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Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"Take an Exact State of Their Numbers and Equipments" - The Massachusetts Provincial Congressional Order for Inspection

While many are familiar with the recommendations of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress to organize minute man companies throughout the colony, few may know that the organization also ordered a colony wide inspection of said units to ensure they were sufficiently armed and equipped for war.

On February 14, 1775, the Provincial Congress passed a resolution instructing regimental commanders to conduct inspections of the minute and militia companies under their command to determine if they were properly supplied for war. It also ordered towns to inspect their supply of ammunition and powder ("town stock").

"Resolved, That it be and hereby is recommended to the commanding officers of each regiment of minute men that now is or shall be formed in this province, that they review the several companies in their respective regiments, or cause them to be reviewed, and take an exact state of their numbers and equipments : and where there is any company that is not incorporated into a regiment, the commanding officer thereof shall review the several companies, or cause them to be reviewed, and take a like state of their numbers and equipment - and it is also recommended to the colonels or commanding officers of each regiment of militia in this province, that they review the several companies in their respective regiments, or cause them to be reviewed, and take a state of their numbers and accoutrements, which said state of the minute men and militia, shall be, by said officers, returned, in writing, to this Congress on the first day of their next session after the adjournment. And it is further Resolved, That it be recommended to the selectmen of each town and district in the province, that on the same day they make return in writing, of the state of the town and district stock of ammunition and warlike stores to this Congress."

Following the February 14th order it appears the various regimental commanders did comply with the recommendation and ordered the inspection of arms and equipment of their men. Likewise, town selectmen ordered a review of town stocks and "warlike stores". Period accounts suggest that most inspections took place between late February and the end of March.

On April 14, 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress reported the returns of the inspections. "Returns of warlike stores were received from almost all the towns of the several counties of Massachusetts and Maine, except Dukes and Nantucket, April 14, 1775. The aggregate was as follows: Fire-arms- 21,549; Pounds of powder- 17,444; . Pounds of lead balls- 22,191; Number of flints- 144,699; Number of bayonets- 10,108; Number of pouches- 11,979."

Of course, on a completely unrelated side note...What is interesting about the initial February 14th order is the phrase "where there is any company that is not incorporated into a regiment." This is likely a reference to "independent companies" that were being raised throughout the colony. Independent companies were military units that were raised, organized and funded by a collection of private individuals instead of Massachusetts towns. Newburyport, Haverhill, Ipswich and West Brookfield are just a few examples of towns that had independent companies in addition to their town funded minute and militia companies. On April 19, 1775, most of these independent companies acted as minute companies.

More on Independent Companies later this week...

1 comment:

  1. Notable that there 22,000 firearms and 10,000 bayonets, enough to equip about half of the muskets with bayonets. A lot less than the expected enemy had, of course, but far from missing.

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