The Veteran Reserve Corps
(originally The Invalid Corps)
The Invalid Corps, which was the forerunner of the Veteran Reserve Corps, was organized under authority of General Order No. 105, War Department, dated 28 Apr 1863. A similar corps had existed in Revolutionary times.
The Invalid Corps of the Civil War period was created to make suitable use in a military or semi-military capacity of soldiers who had been rendered unfit for active field service on account of wounds or disease contracted in line of duty, but who were still fit for garrison or other light duty, and were, in the opinion of their commanding officers, meritorious and deserving.
Those serving in the Invalid Corps were divided into two classes; Class 1, partially disable soldiers whose periods of service had not yet expired, and who were transferred directly to the Corps there to complete their terms of enlistment; Class 2, soldiers who had been discharged from the service on account of wounds, disease, or other disabilities, but who were yet able to perform light military duty and desired to do so. As the war went on, it proved that the additions to the Corps hardly equalled the losses by discharge or otherwise, so it was finally ordered that the men who had had two years of honorable service in the Army or Marine Corps might enlist in the Invalid Corps without regard to disability.
The soldiers shown in the rosters of the 15th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry where they originally enlisted and who then transferred to the V. R. C. belong to Class 1. The Title Veteran Reserve Corps was substituted for that of Invalid Corps by General Order No. 111, dated 18 Mar 1864.
The men serving in the Veteran Reserve Corps were organized into two battalions, the First Battalion including those whose disabilities were comparatively slight and who were still able to handle a musket and do some marching, also to perform guard or provost duty. The Second Battalion was made up of men whose disabilities were more serious, who had perhaps lost limbs or suffered some other grave injury. These latter were commonly employed as cooks, orderlies, nurses, or guards in public buildings. There were from first to last from two to three times as many men in the First Battalion as in the Second, and the soldiers in the First Battalion performed a wide variety of duties. They furnished guards for the Confederate prison camps at Johnsons Island, OH, Elmira, NY, Point Lookout, MD, and elsewhere. They furnished details to the provost marshals to arrest bounty jumpers and to enforce the draft. They escorted substitutes, recruits, and prisoners to and from the front. They guarded railroads, did patrol duty in Washington DC, and even manned the defenses of the city during Earlys raid in July, 1864.
There were first and last twenty-four regiments in the Corps. In the beginning each regiment was made up of six companies of the First Battalion and four of the Second Battalion, but in the latter part of the war, this method of organization was not strictly adhered to. The 18th Regiment, for example, which rendered exceptionally good service at Belle Plain, Port Royal, and White House Landing, VA, in the spring and early summer of 1864, and in or near Washington DC in the latter part of the summer and through the fall of that year, was made up of only six Second Battalion companies.
Further information on the Veteran Reserve Corps may be found in Volume V, Series III, of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, pages 543 to 568.
Massachusetts Soldiers, Sailors, and Marines in the Civil War, Compiled and published by The Adjutant General in accordance with Chapter 475, Acts of 1899 and Chapter 64, Resolves of 1930, Vol. VII, Norwood Press, Printed at the Norwood Press, 1931,.