Over the next few days, scores of Bostonians discovered they were prohibited from fleeing the town. General Thomas Gage was fearful that if the residents were permitted to leave, they would provide material assistance to the American army. As a result, he issued orders barring residents from leaving Boston. Boston resident Sarah Winslow Deming despaired “I was Genl Gage's prisoner -- all egress, & regress being cut off between the town & country. Here again description fails. No words can paint my distress.” According to merchant John Rowe, Boston’s economy immediately collapsed. Businesses stopped operating and fresh provisions for market stopped coming into town. “Boston is in the most distressed condition.”
Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress and the Committee of Safety were confronted with their own dilemma. Within a very short period of time, the provincial army surrounding Boston began to slowly disappear. Regiments lacked any organization and soldiers were continuously coming and going. At first, militiamen left in small groups, and then by the hundreds, as lack of provisions along with the tug of responsibilities back home weakened their senses of duty. Artemas Ward, the overall commander of the American army besieging Boston, opined that soon he would be the only one left at the siege unless something was done. To meet this problem, the Provincial Congress agreed to General Ward’s requests that the men be formally enlisted for a given period of time. On April 23, 1775, the legislative body resolved to raise a “Massachusetts Grand Army of 13,600 men and appoint a Committee of Supplies to collect and distribute the necessary commodities.”
In undertaking this venture, Massachusetts turned to the model it had followed to attract recruits for provincial regiments during the French and Indian War. When the Massachusetts government appointed a regimental colonel to serve in the French and Indian War, he was given a packet of blank commissions for officers that he could dispense as he saw fit. Often, commissions would be contingent upon the prospective officers’ success in recruiting men. To secure enlistments of private soldiers, junior officers often made arrangements with prospective non-commissioned officers, promising posts as sergeants or corporals in return for their assistance in recruiting drives. While many recruiters operated within the confines of their own minute man or militia regiment that fought on April 19th, recruiters were also authorized to beat their drums anywhere in the province to enlist volunteers. Local militia officers were prohibited from interfering with beating orders and required to muster their companies and assist the colonel and his prospective officers with the drafting of recruits.
For example, between May 4 and May 8, 1775, recruiters arrived in Lexington. Over the next four days, twenty men from Lexington enlisted in a company commanded by Woburn’s John Wood. The company was to be part of Colonel Samuel Gerrish’s Regiment. In exchange for his enlistment, which was to expire at the end of December 1775, each man was paid £5 and promised a bounty of a coat.
After the regiments were raised and certified, they were adopted into the Massachusetts Grand Army and assigned regimental numbers. It appears that the regiments were assigned regimental numbers based upon the “rank or age of the counties” from which they were raised. As a result, the regimental numbering of the Massachusetts Grand Army appears to be as followed during the early months of the Siege of Boston: