Sunday, January 25, 2015


Despite popular modern misconceptions, Massachusetts minute men were not poorly armed and equipped.  Instead it appears most towns, including the Merrimack Valley region of Essex County, took appropriate steps to ensure its minute companies were well supplied for war.  In Bradford, the residents voted to ensure its minute men were uniformly armed with bayonets and cartridge boxes.  “Voted, That the Selectmen provide bayonets and cartouch boxes for the Minute-Men on the town cost, to be returned to the town after they are dismissed from the service.”[1]  Later that year, three Bradford men were reimbursed for fitting bayonets to guns and making scabbards and belting for the town’s minute company.  “Voted, To Phineas Carlton, for 22 Bayonets fitted with Scabbards and Belts, 8l. 5s. 0d.  Voted, To Phineas Carlton, for Scowering the old Bayonets, and fitting with Belts, 4l. 4s. 0d. For 2 Scabbards and Belts, 0l. 3s. 0d.  Wm. Greenough, for fitting one Bayonet and one belt, 0l. 2s. 8d.”[2]

Andover placed a heavy emphasis in arming its two minute companies with bayonets.  “Voted, that the enlisted soldiers be furnished with bayonets at the expense of the town. Voted, that a committee be chosen to collect the bayonets now in the hands of individuals in this Town and provide such a number of new ones as will be sufficient to supply the minute men. Voted, that the Committee chosen at the last meeting to procure bayonets collect as many as they can of those belonging to the Province by next Wednesday, two o'clock, P. M., that they procure one hundred more to be made as soon as possible and supply those firelocks that are effective which belong to the minute men with good bayonets as soon as may be.”[3]  Likewise, Methuen resolved to provide bayonets “which should be brought to Capt. John Davis and after the service was over said Davis is to return said bayonets unto the Selectmen of said town.”[4]  The town also voted to provide guns for all minute men unable to supply their own, blankets and cartridges.[5]  Amesbury voted that its minute men would be responsible for their own arms and equipment.  “Voted that said Minnit men shall upon their own cost be well equiped with arms and aminition according to law fit for a march.”[6]  Boxford merely issued a vague resolution that its minutemen be “arm, equip, and hold themselves in readiness to march in any emergency in defence of the Province.”[7]

Captain James Brickett’s Company from Haverhill appears to have taken the greatest measures to ensure its men were properly equipped and dressed for war.  As discussed earlier, Brickett’s Company was originally formed as an artillery unit.  When its members were unable to procure an artillery piece, it reorganized itself as an “independent corps”.[8]  On the eve of the American Revolution, Brickett’s Company was essentially operating as a minute company.  On March 21, 1775, the company voted “that we Dress in a Uniform consisting of a Blue Coat, turned up with Buff, and yellow plain Buttons, the Coat cut half way the thigh; and the Pockets a Slope. Voted, Also, that we have Buff, or Nankeen Waistcoat & Breeches, and White Stockings with half Boots or Gaiters. Also that the Hats be cocked alike. And that each one have a bright gun, Bayonet, & Steel Ramrod. Voted that the Company be equipd in this Uniform by the first Monday in May.”[9]  The unit also agreed that “each member shall be supply'd with one Pound of Powder and Twenty Balls; to be reviewed twice a year; upon the Days of a chusing.”[10]

A strong emphasis was placed on drilling and training for war by all the towns in the Merrimack Valley.  Following the recommendations of the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, Andover ordered its minute companies to drill once a week.  Amesbury resolved that its minute men would engage in “exercising four hours in an fortnight.”[11]  Two weeks later, the town modified its order and instructed its minute men to “[exercise] four hours in a week.”[12]  The residents of Boxford voted on March 14, 1775 “that the minute-men shall train one half day in a week, for four weeks after this week is ended.”[13]  Methuen simply ordered its minute company be “drawn out or exposed to train.”[14]

Haverhill initially voted that its minute men “be duly disciplined in Squads three half days in a Week, three hours in each half day.”[15]  On March 14, 1775, the town also voted to raise thirty dollars “to procure a military instructor to instruct the Militia in the Art Military.”[16]  One week later, it was voted that the minute-men should train one whole day per week, instead of three half days as previously voted.  Furthermore, the minute men were to be trained by a “Mr George Marsden, whom we have hired.”[17] 

In a document prepared by Sergeant Michael Whittier, the names of the minute men belonging to Captain Sawyer’s Company Haverhill Minute Company and the number of days each soldier attended military drills for the months of March and April is described:
A Role of the Miuit Men in Capt James Sawyer's Company & the Number of days Each man Trained according to the Voat of the Town of Haverhill in March and Apirel 1775.

