Militia Forces of 1775[]

The War of the American Revolution was triggered by the revolt of the militia in Massachusetts. Who were these men? In 1775, the only military force of the colonies was the militia, at that time referred to as minutemen. Their primary duty was to assemble quickly to provide an able defense against surprise Indian raids, which had been a frequent occurence during the history of the colonies.

The Minuteman of Massachusetts lacked many of the qualities of the well organized, well equipped and well trained British regular troops with whom they were about to do battle. This difference is readily apparent the to expert historians who recognize time after time opportunities that they lost to decisively win battles. A most glaring example is the very first battle at Lexington on 19 April 1775. While the shear number and determination was quite sufficient to stop and rout the redcoats, the Yankees quickly became just a mob of men sniping at the retreating soldiers, but totally unable to organize an effort to block and destroy force. After a running battle that lasted all day, some 4000 Yankee militia were only able to kill 40 and wound about 80 of the British. That means roughly only 1 in 15 minuteman was even able to hit a target despite firing at him from close range most of the day. The outnumbered and running British on the other hand were able to inflict an equal number of casualties on the Yankees when they isolated small groups inside houses along the way and bayoneted them to death in close quarters. The Yankees lacked bayonets and fared poorly in face-to-face fighting.

Militia Trainbands[]

The term militia applied to the entire male population, ages 16-60, of the Province of Massachusetts. Each man was required by law to carry his own firearm with appropriate ammunition and accessories. He was to be enrolled in the company of his town. This militiaman was to report four times a year to his company for training. This generated the term Trainband found frequently in the genealogical records. The militia was only for defense, and hence at the outbreak of war with the French in 1754, arrangements had to be made to organize volunteer regiments to fight outside the province, (such as to invade Canada). Many of the militia gained combat experience in that war.

Massachusetts 1775 Militia Rosters[]

Each town by law had a company or more of militia registered on a roster.


  • The War of the Revolution by Christopher Ward (1868-1943), pg 24-31.