Minutemen - American Revolutionary War Period

American Revolutionary War Period

In 1774, General Thomas Gage, the new Governor of Massachusetts, tried to enforce the Intolerable Acts, which were designed to remove power from the towns. Samuel Adams pressed for County Conventions to strengthen the revolutionary resistance. Gage tried to seat his own court in Worcester, but the townspeople blocked the court from sitting. Two thousand militiamen marched to intimidate the judges and get them to leave. This was the first time the militia was used by the people to block the king's representatives from acting on royal orders and against popular opinion. Gage responded by preparing to march to collect munitions from the provincials. For 50 miles around Boston, militiamen were marching in response. By noon the next day, almost 4000 people were on the common in Cambridge. The provincials got the judges to resign and leave. Gage backed off from trying to seat a court in Worcester.

The colonials in Worcester met and came up with a new militia mobilization plan in their County Convention. The Convention required that all militia officers resign. Officers were then elected by their regiments. In turn, the officers then appointed 1/3 of their militia regiment as Minutemen. Other counties followed Worcester’s lead, electing new militia officers and appointing Minutemen.

Gage conducted several "show the flag" power demonstrations in Massachusetts which showed the local government officials that the "Minuteman" mobilization scheme worked well.

When it came to practicing formations with their weapons, the British mainly only practiced on formations and marching. In addition to having no area to practice live firing because they were crowded into Boston, the British knew that in 18th century warfare the movement of the bodies of men and their formations to maximize the line of fire was the more difficult and therefore, more important part of military drill.

The militia planned extensively with elaborate plans to alarm and respond to movements by the king's forces out of Boston. The frequent mustering of the minute companies also built unit cohesion and familiarity with live firing which increased the minute companies effectiveness. The royal authorities inadvertently gave the new Minuteman mobilization plans validation by several "show the flag" demonstrations by General Gage through 1774.

The royal authorities in Boston had seen these increasing numbers of militia appearing and thought that if they sent a sizable force to Concord to seize munitions and stores there (which they considered the King's property since it was paid for to defend the colonies from the American Indian threat), the militia would not interfere. The events on April 19, 1775 proved them wrong when the mobilization fielded large numbers of minutemen to confront them at Concord that, with the arrival of the slower moving militia, rapidly outnumbered them and forced a strategic defeat on Colonel Smith forcing him back to Boston. The mobilization plan worked so well that only the timely arrival of a relief column under Lord Percy in Lexington prevented the annihilation or surrender of the original road column.

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