                                                Days                                                    Days  
James Sawyer Capt                 5                      Samuel gips Mitchel    -
Timothy Johnson Lieut           5                      Joshua Emory              6
Nathaniel Eaton Lieut             5                      Jerimiah Stickney        5
Mitchel Whiticher Sargt          6                      Joseph Webster           5
Moses Heselton Sargt             5                      Isaiah Eaton                5
Wm Rolf Sargt                        5                      Ebenezer Grifen          4
Charles Davis Sargt                5                      Samuel Emerson         5                         Enook Eaton Coprel             4                      John Silver                  -
Chas Sarjant Coprel                3                      Seth Wymon               4
John Bery Coprel                    6                      Daniel Lord                 5
Ruben Sargent                        3                      Nathan Peabody         5
Asa Currcr                               5                      James Whiticker          4
Thomus Tiylor                         5                      Samuel Sanders           3
Daniel Colby                           3                      Henerey Springer       1                     
John Dow                                6                      Ebenezer Webster      -
John Eaton                              4                      Johnathan Dusten       4
Joseph Emorson                      5                      Daniel Grifen              3
Simon Picck                            4                      Moses Emorson Juner 4
Lewis George                          5                      John gipson                 3
'Wm Davis                              2                      Nathan Ayre               4
Mossc Emorson                       5                      James Townsand         4
Job gage                                  4                      Stophen Runcls           4
Peter Emorson                         3                      John Tiylor                  3                     
Samuel George                        -                       James Wilson              -
John Cheney                           1                      Daniel Remock           3
Nathaniel Cahaney                  -                       Stephen Jackson          3
Samuel Ealy                            2                      Joshua Moors              1         
Wm Sawyer                            4                      Philip Bagley               4         
James Smiley                           5                      Humpree Nicola          4
Joel Harrimcn                          5                      Dudley Dusten            3
James Snow                            5                      Johnthan Lowger        4                     
Mark Emorson                        -                       John Sanders               4

Mitchel Wittier Serjant

On April 13, 1775, Captain Sawyer and forty six of his men travelled west to Andover to hold a joint drill with Captain Thomas Poor and his men.  According to Sawyer’s subsequent report, the purpose of the event “[was to meet] at Andover for Exsise "[18]

Meanwhile, an “Independent Corps” commanded by Captain Brickett of Haverhill passed their own resolutions regarding preparations for war.  “That we will meet together (on the first and third Mondays of September, October and November following, and on the first and third Mondays of the six Summer months annually till the Company shall agree - to dissolve the same) for the exercise of Arms and Evolutions, And that the role shall be called two hours before Sunset, and the Company shall be dismissed at Sun set N. B. If it be fowl weather tho Day appointed, the Company shall meet the next fair Day.”[19]  Shortly thereafter, the men voted to adopt “the exercise as ordered by His Majesty in the year 1764.” [20]  Two months later, Brickett’s “independent corps” voted “that we hire Mr George Marsdin for 4 days at 12s a day, & that he be paid out of the fines.”[21]

[1] Resolution of the Town of Bradford, January 20, 1775.
[2] Resolution of the Town of Bradford, September 21, 1775.
[3] Resolution of the Town of Andover, February, 1775.
[4] Resolution of the Town of Methuen, January 1775.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Resolution of the Town of Amesbury, March 20, 1775.
[7] Resolution of the Town of Boxford, January 5, 1775.
[8] Minutes of Captain James Brickett’s Company, November 12, 1774.  19th Century sources refer to this unit as a “light infantry” company.
[9] Minutes of Captain James Brickett’s Company, March 21, 1775.
[10] Ibid.
[11] Resolution of the Town of Amesbury, March 20, 1775.
[12] Resolution of the Town of Amesbury, April 7, 1775.
[13] Resolution of the Town of Boxford, March 14, 1775.
[14] Resolution of the Town of Methuen, January, 1775.
[15] Resolution of the Town of Haverhill, January 30, 1775.
[16] Resolution of the Town of Haverhill, March 14, 1775.
[17] Resolution of the Town of Haverhill, March 21, 1775.  A secondary source suggests Mr. Marsden was a British deserter who ultimately rose through the ranks to serve as an adjutant with Colonel Scamman’s Regiment.
[18] Return of Captain James Sawyer’s Company, April 13, 1775.
[19] Resolution of Captain James Brickett;s Company, September 5, 1774. 
[20] Resolution of Captain James Brickett’s Company, November 21, 1774.
[21] Resolution of Captain James Brickett’s Company, February, 1775.

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