Tuesday, December 6, 2016

"To be Ready for Military Operation" - Five Examples of Regulations for Massachusetts Minute Companies on the Eve of Lexington and Concord

On the eve of the American Revolution, conflict with England seemed inevitable. As a result, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress ordered all minute companies to be properly armed and equipped. Specifically, it instructed "particular care should be taken by the towns and districts in this colony, that each of the minute men, not already provided therewith, should be immediately equipped with an effective firearm, bayonet, pouch, knapsack, thirty rounds of cartridges and balls."

To ensure compliance, many Massachusetts passed their own resolutions proscribing what it's minute company should carry when mobilized for war. Here is a sample of five such resolutions.

1. On December 26, 1774, Roxbury ordered its "militia minutemen [to] hold themselves in readiness at a minutes warning, compleat in arms and ammunition; that is to say a good and sufficient firelock, bayonet, thirty rounds of powder and ball, pouch and knapsack."

2. On January 8, 1775, the men of West Brookfield resolved "we the subscribers, soldiers inlisted from the several Militia companies within this town, and organized into a company called the Minute Company, do solemnly covenant that we will as soon as possible be provided and equipt with an effective firearm, cartouch box (or bullet pouch), 30 rounds of powder and bullets, and knapsack. That we will exert our best abilities to acquire the art military. That we will yield a ready obedience to the commands of our officers, and hold ourselves in readiness to march upon the earliest notice from our Commanding officers, and hazard our lives in resisting any armed force that shall attempt by force to put in execution the late revenue Acts — should any attempt be made between this time and the first of July next.”

3. On January 20, 1775, the Town of Bradford 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.

4. On January 14, 1775, the men of Ipswich declared “We whose names are hereunto subscribed, do voluntarily Inlist ourselves, as minute men, to be ready for military operation, upon the shortest notice. And we hereby Promise & engage, that we will immediately, each of us, provide for & equip himself, with an effective arm, Bayonet, Pouch, Knapsack, & Thirty rounds of Cartridges ready made. And that we may obtain the skill of compleat Soldiers, We promise to Convene for exercise in the Art of Military, at least twice every week.”

5. Late to the game, on March 20, 1775 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.”

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