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The Minutemen were nonprofessional soldiers that were a part of the American Revolutionary War.
They would be ready to fight at a moment's notice, hence the name. In addition to military service, this group of militia also helped to relay information.
Did you know the Minutemen were among the first to fight the British for independence?
This band also helped to boost the numbers and strength of the Continental Army. The invaluable role of this militia group is also enshrined in the United States Constitution, which states that a well-armed unit is necessary to defend the Union.
Also, there are various U.S. military forces and missiles that are given the name 'minutemen' because of their ready-to-fight attitude.
Before we go any further, let us understand the difference between militia and minutemen. Militias were armed groups of men that were formed to protect their towns. The Minutemen were a small group most of the time within these militia groups that were extremely mobile and able to quickly respond and assemble when required.
The term 'minutemen' was used to describe soldiers who could be ready in less than a minute. This term has sometimes been used for later United States military units to emphasize patriotism and success. This name has also been given to a few modern missiles to highlight their speed. For example, the LGM-30 Intercontinental Ballistic Missile of the US Air Force has been nicknamed Minuteman to highlight the fact that it can be quickly deployed in the case of a nuclear attack. Also, the VR-55 Fleet Logistic Support Squadron of the US Navy is named the Minutemen to emphasize their speed.
The term 'minnit men' was first used during the French and Indian War in 1756. The Minutemen were members or volunteers of the first armed militia units that started in the colonies. This term has been most commonly used to describe the colonial militia units that formed in Massachusetts after the Powder Alarm in September 1774 to eliminate supporters loyal to the British government.
In the early 17th century, to defend themselves against indigenous people and to deal with the hostilities between France and England, towns in Massachusetts started organizing and maintaining a militia unit, or training band, that was made up of local townspeople. This unit would be called upon in times of emergency, and when the danger was over, they would go back to their every day, normal lives. The men in these units were between the ages of 16-60 years old.
In the mid 17th century, the field officers of these units started forming smaller companies of the best and youngest men, which amounted to about a quarter of the main band. These small units were trained to respond quickly in a time of danger. The men in these small units came to be known as 'Minutemen'. Therefore minutemen companies were smaller units within a larger militia group. Individuals that supported the British were not welcome in the militia groups or as minutemen.
A person had to be male, healthy, agile, and under 30 years old to serve as a minuteman. These units did not have uniforms, and the soldiers wore their own daily clothes or hunting frocks. They also had to equip themselves at their own expense. Some of the weaponry that these minutemen used were flintlock weapons, smoothbore muskets, and fowling pieces. However, some colonies did try to arm these bands, maintaining armories and purchasing weapons for them.
In order to prevent the seizure of ammunition and supplies by the British and to avoid a shortage, minutemen would leave these items behind in the fields or hide them in wooded areas. Sometimes, they used to hide their ammunition in their homes and barns under the floorboards.
In the British colony of Massachusetts Bay, it was compulsory for able young men below the age of 30 to serve in the local militia band. Some of these men were given extra training and became minutemen. Minutemen had to sign a pledge when they were chosen. Officers of the Minutemen units were selected by popular vote.
These militia companies or training bands played a key role in the revolutionary war. Most minutemen usually functioned as sharpshooters, skirmishers, or rearguards.
When General Thomas Gage, the Governor of Massachusetts in 1774, tried to take away power from the town by enforcing the Intolerable Acts passed by the British in response to the Boston tea party and protests against new taxation, Samuel Adams, a well-known politician and key figure in the American Revolution, encouraged people to form a resistance group. This led to the formation of Minutemen groups.
Minutemen, or militia forces that were comprised of able-bodied males, were mainly used by towns and colonies as a defense against Native American tribes and the French. These units would gather in the towns and country centers to train. This event had more of a festive air, and the entire community would gather to watch the drill and enjoy the festivities.
It is believed that the first companies of minute men were created in September 1774 in Worcester, Massachusetts. The organizational structure formed here was adopted by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress in October 1774 and was used for all militia groups formed in Massachusetts during this time.
Most of these minutemen groups were formed in the states of New England. However, there are other renowned groups, such as the Culpeper and Virginia Minutemen, that were a part of the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775.
In 1776, most of the members of most of these minutemen units joined other companies. This was due to the formation of a more professional group, the Continental Army. This army was created with George Washington as commander. However, most are of the opinion that minutemen were key to starting the American Revolution.
Although, minutemen were considered to be unprofessional, inexperienced, and unreliable by military leaders of the time, they played a key role in the military history of America. They attacked British patrols and supply lines and Loyalist units to slow down their progress during battle.
As with any war, when British officers and commanders planned their strategies for formal battles, they had to keep in mind the size of the forces operating in a particular area. As these minutemen groups were temporary, they could not be ignored. This made predicting numbers difficult. These militia groups also offered essential manpower. For example, in some skirmishes, such as the first battles in Massachusetts in Lexington and Concord, the battle was mostly fought by these units of the Lexington minutemen and the Massachusetts militia.
Also, at the Battle of Bunker Hill, which took place outside Boston, these militia groups were the ones that defeated the British. They also played an important role in the American victories achieved in North and South Carolina.
In the 1760s, the British started imposing high taxes on the colonists, which angered them. Therefore, they not only started protesting but also began discussing ways in which they could gain their independence and even prepare for war. Militia troops started forming everywhere to observe and note the actions of British troops.
In 1774, the citizens of Boston began a boycott against British goods, formed their own militia, and elected their own officials. Some parts of these militia groups eventually became minutemen units that began the revolution.
A few famous minutemen include Paul Revere, who warned the people of Concord to hide and move their weapons and supplies as British troops moved towards the area in 1775.
William Dawes was another minuteman that alerted militia bands in the Massachusetts area of approaching British troops before the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
John Parker was born on July 13, 1728, in Lexington, Massachusetts. He was considered by most to be the leader of the Minutemen in this area. In April 1775, when he was warned of the approach of British soldiers, Captain John Parker formed the first unit of minutemen that comprised 77 men. He did this to defend the town. This was where some believe the American Revolution started. It came to be called The Lexington Alarm. This group followed the British soldiers to Concord, and according to a legend, their theme song was Yankee Doodle. He was a farmer and a mechanic. Captain Parker died in September 1775. The words he spoke to his men as the British approached the town are engraved on the Line of the Minute Men Memorial in Lexington.
Isaac Davis, a gunsmith, was a commander of the Minutemen unit from Acton, Massachusetts. He held his troops against the British in the Battle of Concord. He was the first American officer to die in the Revolution. The Minute Man statue by Daniel Chester French was claimed to be a likeness of this American hero. Although that claim turned out to be false.
The Minutemen have been the inspiration for quite a few books, games, and films in today’s modern world. They have also inspired the setting up of various groups with the armed forces. Some of these are listed below.
In the video game Fallout 4 released by Bethesda in 2015, that is set in Massachusetts, one of the groups is known as the Commonwealth Minutemen. The inspiration is from this militia group.
In the film adaptation of Zack Snyder’s 'Watchmen', the first group of vigilantes are known as the Minutemen.
The poem by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, 'Paul Revere’s Ride', also portrays minutemen. However, this work has been criticized by some historians as being inaccurate.
The way in which this group of militia operated and trained was a model for the land forces of the United States till 1916 and had an impact on the setting up of the National Guard. The Minuteman statue still features on the seal of the National Guard.
The contribution that this group made to the Revolutionary War and even before that is considered invaluable to American history. Some also believe that without the Minutemen, history would have been quite different.
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