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Interpretation of Town Vote Establishing the Lincoln Minute Company,

March 20, 1775, Part 2: When Did the Company Begin Training?
Herman Karl and Donald Hafner
January 2017
Herein we explore the question of when the Lincoln minute company began training.1
The town of Lincoln first took up the question of forming a minute company at its town meeting
on January 9, 1775. The deliberations were in response to the Resolve of the Massachusetts
Provincial Congress October 26, 1774, recommending that each town endeavor to enlist one
quarter, at least of its militia soldiers who would equip and hold themselves in readiness, on
the shortest notice to march to the place of rendezvous. The discussions extended over
several town meetings, and the minute company was already formed before the town completed
its deliberations.
At the town meeting 9 March the town "... accepted some proposals made by the minit
company ..." and adjourned to Monday 20 March when they formally established the minute
company.2
And having met according to the adjournment the town proceeded and on the above
said second article Voted as follows that the sum of fifty two pounds four shillings
be and is hereby granted to provide for those persons who have inlisted as minute
men each one a bayonet belt cartridge box steal ramer. gun stock and knapsack: they
to attend military exercise four hours in a day twice in a week till the first day of
May next. the Officers to keep an exact account of their attendance, and in case any
person shall neglect to give his attendance at the times appointed the sum of two
shillings for each four hours and in proportion for any other time shall be reducted
from the sum such person should otherwise receive for providing the articles above
mentioned in case they shall provide said articles themselves; but in case the town
shall provide them such part thereof shall be returned to the town when their
inlistment is out as shall amount to the sum forfeited for non attendance unless they
shall pay the said forfeiture -- Then voted to choose a Committee to provide the
aforesaid accoutrements for such persons as was not able to provide for themselves
on the town's cost. Said Commtee to consist of Dean Joshua Brooks, Dean Samuel
Farrar and Majr Eleazer Brooks.3
The following is excerpted from Karl, A question of bayonets at North Bridge 19 April
pages 363-364.4
Citizens of Lincoln clearly were proceeding in a methodical manner as they
deliberated the formation of a minute company.5 They were considering alternative
scenarios. In other words, they were kicking around ideas. One scenario was whether
the town should pay for training (their discipline). Remember the militia (ablebodied men) was not paid for training or service as militia.6 This was a duty as a
citizen. It seems the town people were discussing whether training as a minutemen
warranted being paid. What would justify compensating this special unit when as
town residents they were already obligated to serve in the uncompensated militia?

Town meeting minutes are ambiguous with regard to the exact date the
company was organized. On 9 January the town took up the question whether a
minute company should be established and decided if it was they would compensate
the minutemen. It seems probable after this meeting a few townsmen got together to
discuss organization of a minute company. By the 9 March meeting a company had
formed and it presented some proposals to the town. One can only guess the content
of the proposals, but they probably presented alternatives for training and
compensation. After consideration of the proposals, an agreement between the town
and the minutemen was worked out at the 20 March meeting.
It's not possible to know with certainty when the company began training, but we
do know when it was scheduled to end1 May. Clearly as of 9 January a minute
company did not exist. The company, at least in name, was in existence when
proposals were presented to the town on 9 March. It seems reasonable they would
only start training after the proposals had been discussed and details worked out at the
20 March meeting. Information in the 20 March minutes supports this assumption.
Forfeiture for not attending a training session was 2 shillings for 4 hours. From
this it could be assumed a minuteman would be credited with 2 shillings for 4 hours
and 4 shillings per week for attending twice-weekly four-hour musters. He could
accrue a maximum of 18 shillingsthe cost of a full set of accouterments. It would
take nine sessions or four and one-half weeks to earn 18 shillings. The company was
to drill until 1 May. Working backwards from 1 May (Monday in 1775) and assuming
no training was held on that day the first muster was the week of 27 March (Monday).
This makes sense given the training schedule was approved on 20 March. The minute
company is likely to have trained for less than a month before the alarm of 19 April.7
Further to this point, how did the town determine the compensation of two shillings
for four hours? Why not one shilling? Why not six shillings, etc.? They must have
had some rationale for setting the rate. The reason is that explained above.
In further support of the interpretation the company began training the week of 27
March and not earlier is the strong principle of the contract for military service
outside of the traditional militia obligation among New Englanders.8 Clearly a
contract was entered into between the town and the men enlisted in the minute
company. The minutemen had to fulfill specific obligations to be paid and there was a
penalty for not fulfilling them. Officers kept a strict accounting. It seems reasonable
only after both parties (the town and the individuals that enlisted) agreed to the terms
of the contract would the company begin training at prescribed musters.
Almost always commentators frame the amount of training in months (such as Acton
trained for five months) without noting how few hours the companies actually trained during
those months.9 According to the above interpretation Lincoln minutemen trained as few as 24
hours before the 19 April alarm. March 9, when the company presented some proposals to the
town, is the earliest documentation that a company had formed. Even assuming the company
started mustering as early as February the soldiers would have trained no more than 72 hours
before the Concord Battle. In other words, they trained three to nine days total (defining a day
as eight hours), which might be sufficient to learn the manual of arms, facings, rudimentary
volley fire, and how to march in step. None of these except volley firing would provide the

