There were several reasons why the militia system of military defense
developed in the New World. First, most of the colonies were too underpopulated
to afford a standing military system. Few could afford to allocate a significant portion of their able-bodied manpower to a standing army. They lacked a sufficient
tax base to be able to bear the costs of a standing military. Many citizens philosophically opposed having a standing army, thinking it destructive of liberties. If
the Crown provided the soldiers, it could assume a significant role in the affairs of
the colonies. Most of the New England colonies harbored secrets, especially
regarding the degree to which their state-established religion was in communion
with the Church of England. Some also thought that citizens were free only when
they shouldered the burden of their own defense.(1)
From the viewpoint of the Crown, if the colonists wished to undertake the
grand adventure, abandon their own homes, and move to a savage new world, they
had better be prepared to protect themselves. The Crown was constantly in debt
and had little, if any, extra money to dedicate to an army across the Atlantic. Many
of the colonists had fallen into disfavor with the crown, notably the Calvinist
religious dissenters who settled New England, and the king cared little about what
Yet, the colonists faced constant dangers from all sides, ranging from
Britain's various traditional enemies, such as Spain and France, to the native
aborigine. Therefore, the colonies reverted to the military organization of an earlier
time, the militia system as used at the beginning of modern Europe. While the
European militias had atrophied and could, at best, be considered a vestigial organ
of the state, the American militias had become vibrant military, social, and fraternal
organizations necessary to the very existence of the colonies. No king would
attempt to stave off his enemies on the continent, but the French and English kings
depended almost exclusively upon their North American colonial militias.
Nowhere was the militia system as well organized as in Puritan New England.(2)
When the Puritans landed in New England they wished to found their own
city on the hill, secular paradise, or land of the chosen people. Initially, the
Pilgrims courted the indigenous Amerindians and became friends with the
Wampanoags. The Massachusetts colony was wholly separatist and wanted
nothing more than to be left alone. In the earliest years there was virtually no need
for a strong military system. The friendship was short-lived, for the Europeans
never did quite master the skill of being good neighbors to the Amerindians and
leaving them alone. Within ten years the Puritans had come to regard themselves
as the new Zion and the Amerindians as Canaanites. They did not regard
themselves as interlopers, but as God's chosen people for whom the new land had
been prepared, and which they could develop without limitation. Like the Jews of
the Exodus, the Puritans did not spare the Canaanites. Within ten years after the
Puritans initially landed those at Boston had formed a mighty militia system.
Three separate, and often mutually distrustful, authorities vied for control
of the New England militias. First, each colony had its own militia organization
which was identical with, or responsible to, the colonial legislature and/or governor. Second, the New England colonies having created a unified military plan
known as the New England Confederation, placed their individual militias under
this regional authority. At various times the individual colonial authorities refused
to cooperate and release militiamen to assist the general authority. Massachusetts
refused to assist the other members in the first Narragansett War (1645-50) when
it was not especially threatened, but demanded assistance from the other colonies
when in 1675 in the second Narragansett War it was sacked and pillaged. Third,
the mother country was the ultimate sovereign authority that periodically intervened
in local militia affairs. As with most other aspects of colonial policy, England
generally neglected the colonies, but on occasion it attempted to impose its will on
its dependencies. The colonial militias usually provided for virtually all of their
own colonies' defense and this freed the English standing army for larger and, to
the mother nation, more important duties. In general, the colonies were delighted
to receive money, materials, equipment, and arms from England, but they disliked
the brutal discipline and elitist attitude of the professional officer corps and they
held the army in disdain for it was essentially useless in frontier warfare against
savages who did not follow the rules of European warfare. They especially resented English intrusion into the appointment of militia officers.
The New England Puritans of c.1630 were displeased with the English
militia system for a variety of reasons.(3) Charles I had reorganized the English
militia, creating a far more elitist and disciplined organization than his father,
James I, had possessed. He brought veteran professional military men, many the
veterans of several continental European wars, to train and discipline the raw
militia recruits. He also introduced new weapons and required that existing
weapons, most long neglected and in a sad state of disrepair, be properly mended.
He angered the Puritans by requiring that, following church services on Sundays,
the train bands were to engage in such sports as "archery, running, wrestling,
leaping, football playing, casting the sledge hammer and playing at cudgels."(4) The
Puritans regarded this as a sacrilegious violation of the Sabbath which they argued
was to be a day of rest and not of praying and playing games. Thus, Charles added
a religious question to the existing legal and constitutional questions concerning his
reorganization of the militia. Charles I bragged that his reorganized train band system was "the perfect militia."(5)
The English Puritan brethren had rejected the militia policies of Charles
I and in the bitter debate in the parliamentary session of 1628 railed hard against
the imposition of tyrannical standards on an essentially civilian body.(6) Those
Puritans who sailed with John Winthrop in 1630 had an idea of a militia constituted
in a way quite different from the Stuart train bands. There was no question that
they would create a militia, for they were well aware of the massacre of the ill-prepared Virginians at the hands of the Indians in 1622. But they did not agree
with Charles I that his idea of a train band was a perfect militia.(7)
The Charter of New England of 1620 created a militia primarily as an
instrument to contain "Rebellion, Insurrection and Mutiny" against the crown. The
militia was also to "encounter, expulse, repel and resist by Force of Arms" by "all
ways and meanes" whatever foreign or native forces might be directed against the
colony. The charter made the president the militia commander, although the assent
of council was needed to deploy the militia. Council was to make appropriate laws
for enrollment, training and discipline of the militia. The charter required the
president and council to supply arms, ammunition and other goods of war.(8)
The New England Puritans first hired professional military men to equip,
drill and train the militia, but these men were veteran soldiers who were not
Puritans and did not share the religious vision of the city on the hill. They had a
particular dislike for the demand the Puritan made that they be allowed to elect
officers, an idea inconceivable to professional military men. They were also
expensive, both in terms of pay and in terms of the discontent they fostered in the
colony. Jost Weillust, a German artillery specialist, left the Massachusetts Bay
Colony almost immediately, having acquired no love for the new land and perhaps
overcome by homesickness. Daniel Patrick and John Underhill lasted somewhat
longer, but they were never comfortable with the spartan life of New England
Puritanism. Both were accused of having committed adultery with young women
of the community and were asked to leave.(9) Underhill and the Puritans parted
company on less than friendly terms. He observed with disgust that the Puritans
were, at best, "soldiers not accustomed to war" who were "unexpert in the use of
their arms." The political authorities of New England decided that henceforth they
would hire only Puritans, whether they were military veterans or not.
There were many demands for money to fund various governmental
activities and the tax base was small. One of the larger items in the defense
budgets was the erection and maintenance of frontier fortifications. To save money
the militias were originally all volunteer organizations. Many militiamen objected
to their deployment in construction and maintenance of forts and places of refuge.
However, when the governments failed to recruit enough volunteers to complete
the work, they turned to the draft to fill out the quota of volunteer workmen. The
draft depleted the resources of many militia companies.(10)
Beginning with the Mayflower Compact of 11 November 1620 the New
England colony had been founded upon a social contract. The colonists believed
that the only way free men could be brought to obey the law was to base the law
upon a contract upon which all agreed. The New England Puritans had a strong
sense of democracy and they demanded broad based political participation in all
decision making. The social contract had a natural law, Scriptural base. Each man
agreed to give up his own interest and benefits voluntarily to the greater community
in exchange for protection and congeniality. Among free men no amount of
coercion could replace voluntary consent of the governed as the cornerstone of the
polity. The congregational churches, election of ministers and magistrates, creation
of state and town governments, and organization of the militia were all arranged
contractually. Thomas Hooker, one of the most important of the Puritan theorists,
argued that a man who desired to live a good life in a Christian polity must
"willingly binde and ingage himself to each member of that society . . . or else a
member actually he is not."(11) Each man under contract viewed himself as the
author of law and the creator of order.
This contractual model extended to the founding and operation of the
militia. The major application of the contractual principle extended to recruiting
and training a militia in New England and with the popular election of militia
officers. The New England militia was a contractual or covenanted organization,
based on the principle of voluntary collectivism. A contractual militia was no
threat to civil liberties, freedom or civil rights, especially when tied to Scripture.
The contract limited deployment of troops and militiamen argued that no governmental power could force them to serve beyond the boundaries of their own colony,
and only rarely beyond their own region.(12)
In times of trials and external threats the Puritans frequently called for
fasting among the entire community as a means of supporting their militiamen.
Fasting served as communal expiation for their un-Christian divisiveness within the
ranks of the faithful. It also served to assist in communal re-dedication to their
sacred covenant.(13) As late as the 1760s, while Boston was under the yoke of
British occupation forces who were being quartered in private homes, Governor
Bernard called for "a general fast, to be kept the sixth of April next" offered up so
that "God would be graciously pleased to continue us, the enjoyment of all our
invaluable privileges, of a civil and religious nature."(14)
The British authorities intensely disliked this democratic practice. When
Sir Charles Hardy in 1756 was raising troops for his attack on the French fort at
Crown Point he complained bitterly about the practice of the militiamen electing
their own officers.
Pray, my Lord, where have these men come from? Under the vote for raising the Men . . .
the Men have it in their own Choice & are supported in it by a law of the Colony from
whence they came, and the Consequence is plain . . . . The present Method is attendant with
great Delays . . . . Captains of the Regulars will think it hard to be commanded by Field
Officers of the Provincials & the Field Officers will likewise think so in having them on
equal foot . . . . All Men raised in the Provinces for his Majesty's Service should be raised
by the Commander in Chief who may give blank Commissions in such Numbers he thinks
proper, to the several Governors, to fill up with the Names of such Persons as may be
qualified . . . .(15)
In the other colonies the officers were appointed by the governors, proprietors or legislature. In practice it made little difference because the New
Englanders were generally much persuaded to recruit officers from among the
better class, which frequently translated to the religious hierarchy. There was no
discernable difference between the military and the social structure of the
As early as 1632 Governor Winthrop noted that the people had demanded
the right of free men to select their own officers.(16) He was able to delay the grant
of this right temporarily, for the Puritans had long since decided that free men who
could elect their own ministers and political leaders could certainly be entrusted
with the selection of militia officers. Besides, it was their very lives, and not the
life of the governor, they were entrusting to their elected officers. The legislature
bided its time, waiting to force the governor's hand at the first opportunity. That
opportunity came in 1636 as the colony prepared for war with the Pequot Indians.
The Massachusetts General Court enacted legislation allowing each regiment and
company to nominate its own officers, subject to ratification by the council. In
practice, this confirmation was ordinarily automatic. The militia units responded
immediately by holding elections and sending in the names for approval. The
requirements for becoming an officer, in addition to election, were correct church
membership and status as freemen.(17) In a few cases, the militia units would send
up more names than were actually needed, or additional names after council had
questioned a name, but frequently these additional names were found to be
disqualified on some ground.(18) In 1643 the general court fully yielded its power
to appoint militia offices, although it still appointed sergeant major general, the
highest office in the New England colonies. However, the company sergeant-majors, were made elective.
As late as the American Revolution the practice of election of officers
came under criticism of several experienced military and some legislators from the
middle and southern colonies. General George Washington, for example, disliked
the practice of electing officers because he believed that it was misplaced
democracy, was wholly inappropriate to the martial spirit, and that it subverted
attempts to foster military temperament. During the war Washington cashiered
several officers because they had fraternized too much with their men. Such
fraternal relations, Washington reasoned, would subvert discipline, while doing
nothing to create a spirit of command. He argued that the only way to select
officers was to test the military prowess and competence and learning in the art of
While the English regarded the Puritans as hopelessly democratic, the
colony of Massachusetts Bay still had a rigid class structure, seen nowhere better
than in its militia organization. The wealthy citizens who could afford the
equipment organized as cavalry, which became the elite units within the militia.
The underclass, on the other hand, supplied the foot soldiers. These were men for
the most part who could barely afford to buy the most basic weapons that the law
required them to supply. The many men who were so poor that they could not
otherwise afford arms were provided guns at public expense, but only in exchange
for performing public service. John Shy likened their obligation to labor to pay for
their arms to the English working class which had to labor in the working-houses
to compensate for charitable support.(20)
The chief military commanders ordinarily held the position of colonial
governor, a title well established in England. His military deputies carried the title
of councillors. In time of actual war in New England the governors frequently
asked for and received the support of various town and city officials, men who
often doubled as militia officers. Together, these men constituted the council of
By 1641 both the home government and various local authorities in New
England had come to the conclusion that a militia was indispensable for the
protection of the inhabitants. A publication entitled An Abstract of the Laws of
New England as They are Now Established(22) concluded that for the best protection
of the county, "First, a law [is] to be made for the training of all the men in the
country fit to bear arms, unto the exercise of military discipline. . . ." The only
other measure suggested for colonial defense was "and withal, another law to be
made for the maintenance of military officers and forts."
The New England Confederation, formed in 1643, was a primarily
military organization consisting of New Plymouth, Massachusetts Bay, Connecticut, New Haven, Cornwall [Maine], and King's Province [a disputed area in
southern New England]. This was essentially the same area as James II reorganized in 1686-89 as the Dominion of New England. It was devised as for "mutual
safety and welfare," a self-defense program based on the colonial militias of these
member provinces. Delegates met in Boston and adopted a written constitution
which formed The United Colonies of New England. Each colony retained its own
system of managing internal affairs. Questions of war and peace were decided by
eight commissioners representing Massachusetts, Plymouth, Connecticut and New
Haven. Any six commissioners constituted a working majority. The commissioners met at least once a year and more frequently if there were problems brewing
within its area of design.
Expenses for the defensive system were borne by the colonies in
proportion to the male population between ages 16 and 60, that is, of men of the
proper age to serve in the militia. Massachusetts certainly bore the bulk of the
expenses and had the vast majority of men subject to militia service, yet its
commissioners carried no greater weight than the smaller colonies. The confederation would make, or at least approve, all appointments of officers and designate an
overall commander-in-chief. Ordinarily, confederation troops were to be under the
command of the ranking officer of the colony in which the troops were presently
In 1653 the council met at Boston to consider "what number of soldiers
might be requisite, if God called the Collonies to make warr against the Dutch."
It named as captain commander John Leverett of Boston and apportioned its force
of 500 as follows: Massachusetts Bay, 333; Plymouth, 60; Connecticut, 65; and
New Haven, 42.
A major problem occurred for the confederation in 1653 when Massachusetts Bay refused to approve a war against the Dutch. Without its men and
monetary contributions the union could not operate effectively. Initially,
Massachusetts opposed the admission of Narragansett Bay [Rhode Island] and
Cornwall [Maine] because the inhabitants held heterodox religious views. After
1664, when New Haven was annexed to Connecticut, the quotas and representation
of the two confederation members was combined. At that point the constitution
was amended to allow for meetings once ever three years instead of annually. The
federation simultaneously went into a precipitous declined, but it revived briefly
after a major threat from the native aborigine appeared. Between 1645 and 1650,
and again in 1675, it waged war on the Narragansetts.(24) It operated most successfully during King Philip's War (1675-76), coordinating the defense of the region.
In 1684 the charter of Massachusetts Bay was withdrawn and the confederation
came to an end.
The Confederation had assumed the power to negotiate arms and
gunpowder contracts, and to contract for maintenance and repair of the confederation's arms. Arms and supplies were to be stored in several convenient locations,
with access to these materials of war granted to all members. It had sought the
authority to declare war on Amerindian tribes on behalf of all members and to
regulate the Indian trade and license Indian traders. It had sought the power to
negotiate alliances with the various Amerindian tribes and to send negotiators to
settle inter-tribal disputes. The confederation legally could take no action until at
least six members approved, although this was not always the actual case.(25)
New England was more than sufficiently rich to sustain its militia. When
it deployed men on the frontier it found that a town could feed, house, and
otherwise provide for a considerable number of men. Most towns could contribute
a company or two of militia to the general effort while retaining sufficient strength
to defend themselves. Most towns had one or more fortified buildings that served
as a base of operations when the militia was deployed in the area; and as places of
refuge if the town came under Amerindian attack.
New England frequently offered its militiamen various incentives for
performing their duties well. Although these colonies did not have large blocks of
land to donate (as Virginia did) but they did offer occasional bounties in land,
notably in Maine. The colonies generally did not have to offer scalp bounties in
order to mobilize militiamen, but again, on occasion, they did so. Too, there were
possibilities of militiamen obtaining plunder; and others obtained money from the
sales of Amerindian captives as slaves.
In 1688 the King James II was expelled, nominally because he kept a
standing army in violation of Parliament's orders and for being sympathetic to
Roman Catholics and to the French. Parliament passed a Mutiny Act, setting up
courts-martial and imposing military law for periods of up to six months. There
was no appeal to either the courts or Parliament and we may view this action as the
beginning of true, sovereign parliamentary supremacy.
The Glorious Revolution brought a Bill of Rights, that, among other
things, provided that the king could not keep a standing army in the time of peace.
Parliament would fund the military on an annual basis through the conventional
budgetary process. In April 1689 the colonists of New England decided to endorse
in the change of government by ousting royalist and reactionary Governor Edmund
Andros. The provincial authorities also ordered the arrest of royalist officers serving in Andros's army. Without their leaders, the army dissolved. A popular leader,
Jacob Leisler, declared himself to be acting lieutenant-governor, to serve until the
pleasure of Parliament become known. Dutch settlers in Albany (who were also
under Andros's control) refused to recognize Leisler's dubious claim, choosing to
rule themselves through a popularly elected town assembly. Only a militia
remained to protect the borders, restrain and pacify the Amerindians and maintain
The Dominion of New England "fulfilled the expectations of the Lords of
Trade as a solution of the colonial problem of defense." It checked Indian
encroachments and strengthened the alliance with the Iroquois. Andros's
garrisoning of the frontier and his aggressive military ventures "made New England
formidable to its enemies."(26) When the Dominion of New England collapsed, the
new government in England delayed the formulation of imperial policy for the
defense of the colonies. The Lords of Trade were insisting on reestablishing a
consolidated government over the northern colonies, which they interpreted to
include New England, New York, and New Jersey, under a single governor-general. However, this plan of reconsolidation was left unresolved because of the
effective opposition led by the New England agents in London.(27) The New
England Puritans could claim victory only to the extent that they had succeeded in
maintaining their status as a separate colonies. Still, for a variety of good reasons,
substantial opinion existed for re-establishing the Dominion. There was general
agreement that any new dominion must shed its autocratic features. On 25 January
1691, a group of forty-five of the leading citizens of Massachusetts petitioned the
King to appoint "a Governor and Council over us to administer the Government
with an elected Assembly . . . and as many of the little provinces as seem good to
you may be united under one Governor for mutual defence and security."(28) In July
1691 New York Governor Henry Sloughter, claiming that he had the backing of the
council and General Assembly, expressed the same desire.(29) On 14 May 1692
William Phips (1651-1695) arrived at Boston carrying a parliamentary commission
naming him as captain-general, governor and commander in chief of the militia for
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, the King's Province,
Massachusetts and New Hampshire estates. This was a plan the New England
colonies opposed with great vigor because these provinces claimed that they alone
controlled their own militias. They claimed there was no legal provision for
subordinating the provincial militias to any exterior authority.(30)
Meanwhile, the colonists sought to create a military union on their own,
prompted by the French and Indian hostilities along the New York and Maine
frontiers in 1689. These incursions caught the northern colonies unprepared. To
meet the emergency, attempts were made to reinstate a regional military union of
much the same sort as the New England Confederation. Mutual military support
was the theme of the times. In July 1689 Massachusetts Governor Bradstreet
requested that Connecticut authorities to "be ready to yield all necessary assistance
when desired according to the rules of our ancient union and confederation."(31)
But the Confederation was not revitalized. Robert Livingston, writing from
Hartford, speaking for many, argued that "it will be very requisite that the united
Colonies take Inspection of all affairs with us, since their interest and ours are so
inseparable . . . "(32)
Connecticut and Rhode Island would not allow Phips to recruit volunteers,
let alone draft men, from their militia on grounds that their charters granted them
exclusive and inviolable rights to control and deploy their own militias. Phips
appealed to the king, arguing that "you will not be soe unmindfull of your old
neighbours." This failed to yield any results. The Rhode Island Assembly refused
to recognize Phips as commander over the colony's militia and petitioned the crown
for recognition of its charter rights. The Attorney General and Committee of Trade
agreed to uphold Rhode Island's constitutional stand, but reaffirmed the Attorney
General's opinion of 1690 that the crown retained the power to appoint a
commander in chief over any part of a colony's militia. Thus, in time of invasion
the king or his delegate could take charge of whatever forces required. Phips made
no overt move to assume command over the militia of the colonies.(33)
In May 1693, the crown ordered Benjamin Fletcher, governor of
Pennsylvania, West Jersey, and New York, to take command of the Connecticut
militia for an expedition against Canada. It told Phips to "consult and advise" with
Fletcher. East Jersey and Pennsylvania refused to respond to Fletcher's demands
for money and troops.(34) In October 1693 Fletcher, accompanied by two members
of the New York Council, traveled to Hartford to establish his commission as
commander of the Connecticut militia. Having learned of Fletcher's intentions
earlier, the Connecticut General Court dispatched Fitz-John Winthrop to England
to secure confirmation of the charter. The General Court took the position that
Fletcher's commission could not supersede the powers that the Connecticut Charter
granted to the colony over its own over the militia. "We are still willing to doe our
proportion with our neighbours in such public charge wherein we are equally
concerned," the Connecticut General Court informed Fletcher, but other colonies
must do their share. Connecticut argued that it had already done more than its part
by contributing to the garrisons at Albany and Deerfield.(35)
Fletcher, in a letter to the Lords of Trade, warned that Connecticut's
obstinacy would lead to a French victory in North America. "These People of
Connecticut are in a greate fright the noise of a Quo Warranto or A sharp Letter
from theire Majesties will reduce Them the wisest and Richest of them Desire to
bee under the Kings imediate Government."(36) Fletcher called a general conference
of the governors to obtain pledges of troops and financial aid from each colony.
The Board of Trade authorized to Fletcher to issue a call for troops from New
York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia.
Moreover, the crown authorized the appointment of a chief commander to order the
combined provincial militias in time of war. The crown also ordered the colonies
to contribute troops or other assistance upon request of the governor of New York.
Several of the colonies were outraged at this assertion of English power
over the colonial militias. The Rhode Island Assembly resolved that "in time of
peace, and when the danger is over, the militia within each of the said provinces
ought, as we humbly conceive, to be under the government and disposition of the
respective Governors of the Colonies, according to their Charters."(37) Another
negative provincial reaction was financial. For example, the Maryland House of
Delegates only reluctantly voted a small appropriation and elusively talked of the
possibility of future free will donations.(38) The London Board of Trade considered the establishment of a colonial military union to be of paramount importance.
On 30 September 1696 the Board considered various proposals along that
line from the colonies. John Nelson, Governor Fletcher of New York and
Governor Nicholson of Maryland offered plans that, while intriguing, were also
insufficient or unacceptable. The Board concluded that in wartime all provincial
militia should be placed under one a single authority who would bear the title of
captain general, who would be invested with the powers of a royal governor.
American colonial representatives then appeared before the Board of
Trade, but they were unable to agree on a united front that they would present
before the board. Edmund Harrison, Henry Ashurst, William Phips, representing
New England and Daniel Coxe of New York argued for the creation of a governor
general with civil as well as well as military jurisdiction. Fitz-John Winthrop reiterated Connecticut's position based upon the charter rights it held that precluded
tampering with its militia. Chidley Brooke and William Nicoll of New York
favored a stronger union than any yet proposed. The Board of Trade feared the
consequences of voiding the charters of Rhode Island and Connecticut without due
legal process. Thus, the Board decided to recommend a military union superimposed by the Crown. In February 1697 an order by the king-in-council directed
the establishment of a military union of the four New England colonies, New York,
and West New Jersey under a captain-general.(39)
The first appointment of captain-general went to Richard Coote, first Earl
of Bellomont in the Irish peerage. Bellomont had powerful support, for among
those backing him were William III, Lord Shrewsbury and Sir Henry Ashurst. It
was a good appointment for Bellomont was acceptable to the New England and
New York. While his political title was Governor of New York, Massachusetts
and New Hampshire, in reality Bellomont received command over all the militia
of the northern colonies. That command could be exercised only during wartime.
Bellomont did not reach New York until April 1698 and did not take over the reins
of the Massachusetts government until May 1699. Unfortunately, his first great
commitment was not military but criminal. He arrived just in time to become
embroiled in the Captain Kidd affair.(40) He had no success in gaining recognition
of his military powers in Rhode Island. Whatever chance he may have had to
succeed there initially was soon lost as he became obsessed with enforcement of
the highly unpopular Navigation Acts.(41) More destructive yet, he became entangled
in the complex politics, largely of New York, that had also undone his predecessor,
Benjamin Fletcher. Bellomont died suddenly in March 1701, and with him died
also the plan for military unity.
Renewed call for a central military authority for New England came as the
colonies prepared to enter Queen Anne's War. Joseph Dudley had received his
commission in 1702 as Governor of Massachusetts and New Hampshire. With this
was his appointment as captain general with authority over all the New England
militia in time of war. He was also vice-admiral of Rhode Island.(42) Dudley found
it impossible to weld together an inter-colonial military system. New England had
two objections to his appointment. First, there had objections to his previous
service as the first governor of the Dominion of New England. He was also closely
tied to the established high church party in England. Rhode Island and Connecticut
remained recalcitrant concerning their charter privileges. Connecticut refused to
send troops beyond the frontier of the Connecticut Valley during the early phase
of Queen Anne's War. Connecticut disbanded its militia in 1704 without Dudley's
authorization. When told to obey the orders of the Massachusetts Governor,
Connecticut refused. In late 1706 and early 17077 Dudley appealed to Fitz-John
Winthrop, begging him to use his powers of persuasion to enlist the support of
Connecticut in the combined provincial expedition being assembled to capture Port
Royal in Acadia. Winthrop replied that the Connecticut Assembly would not
cooperate because there was nothing about that expedition that would benefit the
colony. Rhode Island also denied Dudley's military authority over its militia.(43)
Professor John Shy, a leading critic of the American colonial militia
system, observed that, about 1710, "it would be wrong to idealize the New England
militia, but it would be equally mistaken not to recognize that there the institution
had retained its vitality."(44) Toward the end of Queen Anne's War (1702-1713)
Governor Joseph Dudley could boast that his militia system had achieved two
goals. First, it successfully defended its own frontiers and most settlements from
French and Amerindian attack. Second, it had supplied significant troop strength
to assist the English expeditions against French Canada.
The Political Pulpit
Military exercise was closely associated with the Sabbath, with drills often
following church services. The Puritan clergy had no problem with being closely
connected to the military since Calvinism accepted the Old Testament view of God
as the warring Jehovah ready to smite his enemies and protect those with whom he
had a covenant. Many a sermon given on militia day began with the words of
second Chronicles, to be "ready prepared for war."(45) Exercise with arms was a
godly thing for a man to do as well as being a way to train one's self physically.
John Calvin (1509-1564), founder of Puritanism, had taught that war is
the way of life in the material world, with God's people pitted against the devil and
his minions. God's people must be ever militant and constantly armed in a
physical, as well as material, sense. Christian warfare is certainly not confined to
the spiritual realms, but finds real struggles in worldly combat. Some Christians
will experience only spiritual tests while others will be called to the front in war.
Calvin obscures any differences to be found between physical and spiritual
warfare. The Christian in every sense is called upon to gird his loins, take hold of
his shield, and don his armor. Every Christian is a soldier and has a role in the
army of Christ.
And Paul, after he has warned us that our struggle is not with flesh and blood, but with the
princes of the air, with the powers of darkness, and spiritual wickedness (Eph. 6:12),
forthwith bids us put on that armor capable of sustaining so great and dangerous a contest
(Eph. 6:13). We have been forewarned that an enemy relentlessly threatens us, an enemy
who is the very embodiment of rash boldness, of military prowess, of crafty wiles, of untiring
zeal and haste, of every conceivable weapon and of skill in the science of warfare.(46)
As Puritanism expanded in England and gained adherents so Calvin's call
to arms found support in religious writings. The eminent preacher John Downame
( -1652) produced an important and influential tract, The Christian Warfare, in
1609, in which he warned that Christians must not grow too fond of the material
world for it is the arena of combat between the devil and God. He urges each man
to become a soldier of Christ in both the physical and physical senses. Each reborn
Christian will be awakened to the knowledge that he must stand firm physically and
spiritually in face of God's enemies. It was Downame who popularized the image
of Nehemiah's workers who worked on the temple while girding his loins against
the enemy. All Christians must emulate Nehemiah by being both worker and
militiaman. He urged all the faithful to heed the words of Paul in Ephesians (6:11):
"Put on the whole armor of God that ye be able to stand against the assaults of the
What would the Lord God permit his people do if their enemies burned
their crops, slaughtered their cattle, abducted their wives and children, and killed
and tortured the inhabitants of the land He had given them? One early work
answered the question by calling the people to arms. Captain Edward Johnson
(1599-1672) was a joiner by vocation, preacher by avocation, and militiaman by
necessity. He became an expert in the use of artillery and was founder of the new
settlement of Woburn. He wrote his masterpiece The Wonder-Working Providence
of Sion's Saviour in New England about 1653, partially to persuade others to join
his settlement and largely to extol the greatness of God who had delivered His
people out of bondage and into the new promised land. Johnson saw the migration
in military terms, calling the settlers soldiers employed in God's service. To
Johnson's way of thinking, God in holy scripture had provided all the military
knowledge that His people needed to defeat the devil's forces. The Bible was the
only book on military tactics and strategy humans needed. Johnson's book used
military terminology and vocabulary familiar to the men of his time. He dwelled,
with some obvious delight and pleasure, on the bloodier parts of the Old
Testament, showing that God intended that war be unrelenting and filled with
slaughter of Satan's followers.
Johnson's biblical and practical arguments, following Calvin and Downame, influenced nearly all ministers and writers for the next hundred years. Later
writers followed both Johnson's form and substance. He effectively combined
Biblical rhetoric with law of the colonies, giving justification to the natural
inclination that men have to kill their enemies. Other works followed.(48)
A generation later, during King Philip's War, preachers suggested that the
saints take refuge behind "protective shields of spiritual walls." Some, perhaps
more practical, interpreted this as meaning that the towns ought to build stockades.
Some of the elders suggested building a wall eight feet high stretching from the
Charles to the Concord River.(49)
The more worldly clergy agreed with the politicians about the efficacy of
a physical wall, suggesting in their sermons that the correct model was found in the
Book of Nehemiah. This leader labored mightily in constructing the walls of the
temple, building them as strong as materials and technology permitted. While
engaged in this labor, Nehemiah and his men remained armed, ready to unsheath
the sword in their own defense. Just as the Christian put on his spiritual armor, so
he also was to arm himself physically.(50) Proper physical facilities combined with
a well-trained citizen army would create all the protection God's people would need
There were certain practical aspects of combining military training with
Sunday services. Preachers could subject their flock to prolonged sermons that
often took several hours to deliver. Puritans endured these homilies because they
were the center of the religious service and because they represented an exercise
in literacy and literature.
Politics and religion entered into militia service and organization. During
the religious quarrel over the Anne Hutchinson heresy, some men refused to march
with their units as long as Pastor John Wilson served as a chaplain, while others
indicated their unwillingness to serve if Wilson were dismissed.
New England's ministers argued that the Christian defense of true religion
was vitally interconnected with the defense of the colonies. Both matters could be
advanced by combining arms with a Calvinist interpretation of biblical text. Many
chose to back their words with action by marching as chaplains with the troops
during war or punitive expeditions against the Amerindians.
On 3 June 1678, Boston minister Samuel Nowell (1634-1688) delivered
a discourse to his congregation based on the image of biblical patriarch Abraham
as the first great man of arms fighting in the Lord's cause. He promised that
abundant blessings would flow upon such men as served faithfully in the militia.
Typical of the second generation political pulpit, following Johnson, was Nowell's
"Abraham in Arms" in which he described the importance of the armed citizenry.
God's vineyards hath no other walls, but only our Souldiery, that and our Poverty. We have
no walled towns, as they have in other places, our Forts and Castles are contemptible. We
have not any bank of money to hire Souldiers; our strength by sea is small & for friendship
and favour in the world with any that should help us, is not much, or our friends lye too far
off to help us in time of need.(51)
Nowell continued, suggesting that, with God's help, there was no obstacle that
could overcome the arms of the Puritans. God's people were clad in spiritual armor
that no arrow could penetrate or spear violate.
Cotton Mather (1663-1728) was one of the best known political-religious
philosophers of Puritanism and arguably the finest and most influential American
theologian of the period. On 1 September 1689 he delivered a long and powerful
sermon urging his fellow Puritan to smite their Amerindian adversaries, justifying
the punitive expedition on biblical grounds. Like his Calvinist predecessors,
Mather thought it was the duty of all believers, but especially the elect, to defend
their own territory. Incursions into their land was caused by Satan, in his disguise
as the French king, and his devils under the guise of papist soldiers. These legions
of the prince of darkness had seduced the innocent savages into playing their evil
game. Protestants must rise and do battle with such evil figures. Mather followed
St. Augustine on his doctrine of the just war, seeing the wars against the French
and their Amerindian allies as the children of light pitted against the children of
darkness. Mather referred to the Amerindians variously as Canaanites, Medianites,
and "barbarous heathen." Those killed or maimed in such a campaign might expect
a stern but just God to reward them for their sacrifices on His behalf.(52)
During King William's War of 1689-1697, Reverend Benjamin
Wadsworth (1670-1737) offered a blessing to the militiamen who were marching
toward French positions in the North, entitled "A Letter of Wholesome Counsels
Directed to Christian Souldiers Going Forth to War," exhorting them to behave as
warriors of biblical times. The war generally inspired ministers to focus upon
worldly strife and the temporal duties of the militiaman to an extent not seen in
more than a generation. This emphasis was to be repeated in later wars with
France, so much so that one might think that each new generation of pastors had
dusted off and delivered again the famous sermons of this generation.(53)
King George's War (1740-1748) again brought forth support for the militia
from the New England political pulpit. On 1 August 1745, Nathaneal Walter
(1711-1776) delivered a powerful sermon at the Old Boston Church, "The
Character of a True Patriot," in which he dwelled on the subject of the Christian's
dual duty of serving God and his king by entering into combat with the devil and
his earthly legions.(54) Thomas Prince (1687-1758) followed on 27 November 1746
with a condemnation of cowards and a promise of sainthood to true patriot
militiamen, delivered at the South Church in Boston.(55) On 17 June 1745, Jared
Eliot (1685-1763), pastor at Killingworth, repeated the same basic themes to the
militiamen of his congregation.(56)
In 1732 Oliver Peabody introduced the heroic image of David the warrior
king into the literature of the New England pulpit. Beginning with 2 Samuel 1:18,
Peabody developed the image of the godly youth who slew Goliath and taught his
people the use of arms. David trained his men in news ways of waging war, which
lessons were still valuable to the militia of New England. Peabody described the
ideally trained militiaman.
[H]e will be a finished soldier, that can find, fight and conquer his enemies in the thicket of
the Woods; and immediately fall into a marshalled and regular Army, or into a disciplined
troop, and fight and overcome in an open Field; and also excel again on the Mighty Deep,
and understand the best Manner of fighting on the sea.(57)
In 1741 William Hooper (1674-1767), a late Puritan clergyman, delivered
a sermon entitled "Christ the Life of True Believers and their Appearance in Glory"
in which he argued that men who failed to defend their native land had little chance
of gaining salvation. True Christians were required to take up arms against the
heathen (Amerindians) and heretics (Roman Catholic French).(58)
After news of clashes with the French and their occupation of the Ohio
Territory was received, all the northern colonies called for a day of fasting and
prayer that the land might be delivered from the French and their Amerindian allies.
In Newark, New Jersey, on 1 January 1755, Reverend Aaron Burr (1716-1767)
delivered a long sermon calling upon "the Lord Jehovah . . . to smite his enemies
as in the days of old." Burr thought that, should the Protestants unite in their effort
and make appropriate offerings and prayerful petitions to God, they would surely
be rewarded with victory.(59)
New England's clergy was not going to be outdone by a mainstream
Protestants from New Jersey. Reverend Samuel Checkley (1723-1768) preached
a major and lengthy sermon, "The Duty of God's People When Engaged in War,"
in Boston soon after to the local militia. So popular was that discourse among the
local politicians that he was invited to deliver it to militia units throughout the
province of Massachusetts.(60) William Currie (1709-1803) preached a similar
sermon at Radnor Church on 7 January 1747.(61)
Reverend Peter Clark (1694-1768) prepared a sermon with a theme similar
to Checkley's. Entitled "Religion to be Minded Under the Greatest Perils of Life,"
this discourse also exhorted Christians to do their duty, including faithful service
in the militia.(62)
Clark's and Checkley's sermons were buttressed by a powerful sermon
delivered by Reverend Sylvanus Conant (1720-1777) in his "The Art of War, the
Gift of God." In the Old Testament, God had drawn a blueprint for victory in wars
in which His people defended divine justice. God had instructed the Hebrew
people in the art of war and inspired their leaders to use even the most unorthodox
tactics to win against their enemies. The art of war, it seems, was born in the mind
of the Heavenly Father, to be used to advance His causes.(63) An anonymously
written and printed largely religious discourse on much the same themes appeared
about this same time under the title, "New England's Misery, the Procuring Cause
and a Strong Remedy."(64)
Reverend Samuel Cooper (1725-1783) delivered another powerful and
politically charged sermon before the governor of Massachusetts in the summer of
1759. Militia service, he argued, was the duty of every Christian male. He thought
that the most severe legal penalties and social ostracism could be directed against
those who shirked their duty. Cooper assured the governor that he was properly
discharging the functions of his office when he sent the militia into battle against
God's enemies and the unconverted heathen.(65)
Samuel Chandler's (1723-1768) Thanksgiving Day sermon, given on 29
November 1759, reminded the faithful that they must rejoice in the defeat of the
papist French and be prepared at all times to repel false religion because God
required that "true religion" be defended, if necessary by force of arms. Good
Christians could be godly soldiers in righteous causes.(66)
The surrender of Montreal occasioned an extensive response from the
New England pulpit. The Seven Years' War being now terminated, we should
expect to hear the kind of sermon preached by Reverend Amos Adams (1728-1775), at Roxbury, Massachusetts, on 25 October, and Nathaniel Appleton a few
days later. While the principal theme of these sermons was thanksgiving for the
safe return of many militiamen, victory over their ancient enemy, and the end of a
long and costly war, the preachers universally used the occasion to exhort the
citizen-soldiers to be prepared to continue to serve whenever danger threatened the
On 6 March 1763, Pastor John Brown (1715-1766) preached a sermon on
religious liberty and political freedom in which he urged all Christians to take up
arms against the marauding Amerindians. In doing so, they were doing God's work
and defending His people. Likewise, Protestants must rejoice in the defeat of the
Catholic French and be ever vigilant lest they return to North America to threaten
When Anglican minister Anthony Benezet (1713-1784) delivered in
Philadelphia a sermon entitled "Thoughts on the Nature of War and Its Repugnancy
to Christian Life," the congregation virtually rebelled. The newspapers
summarized the sermon and it was printed by one of the larger and more prominent
publishers of the day. Reaction to the sermon, especially in New England was
strong, appearing in various sermons, especially those delivered before militia
companies, such as the Ancient Artillery Company of Boston.(69)
A recent historian concluded that "the combined emphasis upon
aggressive Christian combat, which received the imprimatur of Bible and minister
. . . shaped the expectations of New England's earliest settlers in the seventeenth
century." The ministers adopted an aggressive style, used strong rhetoric, depicted
heroic biblical figures fighting God's wars, and painted glorious pictures of the
triumph of good over evil. Discussion of great biblical war heroes was designed,
of course, to inspire parallel lives among the militiamen of New England.(70)
We may summarize the themes of the political pulpit as follows. First,
war spiritualizes the soldier by making him ponder his own mortality and his
relationship to his Creator whom he might soon meet.
Second, it brought each man into contact with the heroic figures of the Old
Testament who then offered him a choice of role models for his own life, just as
others may have been inspired by stories of the saints. The clergy stopped just
short of condemning those who were cowardly in battle, but most agreed with
Increase Mather that courage was a manifestation of God's grace, given to the elect.
Many sermons emphasized the importance of behaving bravely in performance of
all duties, especially militia duty.
Third, it produced an archetype in ancient Israel and presented the parallel
so clearly that all could see that New England constituted the New Jerusalem and
the saints inhabiting the land were the new Chosen People.
Fourth, it reminded all that the Second Coming of Christ and what are
generally known as millennial events were hard by the door, close at hand. Man
should never stray from this vision when there would be the final clash between
God and Satan, the Battle of Armageddon (Rev. 16:16). Even that battle had its
archetypes in the victories of Barak over the Canaanites and of Gideon over the
Midianites. The battles in this new world just might be some of the tribulations
noted in the apocalyptic view of St. John the Divine as immediately preceding this
Fifth, ministers reminded the officers that the Bible offered the best and
most reliable guide to many things, not the least important of which are military
tactics and strategy. The men should take great comfort when their elected officers
opted to follow the great leaders of the Jewish Bible. There were, according to the
ministers, great parallels between the way the native aborigine fought and the way
enemies of Israel had waged war. Men should choose their officers for their virtue,
godliness and intimate knowledge of scripture.
Sixth, it was the duty of every man to learn his trade and to practice it with
patience and skill, but to also be a soldier in the Army of God. We may recall the
early emphasis, especially in Johnson, on Nehemiah and his men working on the
temple while standing guard over their nation. In short, it was godly to be expert
in war (2 Tim. 2:3), every Israelite in God's service is a man of war.
Seventh, the clergy revived the notion that had plagued St. Augustine, St.
Thomas Aquinas, and most of the commentators in the new field of international
law, namely, what is the just war? It was clear that these men would not entertain
the possibility that no war is just as was the premise of the pacifist sects, such as
the Society of Friends. Quakers became an object of frequent parody and ridicule.
Any war against God's enemies, notably the devil and his legions, would clearly be
just. Likewise, wars against false religion, notably papism, were justified. The
clergy appointed itself judge over such determination and classification. Few, if
any, of New England's wars were found to be unjustified.
Eighth, wars must also be fought justly, although there are notable biblical
examples of Israel slaughtering all the enemy.(71) It is much better to be
magnanimous in victory and charitable in peace. Neither should one fight an
offensive war, although the clergy universally classified wars of retaliation and
punishment as justified. A defensive war is lawful beyond dispute. Reverend
Increase Mather (1639-1723), president of Harvard, commented on the just war.
And in some cases men may be called to ingage in an Offensive War. This may be Lawful
when their Liberties, Properties and Possessions are invaded. . . . Only it is to be
remembered that an Offensive War is not to be undertaken but with the Consent and
Authority of the Magistrates. The reason is because war is an act of Vindictive Justice and
therefore must have the Countenance of those who are by their Office Revengers to Execute
wrath on them that do Evil.(72)
Not all commentators agreed with Mather that the magistrates alone
should decide when a war was justified. Some wished to engage the clergy since
the question was a moral one. Others wished that the process would be more
democratic, involving the whole community. The latter view was derived from
William of Ockham, a favorite of Martin Luther, who had argued that all moral and
theological decisions should be made by the whole body of the faithful.
Three men in addition to Nehemiah stand as archetypes of the military
heroism required of New England militiamen. Abraham was the first great
religious general and an archetype of Jesus Christ. Joshua completed the mission
initially assigned to Moses, expelling the Canaanites from the Promised Land.
David was the favored of God, prophet, poet and priest, but it was David the
youthful military genius and conqueror of Goliath upon which the Puritan clergy
dwelled. The preachers reminded the people how David instructed his flock in the
use of arms and urged them to learn the use of the bow (2 Sam. 1: 17-27).
Woven upon biblical imperatives, the minister's words commanded a
central position in the militia rituals. During his service as a militiaman in 1686,
bookseller John Dunton (1659-1733) recalled the prayer meetings. They began
solemn prayer in the field upon the day of training, [which] I never knew but in New
England, where it seems to be a common custom. About three o'clock, both our exercise and
prayers being over, we had a very noble dinner to which all the clergy were invited.(73)
Later militiamen recalled hearing and being inspired by such sermons.
Sergeant David Holden (1738-1803) recalled serving in the Massachusetts militia
and hearing sermons on the righteous cause and just war being fought against the
French and their Amerindian allies.(74) As a young man much afraid of death or
permanent injury, Uriah How (1738-1758) kept a journal in which he recorded his
innermost thoughts. How thought that the many sermons he heard while on service
relieved him of much apprehension. Presumably, when he was killed in his
twentieth year, he had been better prepared to meet his Maker because of the
messages he had heard.(75) David B. Perry, born in 1741, was a teenager in the
Seven Years War and much afraid of what might be his fate in battle. He, too, felt
comforted by the message of the preachers who accompanied the militia. When he
entered the patriot cause in the American Revolution, Perry urged his fellow
soldiers to attend religious services, relating his own experience with the clergy in
the earlier war.(76) Two other privates in the Massachusetts militia, men who served
in both the Seven Years War and the Revolution, felt themselves to have been
much inspired by the call to action issued by New England clergymen before and
General Seth Pomeroy (1706-1777) and General Rufus Putnam (1738-1824) thought that their men in both the Seven Years War and the War for
Independence had achieved far greater peace of mind than most other militiamen
and soldiers because of the comfort offered by militantly military clergy who
accompanied their troops.(78)
Funerals of prominent militia officers and of enlisted men killed in battle
offered occasions to combine military parades with martial sermons. The dead
man's comrades turned out in large numbers to parade and accompany the deceased
to the grave. The precedent of firing volleys of musket shots over the grave seems
to have been common practice by 1630. The clergy utilized the opportunity of such
a funeral to laud the Christian soldier who serves God by smiting His enemies.
Clergy frequently compared the wearing of physical armor in military service to the
assumption of the armor of God in baptism. During the funeral service the
deceased put away his metal armor and weapons to assume the spiritual armor of
grace that God bestowed on His elect.
Each colony in New England set aside one or more days for training and
disciplining the citizen-soldiers. This custom had been inherited from medieval
England where similar days had been set aside for like purpose in each shire.
When training day laws went unenforced the militias lapsed into mobs that were
unable to coordinate their activities on the field of battle and were unwilling to
obey their officers. Occasionally, part of the training days was set aside to repair
and build fortifications. A chaplin opened and closed the day with a prayer and
occasionally with a sermon. The minister also enforced morality laws to such a
degree that public drunkenness was all but unknown and the camp followers that
commonly accompanied men in arms were also nowhere to be found.
During the French and Indian War a New York correspondent of the
London-based Public Advertiser praised the moral character of the New England
We put no Confidence in any other Troops than theirs; and it is generally lamented that the
British veterans were not put into Garrison and New England Irregulars sent to the Ohio.
Their men fight from Principle and always succeed. The Behaviours of the New England
Provincials at Albany is equally admirable and satisfactory. Instead of the Devastations
committed by the [British regular] Troops in 1746, not a single Farmer has lost a Chicken
or even a Mess of Herbs. They have five Chaplains and maintain the best Order in Camp.
Public Prayers, Psalm-singing and Martial Exercises engrossed their whole Time at Albany.
Twice a week they have Sermons and are in the very best frame of Mind for an Army,
looking for success in a Dependence upon Almighty God . . . . Would to God the New
England Disposition in this Respect were catching.(79)
The number of annual training days was fixed by law and varied
considerably according to time and place. In 1631 the Massachusetts militia was
so enthusiastic about training days that it mustered weekly. Within a year the
enthusiasm waned and musters were then held monthly. By 1637 the interest had
continued to decline and consequently drills were held only eight times a year.
