in
formations by the barracks. The first guard force for Rock Island was
the 4th Regiment of the Veteran Reserve Corps.
Soldiers of the 108th U.S. Colored Infantry Regiment, guarding the
Private Christopher Anderson of the Rock Island Prison. Company
The 108th was detailed to serve as guards at Rock Island from
June of 1864 until May 1865.
Photographs courtesy of The Rock Island Arsenal Museum, Rock Island,
“Confederate Prisoners on the way to the rear, Captured by Gen. Sheridan
at Five Forks,” April 1865
Detail, Library of Congress LC-B811- 3198
“All prisoners captured from the enemy will be turned over to the
provost marshal of the division, who will send them, at the earliest
practical moment, with complete descriptive lists and information as to
where, when, and how they were captured, to the provost marshal
Camp and outpost duty for Infantry (1863)
By Major General Daniel Butterfield
Exterior of Camp Morton Military Prison, near Indianapolis, Indiana.
(Text visible on the gate.)
It appears that many of the guards wished to be in the photograph. Also
visible are several VRC uniforms.
Photograph courtesy of the Hargrett Library, University of Georgia
Order of Battle
Army of the Potomac
Fredericksburg order of battle
Maj. Gen. AMBROSE E. BURNSIDE
Oneida (New York) Cavalry
Capt. Daniel P. Mann.
1st U. S. Cavalry (detachment)
Capt. Marcus A. Reno
4th U.S. Cavalry, Companies A and E
Capt. James B. McIntyre
Brig. Gen. MARSENA R. PATRICK.
McClellan (Illinois) Dragoons, Company A, Capt. George W. Shears
McClellan (Illinois) Dragoons, Company B, Capt. David C. Brown
9th New York Infantry, Company G, Capt. Charles Child
93rd New York Infantry, Col. John S. Crocker
2nd U.S. Cavalry, Maj. Charles J. Whiting
8th U. S. Infantry, Capt. Royal T. Frank.
6th New York Cavalry, Company B, Capt. Hillman A. Hall
6th New York Cavalry, Company C, Capt. William L. Heermance
6-Cavalry connection ?
The need for a rapidly deployable force for law enforcement, area
security, and battlefield reconnaissance was recognized early in the
Civil War. Similar to the US Army’s organization during the
Revolutionary War and the War with Mexico, some cavalry units were once
again utilized for policing duties.
From Patrick journal:
On June 30, 1863, as the army approached Gettysburg, Patrick wrote, "I
was called into town and sent for two Squadrons of Cavalry to go back to
Frederick & clean out that town, which was reported full of drunken men
General officer escort and protection.
General officer escort and protection.
PROVOST TROOPS DURING THE SPANISH-AMERICAN WAR
It has recently been discovered that prior
to the formation of the Military Police Corps, the Provost Marshals and
many of the Provost Troops used the four leaf clover as a form of
identification. No one is certain exactly when this badge or insignia
came into use – probably during the Civil War, but we do have evidence
of its use starting in the Spanish – American War Era.
The photo above is the Tunic of MAJ Bandholtz (who later became a
Provost Marshal General during WW I)
Although he was an infantry officer, Major General Bandholtz constantly
strived to obtain authorization for a Corps of Military Police. Sadly
that did not happen until after his demise.
The photo above depicts the correct uniform for a Military Policeman or
Provost Troop in 1898 – 112 years ago and you will note that the Four
Leaf Clover is clearly displayed well before the use of a Brassard or MP
Corps branch insignia.
Mexican Punitive Expedition
The Pancho Villa Expedition (officially known in the United States as
the Mexican Punitive Expedition) was a military operation conducted by
the United States Army against the paramilitary forces of Francisco
"Pancho" Villa from 1916 to 1917. The expedition was in retaliation for
Villa's illegal incursion into the United States and attack on the
village of Columbus, Luna County, New Mexico, during the Mexican
Revolution. The United States Army Center of Military History officially
refers to the campaign as "the Mexican Expedition". The official
beginning and ending dates are March 14, 1916 and February 7, 1917.
There were a number of famous units involved with this action as seen
Regiment (Colored/Buffalo Soldiers)
Regiment (Colored/Buffalo Soldiers)
6th Field Artillery
United States Army
1st Aero Squadron
There is a noted absence of Military
Police or Provost Troops in this list. From the beginning of this action
many prisoners were taken and it was soon discovered that something had
to be done to organize a Provost unit. Since the line Cavalry units
already had Regimental Provost Sergeants, it was decided to assign each
of them a detail large enough to collect and detain these prisoners and
also to set up a Detainee Camp just outside Fort Bliss. By July of 1916,
the flow of these prisoners was so large and so frequent that it was
decided to add a full time Military Police Detachment to assist with
this problem and also to police the local towns and roads connecting
them. A Lieutenant Colonel from the 7th Infantry was assigned as the
commander of this unit (see below).
HEADQUARTERS, NEW YORK DIVISION.
McAllen, TEX., July 11, 1916.
1. A detachment of Military Police is
organized to police the towns of
Pharr, McAllen and Mission, and the roads connecting the same. The
will be organized and commanded by Lieutenant-Colonel Robert McLean,
7th Infantry, and will consist of three lieutenants of the line, one
officer, four non-commissioned officers and 15 privates of cavalry,
officers and 50 privates of infantry, three of whom shall be
provided with motor cycles.
II. Details of officers for service with the Military Police will be
recommendation of the Commanding Officer of the detachment. Detail of
enlisted men will be made on an equitable basis among organizations at
three stations of the Division, by organization commanders after
with the Detachment Commander. Enlisted men will be selected for their
physical bearing, judgment and previous experience. The personnel of the
detachment will mess with their organizations, and will be changed in
from time to time.
III. In addition to the functions prescribed for Military Police,
F. S. R, the detachment is charged with reporting violations of all camp
orders, and where the offenses warrant such action to arrest soldier
The detachment will co-operate with the civilian police authorities.
IV. Officers and enlisted men of the Military Police when actually
their duties will wear a blue brassard on the left arm, half-way between
the elbow and shoulder, bearing the letters M. P. in white.
V. In cases of emergency the Military Police may call on any troops to
assist them. All persons belonging to the military service are required
give every assistance to the Military Police in the execution of their
By COMMAND OF MAJOR GENERAL O'RYAN:
Major, Assistant Chief of Staff·
FRANKLIN W • WARD,
Major, Assistant Chief of Staff·
You will note that this order also authorized the first known use of the
Blue Brassard or Arm Band with the letters MP in white.
This is probably the LTC Robert McLean mentioned in the above order.
Whoever he is, we do know that he was the Detainee Camp Commander
This is one of the Provost Details with the Provost SGT on the right.
Some of Poncho Villa’s troops in the Detainee Camp just outside Fort
One of the Provost Guards watching the exchange between prisoners and
visitors bringing food and drink (see basket on the ground)
Local photographer taking photos of the detainees in the camp
More Federales behind the wire
Interior shot of the Camp gives you an idea of the size and scope of
Another shot of the camp interior
This photo history has been prepared by CPT Sam Reinert. Any additions,
corrections or suggestions should be sent to:
CPT MP USAR (Ret)
545th Military Police Company Association
626 1/2 South
Richmond, Indiana 47374 USA
(765) 962 4627 phone & FAX