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EQUIPMENT OF MASSACHUSETTS MILITIA
AND MINUTE MEN IN THE 18TH CENTURY.

 ~ ~ ~
 Alexander R. Cain
 Lexington Minute Men

(Reprinted with permission)
 ~ ~ ~


     Unlike the British counterpart, there was no uniform issuance of equipment.  Militiamen of Massachusetts acquired their weapons from a variety of sources:

    Inheritance, the French and Indian War, the Siege of Louisbourg and from willing British soldiers stationed in Boston.  However, throughout the colony’s history, Massachusetts towns made some attempts to bring some semblance of uniformity to its militia companies.  Militia laws and resolves were passed, although often with little success.  The end result was a widespread mixture of French, British and American weapons and equipment.


     Below are various accounts, regulations and laws regarding the use of militia weapons and equipment.


  1.  "Each soldier to provide himself with a good fire arm, a steel or iron ram rod and a spring for same, a worm, a priming wire and brush, a bayonet fitted to his gun, a scabbard and belt thereof, a cutting sword or tomahawk or hatchet, a . . .cartridge box holding fifteen rounds . . . at least, a hundred buckshot, six flints, one pound of powder, forty leaden balls fitted to the gun, a knapsack and blanket, [and] a canteen or wooden bottle to hold one quart [of  water]"  (Journal of Arthur Harris of the Bridgewater Coy of Militia.)
 

2.       "A firelock, bayonet, waistbelt, a cartridge box, cartridges, and a  knapsack."  ("An Easy Plan of Discipline for a Militia", Timothy Pickering, p. 1-4.)

3.       "Militia minutemen [who were to] hold themselves in readiness at a minutes warning, compleat in arms and ammunition; that is to say a good and sufficient firelock, bayonet, thirty rounds of powder and ball, pouch and knapsack."  (Town of Roxbury Resolves, December 26, 1774.)

4.       “The Third Bristol County Militia Regiment wanted their men to have the following at muster: "a good firearm with steel or iron ramrod, and spring to retain the same, a worm, priming wire and brush, and a bayonet fitted to his gun, a tomahawk or hatchet, a pouch containing a cartridge box that will hold fifteen rounds of cartridges at least, a hundred of buckshot, a jack knife, and tow for wadding, six flints, one pound of powder, forty leaden balls fitted to his gun, a knapsack and blanket, a canteen or wooden bottle sufficient to hold one quart.” (Continental Journal and weekly adviser, January 22, 1778)

5.       Another early company document mentions “a powderhorn, a bullet pouch to contain 40 leaden balls, a knapsack, a canteen, a firearm of good worth, a haversack,a belt, a good pair of overalls.” (Boston Gazette May 26, 1777)

6.       "List of Men & accouterments of Each man [illegible words] Regiment in Bristol County [Massachusetts]" from private collection.   Dated 1776: "Men including officers - 678, Firearms - 446, Ramrods - 129, Springs - 9, Worms - 160, Priming wires - 193, Brushes - 138, Bayonets - 175, Scabbards - 142, Belts - 181, Cutting swords & hatchets - 255, Cartridge box and powder - 274, Buckshot - 10373, Jackknives - 403, Tow for men - 258 flints for men - 2084, pounds powder - 244 1/2, Bullets - 11934, Knapsack - 365, Blankets - 386, Canteens - 295"

7.       Massachusetts militia men were required to fall out with “his firelock in good repair, four pounds of lead in bullets, fitted to the bore of his piece, four flints, a cutlass or tomahawk, a good belt round his body, a canvas knapsack to hold a bushel, with a good matumpline, fitting easy across the breast and shoulders, good clothing, etc.”  (Source undated and unknown, but original shown to Henry Cooke by Peter Oakley in 1995.)

8.       The Town of Braintree required each soldier to furnish himself with “a good fire lock,
 bayonett, cartouch box, one pound of powder, twenty-four balls to fitt their guns, twelve flints and a knapsack.”  (Town of Braintree Resolves, January 23, 1775.)

9.       As militiamen from the village of Lynn marched off to war, an observer noted “[one man with] a long fowling piece, without a bayonet, a horn of powder, and a seal-skin pouch, filled with bullets and buckshot. . . Here an old soldier carried a heavy Queen’s arm with which he had done service at the conquest of Canada twenty years previous, while by his side walked a stripling boy with a Spanish fusee not half its weight or calibre, which his grandfather may have taken at the Havana, while not a few had old French pieces, that dated back to the reduction of Louisbourg.”  (History of Lynn, p. 338)

10.     Massachusetts provincial soldiers were issued the following items throughout the French and Indian War:  “Canteen, Wooden bottle one hoop” (Massachusetts Historical Society, Journal of the House of Representatives, vol. 35, p. 287 and 335); “Knapsacks” Acts and Resolves, Public and Private, of the Province of the Massachusetts-Bay, p. 313); “Arms and Cartridge Boxes” (“Diary Kept at Louisbourg, 1759-1760, by Jonathan Procter of Danvers”, p. 70) 


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