Subsequent changes in the law reduced the obligation to six times a year and then
just four. Emergencies changed the militiamen's minds and prompted them to take
muster more seriously. During King Philip's War the Massachusetts militia
mustered every Sunday and one additional day per week.(80)
Training days became social occasions. Whole families attended. The
women folk prepared the means which were taken in common. The children
enjoyed a rare opportunity, at least in rural areas, to socialize and to play with large
numbers of other children. Many young, single men met their future wives at these
gatherings. Occasionally, a church or public building had to be repaired and this
was done as a part of, or adjunct to, training days.(81) A British officer described
New England training under the watchful eye of five chaplains who assumed
responsibility for the mortality and general decorum.(82)
To Jeffery Amherst's seasoned, professional officers the Americans were
utterly ill-mannered and ungentlemanly. They ignored class distinctions which
were all important among the British officer corps. They reported to Amherst that
the officers joined their men in carousing and carrying on, often into the wee hours
of the morning. The militia officers were as bad as the men, engaging in all manner
of outrageous behavior. They often wore costumes and unacceptable, non-military
clothing. Many officers failed to wear insignia or distinctive uniforms that would
identify them amongst their men. Moreover, they failed to obey even the most
rudimentary rules of sanitation. Men and officers alike stank for they failed to
bathe or change and wash their clothing.
The Massachusetts Militia
In traditional studies, and in most secondary sources, the Massachusetts
militia is viewed as a simple and logical extension of the colony, but unworthy of
in-depth study because it was less innovative than most other aspects of American
Puritan development. At most Massachusetts slightly modified the traditional
English Puritan train band model as befitted the necessities of the new world.
During the entirety of the Old Charter period of Massachusetts history, that is,
1629-1684, the colony struggled to define the precise limits on popular
participation in government and church. The militia was drawn into this debate,
perhaps reluctantly, as both actor and subject acted upon. We have discussed much
of the origin of the Massachusetts militia above while discussing the general
emergence of the New England Puritan militia.
The governor was commander-in-chief of the province. Direction of
military affairs is naturally an executive function. He theoretically was required to
lead troops in battle. He ordered the disposition of troops and alone decided what
points to garrison. He could sound an alarm and call out the militia. He might be
assisted by a Council of war, generally appointed by the General Court. Often
militia officers served in the legislature and they brought with them an intimate
knowledge of military situations in all parts of the province. By the end of Phips'
term as governor the precedent was well established of regarding various assistants,
deputy and lieutenant governors, legislators and militia officers as an informal
council of war.
The legislature retained the right to make the laws with respect to the
militia and to fund the it. The General Court jealously guarded its prerogative to
legislate in great detail concerning liability for service, arms required, inspection
of arms and equipment, frequency of training and appointment, or at least
confirmation, of officers. The legislature also created courts martial, prescribed
punishment for various infractions and ensured subordination of the military to
civilian authority. It supported the militia by offering bounties on Amerindian
scalps when pressures on the frontier became too great. It also attempted to keep
the frontier populated by forbidding desertion of frontier towns, primarily in order
to retain a buffer between the unsettled frontier and the cities. Eventually, it
allowed the colony's troops to assist other colonies. It also forbade the
impressment of militiamen by force or trickery.(83)
Even before the first religious dissenters settled in Massachusetts, white
adventurers had sacked Amerindian villages as far north as Maine. Some slave
traders had raided the villages, taken some natives captive and sold them into the
slave trade. Some villages along the coast, especially near Cape Cod, had already
been deserted as the reputation of the ruthless traders grew. Many Amerindians
had died of a plague a few years before the Pilgrims arrived in 1620, and this may
account in some large measure for their inability to meet and expel the new wave
of invaders. The Pilgrims were shocked to discover that Samoset greeted the first
party to land in English.(84)
In 1626, in preparation for the voyage to populate what became the town
of Boston, the founders prepared a list of military equipment which they considered
indispensable to equip the projected 100 militiamen.
3 drums, to each 2 pairs of heads
2 partizans, for captain and lieutenant
80 bastard musketts, with snaphaunces, 4 ffoot in the barrel
6 longe fowling pieces with bastard muskett boare, 6 ffoote longe
4 longe fowling pieces, with bastard muskett boare, 5.5 ffoote longe
10 ffull musketts, 4 ffoote barrel, with match-locks
90 bandoleers, for musketts, each with a bullett bagge
10 horne flaskes, for longe fowling pieces, each with a bullett bagge
100 swords and belts
60 corselets & 60 pikes; 20 half-pikes
12 bbls powder, 8 bbls for the forts; 4 for small shotte
8 pieces of land ordnance for the forts
namely, 2 demie culverings, 30 c. weight a peace
3 sackers, each weighing 25 c. weight(85)
The bandoleers were belts which each held 12 rounds of ammunition and a leather
covered priming box. Ten bandoleers were of standard musket size and were
stamped M, while two others were for bastard musket size and were stamped B.
All bandoleers were purchased at pence each from John Grace of London. Twenty
of the suits of armor were ordered from Thomas Stevens, Buttolph Lance, London.
Armor consisted of corsalet, back, breast, culet, gorget, tases, and helmet, all
varnished black. Four suits of armor were equipped with closed-visor helmets
instead of the open type common to this period.(86)
In 1628 the General Court of Massachusetts created a fundamental charter
which established political and legal authority in the colony, including power over
the militia. The Charter recognized that safety and the peace could not be
maintained without a well organized militia.(87) It observed that "Piety cannot be
maintained without church ordinances and officers, nor justice without laws and
magistrates, no more can our safety and peace be preserved without military orders
and officers."(88) The "well ordered of the militia is a matter of great concernment
to the safety and welfare of this commonwealth."(89) In 1628 John Endecott (c.1588-1655) emigrated to Massachusetts with sixty English colonists, joining those
already at Salem. When the colony was properly organized he became, in 1630,
the first head of the provincial militia. His expedition against the Pequots helped
to provoke the First Pequot War, which began in 1637. Between 1644 and his
death on 15 March 1655 he served as governor.(90)
In the first report extant from Governor Cradock, dated 16 February 1629,
the colony reported that it was attempting to spread Christian Gospel among the
natives. Cradock reported considering enlisting friendly Christian Indians into the
colony's militia. In its response to Cradock, dated 17 April 1629, the New England
Company did nothing to encourage the military enlistment of natives, although it
commended him on his attempt to convert them.(91)
The Charter of Massachusetts Bay of 1629 directed that the governor and
company provide the inhabitants with "Armour, Weapons, Ordnance, Municon,
Powder, Shott . . . and all Manner of Clothing, Implements, Furniture, Beastes,
Cattle, Horses, mares, Marchandizes, and all other Thinges necessarie for the saide
Plantacon and for their Use and Defence." The charter gave the governor the
power to impose martial law, to build and maintain forts and other facilities and to
maintain stores of arms and materials of war. More specifically, the charter
required that the
Governor of our said Province or Territory for the time being shall have full Power by
himselfe or by any Chief Comander or other Officer or Officers to be appointed by him from
time to time to traine, instruct, Exercise and Governe the Militia there and for the speciall
Defence and safety of Our said Province or Territory to assemble in Martial Array and put
in Warlike posture the Inhabitants of Our said Province or Territory and to lead and Conduct
them and with them to Encounter, Expulse, Repell, Resist and pursue by force of Armes as
well by sea as by Land within or without the limitts of Our said Province or Territory and
alsoe to kill, slay, destroy and Conquer by all fitting wayes Enterprises and meanes
whatsoever all and every such Person and Persons as shall at any time hereafter Attempt or
Enterprize the destruccon, Invasion, Detriment or Annoyance of Our said Province or
Territory . . . .(92)
In March 1631 the Court of Assistance of Massachusetts Bay ordered that
all men, including indentured servants, but excluding magistrates and ministers,
equip themselves with guns within two weeks. They were to have a minimum of
20 bullets, a length of match a pound of gunpowder and other necessary
accoutrements. If a man did not already own a gun the colony would advance him
the money and he would have to pay it back within a reasonable time.(93) If a man
could not pay for his gun the town would hire him, or hire him out to another man,
until the cost of the gun was repaid. Farmers might pay for their arms in country
produce.(94) No one was to travel, except within Boston, unless one was armed with
a gun.(95) Militia companies were all ordered to muster and drill on Sundays.(96) In
1632 the militia musters were reduced to just one every month.(97) The undated text
of the first militia act of the colony of Massachusetts Bay read,
Section 1. Forasmuch as the well ordering of the militia is a matter of great concernment to
the safety and wellfare of this Commonwealth It is ordered by this Court and the authority
there of. . . .
Section 9. Every person above the age of sixteen years shall duly attend all military
exercises and service, as training, watching, warding under the penalty of five shillings for
every fault, except magistrates, deputies and officers of court, elders and deacons, the
president and fellows, students and officers of Harvard College, and professed school
masters, physicians, chirourgeons allowed by the magistrates, treasurers, surveyor generals,
public notary, masters of ships and other vessels above twenty tons, fishermen constantly
employed at all fishing seasons, Constant herdsmen, and such other as, for bodily infirmity
or other just cause shall by any County Court, or Court of Assistant (after notice of the partys
desired to the chief officer of the Company to which he belongs) be discharged; also one
servant of every magistrate and teaching elder, and the son and servant of the major general
for the time being, also such as dwell at remote farms, shall be exempt from watching in the
town, but shall watch and ward as their chief officer shall direct otherwise; and all farms
distant above four miles from the place of exercising the Company, or have a ferry to pass
over, that have about twenty acres of land in tillage, and twenty head of great cattle upon
such farms, shall upon reasonable allowance to the Company, have one man exempted from
The object of immediate concern for the militiamen of Massachusetts was the
Pequot Indians. By 1635 the men of Massachusetts Bay were expanding rapidly into the
distant Connecticut Valley and thus came into conflict with the indigenous land holders, the
Pequots. When the Pequots killed seven of the interlopers, Massachusetts responded by
mustering its militia, attacking the Pequots and killing several hundred of them. The
survivors took refuge with other tribes. After this tribe was contained the colonial militia
had to deal with the Narragansetts and their allies the Wampanoags, and the Abenakis and
Penobscotts, allies of the French in Canada. The elitist Puritans had no trouble identifying
the Amerindians as heathens and allies of the evil one. In turn the native Americans
regarded the Puritans as unprincipled warriors who had no regard for their unwritten rules
of conventional warfare. As the Chosen People, the Puritans thought they had an unbridled
right to claim any territory they desired in their Promised Land.(99)
In 1635 the legislature ordered that militia fines be used to purchase arms for those
too poor to provide their own guns.(100) On 9 September 1636 the provincial legislature voted
to "limit ye election of Military Officers in ye several Towns to such only as are of ye trained
bands and so thereby all such Freemen as are exempt from ordinary training should be barred
from having any votes in such elections."(101) In 1636 officers elected by militia companies
were still subject to legislative and executive approval.(102)
In 1636 the colony of New Plymouth revised its law regarding indentured servants.
One provision concerned the militia. "No servant coming out of his time or other single
person be suffered to keep house," the law read, "till such time as he be completely provided
for of arms and ammunition."(103)
In 1637 the legislature ordered that a long list of classes of persons accused of
various eccleastical and civil offenses, including blasphemy, religious heterodoxy, rape,
sodomy and theft, "bee disarmed."(104) The apparent intention of the legislation was to deny
arms to criminals and heretics because these were the symbol of freemen. On 24 April 1638
Governor John Winthrop incorporated the Military Company of Massachusetts, guaranteeing
that "no officer should be put up[on them but of their own free choice." Each enlisted man
was given 500 acres and each officer 1000 acres of land. The militia company was renamed
the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company on 2 September 1700.(105) In 1639 the
legislature exempted from militia duty a number of classes of trades, including ships'
carpenters, fishermen during season, and millers, but required them to maintain firearms.(106)
The community was the basic unit of many activities, including militia service.
Towns were the basic units of military organization wherein men armed and trained
themselves for war. Initially, all Boston area militias were rather democratic although the
officers reflected the basic Calvinist hierarchy of church and state. All able-bodied males
served in the militia, excepting certain governmental officials, but including indentured
servants and slaves. The regiment was first noted in 1636 when Captain John Underhill
brought the companies from Roxbury, Dorchester, Weymouth and Hingham under a single,
unified command and integrated it with the South Boston Militia and other city militia
companies. After 1637 men could nominate and elect their own officers from among the
town's freemen, subject only to the (almost automatic) approval of town council.(107)
The average militiaman was little concerned about organization beyond his own
company for it was in this basic unit that he socialized, trained, elected their own officers
and fought when called into actual service. Most commoners were armed merely with pikes
and some small cutting instrument, such as sword or scalping knives. A few of the wealthier
citizens own match-locks and even fewer had wheel-locks. The companies marched out on
the greens, often located convenient to the churches or town meeting houses, there to drill
under the appreciative and watchful eyes of their families.
On 13 January 1639 the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of Boston was
formed and the democratic pattern was broken. The militia unit was organized as an elitist
organization, comprised exclusively of the prominent townsmen and was drawn largely from
the harbor communities. To be accepted into this company was a certain indication that one
had arrived socially. It emulated a similar elitist company in London and remained,
throughout its history, largely self-regulating. John Winthrop was made an honorary colonel
and first nominal commander.(108) It was the oldest company of artillery militia in the nation.
The men of Massachusetts were not always perfect citizens or part-time soldiers.
Captain Underhill recorded that, upon sounding an alarm, he was amazed to see that his
trained bands "knew not how to behave."(109) They often missed the legally mandated training
days and failed to accept discipline or to maintain their arms in good working order. Those
who failed to attend musters, maintain proper equipment and arms, or otherwise follow the
militia law, paid fines which the town authorities put to good use buying flags and banners,
drums and bugles and other impedimenta.
Towns served as vehicles for many forms of communal action. They performed
what was then considered social welfare and engaged in various forms of social action. The
principal function the town undertook was defense of home, citizen and community through
the organization and maintenance of a militia. The militia also served a social function of
social integration. To expedite their obligations, the town governments maintained watch-houses, supplies of gunpowder and flints and match, extra weapons and spare gun parts and
armories, the latter often located in the basements of town meeting houses.
In 1634 Ensign Richard Morris entered into a political dispute with his commander
and resigned his commission. In other cases, men displayed culpable, if not criminal,
disregard for safety. In one incident in Watertown, a servant brought his loaded weapon to
the training field. After going through the manual of arms and marching for a while with the
loaded piece, he accidentally discharged it, wounding himself and three others. Captain
Underhill noted that such carelessness with arms was not especially uncommon.(110)
Wars served as a vehicle to obtain slaves and servants according to an order of the
General Court in 1641. The law held there was to be no involuntary servitude, including
"bond slavery, villeinage or captivity" in the colony "unless it be lawful captives taken in just
Despite the failures which made them easy targets for their critics, past and
present, the militia performed major services. They served watch in the city wards and
mounted the towers for seaward watch on Beacon Hill and at the Town Gate. Captain
Underhill led the militia to the distant Connecticut frontier there to assist their neighbors in
the Pequot Indian War. In 1642 the legislature received warning of the possibility of a major
attack from Amerindians allied with the French. Militia training was increased.(112) The
legislature took certain steps to close some gaps in the basic militia act. One amendment to
the basic militia act required that even those who were not required to muster had to provide
themselves with arms. "All persons exempt from training who yet are to find arms and are
able to use them, shall appear with their compleat arms before the Military Commander
twice in the year to bee exercised, . . . except physicians, church elders, scholars and surgeons."(113) The legislature also ordered "that every smith in this jurisdiction, laying aside all
other business, do with all speed, attend the repairing of arms . . . of the several towns."(114)
In the same year the legislature moved to stem the trade in firearms, gunpowder
and bullets to the Amerindians. The illegal arms trade had provided the natives with the
wherewithal to massacre the settlers and defeat the militia. It noted that earlier legislation
had failed to prevent arms from falling into the hands of the native aborigine. If any man
was caught selling or bartering guns he was to pay a fine of £10 for each firearm sold; £5
for each pound of gunpowder; and 40 shillings for each pound of lead, shot or bullets.(115)
In 1640 the colony of New Plymouth had imposed a fine of £20 "upon any that shall give,
trade, truck or exchange with the natives any kind of military arms, or guns of any length or
In 1643 the General Court created a new provincial militia law. The preamble
contained a strong endorsement of both morality and the value of a trained militia. "As piety
cannot be maintained without church ordinances and officers, nor justice without laws and
magistracy, no more can our safety and peace be preserved without military orders and
officers." Exemptions from the law were provided for students at Harvard College,
schoolmasters, ministers of approved congregations, physicians, certain fishermen and
magistrates. All other freemen were to muster four to six days a year for inspection and
training. The Massachusetts militia was organized along county lines, the first provincial
militia to be organized in this territorial manner. The county officers included a captain, one
lieutenant, an ensign, three sergeants and three corporals. Initially, a company consisted of
64 men, but the number was eventually increased to 100. A new company could be formed
anytime a unit of one hundred militiamen could be found.(117) The election of officers was
provided for by law, but only a complete company was granted this right. This proved to be
an effective incentive to maintain full company strength.(118)
All persons of any Trayned Band, both freemen and others, who have taken the oath of
residents, or shall take the same, and being no covenant servant in household with any other,
shall have their votes in nomination of those persons who are to bee appointed captaines, or
other inferior officers of the same band, provided they nominate none but such as shall be
In 1643, following the failure of some militia officers and units in the
Pequot War, the General Court set up an advisory committee on military preparedness that could also act decisively in emergencies. It was staffed primarily with
county militia captains and other presumably learned men of war.(120)
In 1644 the legislature passed legislation, not part of the militia act, which
nonetheless had implications for that legislation. For reasons of personal safety
and protection, "all inhabitants . . . are to have arms in their houses ready fixed for
service." The legislature lamented the "neglect of ye arms of ye country" and
ordered all inhabitants to have repaired all arms that were out of order. It also
ordered the Surveyor General to import or otherwise obtain quality arms and to
offered these arms at cost to all who might need decent guns.(121)
On 14 May 1645 the Massachusetts Assembly passed a law which
required that all young men between the ages of 10 and 16 years practice with arms
under the supervision of officers designated by the principal officers of the militia.
They were to trained in the use of pikes, bows and arrows and guns. In the earliest
years one-third of a militia company was armed with pikes and the remainder with
fire-locks. Pikes proved to be useless in deep woods combat and all men were soon
equipped with fire-locks, but tomahawks, scalping knives and other edged weapons
which were useful in hand-to-hand combat were added as standard equipment.
"All inhabitants, seamen as well as others, are to have armes in their howses fitt for
service, with pouder, bullets, match, as other souldiers; and ye fishermen, shipp
carpenters & others not exempted by lawe shall watch . . . and traine twice a yeere
according to order."(122)
Companies were constituted of 64 men. No company with less than a full
roster of men was permitted to elect its own officers, a most important prerogative
on the time and place. After the clerk certified to the General Court that a company
had its required membership, the men "shall have liberty to choose sergeants and
other inferior officers." These officers swore an oath to "trayne them in the use of
armes, eight dayes in the yeere."(123)
This pre-militia training was designed to make certain that all young men
had adequate familiarity with the common militia weapons. The Assembly also
ordered that the great militia be called out annually for minimal training. The
Assembly assumed that the citizenry would own its arms and would be familiar
with the basic care and operation of these weapons. The annual inspection would
ascertain which citizens had failed to provide weapons. The discipline would
insure that each man would know where and how to form in case of emergency.
Training time was set at eight days, with advance notice of six days.(124)
The watch mandated in the law was designed principally to look for the
approach of enemies from any direction. As a secondary function the watch was
to look for crime in progress and to resist violence. If the watch came upon an
enemy or criminal the men were to capture, or if necessary kill, the culprits. If their
force was inadequate to contain the menace they were to fire warning shots to
attract the attention of others. Citizens were expected to grab their own arms and
rush to the assistance of the watchmen. Watch began "halfe an hower after sonne
setting" and continued until dawn. Men were to be armed with muskets or pikes.(125)
The General Court also ordered "that all Scotsmen, Negers & Indians,
inhabiting with or servants to the English, from the age of 16 to 60 yeares, shall be
listed." These men were to be mustered, disciplined and trained with the rest of the
company. Those who loved at such a distance as to be inconvenienced to travel to
train with their companies were permitted to gather, if at least 12 in number, and
train themselves six times a year; or to train with other companies if they lived
close to another militia company than to their own.(126)
In 1645 the legislature instituted two interesting changes of policy. First,
the legislature ordered that musket and pistol balls were to be supplemented with
swan shot.(127) Swan shot is commonly known in contemporary literature as
buckshot and is used to discharge a relatively broad pattern, increasing the chances
of even a poor marksman hitting his target in dense brush. Today it is used for
hunting medium size game in urban areas because it does not carry nearly as far as
a single ball. Muskets of the colonial period would have discharged about two
ounces of shot pellets about the size of a pea. These shot could do considerable
damage to man or even several men in a small group at ranges of 50 or more yards.
Second, the legislature ordered that small children, those under the age of 16, were
to acquaint themselves with arms. It suggested that children begin pre-induction
militia training by practicing with scaled-down bows and arrows, small pikes and
On 12 August 1645 the Assembly provided for the recruitment and special
training of an elite corps. This select militia was to consist of the thirty best men
from each of the larger militia units. Their training concentrated on tracking,
capturing and expelling hostile Amerindians and the French woodsmen, the
courriers de bois. They were to be prepared to move against hostile elements
within thirty minutes of receiving a call from the authorities. They were to keep
their arms, powder, match and accoutrements fresh and ready.(129) The reference in
the law to "fresh Match" tells us that they were armed with matchlock arms instead
of flintlock or snaphaunce lock arms. These select militiamen were the forerunners
of the Minute Men of fame at Lexington and Concord.
In 1647 the legislature made a number of changes to the militia act. The
first alteration allowed those militiamen residing in the outlying areas to deduct
their travel time to and from militia muster from the eight days they were required
to serve annually.(130) Another new provision to the militia law that allowed "the
militia officers of each Company . . . with the advise and consent of such soldiers
as are allowed their Votes in Choice of their Officers, shall, from time to time,
appoint days for training their companys, so that there shall be eight days appointed
for the same every year."(131) Another amendment attempted to provide some
standardization of arms. Henceforth, militiamen could not fulfill the obligation to
provide arms with just any gun. "No musket shall be allowed for service under
bastard musket bore and not under 3'9" in length, nor any piece above 4'3" and
every soldier is to be furnished with [a] priming wire, worm and scourer, fitted to
ye bore of his musket."(132) Finally, an additional law also made provision for
armourers. "Upon any Military Expedition . . . all Smiths and other work Men are
to attend the repairing of arms and other necessaries and may not refuse such pay
as the Country affords."(133) In the same year the list of those exempted from militia
service included: the students and faculty of Harvard; school masters; notary
publics; physicians and surgeons; masters of ships at sea; millers; ferrymen;
herdsmen and nearly all political and public officers. However, all except
magistrates, physicians and teachers were to be provided with arms. The colony
provided that those who could not afford arms were to be provided with them, but
the poor may be required to perform public service or barter what they may have
in excess to obtain the public arms.(134) On 20 May 1647 the legislature repealed the
act of 9 September 1636 and allowed all freemen, and not just those required to
attend militia musters, to vote on officers of the various militia companies.(135)
On 27 May 1652 the Massachusetts Assembly decided to expand the
obligation to serve in the militia. Heretofore, Afro-Americans, whether freemen
or slaves, were not enrolled in the militia. Amerindians who lived in peace with the
colonists had also been exempted. The new act included "Negroes, Scotsmen and
Indians living with, or in servitude to" the colonists were obliged to serve in the
militia beginning at age 16 years. The inclusion of Scotsmen referred to indented
captives, taken by Oliver Cromwell's forces at the Battle of Dunbar.(136) The General
Court ordered that "all Scotsmen, Negroes and Indians inhabiting with, or servants
to, the English" be mustered with the militia.(137) However, just five years later, the
legislature passed a law which prohibited blacks, whether free or enslaved, and
Amerindians from joining the militia in the interests of "the better ordering and
settling of severall cases in the military companyes."(138)
By 1655 the colony had established minutemen and we find references to
their training and deployment.(139) In 1656 the Assembly passed substantial new
legislation relative to the militia. The amendments provided substantial penalties
for avoidance of militia duty. Only those previously exempted and anyone
exempted by the courts could escape the impact of the militia law.(140) The militia
law was not all inclusive. As with the 1643 militia act, exceptions were made for
the following: magistrates, court officers and their chief deputies, deacons of the
Church, and the faculty and students at Harvard College. Certain civilians whose
services were indispensable were exempted. These included ferrymen, millers, and
fishermen and herdsmen who were permanently employed at their trades. Those
frontiersmen who lived at too great a distance from a militia company to muster
conveniently were also exempted. Smiths and carpenters, physicians and surgeons
were exempted from regular service, but could be drafted when their special talents
were needed. Naturally the disabled were exempted from militia service. The law
made particular reference to the release of those who had a "natural or personal
impediment" such as "want of years, greatness of age, defect of mind, failing of
senses, or impotence of limbs." Those exempt from militia discipline still had to
provide themselves with a musket.(141) No man might join the militia "but as are of
honest and good report and freemen."(142) Shortages of manpower caused the enlistment of men as young as sixteen years.
In 1660 a new militia act required "every person above the age of sixteen
years" to train except the usual civil and occupational list and "one servant of every
magistrate and teaching elder, and the sons and servants of the Major General." No
mention was made of Amerindians or persons of color. Additional training
requirements were added, with specifics left to the military commanders.(143)
Initially, the colony had tried to fill all its militia obligations and
requirements with volunteers and when this failed it had created a system of
obligatory militia service.(144) The system which proved to be reasonable and
durable was one of universal militia service supplemented with a secondary system
of drafting militiamen to serve as artificers and garrison troops at forts.(145) The
General Court placed great value in forts so a remarkable amount of the
militiaman's time was spent in garrison duty in static fortifications.(146)
In ordinary times regiments were to drill once every three years, with the
militia officers to work out the schedule.(147) The legislature then fixed specific
dates between 1641 and 1651 and again between 1671 and 1676.(148) Some counties
failed to muster their militia for regimental meetings and some general gatherings
were devoted to other activities, such as repair of fixed fortifications.(149) The
training paid off. In 1680 Jasper Danckaerts, who was unimpressed with the drill
of the New York militia, complimented the military order and discipline he saw in
The General Court in 1665 decided that much "mischief" among the
natives had been brought on by excessive drinking of alcoholic beverages so it
prohibited absolutely the sale of any intoxicating substance to them. All the Indian
trade was henceforth to be conducted in licensed trading houses. Finally, seeing
that the natives had no sense of permanent conveyances of land, and that they
became warlike when cheated out of their lands in order yo to satisfy debts to the
traders, the Court forbade the sale of Indian land without its express approval.(151)
By 1687 it was evident that the colony had to enact an adequate militia law
for its own protection. The gave assembly the reasons for creating the Militia Act
of 1687. "Whereas it is absolutely necessary that the inhabitants throughout this
Territory and Dominion be well armed and trained up in the art military, as well for
the honour and service of his most excellent Majesty as for the preservation and
defence thereof from any violence or invasion whatsoever, Be it therefore enacted
by the Governour and Council and it is hereby enacted and ordained by the
authority of the same . . . ." The law provided for universal free male public
obligation to serve in the militia. The law provided, "That no person whatsoever
above sixteen years of age remain unlisted. . . ." If the man could enlist himself,
that was fine, but if not self-enrolled, the obligation fell upon "masters, mistresses,
or employers, under the captain or other officers in the respective places of their
abode . . . ." Men had the choice of serving in regiments of foot or horse. After a
young man turned age sixteen he must enlist within "the space of six weeks, on
penalty of forty shillings, and so for every six weeks such persons shall remain
Each man was responsible for obtaining and maintaining his own
weapons, supplies and accoutrements. "And that every foot soldier be provided
with a well-fixed musket, the barrel not under three foot in length and the bore for
a bullet of twelve to the pound, a collar of bandoliers or cartouch box with twelve
charges of powder and bullets at the least, and a sword, or, if the officer so appoint,
with a good pike and sword . . . ." The militiamen had to present their arms and
equipment on demand. He "so shall appear when and where appointed, upon
penalty of six shillings for his default in not appearing and four shillings for want
of each charge of powder or bullets, musket, pike, sword, bandoliers or cartouch
box, so as the whole penalty for any person at one time exceed not ten shillings. .
The law provided that if a militiaman wanted to perform his service on
horseback that the cavalryman also had to equip himself. As applied to cavalry, the
law said "that every soldier belonging to the horse shall, when and where
commanded, appear and be provided with a good serviceable horse covered with
a good saddle, with holsters, breastplate and crupper, and case of good pistols and
sword, and half a pound [of] powder, and twenty sizeable bullets, on penalty of ten
shillings for each time absence and six shillings for default of each the particulars
above mentioned, so as the whole penalty for one time exceed not fifteen shillings."
Even though the cavalryman had to provide his own pistols he still had to own a
shoulder arm. "And every trooper [shall] have at his usual place of abode a well
fixed carabine, with belt and swivel, on penalty of ten shillings, which they shall
bring into the field when commanded, upon penalty of answering the same at a
Some militiamen might not be able to afford the required arms. There
were some very poor families in early Massachusetts. Providing arms for several
males, father and sons, placed a considerable burden on some families. The law,
Provided nevertheless, that if any person who is to provide arms or ammunition cannot
purchase them by such means as he hath, he shall bring to the clerk of the company so much
corn or other merchantable goods as by apprizement of the clerk and two of the company
mutually chosen by them shall be judged of a greater value by a fifth part than such arms and
ammunition is of; and thereupon shall be excused from the penalty for want of arms and
ammunition, but not from appearance, until he be provided for and furnished, which the said
clerk shall do as soon as may be, by sale of such goods, and render the overplus if any be to
the party. But if any person be not able to provide himself arms and ammunition, through
his mere poverty, if he be single, he shall be put to service by any justice of the peace, to
procure him estate to purchase arms with, and his master shall find him arms during his
service; if otherwise, the selectmen, townsmen or overseers shall provide and furnish him
with arms and ammunition at the publick charge of the town, the which arms shall be kept
by the clerk of each respective company, well fixed and fitted for service, under the care and
inspection of the chief military officers there.
The law wished to provide local authorities with reliable and permanent
militia company rosters. Therefore, any person wishing to move had to make the
appropriate notification to his militia unit commander. "And it is further enacted
by the authority aforesaid, That no person so listed as aforesaid shall depart thence
without a discharge from the commander of the company or troop where listed, on
penalty of forty shillings; and that no commander of any company or troop shall
refuse, when desired, to give a discharge in writing to any that is removing his
abode out of the precincts, under the penalty of £5."
Proper equipment and uniforms were important to militia companies,
partially to give the men a sense of pride in the units, and partially to assist in
identifying the various units. "The Colonels of the respective Regiments, or other
chief officers, shall once every year, at the least, issue out their warrants to their
inferiour officers, commanding them to make diligent search and inquiry in their
several precincts, that all be duly listed, armed and equipped, and to return to them
such defects as shall be found, to the end the same may be reformed, on penalty of
one hundred pounds." Flags and musical instruments were also extremely
important to the militia units as they were to regular military units. Men marched
to the beat of drums and both drums and trumpets conveyed orders and assignments. Flags identified various companies and served as a rallying point, especially
after a battlefield was obscured by the haze produced by gunpowder. Thus, the law
required that, "all Captains of companies of foot or troops of horse shall, within
six months from and after publication of this act, provide for their companies and
troops, drums, drummers and colours, trumpets, trumpeters and banners, at their
own charge, under penalty of ten pounds, and so for every six months such
commanders shall remain unprovided . . . ."
Although custom and practice varied widely, in early Massachusetts
various non-commissioned officers and important musicians were paid. "All
trumpeters and drummers lately in service, or that shall by the several captains be
put into that service, shall hold and attend the said service during the captain's
pleasure, upon the salary of forty shillings per annum for a trumpeter and twenty
shillings per annum for a drummer finding their trumpet and drum, and twenty
shillings for a trumpeter and ten shillings for a drummer if the captain find them,
upon penalty of forty shillings." If the militia fines were insufficient to provide the
necessary equipment, town authorities had to find the funds to buy whatever was
needed. The law provided that "in case the fines and forfeitures for defaults
allowed to the captains as aforesaid shall fall short of the charge of providing
drums, drummers and colours, the account thereof being given to the chief field
officer and by him allowed, the sum wanting shall be supplied and satisfied by the
select men, townsmen or overseers out of the moneys raised or to be raised to
defray other public charge in each respective town."
Officers were to drill, inspect, discipline and exercise their militia charges
regularly. "And that three times in every year, or oftener if command be given by
his Majesty's Captain General or Commander-in-chief for the time being, the
several companies and troops in each Regiment shall meet at the next and most
convenient place to be appointed by their respective officers, to be then and there
by them mustered and exercised." Failure to exercise an officer's responsibilities
could bring considerable penalties. "And it is further enacted by the authority
aforesaid, That once every year, or oftener if thereunto commanded, each particular
captain, or lieutenant, where no captain is appointed, shall give to his field officer,
and the field officer to his Majesty's said Captain General or Commander-in-chief
for the time being, fair written rolls of their respective companies and regiments.
And if any field officer, captain or other inferiour officer or soldier shall neglect
or contemn performing the lawful commands of their respective superiour officers,
he or they shall be punished by fine, cashiering or other punishment, according to
the discretion of a court martial."
Men who failed to assume all their responsibilities, as we have seen, were
subject to fines. The Militia Act provided for the disposition and distribution of
militia fines. "That the several fines and forfeitures mentioned in this act and not
declared in what manner they shall be recovered and how disposed of, that all such
as do relate to any person under the degree of a captain shall be to the respective
captains, to defray the charge of their companies or troops, and to be levied before
the next exercising day, by distress and sale of the offender's goods, by the
captain's warrant to the clerk; but if the offender be a servant the owner's goods
shall be liable to the distress and sale as aforesaid so that satisfaction may be made:
and for all other penalties mentioned in this act, the same shall be levied by distress
and sale of the offender's goods and chattels, by warrant from the chief field
officers in the respective places or from his Majesty's Captain General or
Commander-in-chief for the time being; one half thereof shall be to our sovereign
lord the King, his heirs and successors, for and toward the support of his
government here, the other half to the informer."
Standing watch was among the most unpopular duties a militiaman might
draw, but, on the frontier and along the coast-line, it was among the most important
duties to which he might be entrusted. When Amerindians might attack, or French
or other hostile navies might land in wartime, watch duty was standard fare. Not
surprisingly, the law provide, "That all persons listed as aforesaid shall readily
attend and serve on the watch when appointed, under the penalty of three shillings
for each default and that it shall and may be lawful for any captain or other
commission officer under the degree of a captain, in their captain's absence, to
grant warrants of distress against any persons whatsoever that shall absent
themselves from their duty on the watch or night guards, they keeping an exact
account of all sums and forfeitures levied and received thereby, which they are to
render to their superiour officers when required: provided always, that no trooper
shall be obliged to watch or ward but under the command of his proper officer, and
in his proper arms."
Firing arms was a standard method of issuing warnings and summoning
aid. Spurious and random firing after nightfall were more than a minor
inconvenience; they misled, even deceived an unsuspecting population. Thus, the
act provided "that no person whatsoever presume to fire any small arms after eight
of the clock at night, unless in case of an alarm, insurrection or other lawful
occasion; and in either of the said cases, four muskets or small arms distinctly fired,
or, where great guns are, the firing of one great gun and two muskets or small arms
distinctly, and beating of drum, shall be taken for an alarm; and every person that
shall neglect his duty in taking and giving forward any alarm by firing as aforesaid,
or shall be guilty of firing any small arms after eight of the clock at night . . . ."
The man engaging in the illicit or frivolous firing of arms "shall be fined or
otherwise punished at the discretion of a court martial, not extending to life or
limb." Men were to assume that the firing of arms after sundown were call to arms
and all militiamen must respond immediately. "And in case of such alarm, every
soldier is immediately to repair armed to his colours or court of guard, upon the
penalty of five pounds."
The law also restricted the arbitrary discharge of large guns from ships in
the harbor. "And for the better prevention of false alarms, that no captain, master
or commander of any ship or vessel riding at anchor in any [of] the harbors, ports
or bays within this Dominion, or any other person, fire any gun after eight of the
clock at night, under penalty of forty shillings for every gun so fired, to be levied
by warrant from the chief officer, not under the degree of a captain, (who is hereby
impowered to administer an oath and give judgment thereupon,) by distress or sale
of the offender's goods, or for want of distress the said chief officer is hereby
impowered to commit such offender to jail, there to remain until payment of the
same; and that in case the said officer shall not perform his duty therein, he shall
forfeit ten pounds, to be levied by warrant from the Governor or Commander-in-chief for the time being: provided always, that this clause shall in no ways concern
or extend to any captain or officer of any of his Majesty's ships of war, for their
firing at setting of the watch."
There were exemptions from militia service. Naturally, professional and
enlisted military officers and enlisted soldiers were exempted. Most others on the
exemption list were civil officers, including, "all the members of his Majesty's
council, justices of the peace, sheriffs, coroners, and all officers of courts; treasurers, surveyors and deputy surveyors; the clerks belonging to the surveyor's office;
and one servant of every member of the council. . . .; as also all officers imployed
about his Majesty's revenue." Also exempted were "ministers ; the president,
fellows, students and officers of Harvard college; professors and allowed
schoolmasters; physicians and chirurgeons [surgeons]; masters of ships and other
vessels above twenty tons, in actual employ; constant fishermen and herdsmen."
By the time the assembly had passed the Militia act of 1687, some
militiamen had decided to question the right of government to draft them for any
service, and many refused to report for garrison and maintenance duties. Threatened by this near universal revolt the legislature provided for a method of escaping
from the draft. One could hire a substitute for a minimal payment. Consequently,
the real burden of serving unpleasant and boring duty details fell on the poorest
citizens and the non-citizens, the unemployed, transients and freebooters. Men
with certain skills, such as carpenters and smiths, were more liable for the draft
than most militiamen simply because the work on fortifications required their
services. One could also reduce one's chances of being drafted by contributing
supplies and arms to the common cause.(153)
Militia officers in Massachusetts were popularly elected. Every soldier,
as well as those exempted by the law from militia discipline, was allowed to
participate in the election. Any freeman might stand for election. The troops
having fewer than 64 members had officers appointed by the Assembly. The
assembly encouraged smaller units to merge their troops, primarily to allow for the
election of officers. (154) When there was a tie, or when more than one man was
elected to a particular rank, the man with the greatest seniority in the militia was
chosen as senior officer.(155) The Governor of the Colony or his designate served as
the Major-General of the colonial militia. Officers might be required to present a
certificate from their parsons, identifying them as part of the elect. The General
Court was never pleased by the democratic selection process and after 1664 it
increasingly meddled into the officer selection process, exercising its power to
"nominate, choose and appoint" the militia officer class. Those wishing to serve
as officers might petition the General Court, providing it with recommendations
and testimonials relative to their alleged qualifications.(156) These papers were
similar to those prepared for officers nominated democratically in earlier times.
The Court still later chose to rotate militia officers with mixed results. After 1645
the General Court increasingly guarded its prerogative militia powers.(157) In
October 1687, Governor Edmund Andros usurped the power to appoint all civil
officers, including those of the provincial militia. His "despotic rule" continued
through February 1689 when the people of Boston, "as their contribution to the
Glorious Revolution," removed him from authority.(158)
The sergeant major-general was the highest ranking militia officer in the
colony. He could always replace officers in the field, an obvious military necessity
when officers were killed, wounded or otherwise rendered incapable of serving.
When the Sergeant Major-General of the militia called the unenrolled troops into
service or into joint military training camps, he would decide the order of rank
among the eligibles in each rank. His own family was exempted from militia drill
and assembly, and he received other privileges commensurate with his rank and
importance.(159) He or his designate negotiated with the officers of neighboring
When the colony needed the services of the militia, a signal consisting of
firing of four muskets, ringing of church bells or other pre-decided alarm, would
call the assembly. Any man failing to respond was to be fined £5 sterling.
Excepting a decision made by the Major-General, a local committee consisting of
the officers of the militia units could decide to hold the militia or to dismiss it.(161)
Local officers, whether elected or appointed, had primary responsibilities
for the organization and discipline of the militia companies. The county captain
was the principal militia officer in each county. He was charged with inspecting
the arms carried by militiamen and checking the people attending church or
otherwise travelling to make certain that they were armed. At times the county
militia units paid his salary from militia fines and at other times he General Court
paid his stipend.(162) On occasion the General Court or Sergeant Major-General
might send militia captains as emissaries to various Amerindian chiefs and villages.
They might also act as mediators, negotiators or arbitrators in Amerindian affairs
and disputes. They sometimes negotiated the release of caucasian captives and
The sergeant-major assisted the county captain. He assessed fines, sought
out delinquents, supervised drills and generally ordered the company's military
business. In times of crisis he led the forces and could, if necessary, impress goods
into the public service.(164) The county militia clerk was assigned the most
unpleasant tasks. So unpopular was the position that the General Court mandated
that clerks serve when elected or appointed or pay a stiff fine. He called roll at
militia musters and reported those who failed to attend. He also kept the equipment
roster, noting any deficiencies and levying fines on those under-equipped and he
made arrangements for the poor to work on public projects to pay for militia
equipment that they could not afford.(165) He added various charges to the fines that
were not paid immediately. In return he received one-quarter of all fines and
generally received a kick-back or legal commission on purchases of supplies and
The militia law required that each man supply himself with at least a
pound of gunpowder and twenty bullets. If the gun was a firelock, at least a foot
of match rope must be supplied, and if a flintlock, spare flints were in order.(167) In
addition militiamen usually carried a hatchet or tomahawk,(168) scalping knife or
sword and knapsack and cartridge belt.
Cavalry units were formed as auxiliaries to the regular militia. Initially,
they served as scouts with infantry, but they rapidly developed into effective
combat units.(169) First organized in units of thirty mounted men, cavalry units were
expanded into units based on seventy men.(170) Units with forty or more mounted
men could nominate their own officers.(171) These were the elite militiamen. Only
freemen who were admitted to full citizenship, and, usually, were Puritans, could
join the mounted militia. An applicant or his family had to own property valued
at no less than £100 in order to serve in the cavalry. He had to equip himself with
saddle, bridle, holster, pistol or carbine and sword and provide his own horse.(172)
In return he received may privileges not accorded infantry militiamen. He could
not be drafted, but had to volunteer, for service outside the colony. He paid no
ferry charges or head rate poll tax.(173)
The General Court encouraged these militiamen living on or near the
frontier in sparsely populated areas to develop mounted militia units to expedite
muster and organizational time.(174) As long as the cavalry was properly utilized they
proved to be effective. When they were misused and improperly deployed, as in
King Philip's War, they suffered enormously and were nearly disbanded.(175)
Frontiersmen usually valued their riding horses highly and were often unwilling to
use their best horses in combat because of the possibility of injury. On the other
hand, some militiamen were frequently guilty of overloading the horses so that the
animals died en route to battles, or were so slower by the weight that they offered
little advantage over foot soldiers.(176)
Cavalry units were not created or prepared for use against the native
aborigine. The eastern and northern Indians did not begin to acquire large
quantities of horses until about 1725 and by 1740 an Amerindian living in these
areas who possessed no horse was a rarity. But even after acquiring horses, these
tribes rarely used them to advantage in war.(177)
The Wampanoag tribe has been peaceful, even friendly, toward the
European settlers under Massasoit, and there were few problems as long as he
lived. On Massasoit's death in 1661 he was briefly followed by his elder son
Alexander. Upon Alexander's death King Philip, Massasoit's second son, became
the sachem of the Wampanoags. A proud and talented, even charismatic, but
brooding, man, King Philip had long envied the physical possessions of the
Europeans and loathed their encroachment on the Wampanoag's ancestral lands.
He mourned the passing of tribal autonomy and independence, especially with their
growing dependence, even addition, to the white man's goods. He thought that he
was to be joined by the Narragansett tribe of Rhode Island, which resented what
they considered preferential treatment of the rival Mohican tribe. The Narragansett
and Wampanoag tribes, traditional enemies, had found new reasons to bury the
hatchet. King Philip's War began in June 1675 when Wampanoag warriors
attached and destroyed the frontier town of Swansea, thirty miles form Plymouth.
Plymouth Plantation and Massachusetts militiamen hurried to the scene. The
Narrgansetts watched and waited and while the Mohican and Pequot tribes assisted
The militia immediately gained the upper hand. They drove Philip from
the Mount Hope Peninsula and trapped them in a dismal swamp. The militia was
too poorly led and disciplined to close the trap and Philip escaped, enlisting the
Nipmuck tribe of central Massachusetts during his escape. In December 1675 the
militia made a second mistake. Unable to get the Narraganset to make any clear
statement of commitment they moved against their principal fortified town. This
settled the issue and, with the Narragansetts now among the belligerents, other
tribes joined the war. One tribe or another pillaged nearly every small frontier
town and outlying farm. Finally, Brookfield was destroyed. They laid waste the
Connecticut Valley. Militia sent in pursuit of raiders frequently fell victim to
On 10 February 1676 the Amerindians burned Lancester and eleven days
later destroyed much of Medfield. On 13 March they successfully attached Groton,
which was burned after it inhabitants fled. Providence and Warwick, Rhode
Island, and Simsbury, Connecticut, were abandoned. The Massachusetts towns of
Andover, Woburn, Sudbury, Bridgewater, Hadley, Hatfield, Springfield and
Marlboro were all successfully attacked. Urban areas had to provide for
increasingly large numbers of refugees and prices of foodstuff rose as crops were
burned and cattle and horses slaughtered in the fields. But the militia was learning
the military supplies arrived from England. The Amerindians had no outside
sources of supply and no sense of planning for a prolonged war. Militia had
burned their crops and killed many of best warriors. Hunger, malnutrition and
disease took horrible tolls. On 12 August 1676 the militia trapped and killed Philip
near Plymouth, where the war had begun. The war dragged on with sporadic
attacks as late as the summer of 1677 in Maine. In a most unconventional tactic for
the Amerindians, the Pequots made their last stand in a fort near present-day
Mystic, Connecticut, as did the Wampanog allies of King Philip on Rhode Island
Colonial militia leaders had learned some expensive lessons. They saw
the value of hiring other Indians to track and scout. They changed their principal
weapons. King Philip's War marked the end of the European pike as a principal
militia weapon in American. Amerindians were much more intimidated by the
thunder and novelty of firearms than they were by pikes creating light infantry and
of abandoning obsolete and useless equipment and accoutrements which added
nothing and only burdened the militia-man(179) They learned to make war in
Amerindian fashion in the deep woods. A few months of actual service proved to
be infinitely more useful than years of militia muster and marching. It was King's
Philip's war that changed the American militia from a European para-military
organization into an Indian fighting machine.(180) The American Revolution would
force the militia to reverse that pattern.
Much has been written of the barbarous behavior of the Amerindians
during King Philip's War, but little has been written of the devastating effect it had
on the natives. The New England militia had realized that, if properly armed,
equipped, united and led, the natives just might win the war. The Christian natives,
derisively called "Praying Indians," represented an enormous reservoir of strength
if Philip could rally them to his cause. Many of the converts owned firearms, some
had money and supplies, most knew the whites and their battle tactics well, and
many were sympathetic to at least some of Philip's causes. Some caucasian leaders
thought that the converts were not to be trusted, and it was just a matter of time
before they joined Philip. They were almost certain to spy on the whites and report
weaknesses in deployment of troops and fortifications that Philip could exploit.
One preacher summed up this opinion: "We have been nourishing vipers." While
standing firm against this opinion initially, to the point of defending the Christian
Indians, the magistrates saw their authority undermined, and their position eroded,
as a few cases of treason and spying were uncovered. So the praying Indians were
murdered, their property confiscated, and their buildings burned and cattle killed.
More converts defected and joined Philip, precipitating more reprisals. By the time
the dreadful war was over perhaps as many as 3000 supposedly friendly Indians
had been murdered, scattered, dispossessed of land and property, or otherwise
alienated and injured.
