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Encyclopedia > Irregular military
Irregular soldiers in Beauharnois, Quebec, 19th century.
Irregular soldiers in Beauharnois, Quebec, 19th century.

Irregular military refers to any non-standard military. Being defined by exclusion, there is a lot of variance in what comes under the term. It can refer to the type of military organization, or to the type of tactics used. Download high resolution version (450x639, 48 KB)The Insurgents, at Beauharnois, Lower Canada (Québec), Katherine Jane Ellice, 1838. ... Download high resolution version (450x639, 48 KB)The Insurgents, at Beauharnois, Lower Canada (Québec), Katherine Jane Ellice, 1838. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...

An irregular military organization is a military organization which is not part of the regular army organization of a party to a military conflict. Without standard military unit organization, various more general names are used; such organizations may also be called a "troop", "group", "unit", "column", "band", or "force". This article or section is in need of attention from an expert on the subject. ...

Irregulars are soldiers or warriors that are members of these organizations, or are members of special military units that employ irregular military tactics. This also applies to irregular troops, irregular infantry and irregular cavalry.

Irregular warfare is warfare employing the tactics commonly used by irregular military organizations. This involves avoiding large-scale combats, and focusing on small, stealthy, hit and run engagements.


Other names for irregular military formations

The term "irregular military" describes the "how" and "what", but it's more common to focus on the "why". Bypassing the legitimate military and taking up arms is an extreme measure. The motivation for doing so is often used as the basis of the primary label for any irregular military. Different terms come in and out of fashion, based on political and emotional associations that develop. Here is a list of such terms, organized more-or-less oldest to latest. Politics is the process by which decisions are made within groups. ...

  • Revolutionary -- someone part of a revolution, whether military or not
  • Partisan -- In the 20th century, someone part of a resistance movement. In the 18th and 19th century, a local conventional military force using irregular tactics.
  • Paramilitary -- non-regular military with a claim to official status
  • Guerrilla -- someone who uses low-level irregular military tactics (term coined during the Peninsula War in Spain against Napoleon)
  • Freedom fighter -- irregular military motivated by higher goals -- very subjective
  • Terrorist -- irregular military who target civilians; this term is almost always used pejoratively, and is, like the term freedom fighter, very subjective.
  • Insurgent -- an alternate term for many of the above.

Intense debates can build up over which of these terms to use when referring to a specific group. Using one term over another can imply either strong support or opposition for the cause being fought over. Revolutionary, when used as a noun, is a person who either advocates or actively engages in some kind of revolution. ... The storming of the Bastille, 14 July 1789 during the French Revolution. ... Look up partisan in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... A resistance movement is a group or collection of individual groups, dedicated to fighting an invader in an occupied country through either the use of physical force, or nonviolence. ... A paramilitary organization is a group of civilians trained and organized in a military fashion. ... Look up guerrilla in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ... The Peninsular War (1808-1814) was a major conflict during the Napoleonic Wars. ... Freedom fighter is a relativistic local term for those engaged in rebellion against an established organization that is thought to be oppressive. ... Terrorist redirects here. ... An insurgency is an armed rebellion against a constituted authority, by any irregular armed force that rises up against an enforced or established authority, government, or administration. ...

It is possible for a military to cross the line between regular and irregular. Isolated regular army units forced to operate without regular support for long periods of time can degrade into irregulars. As an irregular military becomes more successful, they may transition away from irregular, even to the point of becoming the new regular army if they win.

Regular military units which use irregular military tactics

Although they are part of a regular army, Special forces are trained in and implement irregular military tactics. See List of special forces units. This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Unconventional warfare (UW) is the opposite of conventional warfare. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ...


While the morale, training and equipment of the individual irregular soldier can vary from very poor to excellent, irregulars are usually lacking the higher-level organizational training and equipment that is part of regular army. This usually makes irregulars poor at what regular armies focus on — main-line combat. Other things being equal, major battles between regulars and irregulars heavily favor the regulars.

However, irregulars can excel at many other combat duties besides main-line combat, such as scouting, skirmishing, harassing, pursuing, rear-guard actions, cutting supply, sabotage, raids, ambushes and underground resistance. Experienced irregulars often surpass the regular army in these functions. By avoiding formal battles, irregulars have sometimes harassed high quality armies to destruction. Mixed reconnaissance patrol of the Polish Home Army and the Soviet Red Army during Operation Tempest, 1944 Reconnaissance is the military term for the active gathering of information about an enemy, or other conditions, by physical observation. ... See also the town of Battle, East Sussex, England Generally, a battle is an instance of combat between two or more parties wherein each group will seek to defeat the others. ... Hit-and-run tactics is a tactical doctrine where the purpose of the combat involved is not to seize control of territory, but to inflict damage on a target and immediately exit the area to avoid the enemys defense and/or retaliation. ... German supply train blown up by the Armia Krajowa during World War II Sabotage is a deliberate action aimed at weakening an enemy, oppressor or employer through subversion, obstruction, disruption, and/or destruction. ... An ambush is a long established military tactic in which an ambushing force uses concealment to attack an enemy that passes its position. ... Underground Resistance (commonly abbreviated to UR) are a musical collective from Detroit, Michigan, in the United States of America. ...

