On this date in 1774, the first Minutemen companies were established in Massachusetts.

On Sept. 21, 1774, patriot leaders met in Worcester, Massachusetts, in response to the British seizure of gunpowder and munitions from a magazine in Charlestown earlier that month. The British raid on the magazine to what became known as “the gunpowder alarm.”

Word of the seizure and British troop movements around Boston quickly spread throughout the area, along with rumors that the British troops had fired on and killed some colonists. There were also rumors that British ships were shelling the city of Boston. In response, colonial militia quickly assembled from as far away as Connecticut and streamed toward Boston. As many as 20,000 colonists responded to the call.

Given the aggressiveness of the British actions and worries that loyalists could undermine the colonial response, leaders met in Worcester and formulated plans to reorganize the militia.

Under the new plan, recommended by the recently-passed Suffolk Resolves, all current militia officers were forced to resign. The colonists assumed the current officer corps was likely loyal to the British. They also set up a system of communication that included express riders and alarms, and they decided to organize one-third of the members of each regiment into companies called Minutemen that could be ready at a moment’s notice.

Other counties quickly adopted the same system. In October, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress met in Salem and formalized this reorganization of the colony’s militia, including the Minutemen.

The Minutemen evolved to become distinct units from the general militia while remaining part of the overall militia system. They were a little like modern special forces units. The Minutemen were organized into companies consisting of at least 50 men. Privates chose their captains and subalterns. These officers formed the companies into battalions and chose the commanding field officers.

The Minutemen were frequently mustered and engaged in live-fire training, which increased the effectiveness of these units.


Mike Maharrey

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