Had it not been for the more than three thousand allies, notably from
among the Mohican and Natick tribes, the settlers might not have withstood the
initial Amerindian assault. Had these native Americans joined Philip, he might
well have exterminated the settlers. Yet most were rewarded by having their crops
wasted, homes burned and possessions plundered. Many were relocated from their
homes just before harvest time, leaving them to starve. At the suggestion of John
Eliot, some were exiled to the barren (and by now misnamed) Deer Island in
Boston Harbor. Relief supplies to these displaced persons was slow in coming and
many perished of exposure and starvation. It was the general opinion of the period
diarists that the praying Indians never returned to their former level of prosperity.(181)
By 1677 the General Court had consolidated the praying Indians into just four
villages and they were not permitted to leave their own villages without express
permission from the Court. In 1681 the number of towns was reduced to three.
Those who remained in Massachusetts had be instructed in Christianity. They were
strongly encouraged to wear their hair short in the manner of the English and
abandon their scalp lock style. They were forbidden to carry firearms, required to
obtain travel permits, and prohibited from entertaining strangers in their homes.
Rebellious and rogue Amerindians could be enslaved and sent to the West Indies
On 2 June 1685, the General Court of New Plymouth enacted its final
militia law. The law required militia service of all able-bodied freemen and
indentured servants and mandated attendance at periodic military training sessions.
Exempted were physicians, magistrates, ministers, school masters, the colony's
secretary, clerks of courts, sheriffs, constables, herdsmen, millers, masters of ships,
seamen, and heads of households who had three or more sons enlisted in the
militia. Physicians could write letters of exemption for those who were physically
unable to serve, whether on a permanent or temporary basis.(183) The royal charter
of 17 October 1691 formally incorporated Plymouth and Maine within
Massachusetts, ending the necessity for a separate body of laws for these colonies.
In 1680, Massachusetts Governor Simon Bradstreet wrote to the London
Company concerning the militia. The militia was not selective, but it enlisted all
men except "Negroes and slaves whom wee arme not."(184) In 1693 the General
Court again affirmed that all blacks and Amerindians were to be "exempted from
all trainings."(185) An Act for regulating the militia was adopted on 22 November
Whereas, for the honor and service of their majesties, and for the security of this their
province against any violence of invasion whatsoever, it is necessary that due care be taken
that the inhabitants thereof be armed, trained and in a suitable posture and readiness for the
ends aforesaid, and that every person may know his duty and be obliged to perform the same,
Be it therefore enacted by His Excellency the Governor, Council and Representatives in
General Court Assembled, and it is ordained and enacted by the authority of the same. . .
Sec. 1. That all male Persons from sixteen years of age to sixty . . . shall bear arms and duely
attend all musters and military exercises of the respective troops and companies where they
are enlisted or belong, allowing three month's time to every son next after coming to sixteen
years of age, and every servant so long after his time is out, to provide themselves with arms
and ammunition, &c.
Section 12. That the persons hereafter named be exempted from all trainings, viz., . . .
indians and negroes.
Section 26. That all persons exempted by this law from trainings shall, notwithstanding, be
provided with arms and ammunition compleat, upon the same penalty as those that are
obliged to train.(186)
The main tactics employed by Amerindians were offensive: surprise and
destruction by deception. They preferred to attack in superior numbers and
retreated when the odds went against them. They liked to surround an enemy and
strike at dawn. One authority believes that they did not develop either tactics or
strategy and were wholly predictable in behavior because they lacked the social
structure to develop and execute advanced or complicated maneuvers; and they had
not developed the imagination necessary to conceive of new methods of warfare.
One of the greatest reasons for their downfall across North America was their
inability to cooperate with other tribes, especially those who had been traditional
enemies. Even their direction by European officers, English or French, did not
change their way of fighting. Caucasian officers who were successful with the
Amerindians in war found they had to follow the Amerindian practices rather than
try to change them. The greatest influence that European officers exercised was
in getting the Amerindians to make occasional raids during winter, as in 1704 on
In 1672 the militia of Massachusetts numbered 15,000 men, although only
6000 of these men had the right to vote or to hold political office.(188) More men
could vote on their militia officers than could vote on their political officers. The
patience and organization paid off. Jasper Danckaerts who severely criticized the
New York militia in 1680 found the militia in Boston to be most impressive.(189) In
1678 the colony restricted shooting and arms practice near public or privately
owned buildings for the protection of the citizenry.(190) In 1692 the General
Assembly repeated the orders concerning the arming of the militia, but restricted
the bearing of arms when the carriage might cause alarm or violate the general
Local militia companies were financed by militia fines. The company
clerks collected the fines. They purchased the various supplies, such as firewood,
gunpowder, match, flints, lead and food with these funds. On occasion they
purchased arms and supplies for poor freemen.(192) The General Court imposed
various duties and imposts to shore up the militia treasury at various times.(193) It
also kept some expenses low by engaging in price fixing and by setting legal
charges for services.(194) Still, supplies were often insufficient for the needs of the
militia. For example, on 23 January 1694 Charles Frost reported to the General
Court that, "for the great want of Shoes and Stockings our soldiers here, several of
them, are incapable of service for want thereof." Nathaniel Saltonstall agreed,
reporting on the same date that his men were in great need of snowshoes for winter
service and "ammunition, provisions and cloathing."(195)
During the winter of 1694-95 Lieutenant-governor Stoughton carried on
involved correspondence with governor and council in Connecticut, trying to work
out details of the defense of the region around Deerfield and along the Connecticut
River. The principal issue discussed was how, when and under what conditions the
militias of the two colonies could cooperate in the defense of an area of common
concern.(196) In 1696 the General Court named one commissioner and authorized the
governor to name a second commissioner to carry out negotiations with
Connecticut and Rhode Island to defend the same frontier areas.(197)
In 1695-96 the home government requested that Massachusetts send
troops to assist in the defense of New York. The legislature demurred and
Governor Stoughton was delighted to hide behind it, writing that the requested aid
could not be provided conveniently. For his part, Stoughton was delighted to have
a scapegoat when pressured by the British authorities.(198)
In 1702, perhaps in anticipation of full war, Queen Anne sent instructions
to Governor Dudley. "All planters and Christian servants," she ordered, must "be
well and fitly provided with arms." The entire militia was to be put in a state of
absolute readiness and even indentured servants were to be fully armed against the
expected invasion of the French and their Amerindian allies. All militia were to be
mustered, trained and placed under adequate discipline. Still, the queen warned,
"you are to take special care that neither the frequency nor the unreasonableness
of remote marches, musters and trainings be an unnecessary impediment to the
affairs of the inhabitants." Martial law was to be proclaimed only in case of
extreme emergency and with the consent of council.(199)
In 1704 the French and their Amerindian allies destroyed the town of
DeerfieId, on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. The little town already had
a history of tragedies. It was nearly annihilated in 1676 during King Philip's War,
and in 1694 a raiding party of French and Indians had barely been beaten off. As
a result several of its 41 houses were fortified, and a sentry had been posted nightly
since war resumed. On the last night of February 1704 a mixed party of 200
Canadians and 140 Abenakis and Christianized Indians of Caughnawaga attacked,
under the command of Captain Hertel de Rouville, veteran of the last war. The
village contained two hundred and seventy settlers as well as twenty militiamen
from neighboring towns, all apparently asleep. The surprise was complete, but the
slaughter not as heavy as might have been expected. Thirty-eight inhabitants were
massacred and seventeen houses went up in flames, but at least half of the others
found refuge in one or another of the fortified places. There was enough resistance
for the Indians to lose eight warriors, and the Canadians three militiamen. One
hundred and eleven prisoners were taken and sent north to French Canada at
daybreak. The surviving villagers pursued the retreating raiders and inflicted thirty
additional casualties on the enemy. For their part the Massachusetts militia lost
nine men and failed to recover any captives. On the 300 mile journey to Montreal,
sixteen of the prisoners were killed, with several being burned at the stake, and two
reportedly starved to death. The most famous captives were the family of the
Reverend John Williams. The baby was killed at the outset, and Mrs. Williams was
killed on the march, along with their Negro slave. Three sons, two daughters, and
Rev. Williams survived the long trek. Eventually almost all the Deerfield survivors
were ransomed and exchanged with Massachusetts. The notable exceptions were
a few children, including Eunice, daughter of Rev. Williams. Even Governor
Vaudreull could not obtain her release from the Indians. She remained with the
Caughnawaga converts, converted to Roman Catholicism, married one of the
Indians, and had two children. Thirty-six years later she was reunited with her
brothers and sister for a visit, but the gulf was so great that she returned to
Caughnawaga to live out the remainder of her eighty-nine years. Rev. Williams
published an account of the massacre and capture which has remained the primary
source of first-hand information on this event.
The governor and legislature set up a system of town-fortresses all along
the 250 mile border with Canada. Each town had its own militia. The linking and
communication was provided by select militia which communicated on horseback,
weather permitting, and on snowshoes during the winter. These strategic hamlets
served as bases to launch attacks as well as defensive positions and havens for the
population in times of trouble. This system, combined with strategic alliances with
the League of the Iroquois and the general debility of the Amerindians allied to the
French, served well to protect the colony. During Queen Anne's War (1702-1713)
the monarch inquired of Governor Joseph Dudley, "how many [men] are fit to bear
arms in the militia." It is unfortunate that his response cannot be located.(200)
During this same time period Massachusetts used ranging units of
minutemen, forts and regular militia, but it still cost the province about £1000 for
each Amerindian killed(201) In 1707 the legislature decided that blacks living in the
province were getting a free protection while whites had to serve in the militia. The
legislature passed an "act for the regulating of free negroes." It read in part,
"Whereas in the several towns and precincts within this province there are several
free negroes and mulattos, able of body, and fit for labour, who are not charged
with trainings, watches, and other services required of her Majesty's subjects,
whereof they have share in the benefit." Section three provided that "all free male
negroes or mulattos, of the age of sixteen years and upwards, able of body, in case
of alarm, shall make their appearance at the parade of the military company of the
precinct wherein they dwell, and attend such service as the first commission officer
of such company shall direct, during the time the company continues in arms, on
pain of forfeiting the sum of twenty shillings to the use of the company, or
performing eight days labor as afore
said, without reasonable excuse made and accepted for not attending."(202) It ordered
that blacks be required to "do service equivalent to trainings." The legislature
specifically mentioned substituting public service, such as highway maintenance
for militia service. In times of crisis blacks were to report to the militia assembly
to serve in whatever capacity they might be ordered. Failure to do public service
was penalized by a fine of five shillings and failure to muster in times of emergency subjected a black man to public service of eight days.(203)
Massachusetts raised 550 militiamen to avenge the Deerfield Massacre.
Command devolved on Colonel Benjamin Church, now 65 years of age and not in
the best of health. Church decided not to pursue the Deerfield hostages, but to
destroy the Abenakis by striking at the their towns and villages from Penobscot to
Port Royal. Church's militia sailed out of Boston on May 21, 1704. Raiding along
the way, they killed a few Indians and captured others, including the half-breed
daughter of Baron de St. Castin, who had returned to France. The expedition
burned Grand Pré on the Bay of Fundy and reached Port Royal, but at a council of
war on July 14 Church and his fellow officers decided it was too strong to be taken
with men, equipment and materials on hand. The force returned home with a
hundred prisoners, mostly Abenakis, having lost only six men. Actually the militia
had fought few, if any, real battles and achieved little except for the taking of
prisoners and the burning and looting of the Amerindian towns. This was the fifth
and last Indian expedition of Colonel Church.
Legislative leaders of Massachusetts were highly irritated at New York by
this time. The colony had refused to participate in the expedition and the British
authorities had done little to encourage New York to participate. The cost in men
and money had been borne exclusively by New England, and that meant, primarily
by Massachusetts. What was much worse, Albany merchants were carrying on a
quiet, but effective and profitable, trade with St. Lawrence River Indians.
Moreover, plunder taken on Amerindian raids in Maine, New Hampshire, and
Massachusetts turned up for resale in Albany shops.
A lull now developed, and it was French Governor Vaudreuil who opened
negotiations for an exchange of prisoners in May, 1705. He controlled 117 New
Englanders and he claimed to know of 70 more among his Amerindian allies.
Massachusetts sent up to Quebec 70 prisoners, mostly Amerindians, but received
only 60 caucasians in return. Vaudreuil claimed that his Amerindians were
independent allies. Although he claimed to have used his best arguments and
powers of persuasion he had failed to convince them to yield their captives. In ill
humor, legislators in Massachusetts now accused their own commissioner, Samuel
Vetch, of prolonging the exchange business in order to carry on trade as a war
profiteer among the enemy. Actually Vetch was carrying a secret letter to
Vaudrenil from Governor Dudley proposing a truce of neutrality between the two
provinces. Vaudreuil received it favorably but insisted on two conditions: that
New York and the other northern English colonies be included, and that the
English give up their fishing rights off Newfoundland. The first was difficult to
comply with; and the second was impossible. Additionally, Vaudreuil continued
to argue that he could not persuade his Amerindian allies to surrender their prisoners.
Governor Dudley had sought help from England to capture Port Royal in
Acadia and obtained nothing. English authorities clung stubbornly to the belief
that the colonists could and should prosecute the war on or near their own soil.
Colonel Church's failure against Canada focused even greater attention on the
issue. Although some Boston merchants were trading illegally with the French and
their Amerindian allies, most supported strong prosecution of the war in Canada.
Boston fishermen were frequently driven away from fishing grounds off
Newfoundland by French privateers operating out of Port Royal. Finally in 1707
Dudley asked the General Court to authorize and underwrite yet an enterprise
against Port Royal. Two regiments were called for, vessels were to be impressed,
an English frigate in port was to be used's and neighboring colonies were to be
invited to join. The expedition sailed on May 13. New Hampshire contributed 60
men, and Rhode Island 80. With the two Massachusetts regiments there was a
grand total of 1,076 soldiers and about 450 sailors. Colonel John March was the
commander, facing a military problem quite different from his frontier service. The
volunteer militia were landed in two parties and without much trouble drove the
advanced French forces back into the fort, commanded by Governor Daniel
d'Auger de Subercase. The New England militia arranged itself in a long
semicircle and camped.
Soon after the militia disintegrated into a wrangling, unmanageable mob.
The officers did not know how to conduct a siege, and the soldiers, losing all
confidence in them, reverted to behaving like the civilians that they actually were.
After three councils of war about proceeding or giving up, the noble force
decamped for Casco Bay. Colonel March sent an apologetic message to Governor
Dudley, who, although deeply disappointed, demanded that March make another
attempt at once. Accordingly Dudley dispatched to Maine a hundred recruits,
another frigate, and three members of the provincial council to advise March. The
expedition returned to Port Royal in August and found that the French also had
been reinforced. For a week there was repeated skirmishing in the open, with
several casualties, but no decision. Once more the New Englanders withdrew.
Boston was loud in its condemnation and demanded court-martial proceedings, but
with officers accusing one another there were hardly enough left to serve as judges.
The discreditable wrangling eventually dissipated itself.
Border raids resumed in 1708. In midsummer Governor Vaudreuil put
together a force of one hundred Canadians and three hundred Christian Indians
under Hertel de Rouville, of Deerfield fame. They were to be joined en route by
eastern Indians and sweep the frontier once more. But the reinforcements did not
appear, and many of the mission Indians turned back after experiencing what they
considered to be evil omens. With his force reduced almost by half, De Rouville
decided to strike at Haverhill, Massachusetts, on the north side of the Merrimac
River. The village contained about thirty houses, perhaps one hundred and fifty
people, and thirty militia in a picket fort. Just before dawn on August 29 the
French and Indians struck. They met a spirited resistance as most of the inhabitants
fired from their houses. The raiders tried to burn them out but were not successful.
Stubborn fighting persisted for several hours. Relief troops came and tried to
ambush the enemy, but killed only nine and wounded eighteen. After the attackers
withdrew, the village counted up sixteen dead and three taken prisoner.
Late in 1706 Samuel Vetch had embarked for England. A 38 year-old
Scot, he was married to Robert Livingston's daughter. Vetch was a newcomer to
Massachusetts commerce, but he had seen enough of the war to become convinced
that nothing effectively against Canada could be accomplished without military aid
and leadership from home. The idea was prevalent in New York, of course, but
Vetch had the energy and persuasiveness to present the glorious enterprise to
influential government officials. There was something in it for himself as well.
However, it took him two years to extract a favorable decision. He promised that
2500 colonial troops would co-operate, although his authority for making such a
statement is surely suspect. Vetch thought it best if two battalions of regulars and
six warships were dispatched from England with a regular military commander-in-chief to lead the attack on Quebec. Governor Dudley supported the idea, and so
did Lord Lovelace, who was being sent to New York as governor to replace the
corrupt Cornbury. The Board of Trade was slowly convinced by the end of 1708,
and its recommendation was adopted by the ministry and the queen in February
1709. For his effort Vetch was given a colonel's commission to direct colonial
preparations and was promised the governorship of Canada after it was taken.
With Colonel Francis Nicholson, recently governor of Virginia, Vetch sailed for
Fifteen hundred men from New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and
Pennsylvania, including the regular Independent Companies, were to rendezvous
at Albany in May for an advance on Montreal. The Iroquois were to be brought
into the campaign if at all possible. New England was to raise a thousand men to
join with the English forces for an attack by sea on Quebec and Port Royal. Vetch
was effective in arousing enthusiasm in all the northern colonies except Quaker
Pennsylvania. Despite the sudden death of Governor Lovelace, New York moved
with alacrity under Lieutenant Governor Ingoldsby and chose to participate actively
in this campaign. John Schuyler was sent off to the Iroquois with gifts. Colonel
Nicholson was accepted to command the forces gathering at Albany. Never had
the northern colonies co-operated so harmoniously and energetically, for they were
all convinced that driving the French out of North America was the only means of
achieving permanent peace. Although Pennsylvania had refused to furnish men,
volunteers from the other colonies more than offset the defection. Everything was
in readiness and anticipation high, but the British fleet and troops did not appear.
In October Vetch learned that officials in London had quietly abandoned his
scheme. Vetch cursed the day and returned an embittered man who had failed
largely because he had not engaged in court politics and aristocratic intrigues.
When the action at Port Royal did occur, the effort was chiefly the work of royal
marines, and it was Port Royal, not Quebec, that would be the target. When Front
Royal surrendered on 2 October 1710, American militia and volunteers had played
at best a minuscule part. Vetch contented himself with a royal governorship at Port
Royal, now renamed Annapolis Royal and his garrison troops were British
regulars, not militia.
In 1715 a militia unit under Captain John Lovewell engaged a body of
Amerindians in the Massachusetts territory of Maine. The Amerindians on
Lovewell's militia, which broke ranks and pursued the attacker. He led them into
an ambush in which the Amerindians killed many militiamen both from musket fire
and in the hand to hand combat that followed. Lovewell's Fight, as the action was
known, changed militia tactics somewhat, showing the great value of sustaining
discipline.(204) In 1733 the legislature passed a act regarding the ownership of a
Act for Regulating the Militia. Every Soldier and other Householder shall always be supplied with
a well fixed Firelock Musket of Musket or a Bastard Musket Bore, the Barrel not less than 3 foot and
a half long, or other good Fire Arms to the satisfaction of the Commission Officers of the Company,
a Cartouch Box, one pound of good Powder, 20 Bullets fit for his Gun and 12 Flynts, a good Sword
or Cutlass, a Worm and Priming Wire, fit for his Gun, on Penalty of 6 Shillings.(205)
In 1723, following the departure of Governor Shute, the legislature and
the new governor, Dummer, clashed with the legislature over control of the militia.
Dummer accused the assembly of trying "draw off the forces" so the legislature
assured Dummer that it merely meant to "draw off the pay and sustenance" of the
military. Seeing that the power of the purse, as the house viewed it, meant, in
reality, that the assembly would control the militia, Dummer answered that, while
the legislature did have the power to appropriate money for all purposes, military
included, he would not countenance any interference with his duties under the
colonial charter to control the militia.(206)
The legislature was not through. It began to demand the submission of the
journals and other records of field commanders that it authorized committee
members to examine in detail and report to the whole body. The legislature had
mandated that such journals be kept as early as Shute's administration, but it was
not until it clashed with Dummer that it began its examination. Heretofore, the
only reports required of militia commanders had been those routinely submitted in
all colonies to the governor in his capacity as supreme military commander.
The situation was impossible, of course. By involving the legislature so
heavily in day to day operations, the legislature tended to undermine military
discipline. If an officer was dissatisfied with his orders or assignment it appeared
he could go over the governor's head and appeal to the assembly. Legislative
tampering might suggest that advancement might come more rapidly by catering to
the legislature than to the governor. If the officers and men had carried out a
mission under gubernatorial orders, would the legislature withhold their pay or
punish them? It had occasionally blocked pay and expense vouchers when it
suspected financial irregularities, but it was nearly impossible to do so for policy
reasons. Neither could the legislature withhold militia supplies and materials of
war and thus weaken the colony in order to enforce its will on the governor and his
militia. Even some responsible legislative leaders saw that by allowing politics to
enter into military decisions and the deployment and discipline of the militia, the
legislature had also invited insubordination. What it could, and did, do was to use
its power of the purse to control the building, maintenance and garrisoning of forts,
fortresses and fortified positions. It could also withhold appropriations and
authorization for expeditions into other colonies.(207)
In early 1724 the legislature decided that it would issue pay and vouchers
to militia units only after it had examined its journals and checked its muster rolls.
It had come to the realization that it could not challenge the governor on policy
matters, but it was determined to exercise as fully as possible what powers it did
have. The reports that Shute and then Dummer sent regarding the legislature's
interference with the military for a time put the colony's charter. Indeed, it was at
this time that the English government issued the Explanatory Charter, settling
several problems in favor of the privy council. The home government thought
Massachusetts had a surfeit of democracy and that its congress was attempting to
usurp traditional and legal executive powers. It restrained itself from demanding
a reduction in real legislative power, being quite satisfied that the legislature would
return to its traditional and legal powers.
By 1739 the freeholders of Boston had become concerned with their defense, holding that a defenseless town invited war.(208) The press in Pennsylvania,
a colony that had no militia act of its own, reported with some considerable envy
that Massachusetts had newly enacted its fundamental militia law. The new law
Every inlisted soldier and other householder (except troopers) shall be always provided with a well-fixed flintlock musket, of musket or bastard musket bore; the barrell not less than three foot and a
half long, or other good firearm, to the satisfaction of the Commissioned Officers of the Company;
a knapsack; a cartouch box; one pound of good powder; 20 bullets fit for his gun; and 12 flints; a
good sword or cutlass; a worm and priming wire fit for a gun. A penalty of six shilling for want of
such arms as hereby required, and two shillings for each other defect , and the like sum for every
four weeks he shall remain unprovided; the fine to be paid by parents for their sons under their
command; for their servants, other than servants upon wages.(209)
When England declared war (War of Jenkins' Ear) on Spain on 19 October
1739, the American colonies were assigned quotas of volunteer militia to be
recruited. The Massachusetts legislature offered a bounty for enlistments, but still
had trouble filling even half Governor Belcher's quota. To increase popular
participation, colonial militia volunteers were to be allowed to continue to elect
their inferior officers. Officers and men would have rank and pay, and were to be
armed and clothed, in measure equal to their professional British military
counterparts. They were to "have their just share and proportion of all plunder or
booty gained from the enemy, according to their services."(210) After the war they
were to be permitted to retain their arms and uniforms for military duty.(211) Some
500 volunteers from Massachusetts, along with volunteers from Rhode Islander,
filled five ships when they left Boston harbor. After the British bloody defeat
during the attack on Cartagena, West Indies, survivors barely filled one ship upon
return. The colonists lost 153 officers and 30 transport commanders and untold
numbers of enlisted men both to enemy fire and fever.(212) Approximately ten
percent of the volunteers had survived.
On 25 October 1743 France signed a treaty known as the Second Family
Compact with Spain and on 15 March 1744 joined Spain's war against England.
The French made an unsuccessful assault on Annapolis Royal [Port Royal], Nova
Scotia, in 1744. With a real threat to its security the legislature of Massachusetts
took several steps to provide for the colony's defense. It increased military
appropriations and increased militia training. And it appointed a new commander.
Sir William Pepperrell (1696-1759) was a prosperous merchant who spent
much of his time in Boston and had served in the Massachusetts legislature and on
the governor's council. Already a colonel in the Massachusetts militia, he recruited
and commanded the New England volunteer militia which, in cooperation with the
British Royal Navy, on 17 June 1745, captured Louisbourg, now in Nova Scotia.
In 1746 Pepperrell was made a baronet, a title never bestowed heretofore to an
American-born British subject. Because of this success, between 1754 and 1759,
the British confirmed his command of all military forces of Massachusetts.(213)
In June 1745 Sir Peter Warren's fleet, along with Pepperrell's land forces,
captured Fort Louisbourg and Sir William Johnson led his Iroquois warriors into
Canada. The French retaliated by burning Saratoga in late November 1745.
Massachusetts militia participated, primarily as volunteers, in the successful siege
of Louisbourg, a French stronghold in Canada. the Board of Trade congratulated
Governor William Shirley (1694-1771)(214) for his part in recruiting volunteers,
equipping the troops and organizing the expedition.(215)
Immediately, the Massachusetts legislature began lobbying for the return
of its provincial militia. While the militia was fighting at Louisbourg raids on the
frontier had increased and the legislature wished to deploy the militiamen in
defense of their own homes.(216) After the French incited Indian raids into Maine,
all the New England colonies declared war on the Amerindian tribes allied with the
French.(217) In late August 1745 the French allied tribes broke their treaty of
neutrality with the Six Nations.(218) Shirley supported the legislature's demand for
the return of the militia, informing the English that the militia volunteers were "to
be discharged as soon as the expedition be over."(219) The militia was successful in
repelling both French and Amerindian invasions thereafter, although calls for assistance continued to pour into Shirley's office until the end of the war. Some frontier
towns demanded troops to garrison various forts and towns. Shirley agreed that
hereafter no soldier would be sent out of the province for a period greater than one
year, and additional militia would be enlisted, trained and equipped to replace any
volunteer or impressed militiamen serving elsewhere.(220)
In April 1746 three British regiments relieved the volunteer colonial
militiamen at Louisbourg. The British home war office conceived of another
assault on Canada, with two armies leaving the colonies to attack the French. One
army would move up the St. Lawrence River toward Quebec while the second
would attack Montreal by way of Lake Champlain. Advertisements appeared in
newspaper throughout the colonies, asking for enlistments of three, five, and seven
years. Massachusetts offered volunteers £30 and a blanket and exemption from all
impressment for two years following their return.(221) For its part, the home government offered bounties in the form of land around Louisbourg to survivors of the
The legislature argued that the militiamen would do better staying at home
to defend against Amerindian raids. Governor Shirley disagreed. He argued that
the tribes allied to the French had long been the greatest threat to the New England
provinces and that the best way to end that threat was to carry the war into their
villages. By striking at the heart of the problem the Amerindian threat would be
destroyed for all times. This was properly an American cause and should be
carried out by militia volunteers.(223) The British demanded that 4300 men be
recruited from the colonies, but they themselves were unable to release any troops
from home because all available men were fighting on the Continent. The war
ended with the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle signed on 18 October 1748.
The Louisbourg matter was not quite finished. A pamphlet appeared
which was extensively reviewed, extracted and debated in the New England
newspapers. The anonymous author contended that there was no clear
authorization from Britain to undertake the mission; that the authorities knew that
the war was going to end and that Louisbourg would be returned to the French; and
that the New England colonies had incurred enormous expenses which the mother
country would not refund. Quite serious was the charge that the militia had been
illegally and illicitly removed from the province, leaving its borders open for attack
and leaving the inhabitants at the mercy of the marauders. The first obligation of
the militia was the protection of the home folks, and not to act as a reservoir of
trained manpower for military operations beyond the colonies' borders. Weakening
of the colony's defenses to provide troops for service in any foreign land was
unconscionable. Moreover, the impressment or recruitment of militiamen for
dreary and unproductive foreign service had a deleterious effect on morale in the
militia.(224) The same certainly could have been said of the recruitment of troops for
the ill-fated West Indian campaign.
In 1754 the Massachusetts General Court decided to create two laws
dealing with offenses committed within the military, to be administered by courts-martial, and extended for an indefinite period of time. The Press Act dealt with the
pilferage of arms, supplies and equipment. The Mutiny Acts applied to crimes
which were uniquely military, such as mutiny, sedition and desertion, and
conspiracy to commit these forbidden acts.(225) Although many had been passed
previously, no mutiny act had ever been applied in time of peace, and all of them
heretofore, carried a one year limitation [unless the enlistment ended earlier], and
expired after 365 days unless re-enacted. Mutiny acts specifically refused to
exempt men from the provisions of civilian due process. Courts-martial might
recommend a death sentence, but it could not be imposed without the concurrence
of the provincial governor acting in his capacity as commander in chief of the
colony's military. Puritanical New England lawmakers concluded from their study
of the Holy Bible that the good book limited corporal punishment to 39 lashes. The
law implied, if not specifically allowed, that militia units apply certain punishments
including the lash within the noted limits. They also might impose the running of
a gauntlet and riding the wooden horse and perhaps a few other relatively minor
physical punishments. Greater penalties were reserved to the civilian courts and
Desertion had occasionally been a problem before imposition of the
Mutiny Act, but these were usually handled by the officers. Colonel Richard Sykes
related an incident that had happened in the earliest days of the Seven Years War.
It concerned "a person that was willing to enlist under me and accordingly I
enlisted him and paid him his Bounty, but he took the first opportunity to desert
and I missed him instantly and advertised him and [offered a reward] of 20
shillings sterling for taking him before a magistrate."(227)
In the autumn of 1754 Governor Shirley wrote to the Earl of Halifax to
report that he had experiences great difficulties during the previous summer raising
800 men to deal with the French who he was "certain had made a considerable
progress in building forts" within Massachusetts. He also reported that the French
had begun to establish permanent settlements within the province and that he was
hard-pressed to recruit men to build and man the forts designed to protect the
colony from further encroachments by the French.(228) In November 1754 the Board
of Trade appointed Shirley to command two new American regiments and gave him
the order to recruit, and draft if necessary, 1000 Americans to serve. Moreover, the
Board of Trade ordered that militia regiments be raised in Virginia, North Carolina,
Maryland, and Pennsylvania and placed under the command of Sir Peter Halket and
Colonel Dunbar.(229) At the same time Shirley was forced to deal with a problem
that also plagued Pennsylvania authorities: enlistment of indentured apprentices
and servants. The province had recently had good luck with its efforts to recruit
the great Dispute on this recruiting Service has been enlisted Servants. The [debate] has been carried
on to a great Height in Pennsylvania and Maryland. I have always declared it was my opinion that
His Majesty has an undoubted right to the voluntary services of His Subjects.
In 1757 the British hoped to raise in the Colonies a substantial American
force to join the British regulars in the war on the French in Canada.
Massachusetts Bay and New Hampshire were jointly assigned quotas of 30,000
men of the 12,000 men respectively. Massachusetts had been assigned by far the
largest single quota of any of the British colonies in North America. This was not
a good time for the colony to be asked to carry such a large burden. Lieutenant-governor Spencer Phips had found it necessary to ask the Assembly to pay the
volunteers who had returned from Albany, New York, in the summer of 1757,
following the abandonment of that campaign by the British army. The Earl of
Loudoun could not pay the Massachusetts militia and volunteers because he had
barely enough money to pay his won regular army troops. The legislature refused
to increase taxation, especially to pay for a lost campaign, so the province was
forced to issue paper money to pay the troops.
The Massachusetts provincial mutiny law was suspended in 1757 when
Lord Loudoun placed the militia and provincial volunteers under the British Mutiny
Act. This law carried far more severe penalties that the provincial law had ever
imagined. Under the British act the possibility of appeal of a sentence to civilian
authorities was impossible. This law had already created a draconian system, based
upon inhuman and brutal discipline. Sentences imposed under it included the
brutal whipping, and even execution, of some of the enlisted men. The provincial
law had limited physical punishment to thirty-nine lashes, the traditional biblical
number given to Jesus Christ before the crucifixion. Under the British law as many
as a thousand lashes might be imposed. To many provincials, this really meant that
the law sanctioned execution by whipping. Even army surgeons were more likely
to revive a man who had become senseless than they were to intervene to restrict
the imposition of sentences.
The British military system had long been based upon the creation and
maintenance of an absolute dichotomy between men and officers. The
implementation of this distinction began with an absolute refusal of officers to
learn even the first names of their men. The officers were taught to regard the
enlisted men as low-life types, devoid of a real human nature, morality and
sentiment. Most officers believed that enlisted men were capable of reacting to,
and were necessarily restrained only by, the harshest possible physical punishment.
This practice stood in stark contrast to the New England tradition in which enlisted
men and officers alike shared religious services, food and drink, and a faith in
It is certainly possible that the imposition of martial law on Americans
were among the true causes of the climate of opinion that led to the Revolution and
the Declaration of Independence.
During the French and Indian War, Massachusetts had enlisted many
slaves. At least on militia company showed blacks on its rolls.(230) In 1763
Reverend Jeremy Belknap, an early opponent of slavery, noted that the number of
slaves in Massachusetts had undergone a precipitous decline because so many had
enlisted in the militia, or served as volunteers, and had won their freedom by
serving in the recent war. Still others had won their freedom, or merely escaped,
by enlisting in the army or navy.(231)
We may think of the militias of the southern colonies exclusively when we
think of the containment of slaves, but northern militias also had a certain
responsibility in that area as well. Josiah Quincy, Jr., described the slave patrols
of Massachusetts, on which he served. Local committees, as in South Carolina,
were wholly responsible for enforcement of slave laws. The committees consisted
of three justices of the peace who were empowered to enlist militiamen as a posse
comitatus, arrest slaves for virtually any reason and tray and punish a slave at the
place of arrest. A convicted slave had no recourse to appeal or any other trial.(232)
The British army, always hungry for manpower, used the New England
volunteer militia in the French and Indian War as a reservoir of trained manpower
upon which to draw for recruits. British recruiting officers often neglected to
explain that enlistment was for life. Garrison troops were much more likely to be
kept beyond their terms of enlistment and pressured into agreeing to serving in the
regular army than those troops assigned to combat duty. The walls of a fortress
kept the enemy out, but made the commander a dictator within, holding for him all
those who entered its ramparts.(233)
The governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Pownall, wrote to William Pitt
in England, arguing against the deceitful and damaging practice of recruiting his
citizens into the regular army. He used language that he knew would appeal to an
English gentlemen, arguing that recruitment had been among the sons of the best
people of New England, when, in fact, he knew that to his own people these class
distinctions meant little or nothing. Pownall knew that the people of Massachusetts
were far too democratic in spirit to care whether those impressed or enlisted under
false pretenses or with less than full disclosure were themselves, or were the sons
of, farmers, tradesmen, merchants or gentlemen.
I beg leave, sir, to inform you that most of these soldiers in the ranks are freeholders, who
pay taxes; that these are the sons of some of our representatives, the sons of some of our
militia colonels, and the sons of many of our field officers, and other officers now doing duty
as privates in the number I have this year raised. And that the sons of some of our principal
merchants, who pays £500 sterling per annum taxes, were impressed for the same.(234)
The real point Pownall was making was that his people believed that military
service was to be undertaken only when there was a threat and the freemen could
not long remain free if they allowed themselves to be enlisted into a system where
even the most rudimentary freedoms were lost. After a war Americans believed
that the military should be disbanded, or at least reduced substantially, and
volunteers and militia should return to their homes and to normalcy. By reducing
the military presence and dismissing most of the men, England would be
guaranteed an effective fighting force should it be needed again. By continuing to
bind a free people to an archaic, draconian and authoritarian military system,
England risked alienating those on whom it had depended in the past, on whom it
must depend in the future for defense in North America.(235)
The American, and especially the New England, colonists had endured
many infringements of their liberty by 1775. As early as the 1760s the anonymous
authors of the Journal of the Times, presumed to have been written in Boston,
boasted that there were "30,000 men between Boston and New York ready to take
up arms" in order to "throw off the dependance" upon Great Britain unless the
mother country improved relations.(236) They disliked many of the English remedial
remedies taken to insure continued hegemony over the colonies. The English had
interrupted shipping and required that the colonies trade only with the Mother
Nation or her other colonies. The Quebec Act, extending full religious toleration
to the French-Canadians who were Roman Catholics, did not set well with the
prejudiced colonial Protestants. They did not like the Quartering Act which
allowed for the billeting of the King's soldiers in any home or ship. The Port Act
had thrown hundreds of seamen and longshoremen out of employment. General
Gage's troops cut off the city's provisions by sea, but they arrived by land in a wide
variety of carts, wagons, and other conveyances.
Of the many acts Americans considered intolerable none was more odious
than the Quartering Act. American intellectuals recalled Machiavelli's warning that
standing armies in times of peace are most likely to get into mischief and to brawl
with the civilian population. A New England minister in 1768 had noted that
"wherever troops are quartered, the civil authority should have a strict eye over
them."(237) The Boston Evening Post and other newspapers of the 1760s and 1770s
frequently reported that soldiers quartered had committed various atrocities against
the population.(238) One great objection to quartering of troops in peacetime was that
it violated the English Bill of Rights and was thus viewed as an "intolerable
grievance" to freemen.(239)
One great objection to the quartering of troops in the body of a town is the danger the
inhabitants will be in of having their morals debauched. The ear being accustomed to oaths
and imprecations, will be the less shocked at the profanity and the frequent spectacles of
drunkenness, exhibited in our streets, greatly countenances this shameful and ruinous vice.
The officers of the army are not backward in resenting the smallest disrespect offered
themselves by a soldier, and such offenses are severely punished, but it seems the name of
God may be dishonored with horrid oaths and blasphemies. . . .(240)
Adding to the increasingly hostile atmosphere was the position and
attitude of Governor Thomas Hutchinson (1711-1780). He seemed bent on
promoting confrontation by advocating and enforcing policies that seemed to have
been designed expressly to alienate the people of Massachusetts Bay. A fifth-generation descendant of Anne Hutchinson, Thomas was the son of a wealthy
merchant who entered politics in 1737. He represented Massachusetts at the
Albany Conference, having served as a delegate in the General Court and as judge.
By 1756 he was considered the most able man in Governor William Shirley's
administration. In 1758 he became lieutenant-governor and in 1760 chief justice
of the superior court. He was a staunch conservative who opposed the growing
sentiments for independence, such as opposition to the Writs of Assistance and the
Stamp Act Congress. When Governor Bernard returned to England in 1769,
Hutchinson became acting governor, and, in 1771, governor. He defended the
absolute sovereignty of the British parliament over the colonies. The fact that his
family had long lived in the colony caused many to think him traitor to his own.
Benjamin Franklin caused some thirteen politically incriminating letters to made
public. Despite this embarrassment, and the formal request of the General Court
that he resign and leave the colony, he remained in power through the Boston Tea
Party. The latter event was precipitated in some large measure because Hutchinson
had insisted on collecting the hated tax on the East India Tea Company's popular
product. Finally, Thomas Gage assumed office on 1 June 1774 and Hutchinson left
for England, never to return to America. By this time, the stage for open rebellion
and insurrection was well set. Hutchinson's conservatism was well expressed after
he settled in England in a rejoinder he wrote in response to the Declaration of
Meanwhile, the French were enjoying the English discomfort. Their
observers and political analysis knew that the Americans were well prepared and
well armed and were spoiling for a confrontation. They seemed to have been
amused at the naivety of the English who were ignoring the obvious signs warning
that trouble lay ahead. As early as 1774 the French newspapers observed that the
militias of New England were prepared to repel force with force. The French press
reported that Massachusetts Bay could muster 119,600 militiamen "all of good will
and prepared to act if they must."(242)
For its part the English press had little but disdain for their provincial
cousins. The London Publick Advertiser of January 1775 had belittled the military
prowess of the colonials. No American force could begin to think realistically of
challenging the British force, the finest standing army in the world. Each
disciplined British soldier was worth several of the backwoods militiamen. There
was no true standing army, but if one should be formed each trained English soldier
would be worth at least two of their opponents. The Advertiser's reporter declared,
"The Americans, though in general of our stock, appear to me to have for the most
part degenerated from the native valor as well as [the] robust make of the men in
By the spring of 1775 the city was like a tinder pile, ready to be set ablaze
by a single incident. Governor Gage had inherited a time-bomb from Governor
Hutchinson and seemed to have no idea how to defuse it. The citizens had been
fired up by earlier confrontations such as the Boston Massacre and the Boston Tea
Party. The Sons of Liberty, the Committee of Correspondence and other patriotic
propagandists were agitating among the population. The city had split its loyalties
between the growing cause for independence and the united empire loyalists.
Clashes between the growing the two native groups occurred daily. Patriots had
good intelligence. Men like John Hancock, Francis Shaw and Paul Revere
entertained the cream of the young and ambitious British officer corps, quietly, but
efficiently, milking information on the number, arms, spirit and disposition of
In addition to serving as Governor of Massachusetts, Thomas Gage
(c.1719-1787) was supreme commander of the King's forces in America. He had
arrived initially in America to serve on Braddock's ill-fated expedition and
afterwards fought successfully against the French. In 1760 he had been appointed
governor at Montreal, and in 1763 became supreme commander at New York. His
immediate charge in 1774 was to quiet agitation against various parts of the
Intolerable Acts. He had been provided with 4000 troops in Boston to keep the
peace. He pondered his alternatives. Could he respond by using purely political
means as governor or need he use the military force at his disposal as commander?
Should he remain in Boston holding city, or should he move his troops into the
countryside, pacifying the entire state? The decisions were difficult, but little
might Gage have imagined how important these decisions would become.(243)
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts colonial militia, long fallen into disuse and
disorganization, was revitalized, equipped and drilled. The colonial militia
marched and the English marines and regular army troops counter-marched. Each
observed the other. While many senior British officers dismissed the rustic citizen-soldiers as suitable only to deal with the native aborigine, other officers saw a
purpose in the militia training. If nothing else the gatherings patriotism. These
factors proved to be far more important to the future of the nation than the actual
military training and practice the meetings generated.
The British officials had good intelligence.(244) There were more than
enough Tory spies and other Loyalists to keep Gage and his staff informed of the
events transpiring in the country. The British could observe the development of
things in Boston first hand. When the British did nothing to prevent the citizen-soldiers from organizing these trained bands became ever more bold. Their
governing body, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts, met in Cambridge
without British consent or legal authority. The Congress empowered the
Committee of Safety, headed by John Hancock, to call out the entire state militia
if the events of the day required. Hancock divided the militia into the regular
citizen-soldiers and the select group, the Minutemen, who were to respond to any
emergency at a moment's notice. Both militia groups were clearly extra-legal.
There was no threat from foreign enemy or Amerindians. The reconstituted militia
was wholly designed to counter English power.(245)
None of this had been lost on Gage or on most of his officers. He opted
to use some military measures against the colonists. Gage knew what military
measures were being taken in both the city and the surrounding countryside. Some
of the militia appropriated some of the colony's artillery. The Congress voted to
equip a militia of no less than 15,000 men. A powder magazine and armory were
set up in Concord.(246) The Congress appointed five generals -- Artemas Ward, Seth
Pomeroy, John Thomas, William Heath and Jedediah Preble -- to head the trained
bands. Gage decided that things had gone too far. The rebels must be disarmed.
There was no end to their potential for military power.
The English colonial authorities considered taking away the colonials'
arms, but rejected this idea because it was impossible to do. On 15 December 1774
Gage wrote to the Earl of Dartmouth, "Your Lordship's idea of disarming certain
Provincials would doubtless be consistent with Providence and Safety; but it
neither is, or has been, practicable without
having recourse to force and being Master of the Colony."(247) In London, William
Pitt, Earl of Chatham, on 20 February 1775, had moved that the House of Lords
address the king, asking that the problems be resolved and a way found to establish
the peace. Pitt asked that the "fatal acts of the last session be repealed." On 1
February 1775 he had moved a provisional act for settling the disputes in America,
but the bill was rejected.(248) Conflict seemed to be inevitable.
In February 1775 Colonel Thomas Leslie led has 64th North Staffordshire
regiment to seize the militia supplies. Leslie had no thought of provoking war.
When the militia of the greater Salem are mustered and confronted the British
troops, Leslie withdrew. The supplies remained in colonial hands. The Minutemen
had achieved their purpose. All knew that this was the first, unfinished chapter.
A more active commander or more aggressive troops or an accident might make the
next encounter more memorable.
The Committee of Safety in February 1775 ordered the commanders of the
town militias to assemble one-quarter of their men and to occupy and hold a long
list of vital points of communication and security. On 28 June this list was
expanded and the Committee created 23 militia companies of 50 men each to guard
the seacoast and to watch for English naval activities. By January 1776 the militia
was ordered to form eight additional companies to guard coastal locations not
covered by the first order.(249)
The militia supplies at Salem were moved to what the Committee of
Safety thought were more secure quarters at Concord. The Congress resolved that
any time the British high command moved 500 or more of its troops out of Boston
this act would be considered to be hostile to the colony. The Congress authorized
the Committee of Safety to act in defense of the colony and its citizens. Force
against a large troop deployment was automatically defined as a defensive act.
There was no authorization of offensive action.
On 15 April 1775 General Gage acted. He issued orders to his elite
troops, men especially selected out of all regular army units under Gage's
command. They were to train for a search and destroy mission. The command
extended to over 700 select men. The Committee of Safety and Massachusetts
Congress watched and waited. The British reported that on the eighteenth of April
the following companies were committed to action: "the grenadiers of his army and
the light infantry, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Smith of the Tenth
Regiment, and Major Pitcairn, of the Marines . . . and the next morning eight
companies of the Fourth and the same number of the Twenty-third and Forty-ninth,
and some marines, marched under the command of Lord Percy to support the other
On the night of 18 April 1775 Paul Revere and William Dawson received
word. They must cross Boston harbor, past H. M. S. Somerset, and prepared to
spread the alarm. Revere, a Boston silversmith, had been responsible for the
popular copperplate depicting the colonists' view of the Boston Massacre of 5
March 1770. He was a trusted courier for the Committee of Safety and had
arranged to set in motion a warning system should the British authorities decide to
move against the revolutionary leaders. Dr. Joseph Warren, chair of the
Massachusetts Committee of Safety, ordered Revere to issue the warning, saying
that the British troops were preparing to march from Boston. Using a small
rowboat he had secreted, Revere avoided detection by British naval patrols. He
borrowed a horse in Charlestown and set out for Concord. Initially blocked by
British patrols along the Cambridge Road, Revere rode through Medford, arriving
at about midnight at Lexington. At the home owned by Reverend Jonas Clarke,
Revere awakened John Hancock and Samuel Adams. Warren had also sent
William Dawes to Roxbury. Joined by Dr Samuel Prescott of Concord, Revere and
Dawes set out to spread the alarm along the whole line of communities in which
Minutemen were awaiting news of British movements, especially those guarding
the militia supplies at Concord. Intercepted by a British patrol, Revere was
captured, Dawes fled back toward Lexington, but Prescott escaped to carry the
message to Lincoln and Concord. Revere convinced his captors that the entire
countryside was already alarmed and gathering under arms and they would be at
great risk in holding him. The British officer in charge released Revere who then
returned to Lexington and there rescued vital papers that Hancock had left behind.
There he saw the first shots fired.
Samuel Adams and John Hancock authorized the sounding of the general
alarm. For the next sixteen hours the militia responded. Lexington awakened, the
word spread toward Concord. Through the night as the British column moved
forward, news of their march was eliciting a colonial response. The quick trip
across the Charles River in boats was the easy part for the British troops. They
disembarked into knee deep cold water. Then they assembled at arms for two
hours. They marched waist deep through the biting cold of a backwater. As they
marched northward they became aware that surprise was not their ally. Church
bells and other sounds of the night served notice that their mission was uncovered.
In command was Colonel Francis Smith of the Tenth Lincolnshires. Second in
command was Marine Major John Pitcairn. If not the senior commander at least his
second inspired confidence.
Daylight began to break as the column neared Lexington. By now the
horse hoof beats translated into silhouettes of horse and rider. The sound of the
ringing bells translated into armed men gathering informally into armed units. "The
country had been much alarmed," Gage reported, "By the firing of guns and ringing
of bells." He then dispatched two companies to secure two important bridges.(251)
The semi-lit fields seemed to be filled with human beings headed toward their
rendez-vous with destiny. Pitcairn dispatched a messenger to Gage in Boston. He
told of the premature discovery of his mission and asked for additional troops.