The total effect of irregulars is often underestimated. Since the military actions of irregulars are often small and unofficial, they are underreported or even overlooked. Even when engaged by regular armies, some military histories exclude all irregulars when counting friendly troops, but include irregulars in the count of enemy troops, making the odds seem much worse than they were. This may be accidental; counts of friendly troops often came from official regular army rolls that exclude unofficial forces, while enemy strength often came from visual estimates, where the distinction between regular and irregular were lost. If irregular forces overwhelm regulars, records of the defeat are often lost in the resulting chaos.

Use of large irregular forces featured heavily in wars such as the American Revolution, the Franco-Prussian War, the Russian Civil War, the Second Boer War, Vietnam War, and especially the Eastern Front of World War II where hundreds of thousands of partisans fought on both sides. John Trumbulls Declaration of Independence, showing the five-man committee in charge of drafting the Declaration in 1776 as it presents its work to the Second Continental Congress The American Revolution refers to the period during the last half of the 18th century in which the Thirteen Colonies that... Combatants Second French Empire North German Confederation allied with south German states (later German Empire) Commanders Napoleon III # Otto Von Bismarck Helmuth von Moltke the Elder Strength 400,000[] 1,200,000[] Casualties 150,000 dead or wounded 284,000 captured 350,000 civilian [] 70,000 dead or wounded 200... Combatants Red Army (Bolsheviks) White Army (Monarchists, SRs, Anti-Communists) Green Army (Peasants and Nationalists) Black Army (Anarchists) Commanders Leon Trotsky Mikhail Tukhachevsky Semyon Budyonny Lavr Kornilov, Alexander Kolchak, Anton Denikin, Pyotr Wrangel Alexander Antonov, Nikifor Grigoriev Nestor Makhno Strength 5,427,273 (peak) +1,000,000 Casualties 939,755... Combatants United Kingdom Australia New Zealand Canada Cape Colony Orange Free State South African Republic Commanders Redvers Buller Frederick Roberts Herbert Kitchener Paul Kruger Martinus Steyn Louis Botha Christiaan de Wet Casualties 22,000 6,500 Civilians killed [mainly Boers]: 24,000+ The Second Boer War, commonly referred to as... Combatants Republic of Vietnam United States Republic of Korea Thailand Australia New Zealand The Philippines National Front for the Liberation of South Vietnam Democratic Republic of Vietnam People’s Republic of China Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea Strength US 1,000,000 South Korea 300,000 Australia 48,000... Combatants Soviet Union1 Poland (from January 1945) Germany1 Italy (to 1943) Romania (to 1944) Finland (to 1944) Hungary Slovakia Commanders Aleksei Antonov Azi Aslanov Ivan Konev Rodion Malinovsky Ivan Bagramyan Kirill Meretskov Ivan Petrov Alexander Rodimtsev Konstantin Rokossovsky Pavel Rotmistrov Semyon Timoshenko Fyodor Tolbukhin Aleksandr Vasilevsky Nikolai Vatutin Kliment Voroshilov... Combatants Allied powers: China France Great Britain Soviet Union United States and others Axis powers: Germany Italy Japan and others Commanders Chiang Kai-shek Charles de Gaulle Winston Churchill Joseph Stalin Franklin Roosevelt Adolf Hitler Benito Mussolini Hideki Tōjō Casualties Military dead: 17,000,000 Civilian dead: 33,000... Look up partisan in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