skills to fight using the linear tactics of the time. And, of course, they fought as skirmishers
from cover not in open field linear formation.
There is no record of the skills and experience that Lincolns minutemen would have
brought to their drill as a result of their prior service in Lincolns militia. Under the 1758 Act
regulating Massachusetts militia companies, every captain of militia was to instruct and
employ his company in military exercises six days in a year on the second and third
Mondays in April, the first Monday in May, the first Tuesday in June, and the last Monday in
October, and the Tuesday following the same Monday [in October.10 Even if the town had
been diligent in sustaining these drills in the peacetime years following the French and Indian
Wars, it would have meant only a few hours of annual practice. And given the youthful ages of
the minutemen, their total accumulated hours of general militia drill after they turned age 16
would have been limited. The median age was only 26, and sixteen of the minutemen were
under the age of 21.
The transfer of experience from the French and Indian War would also have been
limited. There is record of seventeen Lincoln men serving in the Massachusetts army raised for
the war in 175711, including two men who became officers in Lincolns minute company: Lt.
Samuel Farrar Jr. and Sgt. David Fisk. The towns militia drill may have been more
conscientious generally during the French war, but only twelve of Lincolns 62 minutemen were
old enough to have been in the militia at that time.12
End Notes
1

In another essay, Interpretation of the Town Vote Establishing the Lincoln Minute Company, March 20, 1775,
Part 1: Meaning of Stock, Donald Hafner and I explored the question of why the town resolve that formed the
minute company did not specify ammunition among the stipulated equipment. So that these essays can be read and
understood as independent documents there is some redundancy.
2
Lincoln Town Meeting Records, March 9, 1775
3
Lincoln Town Meeting Records, March 20, 1775
4 Herman A. Karl, A Question of Bayonets at North Bridge 19 April 1775, Military Collector and Historian, Winter
2014, v. 66, n. 4, p 363-372.
5
J. C. MacLean, A Rich Harvest, 239. Careful deliberation of issues seems to have been a characteristic of the
town. MacLean, discussing the towns action in response to the Tea Act, states, What remained and what was
substituted, however, was a potent statement of Lincolns new resolve after its years of most Careful and Mature
Deliberation (emphasis added).
6
F. Anderson, A People's Army: Massachusetts Soldiers and Society in the Seven Years' War (Chapel Hill: The
University of North Carolina Press, 1984); K. F. Zelner, A Rabble in Arms: Massachusetts Towns and Militiamen
During King Philips War (New York: New York University Press, 2009). Note the militia is distinct from a
provincial army, which was raised from the militia in time of war. Soldiers contracted to serve in a specific
campaign for a specific length of time. They were paid for this service. It should be further noted these contracts
were often violated by the crown officers, commanding the provincials, which led to great resentment among the
provincial soldiers.
7
P. Brooks, Trial by Fire: Lincoln, Massachusetts and the War of Independence (Private publication for the
Lincoln Bicentennial Commission: 1975), 10. Paul Brooks came to this same conclusion based on his reading and
understanding of the town warrants of January and March 1775.
8
F. Anderson, A People's Army, 167195.
9
When commentators state training in terms of months they seem to be implying soldiers were well trained before
the 19 April alarm. To establish the number of hours that a soldier trained one must assume that musters actually
conformed to the stipulations of the town resolve. That is if a resolve stipulated musters of four hours twice a week
for four months that the company did indeed muster that often. Alex Cain in an unpublished manuscript, Heads of
families and men of substance and probity: the rise of the minute men in the Merrimack Valley region of Essex
County, provided the only documentation of which I am aware of the days and number of hours that a company
actually trained. Using his data for the Haverhill Company, I calculated the average time spent training per soldier

(excluding five not attending muster) was 31 hours for musters during March and April 1775. Quoting from Karl,
2017, In a very military manner: https://www.scribd.com/document/333338444/In-Very-Military-Manner, Israel
Litchfield [, a Scituate militiaman and minute man,] in his diary records the days he engaged in training. Donald
Hafner counted twenty-five entries where Litchfield notes participating in exercise or training in the twenty-two
weeks between November 8, 1774, and April 19, 1775, first as a militia soldier and then as a minuteman when
Scituate formed its minute companies in January, 1775. In some entries, it is clear that fewer than a half-dozen men
participated, which obviously limited the complexity of the drilling. Hafner concludes that there were only 10
instances when Litchfield participated in company-size training with the Scituate militia or minutemen. I
calculated the number of hours trained assuming that Litchfield and his fellow soldiers trained four hours on each
of the occasions he records, even though in some entries it seems unlikely they drilled for that long for instance
when Litchfield drilled with a handful of men at the end of a day of work. In sum, the estimate of 100 hours total
training is probably the maximum value, and a more likely value is half of that. Moreover, considering the virtual
lack of information it is speculative as to which manual companies used and which exercises they practiced.
Litchfield states the Scituate companies started musters with the 1760 Norfolk manual and quickly switched to the
1764 manual and they practiced marching and whealing (Karl, cited above). Given such scant information how
can anyone realistically judge the level of discipline of militia and minute companies (for a full discussion, see Karl,
2017)?
10
The Acts and Resolves of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay (Boston: Rand, Avery, & Co., 1881), vol. 4,
p. 51
11
William F. Wheeler, Lincoln, in D. Hamilton Hurd, ed., The History of Middlesex County, Massachusetts
(Philadelphia: J. W. Lewis, 1890), vol. 2, p. 617.
12
On the ages of Lincolns minute men, see MacLean, A Rich Harvest, pp. 256-157, and Richard C. Wiggin,
Embattled Farmers, passim.