As the column entered Lexington they saw before them two companies of
Minutemen. Battle order was formed on the close end of the town green. There
was no surprise, only discomfort at the approaching moment of decision. Captain
John Parker of Lexington sized up the situation correctly. The first confrontation
would not be recorded in Lexington. Gage later reported that his army "found a
body of the country people drawn up under arms on a green close to the road; and
upon the king's troops marching up to them, in order the enquire the reason of their
being so assembled, they went off in great confusion." Pitcairn wanted no battle
for his part either. But his orders were clear. All militia under arms were to be
detained and disarmed and/or taken into custody. Pitcairn turned his column to cut
off the retreat of the militia. A shot rang out. No one save the person who pulled
the trigger will ever know who bears the responsibility for the start of the war.
Gage reported it was probably the Americans who fired first. "Several guns were
fired upon the kings' troops from behind a stone wall and also from the meeting
house, and other houses, by which one man was wounded, and major Pitcairn's
horse shot in two places."(252)
After the first anonymous shot the British line fired in volleys. The troops
broke rank and charged the militiamen. Pitcairn struggled to restore order and stop
the firing. Eight Americans lay dead on the Lexington green. There were no
remarkable British casualties. The column reformed and marched on toward
Concord and the military supplies stored there. Reuben Brown, saddler of
Concord, had ridden to Lexington for news. He returned to report to the colonials
that the British had fired on the militia at Lexington. The militia readied itself for
the British troops. The militia at Concord had received reinforcements. The
Lincoln militia had arrived and advance notice was received that yet other militia
units were due to arrive momentarily. The militia marched out to meet the British
troops and escorted them into the village. The citizen-soldiers occupied the high
ground beyond their muster field. The British began to ransack the town. The
militia from Acton, Carlisle and Chelmsford arrived, swelling the colonial ranks.
Captain Isaac Davis, the gunsmith, spotted smoke arising for the town and
concluded that the British were burning the town. He led his Acton militia in the
charge and the battle was engaged.
This time there was no doubt who fired first. The British loosed volley
after volley. Davis had made his last gun, for he was probably the first to fall to the
British troops at Concord. The streets turned into slaughter pens. The militia
ignored military formation so familiar to the disciplined English troops. They
fanned out and fired not in volleys but on individual initiative at selected targets.
Their aimed precision drove the best of Gage's command back. The lines broke
and the English fled in disarray. Back to Lexington they raced.
The account of the action was published in a local newspaper and was
widely reprinted for weeks after in nearly all the newspaper in other areas of the
nation. This American account claimed the British commander cried,
"Disperse you Rebels -- Damn you! Throw down your Arms and dispense." Upon which the Troops
huss'd, and immediately one or two Officers discharged their Pistols, which were instantaneously
followed by the Firing of four or five of the Soldiers,then there seemed to be a general discharge
from the whole Body.(253)
There are a number of extant depositions taken from Americans who witnessed the
massacre. They differ slightly in the report of the exact words spoken by the
British commander, and whether it was the commander or his lieutenant who gave
the order to fire. For example, Elijah Sanderson claimed that he was present on
Lexington common and he "heard one of the regulars say, 'damn them, we will
have them' and immediately the regulars shouted aloud, ran and fired upon the
Lexington company." Simon Winthrop "observed an officer at the head of the said
troops, flourishing his sword, and with a loud voice, giving the word, 'fire -- fire'
which was instantly followed by a discharge of arms." John parker, commander of
the Lexington militia, claimed that "I immediately ordered our militia to disperse
and not to fire." The "regular troops were on the march from Boston, in order to
take the province stores at Concord" and upon his order not to fire the British
"troops made their appearance and rused furiously, fired upon and killed eight of
our party." A number of members of Parker's militia signed a common affidavit,(254)
which claimed that "about five o'clock in the morning, hearing our drum beat we
proceeded toward the parade" grounds where they formed. Seeing that "a large
body troops were marching toward us" they heard orders from Parker to offer no
resistance "At which time the company began to disperse. Whilst our backs were
turned on the troops, we were fired on by them, and a number of our men were
instantly killed." Levi Mead and Levi Harrington reported that "two of the regulars
whom took to be officers, fired a pistol or two on the Lexington company, which
was dispersing, and they were immediately followed by several vollies from the
William Draper reported that "the commanding officer, as I took him, gave
the command to fire upon the said troops, 'fire, fire, fire' and immediately they fired
before any of captain Parker's company fired." Thomas Fessenden gave this
account. "I saw three officers on horseback advance to the front of the said
regulars, when one of them, being within six rods of the said militia, cried out,
'disperse you rebels, immediately,' on which he brandished his sword over his head
three times; meanwhile the second officer, who was about two rods behind him,
fired a pistol, pointed at said militia, and the regulars kept huzzaing till he had
finished brandishing his sword, and when he had thus finished brandishing his
sword, he pointed it down toward the said militia, and immediately on which, the
said regulars fired a volley at the militia." After the initial shots were fired "the said
militia dispersed every way as fast as they could and while they were dispersing,
the regulars kept firing at them incessantly."(255)
Meanwhile, several companies of British troops which had moved beyond
the town returned. They had seen and heard the battle at the bridge. As they
returned the militia covered them, but did not fire. The citizen-soldiers seemed
willing to avoid further hostilities if possible. Colonel Smith assembled his
Lincolnshire companies. They could see ever more militiamen arriving. They
seemed to be aware that news of the two bloody confrontations was spreading
among the new arrivals. As they finally left town at about high noon the British
fired a parting volley at the militia. This act of contempt was the immediate cause
of the Battle of the Nineteenth of April 1775.
The citizen-soldiers knew better than to attempt to fight the British
regulars on their own terms. They did not form a line of attack. They hid behind
rocks and trees, behind fences, wood piles and outbuildings. They fired, retreated,
reloaded and fired again. Gage reported that "on the return of the troops from
Concord, they were very much annoyed, and had several men killed and wounded,
by rebels firing from behind walls, ditches, trees and other ambushes." The British
troops that were put to flight by the citizen-soldiers of Massachusetts were quite
probably the finest in the world. But they had retreated. Many threw away their
weapons and back packs and ran. As the harried British troops arrived back in
Lexington, at the sight of the first blood, they were joined by some 2000 fresh
troops under Lord Percy. Percy had recruited three loyalist guides from Boston:
Thomas Beaman of Petersham; Samuel Murray of Brookfield; and Edward
Winslow, Jr., of Plymouth.(256) The early morning call for assistance had been
answered. But the calm was short lived. Percy brought several small cannon and
fired at the Americans with these. Gage reported, "the rebels were for a while
dispersed; but as soon as the troops resumed their march, they began to fire upon
them again from behind stone walls and houses, and kept up in that manner a
scattering fire during the whole of their march of 15 miles, by which means several
were killed and wounded." As the combined forces returned to Boston they found
the citizen-soldiers were positioned along the road just as they had been with the
smaller column. They were bold in their harassment. Occasionally, the column
stopped to fire back or to set up light artillery wherewith to sweep the colonial
lines. But the muskets were highly inaccurate at the distance between the column
on the road and the colonials in their hiding places. There were seldom enough
men concentrated to justify the use of even the small artillery pieces in the British
Although Gage had twice reported only that "several" men were killed or
wounded, the British suffered 72 killed and many more wounded on that fateful
day. Gage even reported that "such was the cruelty and barbarity of the rebels that
they scalped and cit off the ears of some of the wounded men."(257) Superior
marksmanship and the use of rifles rather than the New England fowling pieces
would have inflicted even more casualties. These were not backwoodsmen or
hunters whose lives depended upon proper and accurate use of their guns. They
were merchants, tradesmen, clergymen and farmers who had far less experience
with aimed, precision firing than had their backwoods cousins. Moreover, their
fowling pieces were not rifled arms.(258)
One American wrote to an English
newspaper that "had the people had time to have alarmed the country, and to have
collected their militia, it is probable that the retreat of the regulars would have been
totally cut off."(259) Perhaps the most significant fact noted about this engagement
was that the Massachusetts militia had turned out no less than 3763 Americans
even though the patriots had received only a few hours' notice.
A few days after the incidents, General Gage appeared before the
Selectmen of Boston. He reported that "there was a large body of men in arms"
and that he was prepared to take whatever action was necessary to maintain might
be injured in any resulting confrontation.(260) The patriots claimed that "20 or 30
thousand men . . . surrounded Boston and shut in the British soldiers and cut off all
supplies of fresh provisions."(261) Gage demanded that the inhabitants give up their
arms and place them, with tags denoting individual ownership attached thereunto,
in a public hall in Boston. Later, "the arms aforesaid at a suitable time would be
return'd to the owners."(262)
The inhabitants did bring in 1778 firearms, 634 pistols,
973 bayonets and 38 blunderbusses.(263)
Boston became an armed camp. Patriots bragged that the "militia at
present consists of 17 or 20 thousand men" all under "strict military discipline plus
another "20 or 30 thousand farmers who hold themselves ready to march at a
minute's warning." In short, "all the yeomanry are under arms as a militia."(264)
Reports of the militia spontaneously rising were received from as far away as
Virginia. There, reports of the events at Lexington and Concord had spurred the
people into preparedness.
We shall therefore in a few weeks have about 8000 volunteers (about 1500 of which are
horse) all completely equipped at their own expence, and you may depend are as ready to
face death in defence of their civil and religious liberty as any men under heaven. These
volunteers are but a small part of our militia; we have in the whole about 100,000 men. The
New England provinces have at this day 50,000 of as well trained soldiers as any in Europe,
ready to take the field at a day's warning, it is as much as the more prudent and moderate
among them can do, to prevent the more violent from crushing General Gage's little army.
But I still hope there is justice and humanity, wisdom and sound policy, sufficient in the
British nation to prevent the fatal consequences that must inevitably follow the attempting
to force by violence the tyrannical acts of which we complain. It must involve you in utter
ruin, and us in great calamities, which I pray heaven to avert, and that we may once more
shake hands in cordial affection as we have hitherto done, and as brethren ought ever to do.
. . . Messrs. Hancock and Adams passed through this city a few days ago . . . about 1000 of
our inhabitants went out to meet them, under arms . . . . By last accounts from Boston, there
were before the town 15,000 or 20,000 brave fellows to defend their country, in high spirits
. . . . Should the King's troops attack, the inhabitants will be joined with 70,000 or 80,000
men at very short notice. . . .(265)
The English press at first discounted the possibility of real and open
rebellion, preferring to think that the skirmishes were acts of isolated insolence.(266)
By mid-July the English press was reporting that "the Town of Boston was
surrounded by a large body of Rebel Provincials and that all communication with
the Country was cut off." An American correspondent of a London newspaper
reported that all New England was an armed camp.
Several companies of New England men are actually arrived in this town [New York]. I
conversed with one of them, who told me he had left his farm to come to our assistance; and
one of their Captains assured our people, that if they wanted men, they could furnish us with
ten thousand in three days time. They exercise to admiration: it is true they have not that
sprightly and foppish appearance of regular forces when nicely powdered; however, they are
hardy, can endure fatigue, and have made themselves masters of the essential parts of
military skill. Four New England governments have two hundred thousand of these soldiers
in arms; they are a sober, good kind of people, strong pedestrians, and think it a part of their
religious duty to defend their charters . . . .(267)
Things in Boston after the conflict at Concord went from bad to worse.
Gage accused some Bostonians of being incendiaries and ordered that "all Persons.
. . should immediately lay down their arms" and desist from "burning houses." In
Charles Town some 350 houses burned in one night. Gage let it be known that the
king was still willing to pardon all rebels except John Adams and John Hancock.
On 17 May a fire broke out and "it was the officers order not to call fire, one
having threatened to beat out a man's brains that did."(268) A letter from Charles
Town dated 19 May 1775 noted that Gage "agreed, on delivering up their arms,
they should come out with their effects." Unfortunately for the colonists, "it is
complied with on their part; on his there is a shocking failure."(269) The British
marines had little respect for the militiamen whom they had easily dispersed.
British troops broke into John Hancock's house and "plundered" his possessions
and also the same night began to "pillage and break down" the fences of other
homes.(270) Meanwhile, "the first Embarkation of Troops from Ireland, consisting
of three Regiments of Infantry and one of Light Cavalry, was arrived at Boston"
and would quickly disperse the rebels.(271)
Colonel Joseph Palmer of Braintree, a member of the Committee of
Safety, grasped the meaning and importance of the events that had transpired. His
dispatched a veteran post rider, Israel Bissel to outlying areas even to Connecticut
to inform them of the confrontation. Bissel understood all too well the importance
of the information he carried. He did not stop after riding to Connecticut. He
spread the word south to New York, into New Jersey and on to Philadelphia.(272)
Within ten days virtually all the inhabitants of the middle and upper souther
colonies knew what had happened in Massachusetts. Virginia received the news
with great interest. Lord Dunmore had attempted to seize militia supplies in that
colony. n Colonel George Washington had dispersed the militia rather than
confront the British troops and start the war of rebellion in Virginia. Now that the
first shot had been fired Virginia prepared to defend its right to keep and bear arms.
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress had its version of the story of the
events at Lexington and Concord. "Hostilities are at length commenced in this
colony by the troops under the command of General Gage," the assembly reported,
"and it being of the greatest importance that an early, true and authentic account"
be made available, the legislative body published the following.
[A] body of the king's troops . . . were secretly landed at Cambridge, with an apparent design to take
or destroy the military and other stores, provided for this colony, and deposited at Concord -- that
some inhabitants of the colony... travelling peacefully on the road... were seized and greately abused
by armed men...that the regular troops on their way to Concord, marched into the said town of
Lexington, and the said [militia] company, on their approach, began to disperse -- that,
notwithstanding this, the regulars rushed on with great violence and first began hostilities, by firing
on said Lexington company, whereby they killed eight, and wounded several others -- that the
regulars continued their fire, until those of the said company, who were neither killed or wounded
had made their escape -- that ... the detachment then marched to Concord, where a number of
provincials were again fired on by the troops, two of them killed and several wounded, before the
provincials fired on them.... To give a particular account of the ravages of the troops, as they
retreated from Concord to Charlestown, would be difficult ....(273)
On 21 April 1775 the Committee of Safety voted to raise 8000 volunteers
from among the militia to serve for seven months. Two days later the Provincial
Congress increased the authorization to include 13,600 men. Ultimately, the
colony decided that a force of 30,000 men, including all active forces and reserve
militia. The militia was divided into three classes: the Minutemen, who were to
respond immediately to any threat from British or Amerindian threats; the regular
militia, who acted as back-up forces and a reserve from which to draw volunteers,
and, later on, as a reservoir for the state drafts; and the invalid corps of those who,
through injury, infirmity or age, could not serve in ordinary circumstances, but
which constituted a final line of defense.(274) Massachusetts actually raised 17,000
men in 1775. The Committee of Safety chose the principal officers and the men
elected their officers inferior to full colonel. In May 1775 the Committee ordered
2000 volunteers to report to Boston to assist in lifting the siege, and it ordered the
towns to muster and hold in indefinite reserve one-half of the active militia.(275) The
Committee was not prepared to feed, clothe, house and otherwise provide for a
greater number in and around Boston, but wished to have a larger force available
immediately in case of major military action with the British. The force sent to
Boston, along with militia, volunteers and others from Connecticut, New
Hampshire and Rhode Island fought the Battle of Bunker Hill on 17 June 1775.
One of the earliest clashes between Massachusetts militia nd British forces
occurred immediately after the British march on Lexington and Concord, just off
a neck of land near Boston Harbor. A band of militia, calling themselves "true
sons of liberty," challenged the seamen aboard the Lively Frigate on 20 April at
about five o'clock in the morning. Both sides exchanged shots from both muskets
and small swivel guns loaded with grape shot. A British sailor on the ship
reported, "The Americans had 25 killed and 30 wounded, whom they left on
shore." American fire "killed two and wounded many more." After exchanging
fire for about an hour, "we sailed for Boston with colours flying."(276)
Leaving no doubt as to the cause of the conflict between the colonies and
the mother nation, on 6 July 1775, representatives from Massachusetts introduced
to the Continental Congress a document drafted by Thomas Jefferson and John
Dickinson, the "Declaration of the Causes and Necessity of Taking up Arms." The
document described how General Gage's troops disarmed the compliant citizen-soldiers of Boston.
The inhabitants of Boston being confined within that town by the general their governor, and
having, in order to procure their dismission, entered into a treaty with him, it was stipulated
that the said inhabitants having deposited their arms with their own magistrates, should have
liberty depart, taking with them their other effects. They accordingly delivered up their
arms, but in open violation of honour, in defiance of the obligation of treaties, which even
savage nations esteemed sacred, the governor ordered the arms deposited as aforesaid, that
they might be preserved for their owners, to be seized by a body of soldiers; detained the
greatest part of the inhabitants of the town, and compelled the few who were permitted to
retire, to leave their most valuable effects behind. By this perfidy wives are separated from
their husbands, children from their parents, and the aged and sick from their relations and
friends, who wish to attend and comfort them, and those who have been used to live in
plenty and even elegance, are reduced to deplorable distress.(277)
The French press reacted with delight upon receiving the news of the commencement of hostilities in Massachusetts Bay. It referred to the English as
"tyrants" and expressed pleasure that the conflict had turned bloody.(278) They reported that the militia "breathed the same courage, the same desire of defending their
rights and their liberties... to the last individual."(279) The Press reported that women
were joining the militia. It reported a company of "Amazons" who had "taken up
arms to second their husbands in defense of their rights."(280) And it relayed tales of
citizen-soldiers performing impossible feats, such as militiamen firing, reloading
and firing at a rate of eleven shots per minute.(281) The French perceived our militia
There was no patriot standing army in Massachusetts when the Revolution
began. All able-bodied men were more or less enrolled in militia companies, about
thirty in all, with companies ranging in size from between 200 to 700 men each.
The militiamen were divided into two classes. The active list encompassed all
able-bodied males between ages sixteen and fifty. There were many exemptions
from this enrollment on this list, including religious leaders and conscientious
objectors, civil officers and others engaged in vital occupations, such as arms
makers and ferry operators. This list was supplemented by the alarm list which
included all males between sixteen and sixty-five not enrolled on the active list.
There were few exemptions from this list for it was to be used only in cases of
extreme emergency at such time as all available men who could fight had to be
mustered. This list was of significance when an enemy attacked during a period
when most, if not all, regular militiamen were absent from town. The active list
mustered eight times a year for training lasting from three to seven days at each
muster, and the alarm list was supposed to muster twice a year, although it
complied with the law so only on rare occasion. General officers of each list were
appointed by civil authorities, but the non-commissioned officers and officers
inferior to full colonel were elected as had been traditional. The musters rarely
produced much real military training in the sense of a European army of the time.
Each man was theoretically responsible for providing his own arms,
ammunition, accoutrements and equipment. The selectmen of the community were
supposed to make provision for arming the poor, but did so only occasionally.
There was no uniformity of bore or caliber of the arms, so providing standard
ammunition was essentially impossible. The most that could be done was to
provide bar lead from which the men cast their own bullets and kegs of gunpowder
from which men made cartridges or filled their powder horns. There were no
uniforms, with most militiamen wearing much the same clothing that they wore at
During the early years of the Revolution, the army was largely drawn from
volunteers among the active list. The active list militiamen often fought as units
in the first months of the Revolution, and intermittently thereafter. As the war
dragged on, volunteers, and even impressments through state drafts, drew almost
equally on the two lists. By 1780 the distinction between the lists had been lost and
hence the practice of keeping the lists separate was discontinued. Colonels of the
militia, often referred to as county lieutenants, enjoyed considerable latitude in
drafting men for service in the Continental Line, or assigning men to various other
duties. The principal limitation on military commanders was demographic. State
law in Massachusetts, as in most New England states, required that levees be
assigned according to the population of the various towns and districts.(282)
Following the orders of Congress, in the fall of 1775, the legislature of
Massachusetts enacted a new militia law. The colony was ordered to provide each
inhabitant with a good musket. Public officers were to arrange to collect arms from
private holders and to distribute these to such of the militia men who had none of
their own. Those militia men who brought their own arms were to receive a bounty
of ten shillings.(283)
On 16 January 1776 the Massachusetts General Council ordered men
between the ages 16 and 50 years of age be enrolled in the militia, provide their
own weapons under penalty of law, elect their own officers and muster and train
several times a year.(284) It also resolved that "free Negroes who have served
faithfully in the Army at Cambridge may be reenlisted therein, but no others."(285)
Black militiamen presented a problem for the Massachusetts militia.
Initially, the colony had enlisted free blacks, which effectively meant any person
of color since only a very few slaves were maintained there. In 1775 General
George Washington expressed his preference that no "stroller, Negro or vagabond"
be enlisted.(286) On 20 May 1775 the Massachusetts Council of Safety "resolved that
... no slaves shall be admitted into this army upon any consideration" and refused
free blacks on the ground their admission would be "inconsistent with the
procedures that are to be supported" meaning that they would "reflect dishonor on
this colony." By the summer 1777 several legislatures in New England began to
have second thoughts about cutting off a prime source of strong manpower.
Recruits were had to find, so they offered cash bounties to free Afro-Americans
and offered freedom to slaves who enlisted and served for their full terms. Urged
on by Alexander Hamilton, who favored racially integrated militias, the states
found a useful reservoir of manpower within the black community.(287)
The Battle of Bunker Hill followed the British occupation of Boston.
During May 1775 both the Americans and the British had built up their strength
around Boston. Three British general arrived to assist Gage, Sir William Howe
(1729-1814), Sir Henry Clinton (1738-1795), and John Burgoyne (1722-1792).
Howe, the illegitimate son of King George I, had a brilliant early military career.
He led the special battalion in the successful assault on Quebec in 1759. Returning
to England, he stood for a seat in the House of Commons, winning in 1758. He
had opposed British coercive policies against the colonies. He fought at the Battle
of Bunker Hill and almost immediately thereafter replaced General Thomas Gage,
who was recalled to England, as the supreme British commander in America.
Although he consistently defeated George Washington, his failures to follow up
after victories combined with his failure to support Burgoyne led to rumors that he
secretly supported the rebel cause.(288)
Sir Henry Clinton was the son of the governor of New York, so his
military career had begun as a member of the New York militia. He served during
the Seven Years War in Germany, rising to the rank of major-general by 1772. He
served at the Battle of Bunker Hill and was knighted and promoted to lieutenant-general for his action during the Battle of Long Island in 1776. When William
Howe resigned his command in 1778 Clinton was appointed to serve as supreme
British commander in America. He decided to try to win in the South and so
shifted the major theater of operations to Charleston, South Carolina. Clinton
resigned in 1781 after a long standing quarrel with General Charles Cornwallis,
which some historians believe contributed to the latter's loss at Yorktown.(289)
Commonly known as "Gentleman Johnny," Burgoyne was a politician and
playwright as well as military leader of promise who had first distinguished himself
in campaigns in Portugal in 1762. He served in the House of Commons between
1763 and 1775. He accepted a commission in 1776, serving as a lieutenant-general. After his defeat at Saratoga he returned to England in disgrace and
resigned his commission. He served briefly, 1782-83, as commander-in-chief in
Ireland. Thereafter he occupied his time writing.(290)
On 12 June Gage offered amnesty to all rebels except Samuel Adams and
John Hancock, placed the city under martial law and declared all rebels under arms
to be traitors. Learning that Gage planned to fortify Dorchester Heights, the
Massachusetts Council of War ordered the militia to build fortifications on Bunker
Hill, later changed to Breed's Hill, overlooking Boston Harbor from Charlestown
peninsula. On 17 June Gage discovered the Americans and ordered his ships in the
harbor to begin to shell their position. After the tide was correct for landing, Gage
ordered his troops to disembark and commerce a frontal assault on the American
position. The official American version of the battle described the way the patriots
waited on the British troops before firing. "The provincials within their entrenchments impatiently waited the attack of the enemy and reserved their fire till they
came within 10 or 12 rods, and then began a furious discharge of small arms." The
militia repeated this tactic during the second and third British charge.(291) General
Howe moved 2400 troops into the battle, but withering fire from the militia twice
drove them back. Reinforced by Clinton, Howe ordered a bayonet charge which
routed the militia commanded by Colonel William Prescott and Dr. Joseph Warren.
Warren was killed(292) as were 100 other Americans, with 276 wounded and 30 taken
prisoner. British losses were staggering, with 1054 report casualties, or 42% of the
British troops engaged. Moreover, American marksmen concentrated their fire on
the officer corps and a large proportion of those killed were commissioned
officers.(293) The British stopped at the end of peninsula and several days later
General George Washington arrived to take supreme command.
The armed force of the state, and of the nation, at this point consisted
solely of volunteers drawn from the militia; and of the militia, in various sub-divisions. The volunteers were treated in exactly the same way as the militia,
receiving only basic subsistence pay. The men provided their own weapons,
clothing, accoutrements and supplies. Massachusetts allowed the men $4 each for
overcoats during the winter of 1775-76. There was not as yet any realization
among the men that a prolonged struggle lay before them. As at the beginning of
any way, men were overcome by sentiments of patriotism and spurred to action by
propaganda efforts, such as Thomas Paine's The Crisis and the Declaration of
On 21 January 1776 the state legislature authorized the recruitment of 728
volunteers, to be drawn primarily from the militias of Hampshire and Berkshire
counties, to serve in Canada. The militia was clearly not authorized to march
beyond the border of the new nation. There were some questions about the
deployment of militia in other states, although mutual aid pacts and traditional
understandings seemed to grant full authorization for deployment of Massachusetts
militia within the rest of the New England states. Deployment of the militia in New
York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania or elsewhere was of questionable legality. But
there was no question that volunteers would have to be drawn for any service
outside the United Colonies, just as volunteers had been drawn for British service
against the French over the previous century. The militia was the principal, but not
sole, source of volunteers. The legislature offered a bounty of 40 shillings to each
volunteer. Service and payments were authorized for one year's service, 21 January
1776 through 1 January 1777.(294)
Early in 1776 the Massachusetts legislature enacted a new militia law,
thereby repealing all previous acts. Appointment of general and field officers
became the provenance of the state legislature. The militia encompassed all males.
It was divided into two classes, the active and the alarm lists. The alarm list was
comprised of those who would serve as minutemen, ready and able to go into
action immediately upon notice of an emergency. Regardless of class, each man
was required to provide himself, at his own expense, with a suitable firearm;
priming wire and brush; bayonet, sword, hatchet or tomahawk; knife; tow for
wadding; canteen; knapsack; blanket; and ammunition. Theoretically, a man could
plead extreme poverty and expect to have the selectmen of the town provide him
with such equipment as he could not afford.(295) In practice, guns were so scarce that
many militiamen, even among those who could afford them, were unable to procure
any firearms. The local committees of safety first confiscated arms from non-associators, which meant from those who refused to sign the new oath of loyalty
to the United States. The committees also sought to purchase local citizenry any
superfluous arms; and to contract with various tradesmen to manufacture arms.
In early June 1776 the Continental Congress ordered Massachusetts to
supply 3000 militia to reinforce the continental army then in Canada. Soon after,
the Congress requested 2000 additional militia to march to New York to the relief
of the inhabitants there.(296)
In November 1776 the legislature added to the militia law certain
provisions. Patriotism and nationalistic sentiments may have attracted militiamen
initially, but the realities of war soon diminished the enthusiasm of all but the most
hardy and ardent patriots. A draft became the inevitable alternative. One-quarter
of all militiamen were to be designated as potential draftees. Those designated
might be selected by lot or marked as prospective draftees at the time of their
enlistment. In any event, those drafted could be called up at any time to serve three
months with the Continental Line. Short enlistment periods constantly hampered
the efforts of the regular officers. Those who failed to report for militia duty and
musters were subject to moderate fines. Those who had been designated for the
draft, and who failed to report within twenty-four hours of notice, could be fined
£10 If he failed to report at the time his unit marched off to war he could be fined
£12. During his actual service a private was paid £4 per month, with non-commissioned officers paid slightly more. Chronic offenders, and those unable to
pay militia fines, could be jailed. Deserters could be court-martialed and even
executed upon conviction.(297)
On 20 January 1776 the legislature authorized the enlistment of 4368 men
to serve with the Continental Line until 1 April 1776 at the pay of £3 per month.
Each town was assigned a quota, to be filled by volunteer militiamen, if possible,
and by draft if necessary.(298) In June the legislature authorized the enlistment of
5000 men for the Line from among both the active and the alarm militia lists. Of
these 5000 men, 3000 were to be sent to Canada. To attempt to avoid drafting men
to serve outside the United Colonies, a bounty of £7 was offered to volunteers.
The remaining 2000 men called up were to serve in New York, and to volunteers
a bounty of £3 was offered. In both cases, men who provided their own weapons
were to be allowed six shillings and twelve shillings for a blanket and supplies.(299)
Filling the quota for the Canadian expedition proved to be most difficult so on 12
July the legislature authorized a draft, the first state draft to be used to recruit men
to fight on foreign soil. If a man was drafted and refused to march, or to furnish
a substitute, he was to be fined £3, with provision made for additional £3 fines.(300)
On 9 July 1776 the legislature authorized two additional regiments for
service in Canada. The legislature, noting the previous failure to attract volunteers,
immediately moved to a draft, and authorized militia officers to choose every
twenty-fifth man from both the regular and alarm militia lists, and notify them of
their obligation to serve on the Canadian expedition. Men drafted were to serve
until 1 December 1776.(301) In September the legislature ordered that one-fifth of the
militia list, regular and alarm, were to be drafted for serve in New York and New
Jersey. This time service was to be "until recalled." Those who failed to report
were to be fined £10 and those who failed to march, or to furnish a substitute, were
to be fined an additional £10 and jailed.(302) Additional calls for drafts from the
militia were made on 30 November, for 90 day service in New York.(303)
As the ranks of the militia were depleted by the several drafts, so the local
responsibilities were increased. The militia had sole responsibility for the seacoast
watch, for garrisoning various forts and fortified points against both the
Amerindians and British forces and protecting vital military stores and
manufactories engaged in the production of materials badly needed for the conduct
of the war. The Committee of Safety estimated that these responsibilities required
the active services of between 3500 and 4000 militiamen. And, in case of real
attack, more militiamen would be required to fight. Some militia were actually
enlisted, usually for periods of from 30 to 90 days, to serve at various garrisons and
fortresses. Throughout the war the legislature continually resorted to the draft to
fill these positions, and, on the average, 3500 militiamen were on active local
In September 1776 the Continental Congress voted to raise 88 battalions
of 726 men each, to constitute a regular army. Enlistments were for the "duration
of the war," although it later modified that service, reducing enlistments to three
years. Massachusetts was assigned fifteen, later raised to eighteen, regiments.(305)
Once again the militia, in both forms, became the source of voluntary recruitment,
supplemented quickly by a draft. Since states were required to clothe and equip
their own quotas, Massachusetts had the right to pick its own uniforms.
Massachusetts provided each soldier with two linen hunting shirts, two pairs of
pants, a waistcoat made of wool or leather with long sleeves, one pair of breeches,
hat of wool or leather, two additional shirts, two pairs of stockings and two pairs
or shoes or boots. The state legislature placed a cost of $20 per man of this
clothing allowance.(306) It also provide the following arms: a musket with ramrod
and bayonet, a worm and priming brush, bayonet scabbard and belt, sword or
tomahawk, cartridge bag or box sufficient to hold 15 rounds of ammunition, 100
swan [or buck] shot, jack-knife, one pound of powder, lead sufficient to make 40
bullets, knapsack, canteen and one blanket.(307) This was substantially the same
equipment required of militiamen under the state Militia Act of 1776. In practice,
most men brought their own arms and accoutrements, and the state made allowance
for such equipment. Men were allowed one penny per mile for travel to the point
of rendez-vous, and 20 shillings per month pay for a private.
Massachusetts had an enormously difficult time in filling its initial quota
of fifteen regiments, and never did fill the later quota of eighteen regiments. In
January 1777 the Committee of Safety and legislature concurred that there was a
great need to muster all militiamen so that conscripts to fill the national quota could
be located. Thus, the legislature ordered that each county lieutenant or colonel
muster his militia company and hold them until the quota was filled. It began by
offering an enlistment bounty of £20.(308) Finally, the officers were told to draft
every seventh man to fill the regiments.(309) General Washington asked the state to
recruit and equip a battalion of artillery. In March 1777 the legislature offered a
bounty of £20 to each recruit for artillery service, although the bounty was reduced
to £15/10/0 for those who did not have their own small arms and accoutrements.
When the ranks had not been filled by 15 May the legislature authorized the militia
officers were to draft enough men to fill the artillery battalion, with service to be
only until 10 January 1778. Those failing or refusing to report, or to furnish a
substitute, were subjected the rather standard fine of £10, which penalty was
increased to one year in jail if the miscreant totally disobeyed the law. This time,
the legislature added an additional penalty, a fine of £10, to be levied against the
officers and selectmen who failed or refused to follow the law to the letter. Even
the handicapped and disabled were required, under the same penalties, to provide
By August, the state was still having problems keeping the ranks of the
Continental Line filled, so it again called up the militia and increased penalties
from £10 to £15. General officers, especially those hold the rank of general, were
to be dismissed if they failed fill their quotas from among the militia and
volunteers. Towns, through their local committees of safety and selectmen, which
failed to recruit their full quotas from among the local militia were subject to
individual fines of from £4 to £6 per deficiency per month. On 17 April 1778 the
legislature, having reached the end of its patience, and under considerable pressure
from Congress, ordered that towns which had not filled their quotas were be fined
£150 for each man they were short on the date of accounting, set as 20 May 1778.
Failures of men to report or provide substitutes were increased on 20 April 1778
to £20. On the same day, fines to be levied against militia officers and town
selectmen were also increased to £10 per month for each deficiency. Some of the
fines were returned to the towns by offering them bonuses of £30 for each new
man recruited by 20 May 1778. As the quotas were filled, the legislature
discovered that the drafting of one man out of each seven militiamen was
insufficient to raise the numbers needed to fill fifteen regiments. Fifteen hundred
additional men were required, so the bounty for volunteers was raised to $300, so
as relieve some pressure on the hard-pressed towns and local militia units.(311)
By 9 June 1778 the legislature found it necessary to raise 2000 additional
men. To make the enlistment more attractive, the legislature voted to allow
conscripts to serve for only nine months instead of the three years that Congress
had mandated. Recruiting officers were given a $10 bonus for each new recruit
they signed. To sweeten the offer of $300 bounty the state offered 100 acres of
land. By volunteers were increasingly difficult to locate, so the draft was re-imposed. Men who were, by handicap, age or infirmity, unable to serve had to find
substitutes within 24 hours or be assessed a fine of £45, and inability to pay might
bring legal action against one's property, goods or estate. Towns which failed to
fill their quotas could be assessed a one-time fine of £20 plus £15 per month for
each deficiency. Conversely, towns were allowed a bonus of £120 for each new
recruit. If the quotas remained unfilled on 1 August 1778, towns could be fined
£350 for each deficiency.(312)
On 5 June 1780 the legislature called for 3934 men to serve in the
continental line for the term of six months. Any man drafted who refused to report,
or who was unfit for duty, had to either furnish a substitute or be subject to a fine
of £150 and possible imprisonment. Pay was 40 shillings a month. It now was
payable in silver or gold as an added inducement to join the army for few men were
willing to accept the virtually worthless script. Subordinate officers who failed to
fill their quotas could be fined up to £100 and commanding officers could be
dismissed for similar failings.(313)
By December 1780 the terms of enlistment of those volunteers and
draftees from the militia who had been signed in 1776 and 1777 were expiring and
additional men were needed to fill the Massachusetts quota. Additionally,
desertions, casualties, sickness, injuries and other factors had severely reduced the
number of active soldiers. The legislature assigned a state-wide quota of 4240
men, apportioned according to population to the local towns and cities.(314) Under
the Act of 2 December 1780,(315) towns were ordered to divide all inhabitants into
as many groups as they were short in their quotas, with each group to choose one
of its number in any way they chose. If a group failed to produce a man who was
acceptable by 31 January 1781, then the town had to hire a man irrespective of cost
or inconvenience. Local authorities and town councils were again threatened with
fines for failures to fill the ranks. The legislature gave the towns until 31 January
1781 to find the necessary conscripts so again the militia companies were ordered
out and a draft imposed.
By law of 26 February 1781 towns were ordered to form their militiamen
into as many groups as they were deficient in their quotas for the continental line.
Each group was responsible for providing on recruit for the army. In cases where
the groups of the town militias failed to produce the required recruits, fines were
levied and recruitment numbers were increased.(316) This draft was followed by a
second draft from the militia completed on 30 June 1781. Towns deficient in
filling their quotas by the end of October 1781 were assessed £128/9/6 for each
delinquency. In March 1782 the state was still deficient by 1500 men, and the
legislature imposed larger quotas on the town militia companies.(317)
Fines, imposed costs, penalties, bonuses, threats and appeals to patriotism
had all failed miserably to fill the state's quota of soldiers. At the end of the
Revolution, Massachusetts reported that it had 4370 active soldiers in national service(318) whereas the state's quota on that date had been 8350 men in continental
service. In 1790 Secretary of War Knox reported to Congress that, although
Massachusetts and New Hampshire had been assigned a quota of 88 battalions,
Massachusetts had never supplied more than 7816 men at a time, that being in
1777. According to General Knox by war's end, Massachusetts had only 3730 men
in continental service, or about 600 fewer than the state had previously claimed.(319)
The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 provided that "The People have
a right to keep and bear arms for the common defence." The purpose of this
provision was clear enough. The state was going to take the legal step to guarantee
to the people the right whose violation had sparked the beginning of the
Revolution. The right was an individual guarantee which benefitted the people,
but, as it had been in medieval Europe, the right to bear arms also benefitted
government as much as, if not more than, the citizenry. Not only had the militia
been a source of trained manpower for continental line, it had functions of its own
to serve, duties which were at the very heart of the rationale of the creation and
maintenance of the militia.
In 1777 as the British force of 10,000 veterans and mercenaries under
General John Burgoyne prepared to cut the new nation in half with his march from
Canada south through New York, there was general alarm sounded throughout
New England. The political authorities of the various New England states
concluded that this was to be the year that the British would make their major
moves. They now had mustered a powerful land force, with regular British troops
having been supplemented by Hessian mercenaries. it was uncertain on how many
fronts other than New York they might move against. In January 1777 the
Massachusetts legislature created a select militia unit of 2000 militiamen to serve
in any of the states of New England until 21 April. In April the Committee of
Safety dispatched two companies of militia to march to Rhode Island.(320) On the
one hand, the legislature supported the effort by offering a bounty of 20 shillings
a month greater bounty than was offered for continental service for marching with
the militia; and on the other hand, it provided severe penalties for failing to report
as directed.(321) Reports of threatened British and Tory action brought an emergency
call, so the militia of the nearest Massachusetts county, Bristol, were ordered to
muster and march as soon as possible to Rhode Island until the militiamen ordered
out earlier arrived.(322) On 30 April the Committee of safety, with legislative
authorization, dispatched 1500 men to Fort Ticonderoga, to counter any move
Burgoyne's force might make in that direction. The militia units were to serve at
the fort for two months.(323)
In May 1777 the legislature authorized the deployment of two regiments
of militia at Boston for one year. There was the possibility that these and other
militia might have to be deployed elsewhere in New England.(324) The militia
resisted, having had its ranks diminished by the drafts to fill the continental line.
The legislature countered by offering a $10 bonus to all militiamen who would
volunteer for state service before 10 June for the one year term of service. By that
date the two regiments, consisting of 1500 militiamen departed for service, which,
as it turned out, was to be in Rhode Island.(325) The militiamen were most unhappy
at being ordered to serve so far away from their own homes, and in another state.
The legislature quickly rescinded the previous order and asked that volunteers be
drawn from the two militia regiments to serve "in New England" for a term of two
months.(326) On 27 June it changed the term of enlistment from two to six months.(327)
The ranks were apparently filled and these militiamen served their full term in
In July 1777 the officers in charge of the militias of Hampshire and
Berkshire Counties, Massachusetts, received orders to muster "all available men"
and march to Fort Edward, there to reenforce the northern continental army.(328) On
6 August the legislature sent 2000 militiamen to again reenforce the northern army,
but this act was suspended when one-sixth of the militia of seven Massachusetts
counties was drafted, to serve until 1 December 1777. The militia called into this
service were to be paid £2/10/0 per month.(329)
In September 1777 the legislature ordered that 3000 militia were to be
called out immediately for "secret service."(330) In December 1777, the legislature
ordered one-half of the militia units of the counties of Middlesex, Worcester,
Hampshire and Berskire, and part of the militia of Essex County, to "join the army"
for a one month tour of duty. The militia soon discovered that the primary reason
this order had been issued was to draw out the militia and, from it, to recruit
volunteers for the continental line. The legislature had authorized payment of a
bonus to volunteers of £12/20/0 above the pay offered by the line.(331)
Burgoyne's once fine army surrendered on 17 October 1777, by the
Convention of Saratoga. By terms of the agreement, the vast majority of the 5700
prisoners of war were to be taken to Boston, and from there, sent to England, with
the proviso that they would not serve again in the war. Responsibility to the care
of the P.O.W.'s fell in large on the Massachusetts militia. Many townspeople were
afraid that the prisoners might escape and wreak havoc; and other patriots would
have assaulted, possibly murdered, them, on account of real or imagined extra-legal
injuries caused by British or Tory forces. The legislature and Committee of Safety
authorized the muster of 1000 Massachusetts militia to guard them. In January
1778 the legislature drafted 800 militiamen to serve as guards. It is unclear
whether the full compliment of militia had failed to muster or if the militiamen had
assumed their tour of duty had expired and went home. In March the legislature
issued a third call for militiamen to guard the prisoners. Failure to report for guard
duty subjected one to a fine of £10, and one was still considered to be a militiaman
and could still be called for guard or other duty immediately after the fine was
In April 1778 the legislature dispatched 1300 Massachusetts militiamen
to the defense of the Hudson River. Almost immediately after that deployment, the
legislature sent 200 militiamen to Rhode Island. Increasingly severe penalties were
levied for failures to serve. Even a man inspected and certified physically unfit for
military duty had to procure a substitute at his own expense. If a poor invalid was
unable to find a volunteer substitute and too destitute to buy one, he might be sent
to prison for up to eight months. Moreover, even after an invalid had provided a
substitute his name remained on the militia list and he might have to do the same
again. Officers had no discretion, and an officer found delinquent, which often
meant sympathetic to the plight of a poor man, he might be found guilty of neglect
of duty and be fined £30. The legislature provided a bounty for each man enlisted
or drafted of £30. The men were paid the prevailing wages given to privates in the
continental line, plus a state bonus of 40 shillings a month.(333)
In 1778 most recruitment effort directed at volunteers, and most
deployment of Massachusetts militia, was for service within Rhode Island. In June
1778, Massachusetts sent 1800 militiamen to Rhode Island, to serve for six months.
To soften the impact of the order, the legislature paid those called out £4/13/0 a
month above the wages received by the continental line. Tons were offered a
bonus of £14 for each militiaman sent out of state.(334) On 16 June the legislature
sent out 250 more militiamen to Rhode Island, to serve only three weeks, until the
remainder of 1800 men from the earlier call arrived.(335)
In April 1779 Rhode Island again asked Massachusetts for assistance from
its militia. Massachusetts responded by sending out a regiment to serve for eleven
months. Pay was £10 above the allowance given by Congress to those serving in
the continental line. Protests about high taxes, inflation of the state currency and
service outside their own state prompted the legislature to increase the allowance
to £16 above national wages. Additionally, the legislature offered each man a
bounty of £30 and a new suit of clothes. Recruiting officers received a bonus of
30 shillings for each militiaman enlisted. The state still imposed fines and penalties
for officers, political officials and men if any man failed to march with his militia
regiment.(336) Just three days after the first assignment of militiamen to service in
Rhode Island the legislature sent out a call for 500 additional men to march to
Rhode Island.(337) On 8 June the legislature ordered 800 militiamen to muster, and
assigned them to duty for eight months in Rhode Island. The legislature increased
the penalties for failure to report to £30 per incident.(338)
On 26 June 1780 the legislature made an emergency appeal for 4726
volunteer militiamen to enlist for three months' service to march to the Hudson
River in New York. Few volunteers were available so a draft ensued. Officers,
civil officials and men refusing to march were subjected to fines of up to £300.(339)
During the summer of 1780 Massachusetts twice sent militiamen to Rhode Island.
In the first case 1200 militia were enlisted for forty days' service. Several months
later an additional 500 militia were drafted for five months' service.(340)
The Massachusetts Constitution of 1780 made all able-bodied males over
age 16 members of the militia. All militiamen, including those who could not vote
in local and state elections because of their age, were eligible to elect officers
because "youths will be more tractable under officers of their own choice."(341)
Articles X and XVII of the Constitution read,
X. Each individual of the society has a right to be protected in it by the enjoyment of life,
liberty and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute
his share to the expense of this protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent,
when necessary; but no part of the property of any individual can, with justice, be taken from
him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body
of the people. . . .
XVII. The people have a right to keep and to bear arms for the common defence. And, as
in the time of peace, armies are dangerous to liberty, they ought not to be maintained without
the consent of the legislature; and the military power shall always be held in an exact
subordination to the civil authority and be governed by it.(342)
The state's Bill of Rights of 1780 provided for militia duty:
Each individual of the society has a right to be protected by it in the enjoyment of his life,
liberty and property, according to standing laws. He is obliged, consequently, to contribute
his share to the expense of the protection; to give his personal service, or an equivalent,
On 14 December 1780 the selectmen of Grafton submitted a petition to
the General Court in Boston, asking that a pension be granted for George Gire, an
African-American living in the city. Apparently, Gire had received a pension of
40 shillings per year for his service in the French and Indian War, but, for some
reason, it was terminated in June 1779. The selectmen asked that the pension be
restored for Gire was aged and infirm and had served his militia well during the
On 30 June 1781 the legislature again sent militia into New York, for
service on the Hudson River. This time 2700 militia marched to the defense of
West Point. Washington had requested that the militia take the place of some of
his regular troops, which regular continental line were dispatched to swell
Washington's force at the siege of Yorktown.(345)
One of the last actions of the Massachusetts militia was the suppression
of Shays' Rebellion of 1787. Staged by debtors, largely farmers from western
Massachusetts, it was comprised of nearly all former soldiers and militiamen of the
Revolution. The followers od Daniel Shays (c.1747-1825) demanded an easy
money policy and an extension of credit and reduction of taxes, past and present.
During the early 1780's the state legislature had been dominated by merchants and
others of the upper class. The wealthier citizens were much concerned about the
depreciation of the currency through the issuance of paper money unbacked by
bullion. The legislature imposed heavy taxation and refused to stay debts of the
poorer members of society, many of whom were serving for as little as 40 shillings
a month in the continental line and state militia. Imprisonment for debt had become
common by 1785, so in 1786 mobs of Shays' followers began to close the rural
courts which imposed the law. The state governor was James Bowdoin (1726-1790), an early and ardent patriot and Boston merchant, and president of the state
constitutional convention of 1779. Bowdoin was horrified at the threat to law and
order that he perceived in Shays' Rebellion and asked the legislature to take strong
action against it. On 25 January 1787 the legislature authorized the use of the
militia to suppress anarchy. Many of the wealthier citizens contributed liberally to
the support of this force and on 4 February it dealt Shays' followers a crushing
blow at Petersham. Shays' Rebellion had been suppressed by General Benjamin
Lincoln, the general who surrendered about 5000 men under his command on 12
May 1780 to the British at Charleston, South Carolina, the largest single loss of
men during the entire Revolution. The courts dealt out harsh sentences, but a more
liberal government, elected soon after the suppression of the revolt, gave pardons
to Shays and other leaders and provided son debt relief.(346)
The Connecticut Militia
The Dutch were supposedly the first Europeans to explore the Connecticut
about 1614, and they constructed a settlement at Windsor in 1634. A bitter winter
claimed many lives and the settlement did not endure.
