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Written by Jack Cerf
(3/17/2003 2:27 p.m.)
in consequence of the missive, Volunteers?, penned by Louise C
The volunteers were another species of home guard, like the militia, but ad hoc. The attraction was that they were strictly voluntary, so you got to pick your own associates.
The word is cognate to the French volontaire, from volonté, or will. In French history, Les Volontaires were the first group of enthusiasts who joined the Revolutionary Army in 1792-93, before the Republic instituted conscription. Le Depart des Volontaires is the best know of the sculpture groups on the Arc de Triomphe, and there is a Volontaires metro station somewhere in Paris.
Does anyone know if the word came into English military usage as a result of the French revolutionary wars or whether it is older?
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