The Veteran Volunteers is a recreated War of 1812 militia unit. It takes its inspiration from veterans of the Revolution who turned out during the years 1812-1815 to confront the redcoats once again, during the "Second War for Independence."
As early as 1803, a crusty veteran of the American army during the Revolution, Allen McLane of Delaware, had formed a volunteer militia unit in his home state called the Veteran Volunteers. To join McLane's company, volunteers had to be at least 45 years old and had to have served honorably in the American cause during the Revolution. The unit performed guard duty at Wilmington, DE, during the War of 1812, and its captain, McLane, reconnoitered British movements before the Battle of Bladensburg and the burning of Washington.
Many of the militia officers who commanded the defenses of Delaware, Maryland and Virginia during the War of 1812 were, like McLane, veterans of the Revolution, and their experience served the American cause well once again. Besides McLane, Maj-Gen. Samuel Smith, a Revolutionary War veteran, directed the successful defense of Baltimore in 1814. Another veteran, Brig-Gen. John Stricker, commanded the militia force that faced the British at the Battle of North Point, also in 1814. And veteran naval officer Commodore Joshua Barney served as a privateer captain and commander of the Cheseapeake Flotilla during the War of 1812. There were many other veteran officers who served again as well.
And Revolutionary veterans did not just serve as officers in the second war with the British. Seventy-one year old Uriah Prosser, a private soldier in the Revolution, fell in with the 5th Maryland Regiment at the Battle of North Point during the War of 1812, again as a private, and paid for his patriotism with his life. Similarly, David Poe (Edgar Allen Poe's grandfather), who had served as a quartermaster officer under the Marquis de Lafayette during the Revolution, fell in as a private with the 5th Maryland at North Point. In view of his veteran status, the men of the 5th Maryland accorded him the honorary salutation of "General" Poe. He survived the battle.
Those veterans of the Revolution who were too infirm to fight again did their part to encourage younger men to enlist, as they themselves had done more than 30 years prior, to defend America from the British. Newspaper articles urging enlistments were often signed by men who identified themselves as veterans of the Revolution, or "76 Men." One young Maryland man who enlisted for the second war recorded being inspired to do so by a speech given at the recruiting depot by a "man of 76."
Membership in today's Veteran Volunteers honors the memory of McLane's original Veteran Volunteers by limiting membership to men who have attained the age of 45 and who served with an American reenactment unit during the National Bicentennial of 1976 to 1983. The unit wears civilian clothing, as was typical of many War of 1812 militia companies. Its only concession to uniformity are ribbons around the men's hat crowns emblazoned with the numerals "76," which would have immediately identified the wearers as veterans of the Revolution to anyone who saw them during the War of 1812. The unit is armed with reproductions of the U.S. model 1795 musket and reproductions of the model 1808 accoutrements.
In addition to engaging in living history activities, exclusive of reenactments, at War of 1812 events, the modern unit specializes in holding live-fire demonstrations (when and where conditions permit) of the capabilities of military muskets and rifles of the War of 1812.