Connecticut was founded on the democratic principles of Reverend
Thomas Hooker, views shared and perhaps developed first by Roger Williams in
Rhode Island. However, the democratic principles Hooker espoused were far
removed from the understanding of democracy of the next century. Hooker had
been born in England, probably about 1586 in Marefield, Leicester, studied for the
Anglican ministry at Queen's College, Cambridge, developed strong Puritan
leanings, was exiled in 1633, emigrated to Massachusetts Bay, established a
congregation at Newtown, and moved to Hartford in 1636.
Hooker's rule did not produce the anarchical disorder found in Rhode
Island, largely because his congregation preferred the town (or plantation) over the
individual, although it gave preference to local governmental units over the larger
colonial ones. On 3 March 1636 a commission began to meet, forming the colony's
first government. Consisting of eight men, this commission exercised full
executive, legislative and judicial authority for regulating all matters including
military discipline. Commission government lasted only a year, meeting from 26
April 1636 through 28 March 1637. The first officers of the Connecticut were
John Mason and Roger Clap.(347)
The General Court governed Connecticut in 1637 and 1638. On 24
January 1639 the three plantations of Hartford, Wethersfield and Windsor adopted
the Fundamental Orders of Connecticut. Springfield under William Pynchon
refused to federate and by 1649 was sending delegates to the General Court of
Massachusetts. By 1662 some 15 towns had associated. Franchise was essentially
open to all male free Trinitarians. Between 1637 and 1643 Reverend John
Davenport and others purchased land from the Amerindians and founded New
Haven, Stamford, Guilford and Milford, establishing Mosiac law as the basis of the
governance of the General Court. Since the colony still had no charter, the
Restoration in England left the colony without legal status until Governor John
Winthrop, Jr., obtained a royal charter on 3 May 1662. New Haven was included
within the scope of the Connecticut Charter, but the plantation opposed its
inclusion. Soon faced with a choice of joining Connecticut or coming under the
rule of the Duke of York, and thus being included in the Province of New York
administratively, the towns of New Haven plantation, one by one, affiliated, until
finally New Haven itself yielded to pressures on 5 January 1665.
The commission was followed by a general court whose meeting was
required by the impending Pequot Indian war. In their language Pequot translated
to "destroyers of men" and they were opposed to the colonization of their land.
Initial skirmishes occurred at Saybrook and extended as far upriver as
Wethersfield. Three murders, including two massacres on Wethersfield Plantation,
prompted the Court to consider undertaking a defensive war. The Pequots had
moved southward, warring against a number of other tribes, including the Niantics,
Mohegans and Narragansetts, pausing to recoup and gather their strength on the
banks of the Thames River near the present boundary of Rhode Island.
The colony thought it could count upon the offended tribes, especially the
powerful Narragansetts under Miantonomo, to become allies in the war. In May,
Hooker and his council decided that the militia must go on the offensive, so the
three principal towns were required to supply 90 men, which required a commitment of about half of the able-bodied men in the colony. Springfield Plantation
and a few other tiny settlements were exempted from the general requirement that
all federated towns contribute men toward the expedition. All the plantations were
vulnerable to attack, but these towns were so exposed to dangers that the Court
feared for the safety of the men's families should they be called to war. By the end
of June an additional 40 men had been added. Supplementing this tiny force were
the traditional enemies of the Pequots, the Mohicans under Uncas.
Captain Mason's mixed force of militia and Amerindians followed the
Pequots to a location near Nehantic Fort. The surprise attack on the Pequot
encampment about two miles from present-day Mystic was an overwhelming
success, although the expected alliance yielded few warriors from the other
Amerindian tribes. Pursuing the Pequots with a vengeance, the Connecticut militia
trapped them near Southport and in a bloody fight in a swamp destroyed Pequot
power. The surviving Pequots turned on their chief Sassacus and chose a new war
leader. Mason pursued the Pequots and killed most of the survivors at what is now
In preparation for the Pequot War of 1636, the General Court at Hartford
ordered that "every Plantation shall train once in every month and if upon
complaint of their military officer it appears that there bee divers very unskillful"
the commander may order that additional exercises be held, either for the whole
company or only for those who were deficient. Further,
It is ordered that every plantacon shall traine once in every moneth, & if vppon complainte
of their military officer it appr that there bee divers very vnskilfull the sayde plantacon may
appointe the officer to traine oftener the saide vnskillfull. And that the saide military officer
take veiwe of their seurall Armes whether they be seruiceable or noe. And for default of
every souldiers absent the absent to paye 5s. for every tyme without lawfull excuse within
2 dayes after tendered to the Comrs or one of them in the saide plantacon. And for any
default in Armes vppon warnings to them by the saide officer to amend the same & a tyme
sett & if not then amended by the tyme appointed, 1 shilling [fine] every tyme. And where
Armes are wholly wantinge to be bounde over to answere it at the next Corte.(348)
Consideration of the increasing threat from the Pequots constituted the
only important business of the first session of the Connecticut General Court.
Following the victory of the Pequots, Mason was named "publique military officer
of the plantacions of Connecticut." The Court established powder magazines in the
four towns. Public supplies of gunpowder were designed to augment the smaller
supplues each man was required to keep at his home, and to supply men who
practiced shooting on training days. Most of the towns began with a supply of two
small [half] barrels of gunpowder. The Court also ordered that an enumeration be
made of the male inhabitants with an eye to requiring universal military training of
all able-bodied males between 16 and 60.
Possession of firearms, of course, gave the settlers an enormous advantage
over the natives who were armed only with stone age weapons. As elsewhere. just
the sound of the discharge of a firelock was sufficient to strike terror in the hearts
of the savages. Gun control was advanced, with the General Court assigning
severe penalties for the sale to the Indians of arms, gunpowder and lead. The law
proved easier to pass than to enforce, and other European powers, notably France,
supplied arms and munitions to the Amerindians.
The Court invested in some military equipment for its militia. "It is
ordered that there shalbe fiftie Costlets provided in the plantacons viz., Harteford
21 Costlets, Windsor 12, Weathersfield 10, Agawam 7, which are to bee provided
within 6 monthes at farthrest." A corslet was light half-armor worn by heavy
infantry, consisting of a collar, breast-plate, tassets, vambraces, gauntlets and an
open helmet, but no leg-harness.(349) The officers were to make a list of those
militiamen to whom the armor had been issued, and the men were required to
maintain the corsalets once issued. "And the saide Costlets are to be viewed by the
military officer that is provided for that purpose, and if he disallowe them as
insufficient they are to pruide better. And alsoe that the saide Townes are to giue
in the names of such as are to finde the saide Cosletts, att the next generall Courte,
and then such as shall faile to provide by the day aforsaide shall forthwith pay 10
shillings and five shillings a moneth vntill he hath supplied them; and it shall alsoe
be lawful for the saide military officer to call for the saide corsteletts to viewe
whether they [be] in repaire or noe." The penalty for missing a meeting was 5
shillings. The law provided that the Connecticut militia might offer fraternal aid
to any of the other colonies.(350)
Next, the General Court granted John Mason the permanent rank and pay
of captain with an annual salary of £40, making him the colony's first paid military
officer. It instructed him to train the militiamen. "It is alsoe ordered that the saide
Captaine Mason shall have liberty to traine the saide military men in every
plantacon. . . ." He was to assemble the men and drill then at least "tenn dayes in
every yeere, soe as it be not in June or July, giving a weekes warning before hand.
. . ." All able-bodied men above the age of sixteen years were to muster. Each man
was to supply himself with a good match-lock or fire-lock and accoutrements suited
to his arm, a half-pound of gunpowder and two pounds of lead ball. In the same
act, the commissioners ordered that specific training days be established. "It is
ordered that Captaine Mason shalbe a publique military officer of the plantacons
of Conecticot, and shall traine the military men thereof in each plantatons
according to the dayes appointed . . . ." Those officers assigned to training the
milita "shall have 40 livres pr annum, to be paid oute of the Treasury quarterly, the
pay to begine from the day of the date hereof."
Having made at least some preparations for defense, the colony appointed
additional paid officers. Captain John Underhill, having left the confining religious
atmosphere of Massachusetts, was placed in charge of military planning, assisted
by Captain John Mason and Lieutenant Robert Seely. The colony had few
problems with the Amerindians for another forty years.(351) When war came between
the Mohegans and the Narragansett, the whole New England Confederation took
the side of Uncas over the Narragansett's Miantonomo whom the Mohegans
During the Pequot War, the Connecticut militia demanded that it have its
own choice of chaplain as well as officers. Reverend Samuel Stone had initially
served as chaplain, but the popular choice was Reverend John Wilson. The civil
authorities had suspended Wilson because they had thought him guilty of heresy.
Wilson was suspected of accepting and disseminating the teachings of Anne
Hutchinson.(352) Until Wilson was released for service the militia simply refused to
Following the Pequot War there was a colonial expansion into the interior,
especially into areas once owned by the Pequots. Here the militia performed
another kind of service. Some interior towns began life as forts, manned only by
militia. Saybrook, for example, was little more than a pallisaded safety haven
established by Lion Gardiner in 1635, but by 1641 it had lost its military character.
Other areas attracted militia to guard trading interests and these fortified areas grew
Shortly after the Pequot War the General Court ordered that some militia
companies be enrolled as minutemen. This specially prepared, trained, and
equipped organization was to be a ready force to engage any enemy, foreign or
domestic, at a moment's notice.
The obligation to bear arms was universal, although exemptions could be
made for those with physical handicaps. "Item, it is ordered that all persons shall
beare Armes that are above the age of sixteene yeeres except they doe tender a
sufficient excuse [to] the Corte & the Cort allowe the same. The Comrs & Church
officers for the present to bee exempted, as alsoe for the tyme to come after they
have beene a Comissioner or Comrs or Church officer. . . ." Those excused from
militia duty were "to bee likewise for all tymes afterward exempted for bearing
Armes, Watchinges & Wardinges."
The new order placed the towns and plantations under obligation to keep
supplies for the militia. "It is ordered that there shalbe a magace of powder and
shott in every plantaton that the supply of Or[dinary] military men if occasion
serve, videlicet; Harteford twoe barrels, Windsor 1 barrell of powder, 300 weighte
of leade, Weathersfeild 1 barrell of powder, 300 of leade, Aggawam halfe a barrell
of powder, 150 of leade. . . . The presence of such supplies did not excuse the
militiamen from the individual obligation to own arms and supplies. "Every
military man is to have continually in his house in a readines halfe a pounde of
goode powder, 2 1b of bullets. . . ."
On 18 February 1638 the Connecticut General Council took up the issue
of equipping the militia. Inspectors had failed in their assignment of "surveying the
armour and other military provisions" of each able bodied male inhabitant and in
each town four times a year. Council ordered the inspectors to take their charge
seriously and to make the required surveys. Those failing to do so would be fined
£0/20/0. The militia was to meet for instruction, inspection and training at least six
days a year.(354)
In 1643 the militia of Hartford made a report of the arms it possessed. It
had in the magazine 2 great guns, 35 pounds of fine powder, 2 kegs of gunpowder,
one-half pig of lead, 12 half-pikes, 680 flints and various "dogs and staples of
uiron." In 1706 it possessed 1326 pounds of lead, 2 kegs plus another 600 pounds
of gunpowder, 10 great guns, 33 half-pikes and various worms, bullets, chargers
In 1637 Connecticut had proposed that the Puritan colonies form a mutual
aid military alliance against the Amerindians and the Dutch. Two major obstacles
precluded an early decision to form this league. Springfield had chosen to enter the
New England Confederation in 1643 as a part of Massachusetts, seceding from
Connecticut, a decision to which Massachusetts did not acquiesce for ten years.
In the interim this small plantation which laid on the east side of the Connecticut
River was essentially devoid of outside help. William Pynchon governed until his
death and was succeeded by his son John ( -1703), ruling under Massachusetts
commissions as judge and magistrate dating from 1641. The second controversy
centered around the division of Pequot land ceded after the war. In 1643 the treaty
was signed but the antipathy had not ended. The confederation was essentially
unnecessary after Connecticut in 1665 annexed New Haven although it continued
to exist on paper for some time after that.
In 1644 the Connecticut Code of Law required that, the cities were to arm
their inhabitants, as were needed for the militia. The law defined the militia as
"every male person within this Jurisdiction that is above the age of sixteen years."
Magistrates and ministers were exempted from training with the remainder of the
militia, but were considered to be a part of the militia. Each citizen-soldier had to
provide his own powder, shot, cartridge box and accoutrements.(356) "Each
inhabitant in this corporation [Hartford] . . . is to provide and keep Armes. . . [and]
shall provide four pounds of bullets and one pound of powder; and that this shall
be in readiness at all times . . . . "(357) Militia units are as old in America as the
foundation of each colony. Each group of pioneering Europeans brought with it
an armorer who also served to organize and discipline the colonists in the citizen-soldier militia system. The early militia law passed in Connecticut in 1644
Each towne allso shall provide so many good firelocke muskets and good backswords or
Cutlases. . . . That every male person within this Jurissdiction that is above the age of 16
years . . . shall bee allwayes provided with and have in readiness by them halfe a pound of
Powder two serviceable Bullitts or shott, and two fathoms of Match to every Matchlock,
upon the penalty of 5 shillings per month.
In 1650 the legislature allowed each man 12 pence per year to maintain
his own firearm.(359) In 1653 the legislature ordered the militia be organized along
county lines, following the model created by Massachusetts in 1643. By 1658 the
Connecticut militia had established a standard of three days local militia muster and
two days general muster. On 23 August 1658 the General Court ordered that there
be "three particular training days that are by order and custom be attended . . . the
General Muster is to be attended for two days space." The Court further ordered
that"noe soldier that attendeds the service aforesaid shal dimish any of that
proportion of powder that ye Order of the Country imposeth on him."(360)
Connecticut adopted its first code of laws in 1650, and agitated for
separation from Massachusetts. In 1662 John Winthrop succeeded in obtaining a
crown charter, thus guaranteeing full independence from the parent colony. The
Connecticut Charter of 1662 provided authority for the colonial authorities to
create and arm a militia. The charter assigned several tasks to the militia, including
seacoast watch, posse comitas, containment of rebellion and insurrection and
resistance to the Amerindians. The charter read in part,
it shall and may be lawful . . . for the Chief Commanders, Governors and Officers . . . by
their Leave, Admittance, Appointment or Direction from Time to Time, and at all Times
hereafter, for their special Defence and Safety, to assemble, Martial Array, and put in warlike
Posture the Inhabitants of the said Colony, and to Commissionate, Impower and Authorize
such Person or Persons, as they shall think fit, to lead and conduct the said Inhabitants and
to encounter, repulse, repel and resist by Force of Arms as well as by Sea or Land, and also
to kill, slay and destroy by all fitting Ways, Enterprises and Means whatsoever, all and every
such Person or Persons as shall at any time hereafter attempt or enterprize the Destruction,
Invasion, Detriment or Annoyance of the said Inhabitants or Plantations, and to use and
exercise Martial Law in such Cases only as Occasion shall require. . . .(361)
In 1663 the General Court appointed a muster master, an officer whose
primary responsibility was to see that the men enrolled in the militia actually
attended musters and drilled properly. The colony created a committee of overseers
to inspect the militia, its arms and training.(362)
Prior to 1672 each town in the colony had one militia company, with 64
men being considered a full complement, although most companies were
undersubscribed. On 26 June 1672 the regimental system was created, with the
first companies to be integrated being drawn from the counties of Hartford, New
Haven and Fairfield. In October 1672 the colony created a new militia act. It
required that all able-bodied males between ages 16 and 60 serve except
magistrates, church officers, physicians and surgeons, school masters, herdsmen
and mariners. The remainder was placed on active call "to bear arms unless they
upon just occasions have exemptions granted them by the Court."(363)
On 11 August 1673 the Grand Committee of Connecticut ordered that
another specialized branch of the citizen soldiers be formed to operate as dragoons.
The Committee ordered that, "each dragoone be provided with a good sword and
belt and serviceable muskett or kirbine, with a shott pouch and powder and bullitts,
vizt., 1 pound of powder made into cartridges fitt for his gunne and 3 pounds of
bulletts. . . ." The Colony would pay for the hardware and individual was to keep
his gun and accoutrements in his home ready for use at a moment's notice. "[I]n
the county of Hartford there shall be raysed 100 dragoones, to be in readiness upon
an howr's warning for a march; whoe are to have their armes well fixed and fitted
for service."(364) In 1660 blacks, whether free or enslaved, and Amerindians were
specifically exempted from standing watch or serving in the militia.(365)
Early in the history of Connecticut edged weapons, not firearms,
predominated as militia weapons. On 31 July 1666 the colony ordered that "such
persons as bear Pikes in ye Train Bands . . . shall forthwith procure their pikes to
be sufficiently headed and [the] pike to be no less that 1`4 foot in length." Those
who failed to properly maintain their pikes "shall sell their poles to the Overseer
of the Town where they live."(366)
On 14 October 1675 the legislature ordered an inspection of all mounted
troops and the dismissal of such of them as had failed to provide himself with a
good horse and appropriate arms and equipment. Those so dismissed had to rejoin
their old foot regiments.(367) Following reports of massacres perpetrated by the
Pequot Amerindian nation, the colonial legislature ordered that all persons "be duly
prepared and provided with arms and ammunition."(368) It also ordered,
that none should go to work, nor travel, no, not so much as to Church, without arms. A corps
of guard of 14 or 15 soldiers was appointed to watch every night and sentinels were set in
convenient places about the Plantations, the drum beating when they went to watch, and
every man commanded to be in readiness upon an alarm, upon pain of a [fine of] £5. A day
of fast and prayers was also kept.(369)
In 1675 the last major Amerindian war broke out. Known as King Philip's
War, led by a chief known among his own people as Metacom, leader of the
Wampamoags, this bitter and brutal struggle had multiple roots. Metacom had run
up considerable debts that he could satisfy only by selling land to the colonists.
The colonists hung several warriors for murdering Metacom's secretary. Clashes
occurred as early as June 1675 at Swansea, Rhode Island, and spread quickly.
Metacom was able to enlist other tribes, including the Nipmucks. Connecticut sent
some of the newly formed dragoons to New London and Stonington. The New
England Confederation called for 1000 men, of which 315 were to come from
Connecticut. It actually delivered five companies commanded by Major Robert
Treat and 150 warriors from its allies the Mohicans.
On 19 December 1675 the allied force confronted some 3000 Amerindians
under Metacom at a fortified blockhouse surrounded by a triple pallisade. At the
Great Swamp Fight, near Narragansett Bay, about two-thirds of the Amerindians
were killed. Connecticut lost forty dead and the same number wounded. Among
the dead was Captain John Mason, Jr.
The war continued, with the Amerindians raiding into Connecticut, first
at Pine Meadow [Windsor Locks] and then burning the settlement at Simsbury,
although most of the action occurred in Massachusetts. The war ended only when
Metacom was betrayed by another Indian, and trapped, then killed, by
In 1680 the colony could boast that it had 2507 trained militiamen. There
were about 60 mounted troops, militia dragoons, and another three troops of
mounted militia were being trained. Each county had its own train band which
elected its own officers. All militia were nominally under the command of the
colony's governor. The train bands were apportioned as follows: Hartford County,
where there are 835 trained soldiers; New Haven, where there are about 623
trained soldiers; New London, where there are about 509 trained soldiers;
Fairfield, where there are about 540 trained soldiers(370) In May 1680 the legislature
placed a fine of three shillings on those neglecting to attend militia training
A new Militia Act, passed on 24 March 1687, required that each
militiaman provide himself with a musket, cartridge box, sword, a dozen bullets
and gunpowder in measure. The fine for missing militia muster was reduced from
30 to six shillings.(372)
When James II came to the British throne, he appointed Edmond Andros
as Viceroy over territory including Connecticut. Andros had had a long standing
dispute with Connecticut dating to his term as governor of New York when he had
tried to please then Duke of York by extending York's governance over all territory
west of the Connecticut River. In October 1687, Andros came to Hartford and
assumed the power to appoint all civil officers, including those of the provincial
militia. On 28 October 1687 Andros demanded the surrender of the colony's
treasured charter. As the legislature debated the issue into the night, the candles
were suddenly extinguished. A militia captain named Wadsworth is credited with
seizing the charter and hiding it in the Charter Oak. Despite his failure to
confiscate the charter, Andros' "despotic rule" continued through February 1689
when the people of Boston, "as their contribution to the Glorious Revolution,"
removed him from authority. The new king, William of Orange, in 1689, allowed
to people of Connecticut to reassume the charter and govern themselves.(373)
By an Act of 1689, the Connecticut legislature ordered that militia officers
formerly commissioned by the governor retain their offices, but "in case of want
of officers in any Trayned Bands, or they be dissatisfied with their officers, they
may nominate others to the next Session of the Court."(374)
King William's War followed. In 1689, the French, operating out of
Canada, raided into New York, burning Schenectady. The General Court, fear a
French invasion of Connecticut, mobilized the minutemen. The Crown issued a
call for 1000 men, of which 315 were to be militia volunteers from Connecticut.
Nothing came of the war as far as Connecticut was concerned, although the war
dragged on inconclusively until 1697.
On 14 May 1692 William Phips arrived at Boston carrying a commission
as Captain-general, Governor and Commander-in-chief of the militia for Rhode
Island and Providence Plantations, Connecticut, the King's Province,
Massachusetts and New Hampshire estates. Connecticut opposed one portion of
this appointment with great vigor because it controlled its own militia completely
by terms of its colonial charter. There was no provision for subordinating its
provincial militia to any exterior authority. Its council and legislature vowed to
retain control over the militia and not submit to Sir William or anyone else not
approved by the provincial authorities.(375)
Militia days, as the required days of training of the great militia were
called, underwent several changes during the colonial history of Connecticut.
During most of the Seventeenth Century the militia drilled on most Sabbaths.(376)
Failure to attend militia training continued to be a problem in the colony so in
October 1696 the legislature again took action. It reenacted the law to "prevent and
suppress the disorder of Soldiers in not coming . . . in their Arms Compleat and
well fixed upon the days of training. . . to exercise in the use of his arms and
military discipline." This time it lowered the fine for each infraction to two
By 1698 the training days were dropped to six times a year.(378) In October
1708 the legislature lowered the upper age bracket for militia training to 55. They
were ordered to maintain their weapons as before so that they constituted a final
reserve; and they were permitted, as veterans, to continue to participate in elections
of militia officers. The government also ordered that artillery companies be created
within the militia system.(379) The next year the legislature moved to require
additional training of militia officers and instruct them in the use of training
manuals.(380) In August 1710 the government ordered that annual returns of the
militia be made, giving certain basic information. The report had to show the
numbers enrolled in each company; the extent of arms and training among the
men; and the numbers of eligibles in each militia district.(381)
The age span for required militia service likewise underwent several
changes. Most of the time Connecticut, like most other colonies, set sixteen as the
minimum age for service. Initially men served only until they were age 30. In
1708 the age bracket was extended to fifty-five.(382) The age was then lowered to
fifty (383) and finally, in 1764, to age 45. (384) A census of the militia taken in
September 1730 showed that there were 8500 freemen enrolled.(385) For some
unknown reason attorneys were exempted from militia duty.(386)
King William III was succeeded by Queen Anne, who entered the War of
Spanish Succession, as it was known in Europe, and Queen Anne's War, as the
colonists called it. In 1703 the French burned Deerfield, Massachusetts. The
Connecticut General Court debated and finally decided that it would not deploy
militia in the wilderness areas of the colony because "French and Indians lurked"
all along the frontier. The elected body also resisted the Crown's call to dispatch
militia volunteers to accompany the ill-fated expedition against Port Royal in 1707.
In 1708 Queen Anne ordered Colonel Samuel Vetch to contact the
colonial governors of Connecticut, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania, and
order them to provide 1500 of their best militiamen to serve as volunteers in her
army. She assigned Connecticut to provide 350 men to fight in Canada.
Additionally, the queen ordered Vetch to try to enlist as many Connecticut
volunteers as possible to join the expedition. This time, the Court was unable to
shield its militia, so 300 volunteers form part of the 1500 man colonial force,
which, with 400 British regulars, captured Port Royal, but only at a very
considerable cost in men, money and materials of war.(387)
On 14 October 1708 the legislature amended the fundamental militia act.
In addition to the occupational exemptions, the law now exempted "Indians,
Negroes and Mulattoes." It also created a watch system for the "time of war and
danger" that required service of all militiamen. The disposition of men on watch
was left to the military authorities. The act was almost immediately amended to
require attendance at militia musters and exercises, again allowing the military
officers to set time, place and frequency of training days.(388)
In September 1730 the governor was asked to report to the Lords of Trade
on the state of the colony and its militia. The colony had about 12,000 inhabitants
in 1640. In 1730 there were an estimated 38,000 inhabitants of all ages, races and
both sexes, among which were 700 Indian and black slaves. Without giving
specific numbers, the governor reported that "the number of inhabitants [has] much
increased this ten years past." Membership in the train bands, as the colony
continued to call its militia, was an estimated 8500, including most males, ages 16
to 55. The minutemen constituted about one-third of this number, and the dragoons
filled one regiment, although both were undertrained.(389)
The colony, as with its sister colonies, generally imported all the militia
arms, whether swords, pikes, muskets or fowling pieces, from the mother country.
By 1700 local arms makers had begun to make some weapons. One of the first
identifiable arms contractors was a militia captain, Theophilus Munson, born 1
September 1675. On 6 March 1697 he purchased a property on the southeast
corner of Elm and High streets, New Haven, where he built a gunshop and smithy.
A musket with a hand-made dog-lock dated 1700 bears his mark. He also made
various edged weapons, including pikes. A list of the colony's debts for August
1711 shows a bill from Munson for repairing and marking the colony's arms.
Another invoice dated 8 December 1728 shows that he worked on the colony's
"great guns" or cannon. His business prospered and his shop grew in size. He
presumably trained quite a few apprentices and journeymen gunsmiths and
supervised their work until his death on 28 November 1747.(390)
Because the government believed that far too many men were being
declared invalids who were sufficiently able-bodied to perform militia duty, in
October 1714 the law was altered so that a certificate of two physicians or surgeons
were required to obtain even a temporary exemption.(391) Other minor changes were
made to the militia act in October 1722.(392) With reports of impending attacks along
the frontier by Amerindians linked with the French in Canada, on 26 April 1725
the legislature moved to increase militia training, equipage and practice.(393)
In the autumn of 1733 Governor Talcott appointed Captain John Mason
to study the reasons why the Amerindians raided the frontier. On 8 October 1733
Mason reported to Governor Talcott that, after completing his study of, he had
concluded that the availability of intoxicating liquors was the major factor. He
recommended that the governor appoint several men to act as agents to control the
trade in spirits and to "prosecute to effect such persons as should be known as to
sell [liquor] unto them." Mason thought that the costs of controlling the liquor
trade would be more than offset by the reduction in uses and deployment of the
militia. "Your Honour is not insensible," he wrote, "of the great damage that strong
liquors have been to these people."(394)
In 1740 Connecticut revised its militia law.(395) Those between 16 and 60
years of age were liable for service either in the army or the militia. The purpose
of the new act was simply stated in its preamble. "Whereas for the honour and
service of his Majesty, and for the security of this his Majesty's Colony against any
violence or invasion whatsoever, it is necessary that due care be taken that the
inhabitants thereof he armed, trained, and in a suitable posture and readiness for the
ends aforesaid: And that every person may know his duty, and be obliged to
perform the same." The act provided universal manhood training. "Be it enacted
by the Gouvenour Council and Representatives, in General Court assembled, and
by the authority of the same, That all male persons, from sixteen years of age to
fifty, shall bear arms and duly attend all musters and military exercises of the
respective troops and companies where they are inlisted or do belong."
The exceptions to universal service were relatively few and were the
common exceptions found in most contemporary provincial militia acts. It
exempted "assistants, justices of the peace, the Secretary, church officers, time
rector, tutors and students at the collegiate school, masters of art, allowed
physicians and surgeons, representatives or deputies for the time being school
masters, attorneys at law, one miller to each grist-mill, constant herdsmen, amid
mariners who make it their constant business to go to sea, sheriffs, constables,
[and] constant ferrymen,." Those physically unable to serve had to provide
physicians' certificates. "Lame persons or otherwise disabled in body, producing
certificate thereof from two able physicians or surgeons s to the acceptance of the
two chief officers of the company whereto seeking dismission appertain, or of the
chief officer of the regiment to which such company belongs. . . ."
The law provided exemptions for the disabled, members of certain
professions, and all non-Caucasians. The law also exempted "Indians and
negroes." All other persons "listed in any troop or company shall so continue and
attend all duty in such troop or company, or otherwise suffer the penalty by law
provided, until orderly dismissed, or removed out of the town or precinct; and in
case of removal into the precinct of aim other company in the same town, to
produce a certificate under the hand of the chief officer of time company in the
precinct where he is removed, that he is listed theresaid, and to lead or cause such
troops, so formed or filled up, to impelled to be choice of officers proper and
necessary and make return thereof to the General Assembly."
The law allowed the men latitude in the selection of their uniforms. "And
the respective troops in this Colony are hereby impowered, two-thirds at least of
such troops agreeing to pass votes for the regulating said troops with respect to the
colour of their cloathing. . . ." The troops were also permitted "to impose fines, not
exceeding twenty shillings per day, on such as neglect or refuse to comply with
such votes; and such fines shall be leveyed in the same manner, and disposed of
and improved for the same uses, as other fines and penalties in said troops by law
The legislature retained the power to appoint senior officers. "That there
shall be in each regiment, from time to time, appointed by the General Assembly
a colonel, lieutenant-colonel amid major, who shall be commissioned by the
Governor for the time being." The legislature gave certain specific powers to these
senior officers. "That the colonel or chief officer of each regiment, as often as he
shall see cause, shall require the captain or chief officer of each company in his
regiment to meet, at such time and place as he shall appoint, to confer with them
and give in charge such orders as shall by them, or the major part of them, be
judged meet, for the better ordering military affairs and promoting military discipline in said regiment."
Each unit elected its own minor officers. The act charged the senior
officers with seeing that musters and drills were held. The senior officers were to
check on the elected minor officers to ascertain if they were performing their duties
properly. Training and equipment inspection were the most important functions of
the minor officers in peacetime. There were to be four training days per year, with
no less than three days advance notice of musters.
That the colonel or chief military officer of each regiment is hereby authorized and required
to muster together the several companies in his regiment, or such a number of them as he
shall judge proper, [at least] once in four years, for regimental exercise; which musters the
several captains or chief officers of said companies are required to attend with their
companies, on penalty of £5, which said penalties shall be distrained by warrant from the
chief officer of said regiment, directed to either of the constables of the town in which said
captain dwells, and be paid into the treasury of said town. . . . That the colonel or chief
officer of each regiment shall be, and is hereby impowered and authorized, upon any alarm,
invasion, or notice of the appearance of an enemy, either by sea or land, to assemble in
martial array and put in war-like posture the whole militia of time regiment under his
command, or such part of them as he shall think needful, and being so armed, to lead,
conduct and imploy them, as well within the regiment whereto they belong as in any other
adjacent place in this Colony, for the assisting, succumbing and relieving any of his
Majesty's subjects, forts, towns or places that shall be assaulted by as an enemy, or in danger
thereof, and with them by force of arms to encounter, repel, pursue, kill and destroy such
enemy, or any of them, by any fitting ways, enterprizes or means whatsoever. And the
colonel or chief officer of any regiment, so taking to arms or leading forth any party of men,
shall forthwith post away the intelligence and occasion thereof to the captain-general or
commander in chief for the time being, and shall attend and observe such directions and
orders as he shall receive from him. . . . That when any town or place in this Colony shall
be assaulted by Indians, or any other enemy, it shall be lawful for and within the power of
the chief commission officer or officers of the company or companies in such place so
assaulted, to call forth all the souldiers under his or their command, and to martial order and
dispose them in time best manner to defend the place assaulted, and to encounter, repel,
pursue and destroy time enemy, and, if need so require, to assist a neighbour town when
assaulted as aforesaid. And that such officer or officers so taking to arms shall forthwith
dispatch notice to his or their superior officer of his or their motion and time occasion
thereof, and observe such commands and orders as he or they shall receive from him.
The law gave officers considerable latitude in handling minor offenses
that might occur within their units. "That the chief officers of each regiment shall
order the correcting and punishing disorders and contempt on days of regimental
exercises, and the two chief officers of any company or troop shall order the
correcting and punishing disorders and contempt on training days or on a military
watch." Their authority was limited to levying fines and the imposition of what
was then considered relatively easy physical punishment, that is, "the punishment
not being greater than laying neck amid heels, riding time wooden horse, or twenty
shillings fine." The fine for insubordination was £10.
The penalty for missing drills was increased to 10 shillings for enlisted
men and 12 shillings for officers. Adults were, of course, responsible for their own
berhavior and compliance with the law. Parents and guardians were responsible
for their wards. "That all fines, penalties and forfeitures, arising by virtue of this
act or any breach thereof, shall be levyed on the goods or chattels of the respective
delinquents, if upwards of twenty-one years of age, and on the goods or chattels of
tine parents, masters or guardians of such delinquents as have not arrived at the age
of twenty-one years. . . ." The law also specified the use of fines. The militia fines
"shall be for the use of the respective companies or troops to which the persons
fined do belong, (except such fines as are otherwise disposed of in this act:) that
is to say, for tine procuring and maintaining trumpets, colours, banners amid
halberts, and for paying drummers and trumpeters, or other charge of said
company, by direction of tine commission officers of such company".
The act assumed that militia fines would be sufficient to provide some
basic equipment and accoutrements. However, "where there are not fines sufficient
to provide halberts amid colours amid to pay drummers, what is wanting shall be
had out of the town treasury." The towns and cities also had to provide, out of their
own resources, for military stores, such as ammunition, lead and gunpowder. "The
providing a sufficient stock of ammunition or military stores for the Colony, as also
for the several towns within the same, is necessary for the defence thereof . . . ."
And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, That the selectmen of the several towns
in this Colony, and they are hereby ordered and directed to provide, keep, and to renew from
time to time as occasion shall require, a sufficient stock of ammunition or military stores inn
the several towns in this Colony to which they do respectively belong, which shall not be
less than fifty pounds of good powder, two hundred weight of bullets and three hundred
flints, for every sixty listed souldiers, and after that proportion for all the listed souldiers in
each town, whether they be more or less. And the selectmen of any town that are not able
(upon information made to the colonel or chief officer of tine regiment to which such town
doth belong) to make it appear to said colonel or chief officer of such regiment, that they are
provided with such stock of ammunition as aforesaid, within three months after the
publication hereof, shall pay a fine of £5 lawful money, one-third part of which fine shall be
to him that shall inform against them, the remainder shall be laid out and improved towards
the procuring such stores which said penalty shall be distrained by warrant signed by said
colonel or chief officer of said regiment, directed to the sheriff of the county in which such
town is, his deputy, or either of the constables of said town, and shall be accordingly
collected and paid into the hands of said colonel or chief officer aforesaid, for the purposes
aforesaid . . . . And it is further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the selectmen of any
town, as aforesaid, shall incur the same penalty for every three months that they shall remain
unprovided as aforesaid, to be levyed and improved as aforesaid. . . . And if any person or
persons, being warned as aforesaid, or in any other manner which the authority and
selectmen shall agree and conclude upon, shall neglect or refuse to attend at time and place,
armed and furnished as aforesaid, or to observe the orders to them given by the constable or
any other person appointed by the authority and selectmen as aforesaid, shall for every such
neglect or offence pay a fine of ten shillings, which by warrant from an assistant or justice
of the peace shall be levyed by the constable, and disposed of for the use of said watch.
The colony had to provide some basic stocks of war materials. "The
Treasurer of this Colony for the time being shall, at all times hereafter, at the
publick charge of this Colony, procure, keep and maintain, a magazine of powder
and shot, to be ready for the use of the Colony as occasion may call for the same;
and the said Treasurer is hereby ordered and directed to take direction from time
to time for the Governor and Council, respecting the quantity and proportion of
said stores of ammunition."
Men had to provide their own equipment and firearms. The law provided,
"That every listed souldier and other house-holder (except troopers) shall always
be provided with, and have in continual readiness, a well-fixed firelock, the barrel
not less than three feet and an half long, or other good fire-arms to the satisfaction
of the commission officers of the company to which he doth belong, or in the limits
of which he dwells, a good sword or cutlass, a worm primer, and priming wire, fit
for his gun, a cartridge-box, one pound of good powder, four pounds of bullets fit
for his gun, and twelve flints, on penalty of ten shillings for want of such arms and
ammunition as is hereby required, and three shillings for each defect; and the like
sum or sums for every four weeks he shall remain unprovided." Those who had
extra duties also had to provide what they needed. "And every person chosen by
any company for their drummer, upon his accepting said service shall provide
himself a good drum, and constantly attend service when required, on penalty of
ten shillings fine for each day's neglect, to be levyed by warrant from the two chief
officers of time company to which such drummer belongs; and shall be paid for
each day's service six shillings."
The law created a militia class for cavalry. Members of the mounted units
had to keep a horse and weapons appropriate for use on horseback. "That every
trooper shall be always provided with a good serviceable horse, not less than 14
hands high, to the acceptance of the two chief commission officers of the troop to
which he belongs, covered with a good saddle with housing and other proper
furniture thereto, bitt, bridle and holsters, and furnished with a carbine, the barrel
not less than two feet and half long, with a belt and swivel, a case of good pistols,
a sword or cutlass, a flask or cartridge-box, one pound of good powder, three
pounds of sizeable bullets, twenty flints, a good pair of boots and spurs, on penalty
of 15 shillings for want of such horse, as is hereby ordered, and three shillings for
each other defect, and the like sum for every six weeks he shall remain unprovided;
and that each trooper list his horse, and shall not dispose thereof without the
consent of the chief officer, on the penalty of five pounds. And for non-appearance
at the time and place appointed for exercise, every listed trooper shall pay a fine of
twelve shillings for each days neglect."
The law provided that towns set up watches wherever needed. "And, for
as much as it may be necessary for the better defence of the Colony, or any parts
thereof exposed to invasion &c., that watches and wards be kept up at times and
places within the same, Be it therefore further enacted by the authority aforesaid,
That when and so often as the authority and selectmen in any town in this Colony,
or the major part of them, shall judge it necessary or highly convenient for the
safety of such town, to have watches and wards therein, they are hereby authorized
and impowered, by warrant to command the constable, or some other meet person
by them appointed, to warn such a number of men to appear at such time and place
in said town as they shall think necessary; and all and every such person or persons
that shall be notified to watch or ward as aforesaid. . . ." Those chosen for watch
duty "shall appear at the time and place with a good fire-lock and sword, a quarter
of a pound of powder, and one pound of bullets fit for his gun, and observe such
directions as shall be given by order of said authority and selectmen, who are
hereby impowered to give such orders and directions relating to the regulating such
watching and warding, and the continuance thereof, as they shall judge needful."(396)
In early 1740 Great Britain asked Connecticut to supply volunteers from
the militia to serve in an expedition against the Spanish West Indies under Major-general Gooch.(397) The militia supplied 600 volunteers, and Governor Talcott wrote
to Captain John Monson, informing him that the British were overwhelmed by the
response. Still, the colony had a quota of only 200 volunteers and it was to be
Monson's job to choose which of the 600 men would be enrolled. The remainder
of the volunteers would be retained to protect the colony from French and Indian
In March 1755 the General Assembly raised 1000 men, placed in two
regiments. Shortly thereafter the colony enlisted another 7500 militiamen who
were ordered to form in two additional regiments.(399) On 23 January 1755 Privy
Council Secretary Robinson notified the governor of Connecticut that Parliament
had inserted a clause in the Mutiny Bill "enacting that all [militia] troops in
America whilst in conjunction with the British forces under the command of an
Officer bearing His Majesty's immediate commission shall be liable to the same
Martial Law and Discipline as the British Forces are." The same act reduced all
colonial militia officers to a subordinate position to all but the lowest rank of
British commissioned officers. Thus, even a general in the Connecticut militia was
required to take orders from a British army captain.(400)
The legislature chose in the same year to make certain revisions in the
colony's militia law primarily aimed at preventing men to escape their militia duty
through one of several clever ruses. It also made all militiamen, including special
and mounted troops, subject to impressment into the king's service outside the
province. Still, the lawmakers lamented, it was to be hoped that the militia "in this
Colony are not likely to be serviceable abroad" and that they "will be excused from
a proportionable part of his Majesty's service against the enemy" because taking the
militia out of the province might weaken it "to the prejudice of the public
In 1755, as the crown prepared to attack the French at Crown Point and
elsewhere, Governor Thomas Fitch reported to the Lords of Trade and the Privy
Council that the colony was in a poor state of readiness to undertake an expedition
against the French. The greatest problem was a deficiency in arms of military type
and quality. "What adds to our difficulties in these services is the want of a supply
of good arms, there being no Public Store of that kind in the Colony." The
militiamen's arms were wholly inadequate. "Those which belong to private persons
[are] mostly poor and undersized and unfit for an expedition." Many militiamen
were too poor to buy sufficient arms, with the result being that the "able-bodied
effective men are unprovided and unable to provide for themselves."(402) Still, if the
crown were to provide arms, the colony "though small, being warmed with zeal for
your Majesty's service" was able to "raise 1000 men . . . to be augmented by 1500
if there be necessity of it" to join in the attack on the French at Crown Point.(403)
The Lords of Trade wrote to Governor Fitch, asking "the present actual
state and quantity of cannon, small arms, ammunition and other ordnance and
military stores belonging to the said Colony" whether publicly held or in private
hands. It also asked for the "real number of persons, whites and blacks, how many
of the former are able to bear arms" in the colony and the state of the colony's
militia law. Having already reported on the state of armaments, in a letter that
doubtless was in transit when the Lords wrote to Fitch, the governor had only to
supplement his previous report. His response came in several parts, spread out
over more than a full year in time.
Meanwhile, Fitch was able to tell the king of a major success on Lake
George. The French and their Amerindian allies had been raiding the New England
colonies from Fort St. Frederick at Crown Point. The provincial forces routed
Baron Dieskau's "troops, consisting of Regulars from France, Canadians and
Indians of diverse Nations." The 3000 militia and volunteers had inflicted many
casualties "wherein many of the officers and a great number of the enemies were
slain, their general taken and a happy victory obtained."(404) The king responded to
the good news by noting the arms deficiency Fitch had reported on 1 August and
taking cognizance of his report that the militia could be of greater use to the crown
"if a proper supply of good arms could be furnished them." The king notified Fitch
that, as a reward for faithful service, and as an inducement to act even more boldly
against his enemies, he was shipping 10,000 stands of arms, sufficient ammunition
and other accoutrements for the use of all the New England colonies.(405)
Lord Loudoun, having succeeded William Shirley (1694-1771)(406) as
supreme British commander in North America, decided to bring his regular army
units in the colonies up to full strength. To do that he needed to recruit Americans
and chose to seek volunteers from among the militia. Three regiments in Nova
Scotia and those in New York were all under the full compliment of 1000 men
each. Loudoun also sought rangers to supplement his regular troops on the frontier.
Governor Fitch was authorized to offer land bounties of 200 acres to each
volunteer. Loudoun required that the provinces grant the rangers "their pay, arms
and cloathing."(407) The king would assist by granting New England, New York and
New Jersey the subsidy of £115,00, of which Connecticut received £26,000.(408)
Meanwhile, Loudoun, along with his second in command, Major-general
Abercrombie, were trying to piece together a total force of 10,000 men, regular
army and militia, to assault Crown Point. Fitch pledged a force of 2500 militia,
which was exactly double his assigned quota. By the end of June 1756 he had
raised the full compliment of men.(409)
On 30 March 1756 Governor Fitch replied to the inquiry made by the
Lords of Trade on the composition and organization and legal standing of the
militia. He reported that not only "every enlisted soldier but all others exempted
from duty are to keep . . . one gun and sword or cutlass, one pound of powder, 4
pounds of bullets and 12 flints . . ." All militia eligibles "are obliged on the first
Monday of May annually to produce throughout the Colony, to be viewed by
respective officers" the arms required by law. The governor complained that "these
arms being all of private property are very various in their sorts and sizes,
according to the different occasions and humors of their owners and accordingly
not at all adapted to the business of a Campaign."(410) He later reported that between
the end of 1749 and the beginning of 1756 the iron furnaces of the colony had
sustained an annual production of 120 tons of bar iron, some of which was used for
In 1757 the British government assigned Connecticut a quota of 5000 men
out of a total assessment of 30,000 men to be recruited from among the colonial
militias, to fight with the British army in Canada.(412) When the word reached
Governor Fitch of the surrender of the British army at Fort William Henry, Fitch
was alarmed. Adding to his apprehension were reports of illness, death and
desertion among the provincial militias in service in the northeast. He informed the
Earl of Holderness that he expected the worst. "The militia was put under standing
orders to march in whole or in part, as there should be occasion."(413)
In 1764 the legislature provided that no member of the unenrolled militia
would have to train more often than four times a year.(414) In May 1746 Connecticut
suspended the purchase of Indian scalps, an incentive to militiamen of long
standing.(415) In May 1747 the fine for missing militia drills was raised to three
shillings, the initial amount of the fine.(416)
In 1762 the governor reported to the Board of Trade the increases in
population since 1756. In 1756 there were 128,212 white and 3587 black
inhabitants; and in 1762, there were 141,000 whites and 4590 blacks. In 1762 the
militia numbered 20,264. The governor noted that "the Militia spend their own
time, supply themselves with arms and are of no expence to the Colony."
However, there was a small expense associated with the artillery. "We have," the
governor said, "a small batterey at New London, expence of which to the Colony
In October 1774 Governor John Trumbull (1710-1785)(418) reported to the
King's Secretary of State that there were 191,392 caucasian inhabitants and 6464
blacks, mostly freemen. The Connecticut militia rosters contained the names of
26,260 men. The militia had been incorporated under an Act for the
Encouragement of Military Skill for the Better Defense of the Colony. The militia
still embodied all able-bodied men, ages 16 to 45, excepting primarily clergymen
and civil and eccleastical officers. The militia was divided into eighteen regiments,
with a mounted troop attached to each. Each town had a "train band" company
which drilled four times a year. There were also 18 regiments with at least one
company of mounted militia within each regiment. Both foot soldiers and cavalry
were required, under penalty of fines, to provide themselves with adequate and
appropriate arms. Fines were imposed if arms were not in good working order.
Trumbull noted that the militia was not "of any expense to the colony." A general
muster was held every four years. By March 1775 there were 22 militia regiments
of foot and additional artillery and mounted companies. Regiments with less than
six men had two drummers and two fifers; when a regiment exceeded 100 men
three of each musician were appointed.(419)
The subject of an adequate militia occupied the thoughts of many of the
colony's leaders as war approached. All agreed that the militia as then constituted
was inadequate to protect Connecticut should the colony be engaged in a war with
the mother country. On 22 August 1774 Christopher Leffingwell wrote to Silas
Deane (1731-1789)(420) that,(421)
At present we are in a miserable, defenceless situation; our Militia is under a bad regulation,
(at least it appears to me to be so). I want the Militia throughout the Continent on a better
footing. I have thought much but have said but little on the subject. But as our whole
dependence is in the wisdom, prudence and determination of the Congress, the highest and
most respectable Council that ever was (and perhaps that ever will be) in America, who will
give laws to this whole Continent, laws like unto those of the Medes and Persians, which
must not be altered, but must and I believe will be strictly and most religiously observ'd ,--
I could wish among other things it might be recommended by the Congress to have eighty
or am' hundred thousand men on the Continent under regular Discipline, on the following
plan or somewhat similar to it, vizt., The superior or commissioned Officers to be appointed
by the General Assemblys, and to be such as are possessed of Real Estate worth contending
for: The Adjutants and Serjeants to be under constant pay; to be well acquainted with
discipline ; the former to instruct the Officers in what relates to the Evolution and
Manouvres of an Army, the better to teach the manual Exercise: and that they be always
ready to receive and discipline such men as shall be presented to fill up Vacancies. The
Arms and Clothing to be purchas'd by the respective Governments, and deposited under the
care of proper Officers at the place of Rendezvous in each County.(422)
Leffingwell then described the militia system recently adopted.
