The Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York (VCASNY) is an active military command founded at the end of the American Revolutionary War for the purpose of preventing another British invasion of New York City.

At the time of the American Revolution, the British Colonies in North America did not have a regular standing army. Instead the colonies depended on an independent militia made up mostly of civilian farmers, with few weapons and controlled by the individual colony. While the Continental Congress established a regular army in June 1775, this was more of a formality rather than a reality. In 1776 George Washington wrote “I am wearied to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances, disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat”. In other words, while the success of the militia itself is debatable, both the regular army and local militia were used to win American Independence.

The official end to the American Revolutionary War did not occur until 1783 when the Treaty of Paris was signed. Until then, British troops, ships and Tories were present and active in New York City, and in fact, Britain would maintain a presence in the United States until 1815 when the War of 1812 ended.

“…Nationalists, most of them war veterans, worried that the new nation was too fragile to withstand an international war, or even internal revolts such as the Shays’ Rebellion of 1786 in Massachusetts.”

History of The Veteran Corps of Artillery State of New York

The VCASNY is the oldest military organization in New York State. It was formed in Manhattan on Evacuation Day (New York), November 25, 1790, by Veterans of Washington’s Continental Army Corps of Artillery. The founders met at the City Arms Tavern located off Broadway near Trinity Church, to establish an independent artillery company of exempts in the event of a return invasion by the British. Exempts were males beyond serving military age and thereby exempt from regular militia service. They are currently headquartered at Manhattan’s 7th Regiment Armory in the City of New York. Under federal law, they are part of the Organized Militia of the State of New York, and under state law it is an Independent Military Organization and an Historic Military Command. Private, Federal and State records indicate that there has been, and may still be, a lot of debate on this question even since the early days of the VCASNY. Some government authorities, have considered them an Organized Militia, while others still refer to them as an unorganized militia. In either case, it seems that regardless of their legal definition, the VCASNY has enjoyed fruitful relations with the United States Army, the New York Guard, New York Division of Military and Naval Affairs, and others. This appears to be especially true during the time frame of World War I, when the VCASNY volunteered for several missions, and received federal, and state backing. In the foreword to The Minute Men of ’17, Colonel George W. Burleigh of the NY Guard thanks Major General Leonard Wood United States Army “…for his foresight in giving encouragement and approval to the whole plan. His successor commanding the Department of the East, Major General J. Franklin Bell, continued this support for the Corps…”

18th and 19th Century

The VCA with Mayor Bloomberg

When the VCASNY was formed, it consisted exclusively of officers and soldiers of the American Revolutionary War. Little historical records exists to document their activities for the periods between their formation and just prior to the beginning of the War of 1812. It is know however, that the active part of the VCASNY was the Artillery Service Detachment. This section was uniformed and it participated in drills. When hostilities with Britain became eminent, they became the first independent military organization in New York State to volunteer their services for the field. At this time they entered service on June 25, 1812 until July 2, 1812, and then again from September 2, 1814 until March 2, 1815.

In 1814, and then again in 1890, the VCASNY amended their regulations to include descendants of both the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. This was most likely due to their decreasing numbers and the advanced age of its members.

The Military Society of the War of 1812 was formed 03 January 1826 by officers of the War of 1812 to press for pensions and bounty land legislation. The Military Society of the War of 1812 and the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York on 08 January 1848 merged as a sole organization. Since that time there has been a changing role between the two organizations. At present the Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York operates under the leadership of the Military Society of the War of 1812.

20th Century

Records indicate that the VCASNY volunteered as an organization for federal service on various occasions in the early part of the 20th century. As in its origin, the VCASNY at the time consisted of men that were exempt from military service due to age or some other reason; however, given the fact that the United States was at war, “The men of the Corps felt that not only their personal inclinations but the traditions of the organization demanded of them that they serve their country in some definite military capacity.”. Tradition also demanded of course that they take up the defense of New York City. Two items of concern that would affect New York City directly were civil unrest, and Submarine aircraft carriers. While the latter did not come into service in WWI, there was concern that, while these vessels could not inflict heavy damage, it would cost a morale issue in the United States. As such, the VCASNY found a mission that they were suited for; however, they would first have to solve the issue of numbers in the ranks, while also not affecting the war effort. At first recruitment was from other hereditary organizations such as the Sons of the American Revolution, but they found that this would not greatly increase their ranks. So, on February 22, 1917 the regulations of the VCASNY were once again amended to allow for the enlistment of exempts who were “…men of good moral character, not qualified for hereditary membership…”. Although there were some initial problems with the number of recruits the VCASNY would eventually raise, they were eventually supported by New York state legislature and proceeded to form a total of twelve provisional batteries commanded by Colonel John Ross Delafield. Its first official public duty came in May 1917, when they were asked to participate as Honor Guard for the French and British Commission at City Hall.

21st Century

With the attacks on the United States on 9/11, the VCASNY volunteered to assist the 88th Brigade New York Guard. The role of the VCASNY as an organization was minor, but some members assumed their roles in the military, law enforcement, emergency medical services, etc. and participated independently.

Members of the VCASNY have served in several wars and military actions involving the United States including World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, as well as Desert Storm and the present WOT conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Members have served in all of the United States military branches, and many VCA members are still serving actively in either the regular branches or the National Guard or reserves including the NY (State) Guard.

VCA Commandant in Afghanistan

As noted in its web site, the current mission of the VCASNY is to “preserve the military heritage of the State of New York and to support military activities in the State of New York upon request”. The VCASNY today serves primarily as a ceremonial unit, and during the course of its drill year, is invited to participate in numerous New York City parades, civic and patriotic events. Independently or in association with traditional veterans organizations, the VCASNY also serves as honor guard and provides firing parties for military funerals, military anniversaries and other events of military interest. Drills and practice are held in several locations such as the 7th Regiment Armory, Jamaica Armory in Jamaica, Queens, and Camp Smith. Their drill season begins in October with the Columbus Day Parade, and ends with the VCASNY “4th of July” salute to the nation. Here they render an artillery salute from its Firing Battery of 75mm pack howitzers. This practice began on On July 4, 1794, when the VCASNY fired its first Federal Artillery Salute from the Battery in New York City in celebration of U.S. Independence. Other events that they participate in during the drill year include:

  • Memorial Day
  • Independence Day
  • Columbus Day
  • Veterans Day
  • Saint Patrick’s Day
VCA Chief of Staff 2010

In addition to this, there are also several social events for VCA members and its ‘sister’ organization, The Military Society of the War of 1812. These include the VCA Annual Mess Dinner which is held on the Saturday in January nearest to January 15, and The Military Society of 1812 Annual Dinner, held on the Saturday of January nearest to January 8 to celebrate the Battle of New Orleans.

Training at Camp Smith

For further information on the Veteran Corps of Artillery, or if you would like us to participate in a historical military event, please refer to our Mission Request page.

Source: WikiPedia at Veteran Corps of Artillery of the State of New York