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Review the paired course (GP210, BA101, or BA150) or any one of the courses you are taking this term. Using the SQ3R techniques described in the lecture, find a reading assignment either in Week 4 or Week 5.

After reading the material from your paired course using the SQ3R method, explain how the SQ3R technique could make the materials easier to absorb. 

THIS IS COURSE GP210 (WEEK 4 READING)


Minutemen, Militia, and Tactics During the American Revolution

The Colonial Militia

The colonial militia was made up of average citizens from various socio-economic backgrounds and ethnicities. There were a mixture of native born Colonists, British immigrants, Scotch-Irish, Iroquois Indians and free blacks. A majority of soldiers in the militia were low income backgrounds however there were also some that came from middle income homes. Soldiers were typically laborers by occupation though there were some artisans and other skilled workers too.

Reasons for EnlistmentMinute Man leaving with militia

  • Source of income
    • Soldiers from low income homes were motivated by the financial prospects. These enlistees saw the militia as a way of earning income to buy land and subsequently gain independence from their family. The soldier was paid only when enlistment term was completed.
  • Independence
    • For soldiers who were from middle class families, enlistment was simply a way of gaining independence from their families.

Terms and Conditions of Enlistment

The term of enlistment was in months. The average term was eight months

Enlistment in the colonial militia was a contract (which was considered binding and treated as such) between the enlistee and officer under whom the soldier enlisted. The contract which designated term of service and compensation, was broken when either side attempted to alter it.

Minute Man preparing to leave family

Military-Civilian Relations

The relationship between the military and civilians was constantly strained. This is because militia Generals intimated that during wartime, citizens’ rights were subservient to military needs. Civilians could be forced to house soldiers, and their means of transportation could be commandeered. The fact that indentured servants were recruited by the militia also angered some citizens.

Minutemen

Minutemen were a part of the early militia and played a key role in the American fight for independence from the British. Minutemen constituted 25% of the militia. They were an elite force that were selected for their zeal, reliability and physical strength. They were trained to assemble quickly and be ready for deployment at a moment’s notice hence the name minutemen. They could not be older than 30 years of age. Individuals who were thought to favor the British were not welcome as minutemen or militia. The minutemen were often the first armed militia to arrive or await a battle. 

Minute Man posing with gun

The concept of minutemen was conceived in Massachusetts in the 17th century. Below is a chronology of minutemen activity:

  • 1645: On August 12th, 1645, orders were issued for 30% of all militia to consist of groups that could be deployed with short notice. 
  • 1689: Snowshoemen were a type of minutemen. They were in charge of providing their own equipment i.e. each a pair of snowshoes and weapons. Snowshoemen were to be ready for deployment at a moment’s notice.
  • 1750: Minutemen were involved in the French and Indian War in the 1750’s. They were ready to leave for the battle grounds in one minute.
  • 1774: ‘Powder Alarm’ incident-: The British managed to capture ammunition from the Colonists (Cambridge and Charlestown) and were able to return to Boston with their loot well before the militia was able to assemble. This gave credence to the fact that the militia needed to increase their numbers and be more effectively organized. It was at this time that orders were given for 25% of every militia to be composed of minutemen.
  • 1775: By the time of the Revolution, minutemen were extremely well trained, having had more than ten decades years of experience. Each town had active minutemen as they faced frequent challenges from Native-American uprisings, war with France, social unrest, and rioting. 

Challenges

  • The Minutemen lacked central leadership which ultimately led to their dissolution. That said, they had a wealth of battle experience and were very well organized.
  • Lacked uniforms and ammunition: the militia often went to battle with their regular clothes as there were no uniforms. They were not always provided with ammunition. That said, most colonies tried to arm their minutemen.
  • Compared to the regular army, minutemen were poor marksmen.

Minute Man reloading during battle

Militia Tactics

  • The militia who composed the majority of soldiers in the Revolutionary War, employed tactics that were different from the Continental army; tactics that led to success in the Revolutionary War and subsequently shaped modern military strategies.
  • In a battle, minutemen were the first to fire at the enemy and then fell back– a strategy known as “shoot and scoot”. The regular army held the central position and were covered at the flanks by the minutemen. 
  • Minutemen had hunting skills and had superior knowledge about the topography of the land.
  • The militia developed an effective signaling system that allowed them to deploy rapidly when the British were preparing to attack.
  • The militia tactics were influenced by the Indians who used the element of surprise, stealth, and ambush to gain advantage over their pursuers. These learned strategies were key to the minutemen winning the Revolutionary War. It can be noted that even though the Colonists lost the Battles at Lexington and Bunker Hill, their ability to inflict heavy casualties on the larger and better trained British Army demonstrates that their strategies were effective.
  • During the Revolutionary War, the militia fared poorly when they had to fight a conventional battalion formation. This is because unlike the regular army, the militia were unorganized and lacked discipline. That said, they excelled when they fought from behind cover, and only had to engage small enemy units. They also fared better when the maneuvers were simple.
  • The modern battle tactics of avoiding gunfire in open areas at close ranges can be credited to the early militia. 

It is evident that the early militia was a pacesetter that contributed to creating American history as we know it today. It is no wonder that the Constitution stipulates a well-armed militia for the country’s defense.

References

Minute Men waiting

For more information, check out these links

Copyright Grantham University 2012. All Rights Reserved

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