The Select-Men of each Town to make a return of the number of males from 18 to 45 years
of age, excepting Clergy of all denominations, Magistrates, &c. The proportionable number
being flx'd that each Town shall raise. The Select-Men, with the consent of the Inhabitants,
either proceed to balloting or laying a tax to pay a premium sufficient to induce men to enter
[as] Volunteers. The men so chosen (on pain of Imprisonment or other penalty) be oblig'd
to appear at the place of rendezvous, at time appointed, to learn the Exercise for one month
at least, during which time they shall be subjected to military law, and all Offences
punishable by Court-Martial. But if any person shall be under necessity of leaving the
County in which he serves, he shall be oblig'd to shew his reasons before two Magistrates
in the Town in which he belongs, who shall be impowered (if they see cause) to grant him
a Dismission, and appoint another in his stead, who must immediately attend the Serjeant
to learn the Exercise; to receive the same pay (or more) that the regulars do during the time
they are embodied; the money to be paid out of the Colony Treasury; and after attending one
month in every year for three years, they shall be finally discharg'd. But if during the above
term they are call'd to actual service, they may not lay down their arms till they obtain a legal
discharge, on pain of being treated as deserters. Some such regulation as this appears to me
absolutely necessary for our defence against both foreign and domestic Enemies.(423)
On 10 October he thought that "our militia [is] the best I have ever seen."(424)
The initial militia law of the state, after the Declaration of Independence
was little more than a re-enactment of the 1740 law. (425) On 8 September 1774
many prominent politicians in the colony petitioned the legislature to enact a new
and stronger militia act in anticipation of war.(426) In May 1775 the Connecticut
legislature offered modest payments to those of the citizenry who complied with
the militia law. "One shilling and six pence shall be paid to each of said men who
shall supply themselves with three pounds of ball, also three shillings for a pound
of powder, and three pence and a half for half a dozen flints." If the citizen did not
have his supplies or arm in readiness "such defect [is] to be supplied by the
selectmen of each town, respectively, out of the town stock."(427)
As the militia took stock of its arms it was in for a bitter surprise.
Jedediah Huntingdon reported on 1 July 1775 that, "I got the arms repaired. They
were in the worst order when in took them in hand. Some of them had nothing left
but the barrel and part of the lock."(428) The legislature moved to contract with
various local gunsmiths to repair and manufacture arms. Among those who were
contractors were Amasa Palmer, Edward Williams, William Williams, Hezekiah
Huntington, David Trumbull of Lebanon and John Page of Preston. They and
other contractors were directed to mark the arms they made or refurbished with S.
C. for the State of Connecticut and with their own names, initials or marks.
Edward Williams supplied the state with new musket locks to replace inoperable
locks on older guns and around which to build new ones. On 16 February 1776 the
legislature hired Trumbull to oversee the refurbishing of arms found at Crown
Point left over from the Seven Years War so that the state militia could be armed.
He and those whom he hired evidently performed this task well for on 14 July 1777
the legislature appointed Trumbull to gather armourers and repair arms found at
Albany. Finally, on 29 July of the same year it ordered Trumbull to refit, appraise
and issue various arms received from abroad and 500 muskets received from
Springfield. On 15 February 1777 the Council of Safety commissioned William
Williams to repair a chest full of "broken firearms" from the ship Oliver Cromwell
for the use of the state militia. Europe was cleaning out its arsenals, shipping arms
that, in many cases, were long out of repair or obsolete. Most of these, even after
repair, were deemed suitable only for militia use.(429)
The basic militia organization remained the 64 man company, although,
as we have seen, the regiment had been introduced as an organizational unit by
1672 and reconstituted in 1739. In 1775 there were 24 regiments existing on paper.
In December 1775 the colonial leaders adopted a manual of exercise for militia
Like the militia from other states, those from Connecticut were not well
disposed to accept discipline. They especially disliked siege and garrison duty and
other times of inactivity between battles. About 40% of the state's troops in the
Revolution were militia, and nearly all Connecticut troops in the Continental Line
had served in the militia. In 1776 Washington complained to Connecticut
Governor Nicholas Cooke that the Connecticut militia "are not to be depended
upon for more than a few days; as they soon get tired, grow inpatient, become
ungovernable, and of course leave the service."(431)
In the winter of 1775-76 Connecticut militia were deployed in
Massachusetts, while the colony raised 19 regiments of 900 men each.(432) In the
summer of 1776 Washington put out a call for men to come to his aid in the New
York city area. The New York Mercury described the Connecticut volunteers and
militia as "hearty fellows" who could stand against either the king's troops or
German mercenaries. The paper described the militia as wearing brown or blue
regular coats and trousers, while some backwoodsmen arrived in white hunting
On 8 June the Continental Congress order that Connecticut furnish two
battalions of militia to reinforce the army in Canada. Shortly thereafter it ordered
5500 Connecticut militia to reinforce the army under siege in New York.(434) On 13
June 1776 Jedediah Huntingdon wrote to his brother Jabez, lamenting the shortage
of arms, "you see . . . how far short of the demands of Congress this Colony has
come in furnishing their Militia at the present crisis." Further, the militia itself was
in deplorable state of readiness. The legislature "have only ordered them reviewed
and to stand ready." However, the state was meeting its obligation to Congress to
provide men to the Continental Line. "I now inform you that this Colony are
drafting the Militia agreeable to Resolve of Congress."(435)
The Connecticut Committee of Safety, like committees in other colonies,
contracted with various gunsmiths, armorers, blacksmiths and assorted other
tradesmen, to manufacture muskets for the colonial militia and the state's members
of the Continental Line. One such contractor was Samuel Hall of East Hadden,
who offered to make 400 muskets at £3/10/0 each. Within a year Hall wrote to the
legislature, in response to its complaints that he had failed to deliver the muskets
in a timely fashion. He pointed out that he had delivered 143, and was "pursuing
his business faithfully" but the militia had drafted him and his apprentices and
journeymen into the militia "so that he was hindered and delayed." Hall pointed
out that he and his men were supposed to have deferments because of the important
nature of their work to the militia. In May 1778 the legislature informed him that
no more muskets would be purchased, but Hall responded that he had 44 almost
completed and 25 more in various stages of completion. The legislature debated
and finally decided to accept the remainder.(436)
In the summer of 1777, urged on by Alexander Hamilton, Connecticut
turned to the black community as a source of manpower. Blacks could voluntarily
enlist or be enlisted as a paid substitute of another.(437)
The Maine Militia
Maine, also known as Cornwall, was the subject of early conflicting
claims. In November 1603 the French king granted Sieur de Monts a patent which
included Maine. In 1604-05 Champlain explored much of the province. The
territory also fell within the English grant issued in 1606 to the Plymouth
Company. It was noted again in the English Council for New England in 1620.
In 1622 the English king granted to Captain John Mason and Sir Fernando Gorges
all lands between the rivers Kennebac and Merrimac, to a distance of 60 miles
inland. The name Maine was first noted in this charter and thus antedates all
provincial names except Massachusetts and Virginia. Charles I renewed the charter
ten years later, stipulating that the grant must, henceforth, be called Maine
exclusively. In 1664 the king granted Maine to "our dearest brother James Duke
of York" for an annual rent of four beaver skins. It then reverted to Massachusetts
and remained part of that state until it received statehood in 1820.
The 1639 Grant of the Province of Maine to Gorges made him captain-general of the militia and stipulated that he was to provide his inhabitants with
"Ordynances, Powder, Shott, Armour and all other Weapons, Munition and
Habilliments of Warr both for defence and offence." The militia was to contain the
French and their Amerindian allies as well as all other hostile savages and to
restrain "Rebells, Traytors, Mutyners and Seditious Persons."(438) In 1664, when the
province came under the rule of the Duke of York, the king issued much the same
command in the charter. The militia was charged with the containment of
"rebellion, insurreccon and mutinie" as its primary, but not exclusive,
responsibility. It was also to "repel and resist by force of arms" by "all wayes and
means" all "warlike" savages and foreign troops as might threaten.(439)
On 17 October 1691, the king issued a royal charter which formally
incorporated both Maine and Plymouth colonies into Massachusetts.
The New Hampshire Militia
The royal Commission of New Hampshire of 1680 required that the
president and council create and maintain a militia. They were to "give
commissions from time to time to such persons and persons whom they shall judge
best qualified for regulating and discipline of ye militia." The officers were to
instruct their peers "how to bear and use their arms." They were to make certain
that "care be taken that such good discipline shall be observed as by ye said
Council shall prescribe." The commission made no mention of suppression of
rebellion or other assistance to the civil authorities as was the case in other early
charters, but commanded only that the militia provide for "ye better defence and
security of all our loving subjects within ye Province of New Hampshire."(440)
Militia development in New Hampshire basically followed the standard
New England pattern. The militia law had required each male inhabitant between
ages 16 and 60 to serve in the militia. Each man had to provide himself with a
musket, bayonet, knapsack, cartridge box, a pound of gunpowder, 20 lead bullets,
and 12 flints. Each town was required to maintain for each militia company of 60
men 1 barrel of gunpowder, 200 pounds of lead and 300 flints. All able-bodied
males being eligible for draft into the regular military units.(441) The militias rarely
drilled except in wartime. When they did drill, on the sole authority of towns in
which they were organized, it was frequently for the "greater glory of the King,"
and not to increase the knowledge of the military arts. The crown was always a bit
suspicious of colonial military organization.(442) The militia was exercised to the
taps of at least two drummers and various other musicians.(443)
In 1684 the Crown sent Edward Canfield to suppress radical Puritan
practices, including much of the local self-government and religious and political
discrimination against other religions. As a career military man Canfield was naive
about the institutions of self-government and localism. Resistance took the form
of rebellion, with a trained band led by a religious fanatic named Edward Gove.
Canfield organized a militia of his own supporters, many of whom were greedy
land speculators. Nathaniel Ware, a justice of the peace from Hampton, organized
yet a third militia. Ware was successful in disarming Gove before Canfield's militia
arrived. Canfield accused Gove of high treason, and Gove was found guilty, but
was eventually pardoned.(444)
In 1693 Massachusetts asked New Hampshire to pay its share of costs for
defense of the north and western frontiers. Pleading inability to pay, New
Hampshire did not pay. Massachusetts then withdrew its men and the Indians fell
upon the open frontier with a vengeance. Even Portsmouth came under attack.
The governor was obliged to impress men of his own guard to man the outposts on
the frontier because the militia was disheartened and their arms were in poor shape.
The militia had seen, or at least heard of, their comrades-in-arms being tortured
after they were captured by the Amerindians. Many merely wished to remain at
home to defend and protect their own families. New Hampshire was forced to beg
assistance from the Massachusetts militia, which in a few months it did send. The
situation did have one small benefit. It moved New Hampshire toward greater
independence from Massachusetts. The two would, for the time, have one
governor, Lord Bellomont, but would otherwise be separate.(445) As originally
constituted the governorship of New Hampshire had enormous powers. He could
dismiss local councillors, call the legislature into session or dismiss it, veto
legislation and control the militia(446)
Fortunately for the settlers there was an epidemic of small pox among the
Amerindians. Their strength depleted, the Indian leaders sued for peace at Fort
Pemaquid, pledging allegiance with the English and abandoning their French
The peace proved to be short lived. Recruited during the summer of 1694
by a Frenchman, Villieu, 250 warriors gathering from among the tribes of St. John,
Penobscot and Noridgwock. On the night of 17 July 1694, they attacked Durham,
where there were 12 houses garrisoned by militia. Over 100 settlers were captured
and five of the fortified houses were burned.(448) In 1696 a group of Amerindians
attacked Portsmouth and took 19 prisoners, but the militia commanded by Captain
Shackford mustered, followed and overtook them, rescuing all prisoners. The
political situation had deteriorated because Governor Usher had engaged in land
and commodity speculation during the terrible Indian wars. He thereby lost both
the respect of the people and the militias.(449)
By 1703 the provincial executive power of Massachusetts Bay and New
Hampshire were combined under Joseph Dudley, Anglicized American. He loved
power and was a sophisticated man of the world. The Canadian governor,
Callieres, died in May, 1703, and was succeeded by the Marquis de Vaudreuil, a
veteran of the last war who had taken Callieres' place as governor of Montreal. He
was a French aristocrat, a capable leader who held his office until his death in
1725. Governor Dudley called the Abenaki chiefs to council in June, 1703, and
they swore to keep the peace. But within a month Governor had assembled some
five hundred of the tribe and sent them against Maine under the Sieur de
Queen Anne's War, also called the War of Spanish Succession, raged
between 1702 and 1713. On 10 August 1703 the Abenakis raided settlements in
Maine. They divided into half a dozen war parties to strike simultaneously on
August 10 from Wells to Saco to Casco Bay. At Wells thirty-nine inhabitants were
killed or captured. At Saco and other places, a hundred were taken or killed. Chief
Moxus led the attack on the fort at Casco, which was under the command of Major
John March. Three militiamen, drawn from the fort by trickery, were killed.
Beaubassin brought up his other parties, substantially increasing the strength of his
force. The fort held out until relieved ny additional militia companies. Two
months. later another raid in the area cost eighteen killed or captured at Black
Point, and six killed at York. The French were successful in so committing the
Abenakis that the English were unlikely to make peace with them.
In August 1704 a large body of French and their Amerindian allies began
a campaign of terrorism from Deerfield west, killing and capturing 130 settlers.
They destroyed Deerfield on 28 August 1704. The government spurred the militia
to action by offering a bounty of £40 for each Indian scalp. To eliminate the
Abenakis' supplied, and to gain control of Acadian fisheries, 500 New England
militiamen under Colonel Benjamin Church attacked and destroyed the French
villages of Minas and Beaubassin in July 1704. In 1706, as the militia was
pursuing one group of hostiles, another band fell upon Durham. Disguising
themselves as male militiamen, the local women repelled the aborigine.(450)
In late May 1706 the New Hampshire militia carried the war into New
France, attacking Port Royal, seat of the French Indian agents. Initially they fought
bravely and well, but soon after the first victory the lack of a unified command and
petty jealousies among militia commanders subverted the campaign.(451) On 21
September 1707, in retaliation, the Amerindians attacked winter Harbor, Maine.
In October 1710 a joint punitive expedition of New England militia and British
troops reduced the French stronghold at Port Royal.
Under the Treaty of Utrecht of 11 April 1713 France ceded Newfoundland, Acadia and Hudson's Bay. The treaty effectively ended the long war
between the eastern New England tribes, but the quarrel between the whites and the
Abenakis was still simmering. The French set a Jesuit priest, Father Sebastian
Rasle to offer arms to the Abenaki if they would rise against the New England
colonists. In 1724 the New England joint militia attacked the largest Abenaki
village in Maine and killed over 80 warriors and Father Rasle. Determined to end
the threat from the Abenakis once and for all the governor authorized bounties of
up to £100 for scalps taken by the militiamen. Spurred on by the bounty, Captain
John Lovewell raised a militia company and surprised the last, large group of
Abenakis on the border between Maine and New Hampshire and, in a bloody
engagement, broke their power forever. By 1730 they were no longer a threat and
most migrated elsewhere.(452)
The New Hampshire legislature on 13 May 1718 passed an Act for the
regulating of the Militia, which read in part,
Whereas for the honor and service of his Majesty, and for the security of this his province,
against any violence or invasion whatever, it is necessary that due care be taken that the
inhabitants thereof be armed, trained, and in a suitable posture and readiness for the ends
aforesaid, and that every person may know his duty, and be obliged to perform the same.
Be it therefore Enacted by His Excellency the Governor, Council and Representatives,
convened in General Assembly, and by the Authority of the same, That all male persons
from sixteen years of age to sixty (other than such as are hereinafter excepted), shall bear
arms and duly attend all musters, and military exercises, of the respective troops and
companies where they are listed or belong, That there be military watches appointed, and
kept in every town, at such times, in such places, and in such numbers, and under such
regulations, as the chief military officers in every town shall appoint, or as they may receive
orders from the chief officer of the regiment; and that all persons able of body, or that are
of estate and not exempted by law, shall by themselves, or some meet persons in their stead,
to the acceptance of the Commander of the watch, attend the same, on penalty of five
shillings for each defect, there having been due warning given. . . . That the persons hereafter
named be exempted from all trainings, viz. . . . Indians and Negroes. . . . That the persons
hereafter named be and hereby are exempted from military watchings, and warnings, viz.
The members of the Council, secretary, representative for the time being, ministers and
elders of churches, allowed physicians, and chyrurgeons, constables, constant ferrymen, and
one miller to each grist mill. . . . All males from sixteen to sixty are required to bear arms and
train with the companies in their regions. All able-bodied persons are to help in keeping
military watches. Indians and negroes are exempted from trainings, but are not listed among
those exempted from the watches.(453)
In 1724 the Connecticut militia serving on the northern frontier enlisted
over 40 Amerindians in its service. It also advised against permitting its
Amerindian allies to migrate northward and mix with the Amerindian tribes which
were friendly with the French. Captain John Mason justified this prohibition. "I
can't think it any benefit to our Indians or to the Colony that they should associate
themselves with the Indians that live remote."(454)
In 1745 a joint New England militia operation was successful in its siege
of Louisbourg, the French fortress on Cape Creton Island. The superior military
prowess of the New Hampshire and other New England militiamen in this
operation boosted the general morale as well as raised the English estimate of value
of the New England militia. The French and Indian reaction to the destruction of
Louisbourg took the form of reprisal attacks on the New Hampshire frontier
patrols. He also authorized payments against for the taking of scalps by volunteer
and militia companies. The militia was quite effective in guarding the frontier. In
one of the few engagements worth mentioning, at Charlestown 30 militia repelled
a reported 300 French and Indian attackers.(455)
During the French and Indian War, the New Hampshire militia was
effective in holding and protecting the frontier. Its militia served mainly as a
deterrent against French and Indian encroachment into New England, and as a
reservoir of manpower for the English effort. Several hundred of the select militia
fought in New York and in Canada.(456) Benning Wentworth, Governor of New
Hampshire, in 1756 reported that "hardly a regiment of the Militia in the Province
is fully provided with a pound of powder to each Man, which is the Quantity with
which the Law requires each Soldier to be furnished . . . . The Militia both horse
and foot are esteemed more useful for Home Service than those of the Southern
Colonies, and that they are at most provided with Arms but in general of the
The origin of the well-organized New Hampshire militia of the
Revolutionary War era can be traced to the efforts of Governor John Wentworth
in the decade before the Revolution. Wentworth thought to use the militia as a tool
of control over seditious activities of groups which became the leaders of the
patriot cause within his state. He reorganized the militia into twelve regiments,
which organization remained after revolution came. He drilled and disciplined
these regiments and appointed the most prominent men of the regions as their
officers. He instituted an inspection program which insured that the enlisted men
had the required arms and accoutrements. By the spring of 1775 Wentworth could
report that the town militias were prepared to defend the colony against invasion
"by His Majesty's enemies." He also reported to Lord Darmouth that "The people
here . . . are arming and exercising men, as if for immediate War." (458) Much of
what Wentworth accomplished in militia reform was laudatory, but some of his
appointments were purely political. When he could think of no other civil rewards
to dispense, he chose to make his favorites into officers in the militia. Some of
these appointments angered even his colonial supporters and certainly served to
lower morale in the militia.(459)
On 13 December 1774 Paul Revere arrived in Portsmouth to relate that the
Massachusetts Committee of Safety had learned that Wentworth was taking
possession of Castle William and Mary, the stronghold that guarded Portsmouth
harbor. Henceforth, regular British troops would garrison that fortress instead of
colonial militia. Revere also related that England had embargoed further exports
of military stores that might be used by the various colonial militias. The local
militia then began to remove supplies from all magazines that might fall under
English control, or which might be seized by the British army. On the night of 14-15 December militiamen raided Castle William and Mary and took control of 100
barrels of gunpowder, several cannon and 60 stands of arms. More munitions and
arms might have been obtained except for the arrival of two English men-of-war
from Boston. Wentworth decided to test the loyalty of the militia, while
suppressing insurrection, if possible, by ordering the militia to muster under his
direction. The militia ignored him. Several magistrates then called upon him to
inform him that matters were now beyond his power to control and that he could
not expect the militia to control the people.(460)
Wentworth attempted to regain his control over the militia by making new
appointments among the militia. He dismissed John Sullivan,(461) charging him with
having led or organized the seizure of military supplies from Castle William and
Mary, and for having ignored his orders to quell insurrection. But it was Sullivan
and his companions who now controlled the militia, not Wentworth. When one
loyalist militia captain attempted to follow the royal governor's orders, and to resist
the patriots, the citizen-soldiers simply ignored him, elected a new captain and
followed Sullivan's orders.
The first reorganized militia company was created in Portsmouth on 20
December 1774, followed rapidly by Dartmouth. While most able-bodied men did
join the militia, and many who were unable to bear arms were otherwise employed,
one group of older men, most German veterans of the French and Indian War,
formed the Old Men's Company of militia.(462) On 6 April 1775 the Hillsborough
Congress resolved that,
Whereas it is Necessary for the Defense of any People that they Perfect themselves in the
military art, and whereas it is said that from the good discipline of regular Troops that one
Regiment would put to flight ten that are not Disciplined, we earnestly recommend . . . to
form themselves in to companies and make choice of such men as they shall think Best
Qualified for teaching the military art to meet once a week.(463)
The third provincial congress met at Exeter, New Hampshire, on 21 April
1775, to debate what action the province ought to take following the clash between
minutemen and British troops at Lexington and Concord. Four days later a
delegate well-known to the members of the congress, James Sullivan, arrived from
Boston, requesting that New Hampshire form a regular body of troops. The
congress took no action on that request, but it did resolve on 26 April that each
town should lay in all necessary military supplies and raise companies of
The war presented the New Hampshire militia with at least five problems.
First, it had a seacoast and a harbor at Portsmouth to defend from raids from the
British navy, but the militia figured little in this unless the English landed troops,
in which case the militia would be the first line of defense. Second, the frontier,
especially through the Connecticut Valley, was open to raids from the English and
their Amerindian allies from Canada. The defense of the frontier was the primary
responsibility of ranging companies of militia. Third, the same routes invited the
relay of information from Tory spies to English authorities in Canada. Rangers and
frontier scouts would have to try to intercept spies and their messengers. Fourth,
the militia would have to act as a reservoir, to supply the army with men to help to
fill the quota set by the national Congress. Fifth, it would have to spread good
news, quash rumors, refute bad news and generally keep morale high on the home
front. Most of the province was remote and rumors, more than accurate information, was the case on many days.(465)
When news reached New Hampshire that hostilities had commenced in
Massachusetts many minutemen rushed to aid their brethren without waiting for
orders to march. They went to Massachusetts as individual volunteers, not as
organized companies. Moreover, the minutemen and organized militia were
augmented by hundreds of the unorganized militia or irregulars. They had no clear
chain of command and were under no discipline. Without any clear battle lines or
engagements at hand the majority returned home as quickly as they had assembled.
General John Stark (1728-1822) was able, by force his personality, to retain many
men whom he then enlisted into more formal units and placed them under his
Immediately after the Revolution began New Hampshire reformed its
militia. One company of Rangers was stationed on the Connecticut River, and two
additional militia companies were enlisted for support of the Rangers if need be.
The twelve regiments of militia which were recruited by Royal Governor
Wentworth were retained and four regiments were formed as Minutemen. The
minutemen were treated as a select militia and trained monthly, with the intention
of deploying them anywhere they were needed on short notice.(467)
On 20 May 1775 the New Hampshire Provincial Congress authorized the
recruitment of 2000 men from the militia into the regular army. When recruitment
was complete the militia reservoir of trained manpower had produced sufficient
men to form three regiments of state troops. On 1 December 1775 Generals
George Washington and John Sullivan were forced to recruit militia from New
Hampshire and Massachusetts to take the place of the Connecticut militia because
the latter had taken offense at some real or imagined injury from the commanders
and had marched away, alleging that their enlistment was up. New Hampshire
provided thirty-one companies, containing 1800 militiamen; and Massachusetts
contributed 3200 militiamen, all to serve six weeks. Volunteers and militia filled
the nation's needs through the end of the year 1775. There was, as yet, no thought
of a draft.(468)
When the Continental Congress created a national army the state
regiments became the New Hampshire Continental Line. Continental Congress
allowed the continuation of election of subordinate officers and largely confirmed
the state appointment of superior officers. These three regiments were deployed
throughout the nation until 1781 when the number was reduced to two line
regiments, or 1152 men, although the greatest number raised in that time frame was
744.(469) Throughout the war the town and state governments paid bounties of up to
£10 for volunteers who were willing to leave the militia and join the Continental
Line. In 1779 the state added the interesting inducement of exempting regulars
from paying state taxes.(470) When these inducements failed to fill the ranks the state
passed its first draft law on 18 January 1777. The colonels of each regiment were
assigned quotas for volunteers. If an insufficient number volunteered from the
various militia districts, the militia commanders were authorized to draft men from
their units to fill the quotas. Men could avoid being drafted by hiring substitutes
and by simply refusing to march as ordered and paying rather nominal fines.(471) By
1779 so many militiamen paid the fine rather than responding to the draft that the
fines were raised substantially so that only a few rich draftees could afford to avoid
service in that way.(472)
In addition three militia regiments were formed into a reserve brigade to
protect the inhabitants. The Militia Act provided that all general and field officers
be appointed by the two houses of the state legislature. Election had been
commonplace, except under Royal Governor Wentworth, for all officers up to and
including full colonel. All subordinate militia officers were to be elected by the
citizen soldiers. The militia was a town-based organization and had long been
controlled by the ruling oligarchy in each town. After the events of Lexington and
Concord nearly all militia officers resigned their commissions and invited the men
in their old companies to elect new officers. Most officers had gained sufficient
respect from their men to be reelected by them. Only those with loyalist
sympathies were removed and replaced by patriots.(473)
The Continental Congress feared the establishment of a permanent
military machine as a result of the war effort. On 18 July 1775 Congress
recommended that New Hampshire reorganize its militia by maintaining its quota
by establishing a system of temporary enlistments from the state militia.(474) After
an unsuccessful attempt to reorganize in August 1775, the provincial congress
provided a new militia law on 9 September 1776. The state legislature now
appointed all superior officers, including colonels, and all commanding officers of
the local militia organizations. The state militia was placed under the command of
a major-general, also a political appointee. The militia comprised all able-bodied
males between ages 16 and 50, although there was a long list of exemptions, mostly
of clergy and those engaged in some aspect of military production. The local
militias were called "training bands" with 68 men comprising a fundamental unit.
All members of the training bands had to provide themselves with arms and
specified accoutrements at their own expense. If a man claimed to be too poor to
equip himself he had to apply to the town council. If they agreed that he was
impoverished, and that equipping himself would be an undue
hardship, the town was obliged to equip him. A poor man so equipped might be
charged with performance of some civic duty as recompense. Officers other than
local commanders were popularly elected. These training bands were to be
exercised and drilled on a regular basis, eight times a year, and thus constituted a
select militia. The law was enforced, unlike earlier militia laws, and officers who
failed to enforce the law were subject to fines and loss of position. This group
constituted the reservoir from which the vacancies in the Continental Line were
filled. There was also a great, or unenrolled, militia called the alarm list. To this
list there were few exceptions, except for those with religious scruples against
military service and clergy. The alarm list also had some organization and
occasional training. The members elected their own officers and drilled only twice
The militia organization was more than sufficiently strong to survive the
change of political order. It formed the basis of military and political order in the
towns and gave enormous support to the Provincial Congress. That congress
recommended increased military training for all communities.(476)
The militia took charge of arms and gunpowder and distributed these
according to needs. The militia laws had long required each town to maintain
stocks of gunpowder, flints and muskets, but, as elsewhere, enforcement of the law
had been lax. Towns began to scout for supplies, some of which they purchased.
With all military supplies becoming scarce the New Hampshire militia looked for
other possible sources.
When the enlistment of the Connecticut militia expired in March 1776
sixteen companies of New Hampshire militia were sent to Boston and remained
until the English withdrew. Overall one authority estimated that "the percentage
of adult males who left their homes for any length of time remained smaller than
in each of the colonial wars. After 1776 the total never exceeded one-tenth of
those eligible for military service."(477) Terms of enlistment for New Hampshire
soldiers were short as with the soldiers from all the states. In 1777 and 1778 some
enlistments were for only eight or nine months. Desertions were not uncommon,
with men leaving for a variety of reasons, including tending to their farms and
protecting their families. The militia continued to serve as a reservoir for continual
recruitment of replacements. On 23 January 1777 General Washington wrote the
New Hampshire Committee of Safety that "We have a full army one day and scarce
any the next."(478) On 31 January Washington reported that "our new army will
scarcely be raised, before it will dwindle and waste away".(479) Finally, in October
1778 Washington wrote to the New Hampshire Committee of Safety that, "I am
religiously persuaded, that the duration of the war and the greatest part of the
misfortunes and perplexities we have hitherto experienced are chiefly attributed to
the system of temporary enlistments."(480)
In 1790 General Henry Knox reported to Congress that, although
Massachusetts and New Hampshire had been assigned a quota of 88 battalions,
New Hampshire had never supplied more than 1282 men at a time, and that by
war's end, had only 700 men in continental service.(481)
Politics entered into the appointment of all superior officers. Some
appointed officers resented political intrusion into what they considered their
prerogative. General John Sullivan wrote the Provincial Congress, "Surely by my
having the Choice of 31 set the Officers who have been under My Immediate
Inspection, I could have had a much Better Opportunity of Selecting 8 good ones
that You who were not here and Could not know how they behaved."(482) Others
argued that appointment of officers lessened the possibility of social revolution
from below, while increasing discipline. They feared, "electing officers by the
voice of tumult, dissention and party spirit" would create a truly revolutionary
Ill feeling among several ranking militia officers resulted in the
resignation of Colonel John Stark of Dunbarton from his regular army appointment.
Stark believed that he had been passed over for promotion to general both in terms
of experience and seniority. He had served with distinction in the Seven Years
War as a captain in Rogers' Rangers and, at the beginning of the war, was probably
the most able commander available to the province. He was opinionated and direct
in manner and was not a politician and often offended those who were. Stark
returned to militia duty and campaigned bravely and wisely. The army's loss
became the militia's gain. He was given command at Bennington and deployed his
militia brilliantly. For this leadership he was rewarded with an appointment as a
brigadier-general in the Continental Line.(484)
John Sullivan (1740-1795) was a lawyer from Durham with essentially no
military experience. He had been a major in the local militia. After much political
intrigue and backbiting Sullivan was given command over New Hampshire's three
regiments of the Continental Line. Most of his contributions to the patriot effort
were consequently as an officer in the regular army. He did have an opportunity
to use his militia experience in a punitive expedition against the Amerindians and
tories in New York. After a number of especially bloody and ruinous raids
throughout New York and south in the Wyoming Valley of Pennsylvania, General
Washington bent to political pressures and diverted as part of his small force to a
campaign on the frontier. On 29 August 1779 Sullivan's force, consisting of about
equal numbers of militia and regulars, defeated a tory-Iroquois force led by Sir
William Johnson's son John and Joseph Brant at Elmira, New York. Sullivan
pressed on, destroying 40 Seneca and Cayuga villages and 160,000 bushels of corn
and other foodstuff and supplies. The cost was very small to the patriots, in large
because Sullivan managed his force wisely and in part because Sullivan managed
his force wisely and in part because the Amerindians avoided direct confrontation.
The expedition effectively reduced the Iroquois threat to occasional small raids.(485)
General John Sullivan hero to the American Revolution and commander
of the punitive expedition in New York among the Six Nations in 1778, was the
post-war governor in New Hampshire. A strong supporter of the state militia
system, Sullivan supported the enactment of a strong militia act, based on his
wartime experiences. "The citizens of every community, however desirous of
peace, should always be prepared for war, and this can never be the case without
a well-regulated militia, or a standing army." He rejected the notion of a standing
army in the free republic. "The latter, I am fully persuaded, is more dangerous to
the liberties of any country than a foreign force, and I most ardently pray may never
be established in the American states." He knew that as a general in the late war
"I could do but little towards forming a well-regulating militia, without the
countenance and aid of the people at large." He believed that militia duty was a
responsibility of all citizens, and was critical of the post-war militia act because
"With us, at this day, a slender escape, a defect in the militia law, or, at a word, a
small fine, amy exempt a person during life from appearing in the field." Tyrants
are under no such disability because "the despot issues his orders and punishes the
breech, according to his caprice." The only way to avoid having a standing army
was to establish a militia with a universal obligation to militia service. "If we
approve not of a standing army, our militia must be taught the use of arms; or our
safety will defend on the peaceful dispositions of our neighbors, and not upon any
precautions of preparations of our own." He recommended the merit appointment
of superior militia officers and the popular election of the minor officers.
"Formerly, the man of wealth and family was sought after, without the least
attention to capacity." This was not the democratic way, for in a democracy talent
and ability are more important than family connections or wealth. Sullivan
suggested that officers be instructed in military science for "it is really surprising
that . . . the most important science should be so lightly esteemed as to entrust the
teaching of it to persons totally uninstructed and who have not even the capacity
to acquire a knowledge of it themselves." He noted that the law of his own state
"enacts that every soldiers shall be provided with a gun, bayonet, cartouch-box" but
lamented that there was no requirement that there be "a uniformity of arms."(486)
The first constitution of the state of New Hampshire was not created until
after the war was over, in 1784. Reflecting the experiences of the colonial
experience and war, the document provided for a militia, popular election of minor
militia officers, legislative appointment of superior officers and subordination of
the military to the civil authorities. It also contained a strong statement outlining
the individual's responsibility to offer his services in defense of his state. It also
provided exemptions from military service for those who, by reasons of conscience
and religion, were opposed to bearing arms. The president of the state was named
commander of all military forces, including the militia. The constitution outlined
the duties, functions and control of the militia.
The president of this state for the time being, shall be commander in chief of the army and
navy, and all the military forces of the state, by sea and land; and shall have full power by
himself; or by any chief commander, or other officer, or officers, from time to time, to train,
instruct, exercise and govern the militia and navy; and for the special defence and safety of
this state to assemble in martial array, and put in warlike posture, the inhabitants thereof, and
to lead and conduct them, and with them to encounter, expulse, repel, resist and pursue by
force of arms, as well by sea as by land, within and without the limits of this state; and also
to kill slay, destroy, if necessary, and conquer by all fitting ways, enterprize and means, all
and every such person and persons as shall, at any time hereafter, in a hostile manner,
attempt or enterprize the destruction, invasion, detriment, or annoyance of this state; and to
use and exercise over the army and navy, and over the militia in actual service, the law-martial in time of war, invasion, and also in rebellion, declared by the legislature to exist, as
occasion shall necessarily require: and surprize by all ways and means whatsoever, all and
every such person or persons, with their ships, arms, ammunition, and other goods, as shall
in a hostile manner invade or attempt the invading, conquering, or annoying this state: and
in fine, the president hereby is entrusted with all other powers incident to the office of
captain-general and commander in chief, and admiral, to be exercised agreeably to the rules
and regulations of the constitution, and the laws of the land; provided that the president shall
not at any time hereafter, by virtue of any power by this constitution granted, or hereafter to
be granted to him by the legislature, transport any of the inhabitants of this state, or oblige
them to march out of the limits of the same, without their free and voluntary consent, or the
consent of the general court, nor grant commissions for exercising the law-martial in any
case, without the advice and consent of the council.
Conscientious objectors, however, had to bear the costs of hiring replacements.(487)
The bill of rights attached to the constitution contained the following provisions.
XXIV. A well regulated militia is the proper, natural and sure defence of a state.
XXV. Standing armies are dangerous to liberty, and ought not to be raised or kept up
without the consent of the legislature.
XXVI. In all cases, and at all times, the military ought to be under strict subordination to,
and governed by the civil power.(488)
In 1749 New Hampshire Governor Benning Wentworth began issuing
land grants to unexplored territories west of the Connecticut River. New York also
had claims on the area and in 1764 King George III decided in favor of that colony.
In 1770 the highest court of New York held the New Hampshire claims to be
invalid, forcing those who had purchased lands from New Hampshire to buy them
anew from New York. Settlers who had what they believed to be valid grants from
New Hampshire fought a minor, but effective, guerilla war. They elected Ethan
Allen (1741-1801) colonel of their "militia" known as the Green Mountain Boys.
Initially known as the Grants, Vermont was comprised of the eastern counties of
New York, especially Charlotte, Cumberland and Gloucester. British authorities
refused to intervene with military force and attempted to mediate a peaceful
settlement to the dispute. Of course, a force of regular British army would have
been worthless in the hilly wilderness. British authorities also refused to allow
New York to issue more land warrants until the dispute was settled. In this matter
Britain acted wisely and had it so acted in other matters might have precluded the
Early in the war for independence the Green Mountain Boys espoused the
patriot cause. Massachusetts had authorized a regiment to capture Fort
Ticonderoga and sent Benedict Arnold on that mission. On 6 May 1775 Arnold
learned that Ethan Allen was raising a force of Green Mountain Boys to
accomplish the same mission. Arnold joined Allen and attempted unsuccessfully
to claim command. Nonetheless, Arnold joined the force of 83 Green Mountain
Boys and on 9 May crossed Lake Champlain and early in the morning of 10 May
captured the 42 man British garrison, as Allen is alleged to have said, "in the name
of the great Jehovah and the Continental Congress." On 12 May the force occupied
Crown Point and on 16 May it seized St. John's across the Canadian border. The
force suffered no casualties, but captured some valuable supplies, including
cannon, which were later of great use to Washington's army. Ethan Allen reported
to the Massachusetts Congress that, "by order of the General assembly of the
Colony of Connecticut, [I] took the fortress of Ticonderoga by storm." He
described his force. "The soldiery was composed of about 100 Green Mountain
Boys and nearly 50 veteran soldiers from the Province of Massachusetts Bay . . .
under the command of Colonel James Easton."(489)
Allen continued his partisan activities, capturing Skenesborough on 12
May. He also captured a schooner and was delighted to find some medium bore
cannon in good order on board. He communicated his good fortune to Connecticut
Governor Jonathan Trumbull, sending along with the message "a major, a captain
and two lieutenants in the regular establishment of George the Third." He
indicated that he intended to march on other British fortifications, and to capture
other boats, along Lake Champlain. "The enterprise," he bragged, had been
achieved by the "Green Mountain boys, nor do I hesitate as to [reporting] the
Led by Ira Allen (1751-1814), brother of Ethan; and Thomas Chittendon
and Jonas Fay, Vermont declared itself to be an independent republic during the
Revolution and is thus unique among the New England states. The Continental
Congress never recognized Vermont's claim to nationhood, did not grant it
statehood and left its legal status undecided during the entirety of the war. Still, it
treated Vermont as though it was a state in terms of military action, recruitment and
mutual assistance. On 1 January 1777, a letter sent to General Washington
reported on the Vermont independence movement. The state of New York
formerly consisted of 14 counties of which five and a part of a sixth are in possession of the
enemy and a considerable part of the inhabitants of the Counties of Gloucester, Cumberland
and Charlotte appear determined to shake off their dependence upon us so that above one-half is already lost; and of the remainder a considerable portion is disaffected and ready upon
a favorable opportunity to join the enemy.(491)
In early 1777, having declared itself an independent and sovereign state,
Vermont sought admission to the American confederation. New York Governor
Clinton opposed the secession, but realized that practically he was powerless to
stop it. Had he attempted to employ force, it would have diverted badly needed
troops of both New York and Vermont from the northern department of the
fledgling army. The authorities of Vermont were prepared to use the newly formed
state militia to guarantee its independence against New York and England alike.
Its separate existence as a republic lasted for 14 years until it was admitted to the
union as a state in 1791.
While still a part of New York, on 7 June 1776, Vermont was ordered to
raise 250 militia to be inducted into Continental Line. Just three days later, on 9
June, the four counties of New York which became Vermont were asked to provide
men, with a bounty of $4 as an incentive, to assist in the invasion of Canada. On
23 July 1776 the counties were asked to muster 250 militia to serve on the frontier.
The pay per day was based on the allowance given to soldiers of equal rank in
continental service. Each man was required to provide himself with a "good
Musket or Fire-lock, Powder Horn, Bullet Pouch, Tomahawk, Blanket and
Knapsack." Further, a company of rangers was to be formed whose duties
extended not only to the protection of the frontier, but to assisting neighboring
counties with Amerindian invasions.(492)
The most famous action of the Vermont militia, the seizure of Fort
Ticonderoga, occurred just prior to the Vermont independence movement came to
fruition. Ethan Allen was captured on 25 September 1775 during Arnold's ill-fated
campaign against Canada, but exchanged on 6 May 1778. He then retired from
military life, although granted the rank of colonel in the Continental Line. Most of
what is heard of Vermont's military contributions during the war came from a
second Vermont regiment raised under Colonel Seth Warner (1743-1784).(493) Allen
became a major general and commander of the state militia.
The Vermont Constitution of 1777 provided "that the people have a right
to bear arms for the defence of themselves and the State." It also prohibited the
maintenance of armies in peacetime and subordination of military to civil power.(494)
On 29 August 1777 the government raised 375 militia for its own defense.
On 18 June it offered a bounty of £4/4/0 for militiamen who would enlist in the
Continental Line. Later, the bounty was raised to $10. The men also received 50
shillings a month pay.(495) Because of the constant threat of invasion from Canada,
one-sixth of the militia was stationed for six months duty on a rotational basis on
the frontier.(496) On 20 February 1779 the legislature authorized an allowance of $5
for each gun lost by either Vermont soldiers or militiamen in actual combat or
when they were captured in an engagement. On 11 March 1779 100 militia were
sent to guard the frontier against an anticipated Tory and Amerindian attack. On
5 June 1779 150 militia were mustered to serve as guards for prisoners and supplies
In the spring of 1779 many citizens of Cumberland County denied the
power of the government to draft militiamen into the Continental Line. They
threatened violence and formed a rag-tag non-uniformed militia to resist the draft.
Ethan Allen drew a second non-uniformed militia force, rode through Cumberland
County and suppressed the draft riots. No one was killed or injured in this
Ethan and Ira Allen entered into negotiations with British authorities as
early as 1779, in a desperate attempt to guarantee Vermont independence. The
primary role of Vermont's militia during the Revolution was the maintenance of
peace on its border with Canada, especially against the northern, formerly pro-French, Indian tribes. Ethan Allen loved to brag that he had 7000 militia under his
command, but in the spring of 1780 it could barely field 19 men to defend along
the western flank of its defensive line. It seems unlikely that Allen ever mustered
more than 500 men at one time during the war, out of a population of about
The Treaty of Paris of 1783 did nothing to clarify Vermont's status,
although New York continued to deny its separation until Vermont was finally
admitted to statehood in 1791.
The Rhode Island Militia
Rhode Island was created by pioneers who possessed virtually nothing but
their simple household goods, tools and arms and a strong determination to
succeed. Most did not possess even simple ploughs. In the seventeenth century the
colony was known only for its agricultural products, notably tobacco, sheep, swine,
cattle, corn, tobacco and goats. The population grew very slowly and prosperity
came but slowly. Founder Roger Williams drew up a simple social contract to
which young men, upon achieving majority, added their names to those of their
Williams believed fully in the universal brotherhood of all humankind and
labored hard at achieving a lasting peace not only between Europeans and the
Amerindians, but also among the various Amerindian tribes. His mission of peace
caused him to travel throughout all of New England. Already unpopular among the
Puritans for his religious views, Williams argued that the various Indian wars had
been caused directly by the bellicose policies the other New England colonies had
followed regarding their aboriginal neighbors. He especially wished to prevent the
formation of an alliance between the Pequots and Narragansett tribes because he
regarded it as an ant-colonial military arrangement. If peace could be achieved,
then the militia would have few duties and responsibilities, even though militia duty
was among the most fundamental responsibilities accepted by all signing the
The Rhode Island militia was formed prior to 1640. Before the colony
created a formal militia organization it created a watch system. On 5 September
1638 the legislature "ordered that on the twelfth day of this ninth month there shall
be a general training and exercising of those who are to bear arms in the art of
military discipline and that [includes] all that are 16 and upwards of 50."(498) At the
same time the legislature created public militia inspection officers and ordered them
to "go into every house and [see] what arms are defective and that the men whose
arms" are defective are "ordered to have the same repaired." The inspectors were
to make certain as well that each man had four pounds of gunpowder for his
weapon.(499) From 1639 onward the men of the militia companies elected their own
By 1640 the Rhode Island militia was training eight days a year, with a
general muster being held twice a year. The law required that by "the second beat
of the drum all men allowed and assigned to bear arms are to make their personal
appearance, completely armed, to attend their colours by eight o'clock in the
forenoon." The legislature completely revised the colony's law in 1640. The
portion which covered the militia reads,
20. It is agreed and ordered, that all Men allowed and assigned to beare armes, shall make
their personall appearance completely armed with Muskett and all its furniture ; or pike with
its furniture, to attend their Coulers by Eight of the clock in the morning, at the second beat
of the Drum, on such dayes as they are appointed to Traine. And further it is ordered, that
eight severall times in the yeare the Bands of each Plantation shall openlie in the field be
exercised and disciplined by their Commanders and Officers. And further it is ordered, that
there shall be two Generall Musters in the yeare, the one to be disciplined at Nieuport, the
other at Portsmouth; and that if any shall faile to make their personal appearance as
aforesaid, according to time and place aforesaid, he shall forfeit and pay the sum of five
shillings into the hands of the Clark of the Band. And further it is ordered, and by this
present authority established, that if any person shall come to the said Training or Generall
Muster, defective in his armes or furniture equivalent, he shall pay forthwith the sum of
twelve pence ; and further it is ordered, that when the Generall Muster shall be held at the
one Towne, there shall be a sufficient Guard sett and left at the other Towne with the
Constable or his deputy. And further, it is ordered, that the Commanders Vidg't, Chieftaine
and Lieutenant, shall appoint the dayes and times of their s'd meetings; And further it is
ordered that all men who shall come and remaine the space of twentie days on the Island, he
shall be liable to the injunctions of this order; provided, that if eyther heardsmen or Lighter
men be other ways detained upon their necessary employments, they shall be exempted,
paying only two shillings and six pence for that day, into the hands of the Clarke : And
further be it established, that the two Chiefe Officers of each Towne, to witt: the one of the
Commonweal, the other of the Band; and these two officers upon the exhibition of the
Complaint by ye Clark (which shall be within three dayes after the faults committed), shall
Judge and determine of the reasons of their excuses, who upon the hearing thereof, shall
determine whether such person shall pay five shillings and six pence, or nothing. And
further it is ordered, that Libertie be granted to Farmer or Farmer,' to leave one man at the
s'd Farme, he paying the sum of two shillings and six pence into the hands of the Clarke.
And further it is ordered, that the Clarke of each Band shall receive the monies off any Man
to provide and make supply of such things as he shall stand in need, of; during which time,
after the deliverie of the s'd money, he shall be excused for his defects in his Armes ; but if
the money be not delivered, then to be liable to the injunction herein contained ; provided,
also that the Clark of each Band shall hereby be authorized to ask, receive or destraine for
all such fines or forfeitures As by any are made, and that the said sum of monies so levied
shall be employed to the use and service of the said Band.
21. It is ordered, that the Treasury shall provide and fitt up on Drum Collers and
halberts for the Band of Portsmouth.(501)
On 1 March 1643 the legislature ordered "every man to come armed unto
meeting every sixth day."(502) Just a few weeks later, on 10 April, the legislature
reiterated its position "that every man carry arms with them unto the meeting [on]
the sixth day."(503)
In 1647 the assembly ordered that,
the Towne Councils shall have power to cause those which are defective in armes, to he
supplied in an equal way according to Estate and strength. And if any of ye Traine Band
after his appearance shall refuse or neglect the command of his Captain, to be exercised and
disciplined, he shall forfeit as much as if he had not appeared: And that the Town Council
shall order the power of the Military Officers within the Towne, and in all cases that
concerne ye whole, the President and ye foure assistants, and ye Captains of every Band
shall be the Councill of Warr; that if any of the Officers of ye Band be at any time left out,
they shall beare Armes again, for ye Constitution of our place will not beare the contrary :
that every Inhabitant of the Island above sixteen or under sixty yeares of age, shall alwayes
be provided of a Musket, one pound of powder, twenty bullets, and two fathom of Match,
with sword, rest, bandaleers all completely furnished.(504)
In 1647, in another legislative action, the council moved to prevent the
sale of arms and gunpowder to the enemy.