The ongoing conflicts of post-invasion Iraq, the renewed Taliban insurgency in the 2001 war in Afghanistan, the Darfur conflict, the rebellion in the North of Uganda by the Lord's Resistance Army, and the Second Chechen War are fought almost entirely by irregular forces on one or both sides. Occupation zones in Iraq as of September 2003 The post-invasion period in Iraq followed the 2003 invasion of Iraq by a multinational coalition led by the United States, which overthrew the Baath Party government of Saddam Hussein. ... This article or section does not cite its references or sources. ... Combatants factions of the SLA Justice & Equality Movement Janjaweed  Sudan Minnawi-faction of the SLA Commanders SLA: SalaBob and Sulaiman Gamos JEM: Ibrahim Khalil Janjaweed: ? Sudan: Omar al-Bashir SLA: Minni Minnawi Casualties 300,000 civilians killed (est. ... Combatants Uganda Peoples Defence Force Lords Resistance Army Commanders Yoweri Museveni Joseph Kony The Lords Resistance Army (LRA),[1] formed in 1987, is a terrorist paramilitary group operating mainly in northern Uganda and parts of Sudan. ... Combatants Russian Federation Chechen Republic of Ichkeria Strength At least 93,000 in 1999 10,000 to 20,000 in 1999 (mostly militias) Casualties Unknown, at least 4,600 killed by October 2002[1] Hundreds of civilians. ...

Historical reliance on irregulars

By definition, "irregular" is understood in contrast to "regular armies," which grew slowly from personal bodyguards or elite militia. In Ancient warfare, most civilized nations relied heavily on irregulars to augment their small regular army. Even in advanced civilizations, the irregulars commonly outnumbered the regular army. Sometimes entire tribal armies of irregulars were brought in from internal native or neighboring cultures, especially ones that still had an active hunting tradition to provide the basic training of irregulars. The regulars would only provide the core military in the major battles; irregulars would provide all other combat duties. Notable examples of regulars relying on irregulars include auxiliary legions of Germanic tribes in the Roman Empire, Cossack regiments in Imperial Russia, and Native American forces in the far west of the Confederate States of America. Ancient warfare is war as conducted from the beginnings of recorded history to the end of the ancient period. ... The term Germanic tribes (or Teutonic tribes) applies to the ancient Germanic peoples of Europe. ... This article or section does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of Ottoman Empire. ... Imperial Russia is the term used to cover the period of history from the expansion of Russia under Peter the Great, through the expansion of the Russian Empire from the Baltic Sea to the Pacific Ocean, to the deposal of Nicholas II of Russia, the last tsar, at the start... Native Americans are the indigenous peoples from the regions of North America now encompassed by the continental United States, including parts of Alaska. ... Motto: Deo Vindice (Latin: Under God, Our Vindicator) Anthem: God Save the South (unofficial) Dixie (traditional) The Bonnie Blue Flag (popular) Capital Montgomery, Alabama (until May 29, 1861) Richmond, Virginia (May 29, 1861–April 2, 1865) Danville, Virginia (from April 3, 1865) Language(s) English (de facto) Government Republic President...

One could attribute the disastrous defeat of the Romans at the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest to the lack of supporting irregular forces; only a few squadrons of irregular light cavalry accompanied the invasion of Germany when normally the number of foederati legions would equal the regular legions; however, since irregulars won that battle, there are few surviving details. During the decline of the Roman Empire, irregulars made up an ever increasing proportion of the Roman military. At the end, there was little difference between the Roman military and the barbarians across the borders. Throughout history, most civilizations eventually fell to "barbarians", that is, irregular military forces, with minimal historical details.[citation needed]* Combatants Germanic tribes (Cherusci, Marsi, Chatti, Bructeri and Chauci) Roman Empire Commanders Arminius (Hermann) Publius Quinctilius Varus † Strength Unknown 3 Roman legions, 3 alae and 6 auxiliary cohorts, probably 20,000 - 25,000 Casualties Unknown; but far less than Roman losses 15,000-20,000 The Battle of the Teutoburg... Foederatus early in the history of the Roman Republic identified one of the tribes bound by treaty (foedus), who were neither Roman colonies nor had they been granted Roman citizenship (civitas) but were expected to provide a contingent of fighting men when trouble arose. ... Look up Barbarian in Wiktionary, the free dictionary. ...

Following Napoleon's modernisation of warfare with the invention of conscription, the Peninsular War led by Spaniards against the French invaders in 1808 provided the first modern example of guerrilla warfare. Indeed, the term of guerrilla itself was coined during this time. For other uses, see Napoleon (disambiguation). ... Combatants Spain United Kingdom Portugal French Empire The Peninsular War was a major conflict during the Napoleonic Wars, fought on the Iberian Peninsula by an alliance of Spain, Portugal, and Britain against the Napoleonic French Empire. ...

As the spread of industrialism dried up the traditional source of irregulars, nations were forced take over the duties of the irregulars using specially trained regular army units. Examples are the light infantry in the British Army. By the modern age, all regular military are trained to also perform the actions previously left to irregulars. Traditionally light infantry (or skirmishers) were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. ... The British Army is the land armed forces branch of the British Armed Forces. ...