It is ordered and agreed, that if any person or persons, shall sell, give, deliver, or any
otherwayes convey any powder, shott, lead, gunn, pistoll, sword, dagger, halberd or pike to
the Indians that are or may prove offensive to this Colonie, or any member thereof, he or
they, for the first offence, shall forfeit ye sum of five pounds; and for his second offence,
offending in the same kind, and being lawfully convicted, shall forfeit ten pounds; half to
the State, and half to him that will sew for it, and no wager of Law by any means to be
allowed to the offender. And, it is further ordered, that if any person shall mend or repaire
their Guns, he or they shall forfeit the same penaltie.(505)
In 1650, the legislature acted to repair certain deficiencies in the colony's
militia. First, the law had not specifically required that the citizens own firelocks
that were in working order so the legislature ordered that all the colony's arms be
brought into proper working order. "All excuses sett aparte," it decreed, the
gunsmiths authorized by the colony "shall mende and make all lockes, stockes and
pieces that by order from the warden of each Towne shall be from any of the
inhabitants thearof presented to them." The legislature did offer to stand the cost
of such repairs, giving "just and suitable satisfaction in hand payed, without delay."
Those who failed to bring their arms forth were placed "under the penaltie of ten
pounds, to be levied by distraint from the head officer to the use of the sayd
Towne's Militia." Next, it offered to pay for the repairs to private arms used in
militia service. "It is ordered, that all men that have gunns and pieces to mend, and
have need to have them mended for their present defence, shall forthwith,
according to order, Carrie those pieces to mende, upon paine of forfeiting ten
shillings a piece, which shall be levied by distraint from the head officer of the
Towne to the use of the sayed Towne's militia."(506)
Next, in the same year, it decided to create adequate gunpowder
magazines along with supplies of flint or match as needed by establishing
repositories of these vital militia supplies. The assembly "ordered that the
proportions allotted to the Towne for a magazine for the present, and constant
supply, be equally layed upon the inhabitants of each Towne by the councill
thereof." The inhabitants were taxed "according to each man's strength and estate;
which being made known to every man by theare Sarjeants." Failure to contribute
was punishable by fine. "Each man in particular shall be liable to the penaltie
above sayed."(507) The legislature specified what must be kept constantly on hand
in the magazines.
It is ordered by the authoritie of this present Assemblie, that each Towne shall have in it a
magazine for its present and constant defence. The Towne of providence shall have in its
magazine one barrell of good powder, five hundred poundes of leade, six pikes, and six
muskets all in good case and fit for service. The Towne of Portsmouth shall have in its
magazine two barrells of good powder, one thousand weight of leade, twelve pikes and
eighteen muskets, all in good case and fit for service. The Towne of Newport shall have in
its magazine three barrells of good powder, one thousand weight of leade, twelve pikes and
twentie foure muskets, all in good case, and fit for service. The Towne of Warwick shall
have in its magazine one barrell of good powder, five hundred weight of leade, six pikes and
six muskets, all in good case and fitt for service; and all thease magazines shall be thus
compleately furnished by the last day of the month called August next ensuinge, under the
penaltie of ten pounds sterling for each default therein, upon sufficient information of the
default, by virtue of a warrant from under the Presidents hande, the Generall Sarjeant shall
take it by distraint and forthwith returne it into the publicke Treasurie.(508)
In 1650, the legislature again laid on all inhabitants the heavy burden of
providing an arm suitable for militia use. "It is ordered that . . . one was posest of
a gunn, &c., as his owne proper goods, and upon demand of the Solicitor cannot
produce, or will not give a good account what is become of it, before one or two
persons or the Atturney, he shall be judged guiltie of breach of the lawe."
Moreover, the law extended "to enquirie especially of gunnes and other
prohibitions, as powder, shott, leade, wine or liquors that hath been marchandized
or convayed away to the Indians since the lawe made in that respect."(509)
In 1651 the colony experienced a time of grave civil disorder and
insurrection. William Coddington, president of the General Court, attempted to
effect a coup d'etat, claiming that he had the support of the vast majority of the
population. When the court threatened to remove him from office if he "deserted"
the colony, Coddington sailed for England. There he brought his case before the
Council of State which received him favorably and offered him a lifetime
appointment as governor of the islands of Aquidneck and Conanicut. Dr John
Clarke and Roger Williams were able to convince the Council to rescind
Coddington's commission, largely because they convinced it that Coddington had
formed a conspiracy with the Dutch at New Amsterdam. On 7 April 1652 the
Council of State revoked Coddington's commission and confirmed Williams' patent
of 1644. The government had been able to hold its own and to restore some
semblance order in some part because it controlled the militia.(510)
The collapse of Coddington's scheme did not restore a full and lasting
peace for the centrifugal forces of excess liberty and liberty bordering on license
were far too strong. Especially in Providence the populace was dissatisfied with
any sort of governmental restraints on what was virtual anarchy. Adding to the
discord was the split between the islands and the mainland so great in intensity that
between 1651 and 1654 the court met with only delegates from Providence and
Warwick, while all other areas boycotted the legislative meetings. Finally, in 1654,
Williams returned and threw all his energies into building a cohesive and integrated
society. Bolstered by a letter of support from Cromwell, Williams did succeed in
overcoming the disunity and regional antagonisms so that by March 1656 even
Coddington agreed to accept the authority of the General Court and charter.
Introduction of the common American punishments of the time, including the
whipping post, pillory and stocks; and the appointment of constables and militia
sergeants to assist in maintaining the peace also helped restore order.(511)
In the Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations of 18 July
1663(512) the crown granted the authority to the governor and company to appoint
militia officers and to prepare "for the defence and safeguard of the sayd
Plantations." More specifically, the governor was "to assemble, exercise in arms,
martiall array, and put in warlyke posture, the inhabitants of sayd collonie for theire
special defence and safety." Should the militia be called out to defend the colony
or to go on offense against its enemies, the militia was permitted to "encounter,
expulse, expell and resist by force of armes . . . and alsoe to kill, slay and destroy"
the king's enemies.(513) In implementing this charter in March 1664 the General
Court repealed the earlier provision that all laws had to be approved by the towns
before becoming effective.
In 1665 the Assembly of Rhode Island, "taking into consideration the
great defect in training, occasioned by the remissness of some vnder the pretence
of the burden in training soe often as eight dayes in the yeare, . . . enacted and
declared, that the sixe dayes only in the yeare be ordered, and are hearby ordered
for the milletary exercise in training, which shall be dilligently attended to in each
respective towne . . . ." The Assembly was most concerned about the burden that
the militia law placed on the poor by requiring them to purchase arms from their
own meager resources and by forcing them to miss many days' work. It noted "the
great inequality, in that the poorest being vnable to spare wherewith to maintaine
armes and amunition, as powder, &c., yett are forced by the law to beare armes as
well as the most able . . . ." The act specified the times for militia muster. "The
dayes prefixed for the exercise of training, are yearly to be the last Monday in May;
the first Monday in September; the first Monday in November; the last Monday in
March, and the last Monday in Aprill."
The act made the officers responsible for gathering the militia for training
"vpon penalty that each Captain, or in his absence, the Leftenant of each towne,
shall be fined in case he call not the listed soulders together by warrant. . . ." It also
specified the penalties for failures. "The summe of ten pound starling to the
Gennerall Treasury, to be by law recovered by the said Treasurer, for the Collony;
as alsoe fortye shillings for each defect of calling the said company together to
traine on each the training dayes hereafter appointed, or refusing then to exercise
them in training . . . " The act specified fines "for every defecte in not duely
attending the trainings, each one listed, soe deficient, shall for every dayes defect,
pay three shillings fine, to be levied by distraint on the partyes goods, or on the
goods of the master, or mistress, or parents of such sones or sarvants as are
defective; and to the end the fines may be levied more certainly, the same . . . . "
Some militia fine money was to be used to maintain and repair, even
purchase if absolutely necessary, arms for the poorer men. "And for the
incorradgement of the meaner sort, there shall be alowed yearly nine shillings in
currant pay to, or for, each soldiare listed in the traine band, to be duely payed and
discounted yearly by the Clarke or Treasurer of the traine band, at the Captain's
discretion for the repaireing of armes, &c.; and the said nine shillings yearly to be
payed and cleared by or before the last Monday in March. . . ."
The law required that parents be responsible for their sons and masters for
their servants. Specifically, it required that, "parents and masters as find armes and
amunition (as they must doe) for their sones and sarvants that are listable, which
are to be listed, and to traine. . . ." Further, the law required that householders or
other men that find themselves armes and traine in their owne persones; which all
men from sixteene years of age to sixtye yeares old are hearby required to doe, both
masters, parents, sones, sarvants and others. . . ."
Following law passed previously on 4 May 1664, the 1665 act retained
provision for the men to elect their own officers. The Assembly ordered the
militiamen to assembly immediately "to make choyce of Captaine and other officers
milletary . . . ."
Exemptions from militia duty in early Rhode Island were rare. The law
principally allowed exceptions for "such as are in publicke office." Earlier laws
had exempted a few others from military service, such as ministers, and the 1665
Act recognized those that "are by former lawes exempted."(514)
By an act of the General Assembly passed at a session held on 1 May
1667, it was provided that "noe person or persons within this Colony from the age
of sixteen years unto the age of sixty years, shall be released from traininge or other
duties in military affairs, excepting only the civil officers in this Colony &c, the
exceptions not including negroes or persons of color."
Dr John Clarke who had worked with Roger Williams in frustrating the
Coddington cabal had remained in England, acting as an informal agent of the
provincial government. Knowing of the colony's deficiencies in gunpowder, shot,
match, flints and other martial supplies, Clarke was able to secure supplies for
distribution to the towns from various friends and supporters. Supposedly the
money advanced for the supplies was a loan, but it does not appear that it was ever
repaid in full.(515)
In 1676 the colony ordered that free blacks "shall be lyable to that
service."(516) In that year the legislature enacted a law providing for a fine of 5
shillings for those eligible for militia service and who failed to respond to a call to
muster.(517) Militiamen were required to have "a musquet, cartouche box, 12 bullitts,
a half pound of [gun]powder and 6 flints." Each man also had to provide his own
accoutrements. A man who reported for training days with unsuitable or defective
equipment was liable for a fine of 3 shillings. If a soldier neglected to pay, or
could not pay, his militia fine he was jailed.(518) Some men were assigned to picket
or warding (watching) duty. This additional militia duty could be avoided by
paying for a substitute.(519) Militia duty was required of all able-bodied males
between the ages of 16 and 60. The men elected their own officers. If they elected
an officer with less than five years of militia service, that officer had to receive
special training. Officers could use corporeal punishments, including "riding the
wooden horse" and "hog tying" in addition to the levying of fines.(520) An act of the
General Assembly of the Colony of Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, at
its session begun May 2, 1676, read in part,
June the 30th . . . Voted, that whenever there is a clause made at an Assembly held May the
7th, 1673, wherein is specified that persons declaring that it is against their conscience or
judgements to bear arms in martial or military manner, that such shall not be liable to the
military authority, nor any ways liable to pay the fine by law afore ordained and set; and
finding that several, under pretense decline their duty, whereby great disturbance is in the
several Train Bands; therefore for the encouragement of the Militia in this Colony, the said
clause in the said law is made void, null and repealed. . . . And all persons in this Colony are
to be observant actively or passively, as the former laws have provided in Military affairs,
and this to stand in force, any law or laws, clause or clauses therein to the contrary notwithstandinge.(521)
In 1677 the Rhode Island Assembly found it necessary to strengthen the
militia law. The Assembly prefaced the act with the comment that "His Royall
Majesty . . . granted unto his people and subjects the inhabitants thereof, free
liberty of conscience for the real worship of God, as they arc perswaded by the
several dispensations thereof: yet therein alsoe strictly requiring and commandinge
that all due obedience shall be give unto the laws of his realme, which as is well
knowne, are upheld and mainetained under God, both from forreign invasion and
domestick rebellion by the millitary power alsoe strictly requireinge. . . ."
Not all inhabitants were willing to perform their militia duties, for reasons
varying from conscience to contempt for all civil authority. "Some under pretence
of conscience, hath taken liberty act contrary, and make voyde the power, strength
a authority of the millitary soe necessary to be upheld and maintained, that the civill
power (in which the whole free dome and priviledges of his Majesty's subjects are
kept and preserved), cannot without it be executed. . . ." The overall effect was
such "that this his Majesty's Collony this time is in effect wholly destitute of the
millitary forces for the preservation thereof." The Assembly warned that the
"inhabitants therein . . . may thereby be made a prey unto the weakest meanest of
his Majesty's enemys." There was no question as to the obligation to bear arms in
defense of the colony. The authorities took "into their most serarious consideration
and findinge that his Majesty in his Pattent hath required that the inhabitants of his
Collony are to be led, conducted and trained up in martiall affaires." Therefore, the
civil power ordered that "by the power and authority thereof, [we] order, enact and
declare that the inhabitants of every respective towne within the Collony" shall
register and serve in the militia. The men "shall in each towne respectively have
their free choyce or election of their millitary commanders and officers; and that
yearly, upon the last Monday in the month of May." The men were free "to make
choyce and elect their commander and millitary officers." On election day and five
other days a year that "there shall be . . . traininge days."
The authorities further ordered "that the Governor, Deputy Governor, or
any one Assistant, in each respective towne shall give forth warrant unto the Towne
Sergeant warne the inhabitants to assemble in armes on the day abovesaid. . . ."
The authorities decreed that "for the future it is enacted, that the Captaine, or in his
absence the next chief commander of the respective Trained Bands, shall give forth
warrant from time to time unto their respective Corporalls, or some other person,
whoever they thinke convenient, to warne and require the inhabitants yearely, on
the said last Monday of May, to assemble in armes." At such time the men were
to "elect their respective commanders and millitary officers for the exercisinge of
the people in martiall affaires in each respective towne."(522)
The 1677 Act made the cities and towns responsible for funding the major
portion of militia costs. Some costs were borne by militia fines, but shortfalls were
to be made up by local taxes.
Rhode Island required some native Americans to enroll in the
colony's militia.(523) In 1678 the Rhode Island assembly ordered that,
several Indian servants upon New Shoreham, and other Indians there, . . . may be serviceable
to her Majesty . . . . [They are] to be entered and trained up in martial discipline . . . . That
all Indian men servants, and others of said island, shall be under the command and discipline
of such Captain and other officers . . . for training up and instructing in martial discipline .
. . and that they be by the inhabitants and authority of said Island carefully provided for with
arms and ammunition . . . .(524)
In the 1690s the Rhode Island legislature became embroiled in a dispute
with their governor, Sir William Phipps over the command of the colonial militia.
In a petition of 2 August 1692, the colony claimed that Phipps had no authority to
assume command of its militia. The colony appealed to the crown: "his
Excellency, Sir William Phipps . . . writ a letter directed to your Majesties'
Governor and Councill here, a copy whereof is herein enclosed, declaring himself
to be empowered with the militia of this your Majesties' Collony." He wanted the
colony to "send some persons to him, and to propose men, faithfull to their
Majesties, to be commisionated, &c." The "Governor and Councill being
convened, and perusing the letter, found that the grant was with respect to a statute
made in the thirteenth year of the reign of King Charles the Second." According
to the colony, Charles "gave the Governor and Company of his said Collony . . . the
sole power of the militia therein from him and successors, to them and their
successors." Therefore, under charter rights, Phipps had no power to issue order.
The colony was willing to cooperate, but found Phipps in no mood to compromise
his supposed authority.
That nevertheless, we your Majesties' Governor and Councill, taking notice of your
Majesties' good intentions towards us in the time of war for our better defence against the
enemies, were willing to submit to your Majesties' commands when made to appear, and
thereupon chose and commissionated Major John Greene, Deputy Governor, and Mr. Henry
Britemen, Assistant, to treat with his Excellency, concerning his commission, who carried
with them a list of the commissioned officers of the trained bands, chosen by the order of the
Collony, which they delivered; as also gave in a list of some of the principal persons. who
together with some other their adherents were disobedient and disclaimed this your
Majesties' government, the copy of the return whereof is also herewith sent. But his
Excellency, instead of sending an answer to the Governor, which he promised to do, he sent
up Commissions to Major Peleg Sanford, endeavoring thereby to commissionate the most
of them objected against, and thereby endeavoring to depose those severall of them that have
stood up hitherto to support your Majesties' government hero; but the most of either of them
do refuse to take such commissions, so that your Majesties' good intentions towards this your
poor distressed Collony, in this time of war, is like to be subverted, and that which was
proposed for better defence against the enemy, is hike to make way for an inlet to the enemy
if not timely prevented. Whereupon, your Majesties Governor and Councill saw cause to
order the Generall Assembly to be convened for the resettling the militia, and to make
application to your Majesties for redress herein, and thie rather because our Commissioners,
aforesaid, obtained not a sight of his Excellency's commission, nor of an attested copy.(525)
On 7 December 1693 the Attorney General, Edward Ward, offered his
opinion on the significance and power of the Rhode Island colonial charter.
I find by a copy of the commission granted by their Majesties the 12th of December, 1691,
unto Sir William Phipps, reciting the Act of Parliament made in the thirteenth year of the
reign of King Charles the Second, for the militia, and that thereby the sole and supreme
power, government, command and disposition of the militia and of all forces by sea and
land, forts and places of strength belong to their Majesties; their Majesties for the better
protection and security of the inhabitants in those parts, did constitute and appoint the said
Sir William Phipps their Majesties' Lieutenant and Commander in Chief of the militia, and
of all forces by sea and land, forts and places of strength in the said Collony (amongst other
places there mentioned), during pleasure. The petitioners, by their annexed address, and by
Mr. Christopher Almy, their Agent here, do humbly represent that their Charter being
granted since the making of the Act for the Militia, they thereby humbly conceive they have
the power [for the] training and government of the militia in that Collony, and that the
subsequent commission of Sir William Phipps, which was never so much as published, or
made known by him amongst them, may be an occasion of great inconvenience and
prejudice to their Collony, which is but small, and a frontier to the sea, and open to the
enemy if he should command (as he already hath), severall men out of it, the whole number
of the inhabitants being but sufficient for its defence, and humbly praying their Majesties'
confirmation of their Charter and all the priviledges thereby granted . . . . The power given
by the Charter to the government of the Collony to trayn and exercise the inhabitants of the
Collony in martial affairs, as also the rest of the Charter, is still in force. . . . I see nothing
in point of law but that their Majesties may . . . gratify the Petitioners and confirm their
Charter. . . . Edward Ward, Attorney General.(526)
On 2 August 1694 the Queen's Council responded to both the colonial
petition and Attorney General Ward's opinion on command of the Rhode Island
militia. Despite charter rights, the queen was sovereign and, as final and complete
political power, had the absolute right to order the disposition of all troops, colonial
militia or any others. The council offered one compromise: Rhode Island would
not be required to furnish more troops in proportion to its population in any draft
of militiamen or volunteers than any other colony.
Her Majesty having received the humble Address and Petition of the Governor and Company
or their Majesties' Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, in New England,
humbly representing that the petitioners had received advice from Sir William Phipps,
Governor in Chief of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay, that he was empowered with
the militia of the Colony of Rhode Island, the grant of which power to Sir William Phipps,
the petitioners find to be with respect to the statute made the 13th year of King Charles the
Second . . . whereby the role power or the militia is granted to the Company. And therefore
humbly praying their Majesties' confirmation of their government, according to the
boundaries of their Charter; which Address having been referred to the Right Honorable, the
Lords of the Committee of Trade and Plantations, for their Lordships' consideration, and to
report their opinion what is fit to be done therein; and the Lords of the Committee having
received the report of Mr. Attorney and Mr. Solicitor Generall upon the said Address, and
a petition in behalf of the Colony of Connecticut, in relation to the militia of those Colonies,
and uniting their strength against the French . . . . we do hereby require and command our
Governor [of Rhode Island] . . . to provide and send to be under his [Phipps'] command and
direction for the defence of our Province of New York . . . . We [have] given especial
directions to our Governor . . . not to demand or require at any time a greater part of the
quota of our Militia of our Collony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation than he shall
in proportion demand or require of the quotas of the rest of the adjacent Colonies . . . .(527)
On 21 August 1694 Queen Mary reaffirmed the appointment, power and
full authority of Phipps to command all her forces, militia and volunteers included,
irrespective of charter or other provincial rights.
It having been represented unto us by your humble address and petition, that our
Commission to our trusty and well beloved Sir Wm. Phipps, Knight, Governor in Chief of
our Province of the Massachusetts Bay, in New England, whereby he is ewpowered to
command the militia of our Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, being with
respect to the statute made in the 13th year of the reign of our Royal uncle, King Charles the
Second, of blessed memory; by the Charter to the Governor and Company of our said
Colony . . . the sole power of the militia is granted to the said Company, you having
therefore humbly prayed our confirmation of the government of our said Colony according
to the boundaries of the said Charter; and whereas, out of our great care and tenderness for
the preservation of all our loving subjects as well in their rights and priviledges as for the
security of their persons and estates. . . . the uniting the strength of our said Colony of Rhode
Island and Providence Plantation, and the adjacent Colonies, for the defence of our subjects
in those parts against the French [is of utmost importance] . . . . We have thereupon further
signified our pleasure to our said Governor of our Province of the Massachusetts Bay, that
in the execution of the powers granted to him by our said Commission, he do not take upon
him any more than during war to command such quota or part of the militia of our said
Colony, as we shall at any time direct as occasion may require the same, except in case of
imminent danger of an actual invasion of the enemy; in which case we have directed him,
that with the advice of the Governor of our said Colony, he conduct and command the rest
of the forces of our said Colony, for the preservation of our said Colony, or of such other of
our adjacent Colonies as shall most stand in need thereof; he taking care that he do not leave
our said Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation unprovided of a competent force
for the defence and safety thereof. . . . of our pleasure to our several Colonies and Provinces
in the northern parts of America, the 11th day of October, 1692, to be aiding and assisting
to our Governor and Commander in Chief of our Province of New York, for the defence and
security of our said Province against the attempts of our enemies, and to agree upon a quota
of men or other assistance to be given by each of our said Colonies or Provinces, for the
defence and security of our said Province of New York, some of our said Colonies or
Provinces having omitted to send Commissioners to adjust the quotas to be furnished by
them respectively, nothing hath been done therein; we have thereupon thought fit to appoint
the several quotas of men or other assistance to be furnished by our said Colonies and
Provinces respectively, for the defence and security of our said Province of New York. And
accordingly we do hereby signify our will and pleasure unto you, that a quota or part of our
militia of our Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantation, not exceeding forty-eight
men, be the measure of the assistance to be given by our said Colony for the defence and
security of our said Province of New York . . . .(528)
In February 1708 Queen Anne appointed Colonel Samuel Vetch to
represent her among the various colonial governors and to order them to provide
her with militia to supplement her army in the campaign planned against French
Canada. She assigned "the governor of New England and... the governor of Rhode
Island" a quota of "1200 of thier best men" from among the militia and also to
encourage as many militiamen as possible "to go as Volunteers in the Expedition."(529)
On 7 May 1718, the "General Assembly of His Majesties Colony of
Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in New England begun and Held at
Newport . . . And Continued by Adjournment to the Ninth Day of September
following," passed legislation concerning the militia.
Be it therefore enacted by the General Assembly of this Colony and by the Authority for the
same, and it is hereby Enacted. That all Acts heretofore made Relating to the Militia or
appointing Officers of the same, Be hereby and Absolutely Repealed and Declared Null and
Void, and that for the future the following Order, Regulation, and Rules Relating to the
same, be Kept and Observed by all Persons in this Colony. . . . First it is Enacted and
appointed, that all Male Persons Residing for the space of Three Months within this Colony,
from the Age of Sixteen to the Age of Sixty Years, shall bear Arms in their Respective Train
Bands, or Companies whereto by Law they shall belong Excepting only . . . . And be it
further Enacted by the Authority aforesaid, That upon any Alarm in time of War, or other
emminent danger of any Assault or Invasion, all Male Persons, both Listed Soldiers and
others in this Colony of and between the Age of Sixteen and Sixty, shall upon notice of the
same, forthwith Repair to the Colours and Ensigns of such Company, within whose Province
they Inhabit or dwell.(530)
In 1730 the legislature repealed the militia act of 14 June 1726.(531)
In 1740-41 Rhode Island provided 2300 volunteers to the British attack
on Cartagena, West Indies, during King George's War. The order for recruitment
of volunteer militia in Rhode Island is similar to that which the legislatures in all
the colonies were required to promulgate.
An Act for raising and enlisting a number of soldiers, to be transported to the West Indies
for His Majesty's service. Whereas, His Majesty hath been graciously pleased to make a
declaration of war against the King of Spain, and being determined in the most effectual
manner to distress and annoy the Spaniards; and more particularly by making an attempt
upon some of their most considerable settlements in the West Indies; and for that purpose
having recommended to this government the necessity of raising a number of soldiers to be
there transported; -- In obedience therefore, to His Majesty's orders, and for the
encouragement of those who shall enlist in His Majesty's service, be it enacted by the
General Assembly of this colony and by the authority thereof it is enacted, that there be a
commanding officer in each regiment in this colony appointed by the Governor and so many
of the council as are upon Rhode Island, to enlist so many men as shall be willing to serve
His Majesty in the intended expedition against the Spaniards, which officer so appointed,
shall be obliged to enlist himself. And be it enacted by the authority aforesaid, that each
soldier (so enlisted by said officer) being an able bodied effective man, shall have the sum
of £3 allowed him by the colony, at the time of his enlisting; and shall be exempted from all
military service for the space of three years after his return, except in cases of great
extremity; and that the money hereby allowed, be deposited in the hands of each colonel in
the colony, for the purpose aforesaid. And in order to facilitate the raising and enlisting such
soldiers, the field officers in each county be hereby empowered to call each captain's
company together, in order for the aforesaid commanding officer to enlist soldiers, as
aforesaid; and that each of the said officers attend on said companies. And it is also further
enacted by the authority aforesaid, that there be at the charge of the colony, provided proper
transports for the transporting such and so many men as may be enlisted, at such time as His
Honor, the Governor, upon further advice, shall judge proper, to embark them, in order to
go to the place of the general rendezvous.(532)
The Massachusetts legislature offered a bounty for enlistments, but still
had trouble filling even half Governor Belcher's quota. Colonials were to be
allowed to elect their inferior officers, and officers and men would have rank and
pay, and be armed and clothed, equal to the British troops. They were to "have
their just share and proportion of all plunder or booty gained from the enemy,
according to their services."(533) After the war they would be permitted to retain their
arms and uniforms for military duty.(534) Along with 500 volunteers from
Massachusetts, the Rhode Islanders filled five ships when they left Boston harbor
and, after the bloody defeat, barely filled one ship on return. They lost 153 officers
and 30 transport commanders and untold numbers of enlisted men both to enemy
fire and fever.(535) Approximately ten percent of the volunteers had survived.
In the early fall of 1741 the British army proposed moving against Cuba.
The New England governors and the English authorities agreed on an enlistment
bounty of £4 sterling. Massachusetts Governor Belcher appealed to patriotism,
indicating how important the West Indian and Cuban trade were to all of New
England. Rhode Island again led the New England colonies with recruits which
may speak more of the economic conditions than their patriotism or foolhardiness.
Massachusetts did recruit more men than it had for the ill-fated Cartagena
expedition.(536) The Duke of New Castle had hoped to raise 3000 provincial
volunteers for his West Indian expedition. In proportion to its size, Rhode Island
supplied the largest number of recruits. Two companies were drawn largely from
its militia. It had a large financial stake in the West Indian trade.(537)
On 24 December 1754, Isaac Norris rose in the legislature and spoke in
favor of "establishing a regular Militia within the Province, and providing Arms
and Stores of War and building proper Magazines at the most convenient places.
All these things they desire may be done in such Manner as to be the least
burdensome to the Inhabitants . . . ."(538) A new militia act appeared in February
In 1755 Rhode Island again was assigned a quota of militia volunteers to
supplement the British army with men to join the regular British army in a joint
punitive expedition against Crown Point.(540) The text of the legislative act reads as
Whereas, the defeat of the English army at, or near the Monaungahela,(541) may not only
inspirit the French and their Indian allies, but give them an opportunity and the advantage
of detaching such a part of their forces to the northward, as may render the success of the
expedition under Major General Shirley against Niagara precarious, but frustrate that which
this colony, in conjunction with some other of His Majesty's governments in North America
are engaged in, against Crown Point, and thereby bring the English empire in those parts,
into considerable danger; for preventing whereof, as far as lieth in the power of this colony,
Be it enacted by this General Assembly . . . that three companies, of fifty men, each,
including officers, be forthwith raised and supported at the expense of this colony, under the
command of such officers as shall be chosen and appointed for that purpose, and sent by
land unto Albany, as fast as the companies can be filled up . . . and from thence, to march
with the utmost expedition . . . against Crown Point . . . . the officers to be chosen, shall have
and receive the same wages, and enjoy equal immunities and advantages with those already
sent; and every soldier to be raised, the same wages bounties and immunities in every respect
. . . . And as a further encouragement, and for the more speedy raising men to form the three
new companies, each soldier shall have and be allowed, upon his enlisting, a bounty of £25,
old tenor . . . . And to the end that there may be a sufficiency in the general treasury, for
raising men, paying bounties, supporting the troops, and other incident charges, Be it further
enacted, that the sum of £20,000 be forthwith made and struck . . . . within the space or term
of two years from the passing this act, by a tax to be assessed and levied upon the inhabitants
of this colony, in the same manner as the tax for sinking the £60,000 . . . . This Assembly do
vote and resolve, and it is voted and resolved, that the sum of £5,000, be allowed and paid
out of the general treasury, towards carrying on the building of Fort George. . . .(542)
The British attempted to recruit volunteers, out of the militia units or
elsewhere, with advertisements in newspapers and elsewhere. Broadsides, or
posters hung in public places, were among the more popular devices used for
recruitment. One Broadside, dated 8 August 1757, called the militia to duty during
a critical phase of the French and Indian War.
Advertisement! This is to command and require all, and every one, of His Majesty's well
affected subjects who are able to bear arms, to repair with all expedition, to Fort Edward on
Hudson's River, to march with General Webb, to the relief of Fort William Henry, which still
stands out fighting against a large and numerous enemy; which if not speedily relieved must
fall the sacrifice and the whole Province of course; some of the colonels of the militia have
been so remiss in their duty on this occasion. This method is taken to warn all His Majesty's
subjects of the danger . . . .(543)
The legislature acquired arms and distributed these among the citizen-soldiers of the colony. The militia men were required to care for the arms and to
be prepared to account for them at any time. After the militia trained each company
commander was to account for all arms in his command.(544)
In 1774 the assembly created a frontier ranging company of militia, to be
called the North Providence Rangers.(545) Immediately after, the legislature created
the permanent rank and position of major-general of the militia, the occupant of
this office to be appointed by the governor.(546) Finally, it passed the last major
revisions of the basic militia act enacted prior to independence.(547)
it is enacted, that for the future, each enlisted soldier, who shall not be provided with a
sufficient gun, or fuzee, as directed in the said act, shall be fined two shillings, lawful
money, for each deficiency; and also, that every soldier be provided with a good bayonet
fixed on his gun, upon the penalty of four pence, lawful money, for each default. And be it
further enacted by the authority aforesaid, that the captain, or, in his absence, the next
superior officer of each respective company, shall warn and call together the company under
his command, one day in every month, and exercise the same in martial discipline, according
to the mode established by His present Majesty in 1764 . . . . That the first warning be by
warrant under the hand and seal of such officer, issued within ten days before such training
or exercising; and that all succeeding warnings be given verbally by the commanding officer
for the day, at the head of the company, while under arms. Provided, nevertheless, that in
the towns of Providence and Bristol, the captain, or other commanding officer, may warn
their companies by beat of drum, as in the said act is permitted in the town of Newport. . .
. within ten days after each penalty shall be incurred, the captain, or other superior officer,
shall issue his warrant therefor, returnable to himself, within twenty days ; and that twelve-
and-an-half per cent. only, be allowed for collecting such fines. . . . the fines of all those
who, being exempted from appearing on the days of training, are notwithstanding, obliged
to be provided with arms and other accoutrements, shall be the same for every deficiency,
as the fines of the enlisted soldiers ; and that the examination and survey, appointed by the
said act, shall be made by the sergeants of the company in whose district they live, by
warrant from the captain, on the first Monday in February, and on the last Monday in April.
. . . no town officer shall be exempted from doing military duty, as an enlisted soldier,
excepting the members of the town council, the town treasurer, the town clerk and the town
sergeant. . . . that there be a general muster and review of each regiment or battalion, twice
in every year, to wit : on the first Monday in April, and on the first Monday in October; and
that there be a general muster and review of brigade, once in two years. . . . that the captain
general, lieutenant general and major general, or any two of them, be, and they are hereby,
fully authorized and empowered to direct and order when, and in what manner, the forces
within this colony shall march to the assistance of any of our sister colonies, when invaded
or attacked; and also in what manner the said forces shall be provided and supplied; and also
to direct and make use of the cannon belonging to the colony, either in or out of the colony,
as they may deem expedient. . . . that the said forces, whenever they shall be called out of
the colony, shall be under the immediate command and direction of the major general.(548)
In June 1776 the new state government ordered the publication and
distribution of a set of regulations for army and militia drill and discipline.(549) In the
late winter of 1775-76 the Rhode Island legislature passed laws implementing the
orders of Congress to revitalize the colony's militia.(550) It ordered that,
all such persons as are by law obliged to equip themselves with a good fire-arm, bayonet and
cartouch box, and who shall not, by the report of a town council, be declared incapable of
providing themselves, . . . do provide themselves by the 20th day of April, agreeably to the
law, under the penalty of £5 . . . .(551)
In the urban areas of colonial America, the militia thrived only as long as
there was an immediate threat from the native aborigine. The governor of Rhode
Island, Nicholas Cooke, wrote to General George Washington, on 25 January
For many years past, the inhabitants of this colony, surrounded on the land side by
Connecticut and Massachusetts Bay thought themselves in a perfect state of security, and
entirely neglected military discipline, and disposed of their arms so generally, that at the
breaking out of the present war, the colony was in a manner disarmed. We have taken every
method in our power, by purchasing, by employing manufacturers, and by importation, to
procure a sufficient quantity, but are still so deficient . . . [that] we shall scarcely be able to
find arms for the troops we have ordered to be raised for our immediate defence. Besides
which, the peculiar situation of the colony requires that every man in it should be provided.
In April 1777 Rhode Island ordered that militia be allowed the same
monthly wages to militia as were received by soldiers enlisted in the continental
service.(553) Soon after, Rhode Island conducted its second draft of militia, to relieve
those called a year earlier. The law read,
. . . . resolved, that the first division of the second draft of the militia, and alarm and
independent companies, heretofore drafted agreeably to the resolves of the Assembly, passed
at their session in December and March last, be formed into companies, as are by said
resolves directed; and that they march to such part of the shores within their respective
counties, as shall be directed by the commanding officer, on or before the 24th day of this
current April, properly equipped, to relieve those that are now upon duty, and there to
remain and do duty for fifteen days from the time they shall actually take the field. . . . to
exert themselves in the defence of their country, that a bounty of ten shillings, lawful money,
be allowed to each non-commissioned officer and soldier of the said first division of the
second draft of the militia, and alarm and independent companies, who shall do his duty; and
that all fines which shall be incurred for delinquency, after deducting the cost and fees for
collecting the same, shall be equally divided among the non-commissioned officers and
soldiers doing duty, who belong to the same town with the delinquents who shall neglect to
do duty. . . . in case of sickness and inability to do duty (which alone shall excuse any
person), it shall be in the power of either of the field officers of the regiment of the district,
to permit such a person to hire a man to do his tour of duty; and if such sick and unable
person shall be extremely poor in the judgement of such field officer, as to be unable to hire
a person in his stead, that such field officer be empowered to remit such poor person's fine.
. . . the other divisions of the independent companies, alarm companies and militia, so
drafted, as aforesaid, relieve said division, agreeably to said resolves; and that they be
entitled to the same wages and encouragement as are allowed said division, and be subject
to the same penalties. . . . the lists of the male inhabitants within this state, from sixteen years
of age, and up wards, that have been taken and returned . . . be bound together, and lodged
in the secretary's office.(554)
. . . resolved, that the commanding officer of the Continental troops within this state, for the
time being, have liberty to call into service all such field officers as he shall deem necessary
for the public service. . . . the several independent companies within this state, when called
out to service in the pay of this state, or of the United States, shall be allowed pay for the
same number of officers in proportion to the number of privates, as are in the foregoing resolve allowed to militia and alarm men. . . . that five hundred effective men be raised by the
several towns within this state (excepting the towns of Newport, Portsmouth, New Shoreham
and Middletown) for filling the Continental battalions raising by this state, on or before the
10th day of May next; that they be proportioned to the several towns, according to the
number of polls; and that [several men] . . . be a committee to proportion the same, to the
respective towns . . . that each town be empowered to give such a sum, over and above the
bounties already allowed, as they can agree for, with the men enlisting, not exceeding the
sum of £22, lawful money.(555)
In February 1778, the Rhode Island legislature authorized the recruitment
and enlistment of black, whether free or enslaved, into both the militia and the
state's Continental Line. A few free blacks responded to the offer of a bounty for
enlistment, but the response was greater among the slaves to whom "freedom with
their swords" was tendered, provided only that they serve with bravery and fidelity.
Black recruits into both the militia and the Continental Line provided the state with
integrated forces, among the very first in America. Only commissions as officers
were beyond the reach of blacks; but the ranks of non-commissioned officers were
open to persons of color.
In May 1778 the Rhode Island assembly passed legislation to strengthen
its militia. The legislation failed to achieve its aims. In September 1779 the
legislature directed Major General James Varnum "to cause strict examination to
be made of the state of arms &c. of the militia, alarm and independent companies
within this state on the third Monday of October next." Varnum was to report on
deficiencies and the legislature would attempt to correct any and all problems with
The universal practice of drafting militiamen into the Continental Line had
proved to be as noxious to men in Rhode Island as elsewhere. In May 1781 the
state passed a new militia act which provided that militiamen who were deployed
along the frontiers were "to serve within this State for [a period not exceeding] one
month . . . and no longer; and not to be marched out of the same." The law proved
to be popular and was renewed in August 1781.(557)
1. Vernon Louis Parrington. Main Currents in American Thought. 2 vols. New York: Harcourt,
Brace, 1927, 1:3-51.
2. Russell Weigley. History of the United States Army. New York: Macmillan, 1967, 3-4.
3. T. H. Breen, "English Origins and New World Development: The Case of the Covenanted
Militia in Seventeenth Century Massachusetts," Past and Present, 58 : 3-25.
4. This objection to excess militarism on Sundays was repeated in the 1760s. This time it was the
practice of the British army stationed at Boston that upset the citizenry. New York Journal,
Supplement, 13 and 20 July 1769.
5. Lindsay Boynton, The Elizabethan Militia, 1558-1638. London: Routledge and K. Paul, 1967,
6. Boynton, Elizabethan Militia, 275-93.
7. John Shy. Toward Lexington. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1965; Darrell
Rutman, "A Militant New World, 1607-1640" University of Virginia Ph. D. dissertation, 1959.
8. Benjamin P. Poore, ed. The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters and Other
Organic Laws of the United States. 2 vols. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1877,
9. Oliver A. Roberts. History of the . . . Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of
Massachusetts, 1637-1888. Boston: Mudge, 1895, 1: 1-3; L. E. DeForest. Captain John Underhill:
Gentleman, Soldier of Fortune. New York: Underhill Society of America, 1934, 6-7, 28; John
Winthrop. History of New England. J. K. Hosmer, ed. New York: Holt, 1908, I: 78; 2: 153-54.
10. Records of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England. Nathaniel B.
Shurtleff, ed. 5 vols. Boston: State of Massachusetts, 1854. 2: 222; 4, part 2: 575; 5: 48, 71, 76,
123, 144-45; The Compact with the Charters and Laws of the Colony of New Plymouth. William
Brigham, ed. Boston: State of Massachusetts, 1836. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New
England. Nathaniel Shurtleff, ed. 10: 360. Hereinafter cited as Plymouth Col. Rec.
11. Thomas Hooker. A Survey of the Summe of Church Disciple. London: Bellamy, 1648, I: 47.
12. The Colonial Laws of Massachusetts Reprinted from the Edition of 1660, with Supplements to
1672, Containing also the Body of Liberties of 1641. W. H. Whitmore, ed. Boston: State of
Massachusetts, c.1860, 35.
13. David D. Hall. Worlds of Wonder, Days of Judgment: Popular Religious Beliefs in Early New
England. New York: Knopf, 1989, 169-72.
14. New York Journal, Supplement, 27 April 1769.
15. Sir Charles Hardy to the Earl of Halifax, dated 7 May 1756, in Stanley Pargellis, editor.
Military Affairs in North America, 1748-1756. Hampden, Ct.: Anchor, 1969, 172.
16. Winthrop, History of New England, 1: 79.
17. Winthrop, History of New England, 1: 125; Massachusetts Colonial Records, 1: 187-88; Sharp,
"Leadership and Democracy," 256-58; Edward Johnson, The Wonder Working Providence of Sions
Savior in New England . J. F. Jameson, ed. New York: Scribner's, 1910, 231; Breen,
"English Origins," 84.
18. Winthrop, History of New England, 3: 503-04; 4: 106; Massachusetts Colonial Records, 1: 221,
19. John R. Alden. A History of the American Revolution. New York: Knopf, 1969, 253.
20. Shy, Toward Lexington, 3.
21. Louis Morton, "The Origins of American Military Policy," Military Affairs, 22 : 75-82;
Daniel Boorstin. Americans: The Colonial Experience. New York: Vintage, 1958, 341-72; Shy,
Toward Lexington, 3-4.
22. ed. by William Aspinwall. London: Aspinwall, 1641, chapter 3.
23. Plymouth Col. Rec., 1: 360.
24. Plymouth Col. Rec., 5: 74-76; 9: 12, 22, 45, 105; 10: 357-58; Mass. Col. Rec., 3: 39, 311;
25. Plymouth Col. Rec., 9: 27.
26. Viola Barnes. Dominion of New England. New York: Kennikat, 1960, 229.
27. Ibid., 262.
28. "Address of Divers Gentlemen, Merchants and Others of Boston, to the King," dated 25 January
1691, Calendar of State Papers: America and West Indies., 13: 212.
29. Calendar of State Papers: America and West Indies, 13: 514.
30. Gersham Bulkeley, "Will and Doom, or, the Miseries of Connecticut by and under an Usurped
and Arbitrary Power"  in Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 3 : 70-269
31. "Order of Simon Bradstreet, Governor of the Massachusetts Convention," dated 17 July 1689,
Connecticut Archives, 2: 10.
32. dated 9 May 1690, in New York Colonial Documents, 3: 729.
33. Massachusetts Archives, 2: 211-12; Herbert L. Osgood, The American Colonies in the Eighteenth
Century, 1: 100-03.
34. Herbert L. Osgood, American Colonies in the Seventeenth Century. New York: Macmillan,
1904-07, 1: 102-03; New York Colonial Documents, 4: 13.
35. The Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. 17 vols. Boston: State of
Massachusetts, 1869-1910, 7: 418.
36. Governor Fletcher to John Trenchard, dated 10 November 1693, quoted in John G. Palfrey.
History of New England. Boston, 1890, 4: 225-27.
37. Rhode Island Colonial Records, 3: 296.
38. Mathew P. Andrews. History of Maryland. Chicago: Clarke, 1925, 209-10.
39. Osgood, American Colonies, 1: 151-52, 267-69; New York Colonial Documents, 4: 259-61;
Calendar of State Papers: America and West Indies, 15: 318.
40. Archibald Hanna, Jr. "New England Military Institutions, 1693-1750" Ph. D. dissertation, Yale
University, 1951; Frederic de Peyster. The Life and Administration of Richard, Earl of Bellomont.
2 vols. New York: New York Historical Society, 1879, 31-32, 57.
41. See de Peyster, Earl of Bellomont.
42. Everett Kimball. The Public Life of Joseph Dudley, 1660-1775. New York: Harvard Historical
Studies, 1911, 15: 75, 120, 143-48.
43. Kimball, Joseph Dudley, 143-47; Palfrey, New England, 4: 359-62; Harry M. Ward. Unite or
Die: Intercolony Relations, 1690-1763. Port Washington: Kennikat, 1971, ch. 2.
44. Shy, Toward Lexington, 14.
45. 2 Chron. 18:18.
46. John Calvin. Institutes of the Christian Religion. John T. McNeil, ed. Philadelphia:
Westminster Press, 1967, 1: 73.
47. John Downame. Christian Warfare Wherein is First Generally Shewed the Malice, Power and
Politike Stratagems of the Spiritual Enemies of Our Salvation, Sathan. . . .. London: Kyngston,
48. Edward Johnson. The Wonder Working Providence of Sion's Saviour in New England. london,
49. Mass. Archives, 68: 174-80.
50. See Eph. 6: 11-17.
51. Samuel Nowell. Abraham in Arms, or, the First Religious General with his Army Engaging in
a War for which He Has Wisely Prepared and by Which Not Only an Eminent Victory Was Obtained,
but a Blessing Gained Also. Boston: Foster, 1678. The best source for early documents and sermons
is the Early American Imprints, two series. Hereinafter, E. A. I., 1st series, no. 256.
52. Cotton Mather penned several influential works on the Indian wars. The History of a Long War
with Indian Savages and their Directors and Abettors. Boston: Green, 1714. E. A. I. 1st series, no.
1688; The Present State of New England, Considered in a Discourse on the Necessities and
Advantages of a Public Spirit in Every Man. Boston: Green, 1690. Photostat Americana, 1st series,
1936; Souldiers Counselled and Comforted, a Discourse Delivered unto Some Parts of the Forces
Engaged in the Just War of New England against the Northern and Eastern Indians .
Louisville, Ky: Lost Cause Press, 1967.
53. Benjamin Wadsworth. A Letter of Wholesome Counsels Directed to Christian Souldiers Going
Forth to War. Boston: Green, 1709. E. A. I., 1st series, no. 1438.
54. Nathaneal Walter. The Character of a True Patriot. Boston: D. Heachman, 1745, E. A. I., 1st
series, no. 5706.
55. Thomas Price. Salvation of God. E. A. I, 1st series, no. 5856.
56. Jared Eliot. God's Marvellous Kindness. New London, Ct.: Green,1745.
57. Oliver Peabody. Essay to Revive and Encourage Military Exercises. Boston: Eddes & Gill,
58. William Hooper. Christ the Life of True Believers and their Appearance in Glory .
Boston: Fowle, 1741.
59. Aaron Burr. A Discourse Delivered at Newark in New Jersey on 1 January 1755, Being the Day
Set Aside for Solemn Fasting and Prayer. New York: Gaine, 1755. News Micro 961.
60. Samuel Checkley. The Duty of God's People When Engaged in War. Boston: Fowle, 1755.
News Micro 961.
61. William Currie. A Sermon Preached in Radnor Church on Thursday, 7 January 1747....
Philadelphia: Franklin & Head, 1748, E. A. I., 1st series, no. 6119.
62. Peter Clark. Religion to Be Minded Under the Greatest Perils of Life. Boston: Kneeland, 1755.
News Micro 961.
63. Sylvanus Conant. The Art of War, the Gift of God. Boston: Edes & Gill, 1759. News Micro
64. New England's Misery, the Procuring Cause and a Strong Remedy Proposed. Boston: Fowle &
65. Samuel Cooper. A Sermon Preached before His Excellency, Thomas Pownell. Boston: Green
& Russell, 1759. News Micro 961.
66. Samuel Chandler. A Sermon Preached at Gloucester, Thursday, 29 November 1759, Being the
Day of Provincial Anniversary Thanksgiving. Boston: Green & Russell, 1759. News Micro 961.
67. Amos Adams. Songs of Victory Detested by Human Compassion and Qualified with Christian
Benevolence. Boston: Edes & Gill, 1759. News Micro 961; Nathaniel Appleton. A Sermon
Preached on October 9, being a Day of Public Thanksgiving Occasioned by the Surrender of
Montreal. . . . Boston: Draper, 1760. E. A. I., 1st series, no. 8536.
68. John Brown. On Religious Liberty, a Sermon. . . . Philadelphia: Davis & Reymers, 1763. E.A.I.
1st series, no. 9356.
69. Anthony Benezet. Thoughts on the Nature of War and its Repugnancy to Christian Life.
Philadelphia: Millar, 1766. E. A. I., 1st series, 10,505. Pennsylvania Ledger, 10 October 1766;
Boston Gazette, 22 October 1766.
70. Marie L. Agearn. The Rhetoric of War: Training Day, the Militia and the Military Sermon.
Westport, Ct.: Greenwood, 1989, 23.
71. Survivors in war were frequently slaughtered as in: Judges 9:45; 2 Sam. 12: 31; and 2 Chron.
25:12. Others were carried into captivity, Num. 31:26. Some were even mutilated, Judges, 1:6.
72. Increase Mather. A Discourse Concerning the Grace of Courage. Boston: Eddes, 1710.
73. John Dunton's Journal, Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 2d series, 2 :
74. David Holden. Journal Kept by Sergeant David Holden of Groton, Massachusetts, during the
Latter Part of the French and Indian War. Cambridge, Ma,: Wilson & Son, 1889.
75. Uriah How. A Discourse Written by Uriah How of Canaan in the Twentieth Year of His Age.
New Haven: Parker, 1761. E. A. I., 1st series, no. 41,202.
76. David B. Perry. Recollections of an Old Soldier. Tarrytown, NY: W. Abbatt, 1928; Magazine
of History, extra no. 37: 1.
77. Military Journals of Two Private Soldiers, 1758-1775. Poughkeepsie, NY: Tomlinson, 1855.
78. Seth Pomeroy. Journal and Papers of Seth Pomeroy, Sometime General in the Colonial Service.
New York: Society of Colonial Wars in the State of New York, 1926, publication number 38; Rufus
Putnam. Journal of General Rufus Putnam Kept in Northern New York during Four Campaigns of
the Old French and Indian War, 1757-1760. Albany: Munsell, 1886.
79. Extract of a letter from New York, dated 1 August, The Public Advertiser, 6 October 1755.
80. Mass. Col. Rec., 1: 85, 90, 102, 124, 210; 4 part 1: 420; 5: 211-12.
81. "Training Day" in Thomas C. Cochran and Wayne Andrews, eds. Concise Dictionary of
American History. New York: Scribner's, 1962, 961.
82. The Public Advertiser, 6 October 1755.
83. Herbert Russell Spencer. Constitutional Conflict in Provincial Massachusetts. Columbus, Ohio:
Heer, 1905, ch. 7.
84. Senate Executive Document 95, 48th Congress, 2d Session, 38-39.
85. Records of the Governor and Company of Massachusetts Bay in New England, 1: 25-26.
86. Harold L. Peterson, communication, in The Gun Collector, 4 (December 1946): 12.
87. Records of the Governor and Company of the Massachusetts Bay in New England. edited by N.
B. Shurtleff. Boston: State of Massachusetts, 1854, I, 17. Hereinafter cited as Mass. Col. Rec.
88. Mass. Col. Rec., 1: 85.
89. The Charter and General Laws of the Colony and Province of Massachusetts Bay in Mass. Col.
Rec., 1: 157.
90. Laurence S. Mayo. John Endecott. New York: DaCapo, 1971.
91. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 17, 384.
92. B. P. Poole, ed. The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters and Other Organic Laws
of the United States. 2 vols. Washington: U. S. Government Printing Office, 1877, 1: 938-53.
93. in Daniel Boorstin, Americans: The Colonial Experience, New York: Vintage, 1958, 355.
94. Mass. Col. Rec. IV, 222; Records of Massachusetts, 1: 93, 120.
95. Mass. Col. Rec., 1: 85.
96. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 85.
97. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 102.
98. Characters and General Laws of the Colony and Provinces of Massachusetts Bay. Boston:
Prescott and Story, 1814, 157-160.
99. Jack S. Radabaugh, "The Militia of Colonial Massachusetts," Military Affairs, 43 : 1-18;
Howard H. Peckham, The Colonial Wars, 1698-1762. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964,
100. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 137.
101. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 191.
102. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 187.
103. Regulation of Servants in New Plymouth, 1636, in W. Keither Kavenagh, ed. Foundations of
Colonial America. 3 vols. New York: Chelsea House, 1973, 1: 405.
104. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 212.
105. Massachusetts Historical Society Collections, Series 2, 2 : 186-87.
106. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 258.
107. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 186-87.
108. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 250; Darrett B. Rutman. Winthrop's Boston. Chapel Hill, N.
C.: University of North Carolina Press, 1965, 215-16; Oliver A. Roberts. History of the Military
Company of Massachusetts, Now Called the Ancient and Honorable Artillery Company of
Massachusetts, 1637-1888. 4 volumes. Boston: Mudge, 1895.
109. Winthrop's Journal, 1: 91-92.
110. Winthrop's Journal, 1: 89-96.
111. General Order of Massachusetts, 1641, in Kavenagh, Colonial America, 1: 405.
112. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 24, 25, 28, 29.
113. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 31.
114. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 25.
115. Laws of Massachusetts Relating to the Indians, 1642, in Kavenagh, Colonial America, 1: 413.
116. Laws of New Plymouth, 5 March 1640, in Kavenagh, Colonial America, 1: 444.
117. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 267-68; 5: 16.
118. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 267-68.
119. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 188.
120. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 39, 42-43.
121. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 67.
122. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 328; 2: 119.
123. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 267.
124. An Order about ye Choyce of Sergeant-majors and their Charge; the clarkes of bandes with their
Charge & Oath & Military Watches, in Records of Massachusetts, 3: 12.
125. Order of 18 June 1645, in Records of Massachusetts, 3: 35-36.
126. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 268.
127. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 124.
128. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 12.
129. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 41.
130. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 216.
131. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 221.
132. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 222.
133. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 222.
134. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 221.
135. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 108.
136. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 99; 3: 267-68, 397.
137. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 99; 3: 268.
138. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 397.
139. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 41.
140. Records of Massachusetts, 4: 257.
141. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 210, 258; 2: 221-22; 4, part 1: 14; 5: 51.
142. Nathaniel B. Shurtleff and others, eds. Records of the Colony of New Plymouth in New
England. 12 vols. Boston: State of Massachusetts, 1855-61, 2: 61.
143. Manuscripts Archives of Massachusetts.
144. Records of Massachusetts, 5: 71, 76.
145. Records of Massachusetts, 4, part 2: 575; 5: 48, 123, 144-45.
146. Records of Massachusetts, 4, part 2, 332; 5: 73.
147. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 158.
148. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 256; 4, part 2: 486.
149. Records of Massachusetts, 4, part 2: 276, 333.
150. Journal of Jasper Danckaerts. B. B. James and J. F. Jameson, eds. New York: Scribner's,
1913, 239, 271.
151. Records of Massachusetts, 4, part 2: 282; 5: 63.
152. An Act for settling the Militia. Council Chamber in Boston, 24th of March, in the 4th year of
the reign of our Sovereign Lord King James the second, Annoque Domini 1687. Public Records of
Massachusetts, 3: 429-33.
153. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 212; 3: 368; 5: 48.
154. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 221; 3: 42.
155. Records of Massachusetts, 4: 106.
156. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 117; 2: 124; 4, part 2: 368; 5: 69, 74.
157. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 125; 4, part 2: 28, 74; 5: 80.
158. "Memoir of Roger Wolcott" , in Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 3
159. Records of Massachusetts, 4: 56.
160. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 160; 2: 268.
161. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 43.
162. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 99, 138, 160; 2: 38, 223.
163. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 24; Radabaugh, "Massachusetts Militia," 7.
164. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 118, 256; 4, part 2: 28.
165. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 222.
166. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 118-19, 122; 3:9 398.
167. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 85.
168. The origin of the word tomahawk is in dispute. A smith named Thomas Pearson who lived near
Philadelphia in the late seventeenth century allegedly made an American improvement on the
European hatchet, to be used as a weapon of war instead of a cutting instrument. Legend ascribes
its origin to "Tommy Pearson." Webster's dictionary indicates that it was an adaptation of an
Algonquin Indian word tomehagen or Mohican tamoihecan meaning a wooden war club. Later it was
applied by the Amerindians to any and all war clubs or cutting instruments, iron or wood. Horace
Edwin Hayden in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 3 : 358.
169. Records of Massachusetts, 4, part I: 379.
170. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 265, 398.
171. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 158, 164.
172. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 264-65; 4, part 2, 97; 5: 438.
173. Records of Massachusetts, 5: 49, 70-71, 4, part I: 323; 3: 398.
174. Records of Massachusetts, 3: 419; 4, part 2: 439; 5: 254, 409-10.
175. Records of Massachusetts, 5: 47, 70-71.
176. John K. Mahon, "Anglo-American Methods of Indian Warfare, 1676-1794," Mississippi Valley
Historical Review, 15 : 254-75 at 256.
177. Frank G. Row. The Indian and the Horse. University of Oklahoma Press, 1955, 69, 222, 230.
178. The outline of the war is taken from the best book on this subject, Douglas Leach. Flintlock and
Tomahawk: New England in King Philip's War. New York: Macmillan, 1958. See also George M.
Bodge. Soldiers in King Philip's War Boston: third ed.; Little Brown, 1906; Benjamin F. Stevens.
King Philip's War. Boston: Sawyer, 1900; and Douglas Leach, ed. A Rhode Islander Reports on
King Philip's War. Providence, R. I.: Brown University Press 1963.
179. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 43; V, 47.
180. See Harold Peterson, "The Military Equipment of the Plymouth and Bay Colonies, 1620-1690,"
New England Quarterly, 20 : 197-208.
181. George E. Ellis. The Red Man and the White Man. Boston, 1882, 459-63; Goodkin, "An
Historical Account of the Doings and Sufferings of the Christian Indians in New England in the Years
1675, 1676, and 1677, diary in possession of American Antiquarian Society; Senate Executive
Document 95, 48th Congress, 2d Session, 45-47.
182. Records of Massachusetts, 5: 136, 327; Proceedings of the Massachusetts Natural Historical
Society and Library Association, 1; Senate Document 95, 48th Congress, 2d Session, 46-47.
183. General Laws of the Inhabitants of the Jurisdiction of New Plimouth. Plymouth: General
Courts, 1685, 51.
184. Simon Bradstreet to Privy Council, 18 May 1680, in James Savage, editor, "Gleanings from
New England History," Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, third series, 7 :
185. Acts and Laws of the General Court of Massachusetts, 1692-1719. London, 1724, 51.
186. Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, 1: 128-30, 133.
187. Harry H. Turney-High. Primitive War: Its Practice and Concepts. University of South Carolina
Press, 1949, 125ff.
188. Calendar of Massachusetts State Papers, 1669-1674, p. 332 [manuscript].
189. Danckaerts, Journal, 239, 271.
190. Council of Boston, 28 March 1678.
191. Colonial Laws of the Province of Massachusetts, 1692-93. edited by W. H. Whitmore.
Boston: State of Massachusetts, c. 1860, chapter 18, section 6.
192. Records of Massachusetts, 2: 119.
193. Records of Massachusetts, 1: 212; 2: 124; 5: 71, 76.
194. Mass. Col. Rec., V, 79, 137.
195. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 43 [1909-10]: 512-14.
196. Acts and Resolves, 1694-95, c. 62.
197. Acts and Resolves, 1696-97, c. 76.
198. Acts and Resolves, 1695-96, cc. 29, 38.
199. Queen Anne's Instructions to Governor Dudley, 6 April 1702, in Kavanagh, Colonial America,
200. Queen Anne's Instructions to Governor Dudley, in Kavenagh, Colonial America, 1: 318.
201. Francis Parkman, Half Century of Conflict, 1: 100.
202. Acts and Resolves of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, 1: 606-07
203. Acts and Laws of Massachusetts, 1692-1719. London, 1724, 242.
204. Frederick Kidder. The Expeditions of Captain John Lovewell and His Encounters with the
Indians. Boston: Bartlett & Halliday, 1865.
205. Boston News-Letter, 7 February 1733.
206. Records of the General Court, 11: 479.
207. See Henry Russell Spencer. Constitutional Conflict in Provincial Massachusetts. Columbus,
Ohio: Heer, 1905, 121-25.
208. American Weekly Mercury, October 1739.
209. Pennsylvania Gazette, 11 October 1739.
210. Boston News Letter, 17 July 1740.
211. Boston News Letter, 22 May, 5 and 26 June 1740.
212. Boston News Leader, 2 July and 6 August 1741.
213. Byron Fairchild. Messrs. William Pepperrell: Merchants at Piscataqua. Ithaca, New York:
Cornell University Press, 1954.
214. J. A. Schutz. William Shirley, King's Governor of Massachusetts. Chapel Hill, N.C.:
University of North Carolina, 1961. Shirley was an early advocate of British destruction of all
French forces in North America and the annexation of Canada. He was trained as a lawyer and
emigrated to America in 1731 and held several posts in Massachusetts before serving as governor
between 1741 and 1757. Following Braddock's defeat he was the nominal British military
commander in North America. After he failed to capture Fort Niagara in 1755, his fate was sealed
and he was replaced by Lord Loudoun. He served as governor of the Bahamas, 1761-1767.
215. Boston News Leader, 27 July 1745.
216. Boston News Letter, 1 August 1745.
217. Boston News Letter, 29 August 1745.
218. Boston News Letter, 5 September 1745.
219. Boston News Letter, 12 September 1745.
220. Boston Gazette, 22 April 1746; Independent Advertiser, 24 April 1746.
221. Boston News Letter, 5 June 1746
222. Boston Evening Post, 16 June 1746.
223. Boston News Letter, 2 July 1746
224. Boston News Letter, 10 June 1748; Independent Advertiser, 27 June and 4 and 11 July 1748.
225. Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of Massachusetts. Boston: State of
Massachusetts, 1908, 3: 737, 753-54.
226. Fred Anderson. People'S Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War.
Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984, 123-25.
227. Richard Sykes to Samuel Phillips Savage, 9 July 1759, in Massachusetts Historical Society
Collections, 43: 653.
228. William Shirley to Halifax, 10 August 1754, in Stanley Pargellis. Military Affairs in North
America, 1748-1765. Hampden, Ct.: Anchor, 1969, 25-26.
229. "Sketch of Regulations & Orders Proposed Relating to Affairs of North America," in Pargellis,
Military Affairs, 24-35.
230. History of the Town of Higham, Massachusetts. 3 vols. Higham: Higham Historical Society,
1893, 1: 265.
231. "Queries Respecting the Slavery and Emancipation of Negroes in Massachusetts, Proposed by
the Honorable Judge Tucker of Virginia and Answered by the Reverend Doctor Belknap," Collections
of the Massachusetts Historical Society, first series, 4 : 199.
232. Josiah Quincy, Jr., "The Journal of Josiah Quincy, Jr., 1773" Proceedings of the Massachusetts
Historical Society, 49 : 446, 454-57.
233. Anderson, People's Army, 65-66.
234. Thomas Pownall to William Pitt, dated 10 September 1758, in Parkman Papers, 42: 285.
235. Anderson, People's Army, 61-62.
236. Boston Evening Post, 3 April 1769.
237. quoted in New York Journal, 29 December 1768.
238. New York Journal, Supplement, 9 February, 6 April and 29 June 1769; Boston Evening Post,
1 May 1769.
239. Boston Evening Post, 1 May 1769.
240. reprinted in New York Journal, Supplement, 12 January 1769.
241. Bernard Bailyn. The Ordeal of Thomas Hutchinson. Cambridge, Ma.: Harvard University
Press, 1974; Peter O. Hutchinson, comp. The Diary and Letters of His Excellency Thomas
Hutchinson. 2 vols. Boston: A. M. S., 1963
242. Gazette des Deux-Ponts, 19 December 1774. Other reports which extolled the virtues of the
American militia appeared in Gazette de Leyde on 11 February and 23 August 1774. The press and
its reading public apparently delighted in the discomfort and dilemma of its age-old enemy.
243. J. R. Alden. General Gage in America. Baton Rouge: L. S. Press, 1948.
244. See Franklin B. Hough. General Gage's Informers. Ann Arbor, Mi.: University of Michigan
245. The account of the events at Lexington and Concord given here largely follows The American
Heritage Book of the Revolution. New York: American Heritage, 1958, pp. 46-119; and John R.
Alden, A History of the American Revolution. New York: Knopf, 1969, pp. 173-78.
246. A large quantity of provisions and military stores being deposited here, induced
General Gage, who commanded the British troops at Boston, on the memorable 19th of April
1775, to send a detachment to destroy them. Who, after they had thrown a considerable
quantity of flour and ammunition into the mill pond, knocked off the trunnions and burnt the
carriages of several field pieces, and committed other outrages, were opposed at the North
bridge by the militia of this and several other towns . . . . While the troops were in town, they
fired the court house, in the garret of which there was a great quantity of powder. This fire,
by the intercession of one Mrs. Moulton, a woman of above 80 years of age, the troops
extinguished; otherwise the houses adjoining, would have been destroyed. . . . These
depositions are recorded in the town books of Concord . . . . [Massachusetts Historical
Society Collections, 1: 240-41].
247. American Archives. Peter Force, ed. 9 vols. in series IV and V. Washington D.C.:
Government Printing Office, 1837-1853. Series 4, Volume 1, p. 1046. Hereinafter cited as Amer
Arch, with series number given first, volume second and page number last.
248. London Chronicle, 21 January 1775; 2 February 1775.
249. C. P. Greenough, "How Massachusetts Raised her Troops in the Revolution," Collections of
the Massachusetts Historical Society, 55 [1921-22]: 348.
250. "The British Account of the Battles of Lexington and Concord, White Hall, June 15, 1775," in
American Museum, or, Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, Etc. Philadelphia:
Matthew Carey. 1789, 5: 87. See also Franklin B. Hough. The Day of Lexington and Concord, the
19th of April 1775. Boston: Little Brown, 1925.
251. Gage in American Museum, 87.
252. Gage, in American Museum, 87.
253. Essex Gazette, 25 April 1775.
254. Signers included: Nathaniel Mulliken, Philip Russell, Moses Harrington, Jr., Thomas and David
Harrington, William Grimes, William Tidd, Isaac Hastings, Jonas Stone, Jr., James Wyman,
Thaddeus Harrington, John Chandler, Joshua Reed, Jr., Joseph Symonds, Phineas Smith, John
Chandler, Jr., Reuben Cock, Joel Viles, Nathan Reed, Samuel Tidd, Bejamin Lock, Thomas
Winship, Simeon Snow, John Smith, Moses Harrington III, Joshua Reed, Ebenezer Parker, John
Harrington, Enoch Willington, John Hormer, Isaac Green, Phineas Stearn, Isaac Durant and Thomas
255. These and other depositions were first published in American Museum, or Repository of Ancient
and Modern Fugitive Pieces, Etc. Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1789, 5: 79-87.
256. William H. Siebert, "Loyalist Troops of New England," New England Quarterly, 4 : 108-47.
257. Gage in American Museum, 87.
258. Fowling pieces were designed to fire pellets like a modern shotgun although they were safe for
use with a single ball. At distances greater than fifty yards they were not especially accurate and
were comparable to the British muskets.
259. Bristol Gazette, 24 August 1775.
260. Connecticut Courant, 17 July 1775.
261. Bristol Gazette, 24 August 1775.
262. Connecticut Courant, 23 April 1775.
263. R. Frothingham, History of the Siege of Boston. New York: Little, Brown, 1903, 95.
264. Bristol Gazette, 24 August 1775.
265. Letter from Virginia, 16 April 1775, London Chronicle, 1 June 1775.
266. London Gazette, 30 May 1775.
267. Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser, 5 July 1775.
268. A letter from Boston, London Evening Post, 26 June 1775.
269. Letter from Charles Town, New England, 19 May 1775, Lloyd's Evening Post and British
Chronicle, 28 June 1775.
270. Letter from Worcester, Massachusetts Bay, 20 May 1775, London Chronicle, 8 July 1775.
271. London Gazette, 18 July 1775.
272. The news of Lexington reached Philadelphia about five o'clock in the afternoon on Monday, 24
April 1775, from Trenton, New Jersey. A facsimile of that original message was reproduced in
Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 27 : following page 257.
273. "Report of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, or, Address by the Massachusetts Provincial
Congress, sitting at Watertown, to the Inhabitants of Great Britain," [26 April 1775] in ALden T.
Vaughan, editor. Chronicles of the American Revolution. New York: Columbia University Press,
274. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War, I, p. xii.
275. Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors in the Revolutionary War, I, p. xiv.
276. Letter from a midshipman on board the Lively Frigate now stationed off the neck of land near
Boston, London Morning Post and Daily Advertiser, 13 July 1775. The midshipman reported that
the date of the action was 20 April, but his letter was dated 14 May.
277. Documents Illustrative of the Formation of the Union of American States. 69th Congress, 1st
Session, H.R. Doc. 398 , pp.14-15.
278. Gazette des Deux-Ponts, 12 June 1775.
279. Gazette de Leyde, 4 July 1776.
280. Gazette des Deux-Ponts, 27 July and 24 August 1775; Gazette de France, 25 August 1775.
281. Gazette des Duex-Ponts, 19 December 1774.
282. C. P. Greenough, "How Massachusetts Raised Her Troops in the Revolution," Collections of
the Massachusetts Historical Society, 60 [1921-22]: 345-70.
283. 4 American Archives 2: 1018-20.
284. Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of Massachusetts Bay. Boston: State of
Massachusetts, 1869-1922, 5: 445-54.
285. 4 American Archives 4: 1644.
286. quoted in Otto Lindenmayer. Black and Brave. New York, 1970, 17.
287. Frederick Scott Oliver. Alexander Hamilton. New York: Crowell, 1970, 74-128.
288. Troyer S. Anderson. The Command of the Howe Brothers during the American Revolution.
New York: DaCapo, 1988; Ira D. Gruber. The Howe Brothers and the American Revolution. New
289. William B. Wilcox. Portrait of a General: Sir Henry Clinton in the War of Independence.
New York, 1964.
290. R. J. Hargrove. General John Burgoyne. Newark: University of Delaware Press, 1973.
291. "An Account of the Battle of Bunker's Hill, published by a committee of the Provincial
Congress of Massachusetts," in American Museum, or, Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive
Pieces, Etc. Philadelphia: Matthew Carey, 1789, 5: 107.
292. A long and glowing eulogy to Dr. Warren is found in "An Eulogium on the memory of the
major general Warren who fee June 17, 1775, at Bunker's Hill, written shortly after that lamented
event, in American Museum, 5: 200-02.
293. Allen French. The First Year of the American Revolution. New York: Octagon, 1934; Richard
Frothingham. History of the Siege of Boston. Boston: Little Brown, 1849.
294. Acts and Resolves of the Massachusetts Assembly, 19: 221.
295. Acts and Resolves, 5: 445.
296. R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 577.
297. Acts and Resolves, 5: 595.
298. Acts and Resolves, 39: 217.
299. Acts and Resolves, 19: 462, 517.
300. Acts and Resolves, 19: 519.
301. Acts and Resolves, 19: 517.
302. Acts and Resolves, 19: 558.
303. Acts and Resolves, 19: 690, 691, 698.
304. Greenough, "Massachusetts Troops," 351.
305. Journals of the Continental Congress, 2: 336.
306. Acts and Resolves, 5: 680-81.
307. Acts and Resolves, 5: 448.
308. Acts and Resolves, 19: 741.
309. Acts and Resolves, 19: 781.
310. Acts and Resolves, 19: 141, 781, 821, 921.
311. Acts and Resolves, 20: 367, 386, 415, 702.
312. Acts and Resolves, 5: 1297-98; 21: 575.
313. Acts and Resolves, 21: 519.
314. Acts and Resolves, 21: 38.
315. Acts and Resolves, 21: 190.
316. Acts and Resolves, 21: 307.
317. Acts and Resolves, 21: 190, 621, 656, 825; Greenough, op. cit., 355.
318. Greenough, "Massachusetts Militia," 355.
319. General Knox's report was summarized in Emory Upton. Military Policy of the United States
from 1775. Washington; U. S. Government Printing Office, 1904, 34, 40, 47, 57-58.
320. Acts and Resolves, 19: 765, 877.
321. Acts and Resolves, 19: 559, 576, 690.
322. Acts and Resolves, 19: 880.
323. Acts and Resolves, 19: 925.
324. Acts and Resolves, 19: 931.
325. Acts and Resolves, 20: 42.
326. Acts and Resolves, 20: 50.
327. Acts and Resolves, 20: 52.
328. Acts and Resolves, 20: 61.
329. Acts and Resolves, 20: 87-88.
330. Acts and Resolves, 20: 114.
331. Acts and Resolves, 20: 125.
332. Acts and Resolves, 20: 191, 255, 333, 470.
333. Acts and Resolves, 20: 373, 386, 470.
334. Acts and Resolves, 20: 441.
335. Acts and Resolves, 20: 450.
336. Acts and Resolves, 20: 687.
337. Acts and Resolves, 20: 694, 700.
338. Acts and Resolves, 20: 700; 21: 33.
339. Acts and Resolves, 21: 519, 568.
340. Acts and Resolves, 21: 324, 625.
341. Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 50 [1916-17]: 375-411.
342. Constitution of Massachusetts, 1780, in Poore, Federal and State Constitutions, 1: 958.
343. Benjamin P. Poore, comp. The Federal and State Constitutions, Colonial Charters and Other
Organic laws of the United States. Washington: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1878, 1: 958.
344. Manuscript Archives of Massachusetts, 231: 293.
345. Acts and Resolves, 21: 674.
346. Andrew M. Davis. Shays' Rebellion. Worcester, Ma: Historical Society, 1911; David P.
Szatmary. Shays' Rebellion. Amherst, Ma.: University of Massachusetts, 1980.
347. Mark C. Walsh. Free Men Shall Stand: The Story of Connecticut's Organized Militia from
1636. Hartford: Connecticut National Guard Officers Association, 1991, 1-9.
348. Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776. edited by James H. Trumbull and
Charles J. Hoadly. 15 volumes. Hartford, Ct.: State of Connecticut, 1850-1890, 1: 4.
349. Leonid Tarassuk and Claude Blair. The Complete Encyclopedia of Arms and Weapons. New
York: Mondadori, 1982, 141.
350. Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut, 1636-1776. edited by James H. Trumbull and
Charles J. Hoadly. 15 vols. Hartford, Ct.: State of Connecticut, 1850-1890, 1: 4, 15, 118-19. Public
Records of the State of Connecticut. edited by Charles J. Hoadly and Leonard W. Labaree. 9
volumes. Hartford, Ct.: State of Connecticut, 1894-1953. Hereinafter cited as Connecticut Col. Rec.
and Connecticut State Rec.
351. Captain John Mason's account of the Pequot War is given in Collections of the Massachusetts
Historical Society, 2d series, Vol. 8. Se also Colonial Records of Connecticut, 1: 74, 95, 197, 295,
352. Simeon Ash and William Rathband, eds. A Letter of Many Ministers in Old England . . . to the
Reverend Brethren in New England, Concerning Nine Positions. London, 1643.
353. Charles M. Andrews. The Colonial Period in American History. 4 vols. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1936, 1: 119-22, 158-67.
354. Connecticut Col. Rec., 1: 30.
355. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 6: 68, 332.
356. Connecticut Col. Rec. 1: 544.
357. Connecticut Col. Rec., 2: 19.
358. Public Records of the Colony of Connecticut. 15 vols. ed. J. H. Trumbull and C. J. Hoadly.
Hartford: State of Connecticut, 1850-90, 1: 544-45.
359. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 6: 96.
360. Connecticut Col. Rec., 1: 57-58.
361. Connecticut Charter of 1662 in Poore, ed. Federal and State Constitutions, 1: 256.
362. Public Rec. Ct., 2: 44.
363. Laws of Connecticut. Hartford: George Bimley, 1865, 49.
364. Connecticut Col. Rec., 2: 207-08; 217-18; 346-47.
365. Colonial Records of Connecticut, 1: 349.
366. Public Rec. of Ct., 2: 45.
367. Public Rec. of Ct. 2: 270.
368. Pub. Rec. Ct., 2: 347.
369. Plymouth Col. Rec., V, 176; Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, Series III,
Volume 6, p. 36.
370. Spencer P. Mead. "The First American Soldiers," Journal of American History, 1 : 120-230.
371. Public Rec. Ct., 3: 63.
372. Colonial Rec. of Ct., 3: 430, 440-41.
373. "Memoir of Roger Wolcott" , in Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 3
374. Reported in Gersham Bukeley, "Will and Doom, or, the Miseries of Connecticut by and under
an Usurped and Arbitrary Power," , Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 3
375. Gersham Bulkeley, "Will and Doom, or, the Miseries of Connecticut by and under an Usurped
and Arbitrary Power"  in Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 3 : 70-269.
376. Connecticut Col. Rec., IV, 41.
377. Public Rec. Ct., 4: 177.
378. Connecticut Col. Rec., 4: 80 and 250.
379. Public Rec. Ct., 5: 83.
380. Public Rec. Ct., 5: 129.
381. Public Rec. Ct., 5: 165.
382. Ct. Col. Rec., 5: 83.
383. Connecticut Col. Rec., 8: 36.
384. Connecticut Col. Rec., 12: 248.
385. Connecticut Col. Rec., 7: 584.
386. Public Rec. Ct., 7: 344-45.
387. 28 February 1708, the Queen to Vetch, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 38
388. Acts and Laws of His Majesties Colony of Connecticut in New England. New London, 1715,
389. Public Rec. Ct., 7: 36.
390. Robert Gardner. Small Arms Makers. New York: Crown, 1963, 138.
391. Public Rec. Ct., 5: 454-55.
392. Public Rec. Ct., 6: 361.
393. Public Rec. Ct., 6: 511.
394. Captain John Mason to Governor Talcott, 8 October 1733, in Collections of the Connecticut
Historical Society, 4 : 290-91.
395. "An Act for Regulating the Militia," published May 1741, Ct. Col. Rec. 8: 379-87; repealing
the Act of 1702, Ibid. 5: 73-85..
396. Ct. Col. Rec., 8: 379; 10: 411.
397. Ct. Col. Rec., 7: 325.
398. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 5 : 269-70.
399. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 9: 4.
400. "Secretary Robinson to the Governor of Connecticut," 23 January 1755, in Collections of the
Connecticut Historical Society, 1 : 258.
401. Public Rec. of Ct., 10: 410-11.
402. Thomas Fitch to Sir Thomas Robinson, 1 August 1755, Collections of the Connecticut Historical
Society, 1 : 265-67.
403. Governor Thomas Fitch to the king, 1 August 1755, Collections of the Connecticut Historical
Society, 1 : 268-69.
404. Thomas Fitch to the king, October 1755, Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 1
405. Sir Thomas Robinson to Governor Fitch, 11 November 1755, Collections of the Connecticut
Historical Society, 1 : 276-77.
406. J. A. Schutz. William Shirley, King's Governor of Massachusetts. Chapel Hill, N.C.:
University of North Carolina Press, 1961.
407. Secretary Henry Fox to the Governor of Connecticut, 13 March 1756, Collections of the
Connecticut Historical Society, 1 : 277-80.
408. King's Warrant, 8 March 1756, Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, Vol. I ,
409. Governor Fitch to the Lords of Trade, 29 June 1756, Collections of the Connecticut Historical
Society, 1 : 301-02.
410. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, I, 282-84.
411. Governor Fitch to the Lords of Trade, 18 November 1757, Collections of the Connecticut
Historical Society, 1 : 327.
412. "Some Hints for the Operations in North America for 1757," in Pargellis, Military Affairs, 314.
413. Governor Fitch to the Earl of Holderness, 17 November 1757, Collections of the Connecticut
Historical Society, 1 : 324-26.
414. Connecticut Col. Rec., XII, 248.
415. Public Rec. Ct., 9: 227.
416. Public Rec. Ct., 9: 291.
417. Public Rec. Ct., 9: 630-31.
418. Johnathan Trumbull was born in Lebanon, Connecticut, on 12 October 1710 and was a merchant
by trade. He was the only colonial governor who supported the Revolution. Under his leadership,
Connecticut provided supplies and men for the patriot cause. Glenn Weaver. Jonathan Trumbull:
Connecticut's Merchant Magistrate. Hartford: Connecticut Historical Society, 1956.
419. Mead, "First American Soldiers," 121; Collections of the Massachusetts Historical Society, 7
420. Deane was an interesting and somewhat tragic figure. The son of a Connecticut blacksmith,
Deane was a successful merchant and lawyer. He was a member of both the first and second
Continental Congress, where he helped organize the Continental Line. In 1776 Congress sent him
to Europe to buy supplies and sell American produce. Arthur Lee (1740-1792) accused Deane of
misappropriation of funds and malfeasance in office. Congress recalled Deane in 1778, accused him
of the above captioned offenses, and demanded that he defend himself. His poorly kept records failed
to exonerate him, so he withdrew from politics and died in England. Finally, Congress cleared his
name in 1842. Deane Papers, 1774-1790. 5 vols. New York: N. P., 1887-90.
421. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 2 : 140
422. Christopher Leffingwell of Norwich to Silas Deane at Philadelphia, 22 August 1774, Collections
of the Connecticut Historical Society, 2 : 140-41.
423. Leffingwell to Dean, Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 2 : 142.
424. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 2: 189.
425. Ct State Rec., 1: 91.
426. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 20: 215-16.
427. Ct. Col. Rec., 15: 16.
428. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 20: 225.
429. Robert Gardner. Small Arms Makers. New York: Crown, 1963, 144, 196, 211, 212. The
meaning of Trumbull's charge regarding the arms from Springfield is unclear. Obviously this
antedates by some 20 years the establishment of the U. S. Arsenal at Springfield. There seems to
have been no private armory or consortium of gunsmiths capable of producing 500 arms. These may
have arrived from abroad and been stored at Springfield. If the arms were newly made the meaning
of the order may have been to prove the arms.
430. Public Rec. Ct., 15: 195.
431. dated 5 December 1775 in The Writings of George Washington. edited by John C. Fitzpatrick.
Washington: U.S. Government, 1931-45, 4: 146.
432. London Evening Post, 15 February 1776.
433. New York Mercury, 18 August 1776.
434. R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 577.
435. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 20: 298.
436. Robert Gardner. Small Arms Makers. New York: Crown, 1963, 82.
437. Mitchell, op. cit., pp. 125ff.
438. Grant of the Province of maine, 1639, in Poore, ed. Federal and State Constitutions, 1: 778.
439. Grant of the Province of Maine, 1664, in Poore, Constitutions, 1: 784-87.
440. New Hampshire Commission of 1680, in Poore, ed. Constitutions, 2: 1276.
441. Chandler Eastman Potter. Military History of the State of New Hampshire. Baltimore:
Genealogical Publishing Co., 38-39.
442. Richard Francis Upton. Revolutionary New Hampshire. New York: Octagon Books, 1971, 40-41.
443. Raoul F. Camus. Military Music of the American Revolution. Chapel Hill: University of North
Carolina Press, 1976, 40-41.
444. Jere R. Daniell. Colonial New Hampshire: A History. Millwood, N.Y.: K.T.O., 1981, 90-91.
445. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 116-17; George Bartsow. History of New Hampshire.
Concord, N.H.: Boyd, 1842, 110-11.
446. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 139-40.
447. Barstow, History of New Hampshire, 110-11.
448. New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, 5: 129-53.
449. Barstow, Colonial New Hampshire, 112.
450. Barstow, Colonial New Hampshire, 118-19.
451. New Hampshire Historical Collections, 5: 174-75.
452. Barstow, Colonial New Hampshire, 118-19.
453. Acts and Laws passed by the General Court or Assembly of the Province of New Hampshire,
in New England. Acts and Laws of His Majesty's Province of New Hampshire in New England.
Portsmouth: David and Robert Fawle, 1771, 92, 94, 95; New Hampshire Historical Collections, 5:
454. Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 4 : 10-14.
455. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 139
456. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 139.
457. in Louis K. Koontz, The Virginia Frontier. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1925,
458. New Hampshire Provincial Papers, 7: 444.
459. Jere R. Daniell. Experiment in Republicanism. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1970,
460. Edwin Page, "The King's Powder, 1774," New England Quarterly, 18 : 83-92.
461. John Sullivan was born on 17 February 1740, was a lawyer and politician by profession and
commissioned general in the patriot army when the Revolution began. He was captured at the Battle
of Long Island, exchanged and fought at the battles of Trenton and Princeton. His most important
campaign came in 1779 against the loyalists and their Amerindian allies in New York. He was chief
executive of New Hampshire in 1786, 1787 and 1789 and a federal district judge, 1789-95. He died
on 23 January 1795. Thomas C. Amory. The Military Services and Public Life of Major General
John Sullivan. Boston: Wiggin and Lunt, 1868; Charles P. Whittemore. A General of the
Revolution: John Sullivan. New York: Columbia University Press, 1961.
462. Barstow, Colonial New Hampshire, 245-46; Potter, New Hampshire, 114-15.
463. quoted in Richard Francis Upton. Revolutionary New Hampshire. New York: Octagon Books,
464. Upton, New Hampshire, 41.
465. Upton, New Hampshire, 88-89.
466. Caleb Stark. Memoir and Official Correspondence of General John Stark . . . . Concord, N.H.:
Lyon, 1860; Howard P. Moore. A Life of General John Stark of New Hampshire. New York, 1949.
467. Barstow, New Hampshire, 244.
468. Greenough, op. cit., 348.
469. American State Papers: Military Affairs, 1: 14ff.
470. New Hampshire State Papers, 8: 393.
471. Metcalf, Laws of New Hampshire, 4: 77; New Hampshire State Papers, 8: 760.
472. Metcalf, Laws of New Hampshire, 4: 219, 293.
473. Daniell, Experiment in Republicanism, p. 98.
474. Ford, Journals of the Continental Congress, 2: 187-90.
475. Metcalf, Laws of New Hampshire., 4: 39-57; New Hampshire State Papers, 7: 575-83.
476. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 239.
477. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 239.
478. Daniell, Colonial New Hampshire, 245.
479. New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, 2: 155.
480. New Hampshire Historical Society Collections, 2: 165.
481. General Knox's report was summarized in Upton. Military Policy, 34, 40, 47, 57-58.
482. Sullivan Papers, 1: 190. dated 24 March 1776.
483. New Hampshire Historical Society Publications, 9: 878-82; New Hampshire Gazette, 8
484. Caleb Stark. Reminisces of the French War, Rogers' Expedition with the New England Rangers
and Life of Major General John Stark. Concord, N. H.: Roby, 1831.
485. There are many important, and generally unstudied, personal records of the men and officers
of the Sullivan expedition. The following list was compiled in May 1879 by David Craft and
published in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 3 : 348-49, and consisted of
journals kept by officers connected with this Expedition. . Lieutenant (afterwards Colonel) John
Jenkins. The original in 1879 was in the hands of his grandson, Hon. Steuben Jenkins, of Wyoming,
Penna;  George Grant, published in Wyoming Republican, Wilkesbarre in 1868; and in Hazard's
Register, 14: 72-76.  Thomas Grant, published in Historical Magazine, August and September
1862;  Daniel Livermore published New Hampshire Historical Collections, 6: 308-335; 
Adam Hubley, published as an appendix in Miner's History of Wyoming;  James Norris' journal.
The original in the Buffalo Historical Society. An imperfect copy of the Norris papers was published
in Hill's New Hampshire Patriot;  Capt. Theodosius Fowler, beginning with August 30, is in
Campbell's Border Wars and O'Reilly's History of Rochester;  Lieutenant William Barton's
journal, published in New Jersey History Society Transactions Vol. II;  Dr. Ebenezer Elmer's
journal, published as above. See also Historical Magazine, August 1862;  Lieutenant William
Rogers, original in hands of L. B. Rogers, Esq., Newark, N. J. is but little else than a table of
distances, of but little or no value.  Lieutenant John L. Hardenberg, original in hands of Rev.
Dr. Hawley, of Auburn Theological Seminary;  Rev. William Rogers, published in Universal
Magazine for 1797, 1: 390-399, and 2: 86-91, and 200-206. This copy ends August 7;  Erkuries
Beatty, original in the New York Historical Society;  General Henry Dearborn, original
manuscript in hands of family in Boston, Mass.;  Nathaniel Webb's journal, known to have been
published in 1855 the Elmira Republican, but only a fragment survived. Besides these, Captain
William Pierce of Colonel Harrison's Regiment of Artillery, and first Aide-de-Camp to General
Sullivan, kept a Journal, which was copied by Major Adam Hoops, but Craft located neither. It has
also been generally believed that Colonel Gansevoort kept a Journal; if so, Craft did not found it.
The same has been said of Obadiah Gore, of Shesbequin. The following persons have written
narratives, more or less full, and of varying value: Colonel Cortlandt, published in the Elmira
Advertiser in 1879. John Salmon's journal was published in Seaver's Mary Jemisom (old ed.); and
also in Wyoming Massacre. Nathan Davis' journal was published in the Historical Magazine, for
April 1868, beginning on page 198. Moses Van Campen's journal was published in his Memoirs.
There are also letters of James Clinton, Lt.-Col. Francis Barber, and Gen Washington.
486. John Sullivan, "Address of Governor Sullivan to the freeman of New Hampshire," in American
Museum, or Repository of Ancient and Modern Fugitive Pieces, Etc. Philadelphia: Matthew Carey,
1789, 5: 574-79.
487. New Hampshire Constitution of 1784, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1280-82.
488. New Hampshire Constitution of 1784, in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1282.
489. Ethan Allen to the Congress of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, 11 May 1775, American
Archives, ed. Peter Force. 9 vols in series 4 and 5. Washington: U. S. Government, 1837-53.
Herein after cited as Amer. Arch., with series first, then volume number and page. 4 Amer. Arch.
2: 556; Collections of the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 : 177-78.
490. Ethan Allen to Governor Jonathan Trumbull, by Learned Hebard, 12 May 1775, Collections of
the Connecticut Historical Society, 1 : 178-79. Hugh Moore. Memoir of Colonel Ethan Allen.
Plattsburg, N.Y.: O. R. Cook, 1834; Ethan Allen. A Narrative of Colonel Ethan Allen's Captivity,
Written by Himself. Burlington, Vt.: Chauncey Goodrich, 1838; Ethan Allen. Reason, the Only
Oracle of Man. New York: Scholars' Facsimiles, 1940.
491. John E. Goodrich, Vermont Rolls of Soldiers in the Revolutionary War. Rutland: Tuttle, 1904,
492. Vermont Rolls, 816-17.
493. Seth Warner was born at Roxbury, Connecticut, on 6 May 1743, and was an important leader
of the Green Mountain Boys. He was captured at Crown Point, exchanged and, on 31 October 1775,
defeated a British force at Longueuil during the retreat from Canada. In 1777 he helped defeat the
British forces at the Battle of Bennington during the Saratoga campaign. He died on 26 December
494. Vermont Constitution of 1777 in Poore, Constitutions, 2: 1860.
495. Journals of the General Assembly, 1: 666.
496. Journals of the General Assembly, 1: 779.
497. Charles A. Jellison. Ethan Allen: Frontier Rebel. Syracuse University Press, 1969, 238.
498. John Russell Bartlett, ed. Records of the Colony of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations.
Providence: Crawford Greene & Bros., 1856, 1: 61.
499. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 77.
500. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 117, 120-21, 153, 218, 381.
501. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 104-05.
502. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 79.
503. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 80.
504. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 154
505. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 155.
506. |506. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 220-21.
507. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 223-24.
508. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 223-24.
509. R. I. Col. Rec., 1: 226.
510. Calendar of State Papers: Colonial Series, American and West Indies, 1574-1733. 40 volumes.
London: H. M. Stationary Office, 1862-1939. 1574-1660: 337-38, 353-54.
511. Charles M. Andrews. The Colonial Period in American History. 4 vols. New Haven: Yale
University Press, 1936, 1: 32-36, 56-57.
512. The charter of the Colony of Rhode Island was sealed at Whitehall on 8 July 1663.
513. Charter of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations. . . ," in Poore, ed. Federal and State
Constitutions, 2: 1600.
514. R. I. Col. Rec., 2: 114-16.
515. R. I. Col. Rec., : 396-99.
516. R. I. Col. Rec., 2: 536.
517. R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 93, 295-97.
518. R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 430-32.
519. R. I. Col. Rec. 3: 432.
520. R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 433.
521. R. I. Col. Rec. 2: 549
522. R. I. Col. Rec., 2: 566-68.
523. R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 526.
524. R. I. Col. Rec. 3: 526.
525. "Address from Rhode Island to Their Majesties William and Mary," 2 August 1692, R. I. Col.
Rec., 1: 288-89.
526. "Attorney General's Opinion upon the Address from Rhode Island of August 2, 1692," 7
December 1693, R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 293-94.
527. "Order of Council upon the Address from Rhode Island, Concerning the Militia," 2 August
1694, R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 295.
528. "Queen Mary to the Governor and Council of Rhode Island relating to the Militia," 21 August
1694, R. I. Col. Rec., 3: 298-99.
529. "Queen Anne to Colonel Samuel Vetch. Instructions to Our Trusty and Well Beloved Colonel
Vetch, to be Observed in his Negotiations with the Governors of Several of Our Colonies in
America," 28 February 1708 in Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 38 : 340-44.
530. Acts of His Majesties Colony of Laws of Rhode Island and Providence Plantations in America,
531. Public Law 212; R. I. Col. Rec., 4: 437.
532. R. I. Col. Rec., 4: 573-74.
533. Boston News Letter, 17 July 1740.
534. Boston News Letter, 22 May, 5 and 26 June 1740.
535. Boston News Leader, 2 July and 6 August 1741.
536. Albert Harkness, Jr. "Americanism and the War of Jenkins' Ear" Mississippi Valley Historical
Review, 38 [1950-51]: 61-90.
537. R. I. Col. Rec., 4: 213.
538. R. I. Col. Rec., 4: 213.
539. R. I. Col. Rec., 5: 156, 227, 472, 562.
540. An Act for raising and supporting three companies, of fifty men, each, including officers, to join
the troops already sent by this government in the expedition against Crown Point. R. I. Col. Rec.,
541. This refers to the celebrated defeat of the English forces under General Braddock, on the 9th
July, 1755, when an attempt was made to invest Port DuQuesne, (now Pittsburgh,) the stronghold
of the French. Colonel, afterwards General, George Washington, acted on this occasion, as aid to
542. An Act for raising and supporting three companies, of fifty men, each, including officers, to join
the troops already sent by this government in the expedition against Crown Point. R. I. Col. Rec.,
543. R. I. Col. Rec., 6: 84.
544. R. I. Col. Rec., 6: 68.
545. "An Act Incorporating a Military Company by the Name of the North Providence Rangers,"
R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 268-69.
546. "An Act for Appointing a major general of the forces of this colony annually," R. I. Col. Rec.,
547. "An Act in addition to and Amendment of, an act entitled An Act for Regulating the Militia of
this Colony," R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 269-71.
548. "An Act in addition to and Amendment of, an act entitled An Act for Regulating the Militia of
this Colony," R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 269-71.
549. R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 576.
550. R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 7, 120, 198, 226.
551. R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 478-79.
552. R. I. Col. Rec., 7: 501.
553. R. I. Col. Rec., 8: 208.
554. R. I. Col. Rec., 8: 197-89.
555. R. I. Col. Rec., 8: 200.
556. R. I. State Rec., 8: 595.
557. R. I. Col. Rec., 9: 400, 471.