See also

After the Revocation of the Edict of Nantes in 1685, a revolt by the Camisards (Occitan camisa, smock or shirtsleeves) broke out in 1702, in the rugged and isolated Cevennes region of south-central France, the traditional heartland of religious heterodoxy (see Cathar). ... In the 16th and 17th centuries, the name Huguenot was applied to a member of the Protestant Reformed Church of France, historically known as the French Calvinists. ... The C vennes are a mountainous area in southern France, covering parts of the d partements of Gard, Loz re, Ard che and Aveyron. ... Lexington Minuteman representing John Parker Minutemen is a name given to members of the militia of the American Colonies, who would be ready for battle in a minutes notice. ... A bashi-bazouk (in Turkish başıbozuk, meaning disorganized, leaderless) was an irregular soldier of the Ottoman army. ... Motto: دولت ابد مدت Devlet-i Ebed-müddet (The Eternal State) Anthem: Ottoman imperial anthem Borders in 1680, see: list of territories Capital Söğüt (1299-1326) Bursa (1326-1365) Edirne (1365-1453) Constantinople (Istanbul) (1453-1922) Language(s) Ottoman Turkish Government Monarchy Sultans  - 1281–1326 Osman I  - 1918–1922 Mehmed VI... Franc-tireur is an informal term for an armed fighter who, if captured, is not entitled to prisoner of war status. ... Pindari is a word of uncertain origin, applied to the irregular horsemen who accompanied the Maratha armies in central India during the 18th century when the Mughal Empire was breaking up. ... (17th century - 18th century - 19th century - more centuries) As a means of recording the passage of time, the 18th century refers to the century that lasted from 1701 through 1800. ... Asymmetric warfare is a term that describes a military situation in which two belligerents of unequal power or capacity of action, interact and take advantage of the strengths and weaknesses of themselves and their enemies. ... List of famous guerrillas, ordered by region: Abdul Rashid Dostum Abdul Haq Gulbuddin Hekmatyar Ismail Khan Osama bin Laden, Al-Qaida leader Ahmed Shah Massoud Abdel Kadir in Algeria Jonas Savimbi in Angola Che Guevara in Ñancahuazu, Bolivia Carlos Marighella Pol Pot Hissène Habré Aslan Maskhadov Dzhokhar Dudayev Akhmed... Lexington Minuteman representing militia minuteman John Parker Militia is the activity of one or more citizens organized to provide defense or paramilitary service, or those engaged in such activity. ... The Landsturm is the German equivalent of the levee en masse, or general levy of all men capable of bearing arms and not included in the other regularly organized forces, standing army or its second line formations, of Continental nations. ... The following is a list of Kings of Prussia (Könige von Preußen) from the Hohenzollern family. ... The Legion of Frontiersmen is a voluntary paramilitary organisation founded in Britain for fellowship and for service to the State at any time of need. It was initially formed in 1904 for the purpose of providing irregular mounted scouts for the British Army. ... This article does not adequately cite its references or sources. ... Combatants Allied Powers: Russian Empire France British Empire Italy United States Central Powers: Austria-Hungary German Empire Ottoman Empire Bulgaria Commanders Nicholas II Aleksei Brusilov Georges Clemenceau Joseph Joffre Ferdinand Foch Robert Nivelle Herbert Henry Asquith Sir Douglas Haig Sir John Jellicoe Victor Emmanuel III Luigi Cadorna Armando Diaz Woodrow...


  • Flavius Vegetius Renatus, Epitoma rei militaris
  • Dr. Thomas M. Huber, Compound Warfare: An Anthology
  • Clifford J. Rogers, Military Technical Revolution debate among historians
  • John M. Gates, US Army & Irregular Warfare
  • Harold P. Ford, CIA and the Vietnam Policymakers: Three Episodes 1962-1968
  • Robert R. Mackey, "The UnCivil War: Irregular Warfare in the Upper South, 1861-1865," University of Oklahoma Press, 2004, ISBN 0-8061-3624-3

  Results from FactBites:
Irregular Choice Resources & Information - choice irregular (372 words)
In language, irregular choice and shoes it is applied to a word that do not follow the most irregular choice london common rules of the language, such as irregular verb, plural or spelling.
By itself, a single irregularity is of little choice irregular consequence, but when many irregularities irregular choice occur together, they may be signs of hidden fraud, misconduct or malfeasance.
In military terms, an irregular is a soldier who is not irregular choice mens shoes part of the official regular army, or does not follow regular army tactics.
Irregular military at AllExperts (1274 words)
An irregular military organization is a military organization which is not part of the regular army organization of a party to a military conflict.
Irregulars are soldiers or warriors that are members of these organizations, or are members of special military units that employ irregular military tactics.
Irregular forces are usually most noted for their role in the Vietnam War.
  More results at FactBites »



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