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 (???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles    
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prr

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Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/15/2017 8:51:05 PM
I have heard somewhere that during the Revolutionary War, the state militia units would get pounded by the British, whereas the Continental forces under Washington were the ones that really did the British army the harm. Perhaps we can count the French soldiers as regulars here (certainly not state militia).

At any rate, could any of you comment on this---or better, refer me to a history of the Revolutionary War that would break down the roles played by both of these groups in the battles, so I could see for myself which units did better?

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
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E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 460

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/16/2017 12:24:12 AM
PRR,

That would be a pretty accurate statement when the militia was across a open field from the British at least early in the war. But then you have Saratoga, King's Mountain, Cowpens and Guliford Courthouse battles where militia played important roles and at King's Mountain it was a all militia force. Then there is the entire campaign in the South against the British communication and supply lines. Also you have to understand that as the war dragged on more and more of the militia had served in the Continental Army. I honestly don't think this is a easily answered question because it would depend on what point in the war, how the militia is being used and the militia leadership. Marion, Sumter and Scott were leaders of note.

As for books I'd pick up bio's on each of the three men I mentioned and books on each of the battles mentioned. Plus I recently finished "Washington's Immortals" which I thought was pretty darn good as it spans the entire war for the "Maryland Line."
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


Riaindevoy
Geelong, Australia
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E-9 Sergeant Major


Posts: 1072

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/16/2017 4:37:30 AM
I read that some states didn't just have militias, but also State Regulars along the lines of the Continentals but state based.

I've also heard that the biggest contribution of the Militia wasn't in battle, but in forcing the British to move around the countryside in tactical formations large enough to deal with a concentration of Militia, basically ceding control of the countryside to the Patriots. This meant the Revolution could collect taxes, recruit soldiers and all the other stuff a de facto Government does while the British couldn't do that outside any of the areas the Redcoats stood.
---------------
Vegetarian: the ancient tribal word for the villiage idiot; who was too stupid to hunt, fish and ride!

George
Centre Hastings, ON, Canada
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Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/16/2017 6:23:20 AM

Quote:
If I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been
most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole; I should subscribe to the latter.
– George Washington, September 1776


Did General Washington actually make this statement?

If so, was this just the musing of a professional soldier? The British made similar comments about their militia groups.

So how fair was it? Did the militia run in battle or fail to carry out orders?

Perhaps they were asked to do things for which they were untrained and should have been purposed for other duties. Perhaps they were and there are people on this forum who can tell us.


Also, did the 13 colonies employ different categories of militia? I had read somewhere that while the regular militia were untrained and perhaps not too keen, that smaller and better trained militia groups called "minutemen" were created.

Was there a great deal of difference between a minute man and a regular fellow in the militia?

Lastly, were minute men created in every one of the 13 colonies or were they specific to one or two?


Cheers,

George

BWilson

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Posts: 3300

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/16/2017 6:46:28 AM

Quote:
I have heard somewhere that during the Revolutionary War, the state militia units would get pounded by the British, whereas the Continental forces under Washington were the ones that really did the British army the harm. Perhaps we can count the French soldiers as regulars here (certainly not state militia).

At any rate, could any of you comment on this---or better, refer me to a history of the Revolutionary War that would break down the roles played by both of these groups in the battles, so I could see for myself which units did better?
--prr


 The difference in quality most likely increased when units of the Continental Army received training from European officers. I also think one could surely count the French Army as regulars.

Cheers

BW
---------------
With occasional, fatigued glances at life's rear-view mirror from the other side of time.

Society's righteous paranoia lows profoundly. -- random wisdom of a computer

John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
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E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 460

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/16/2017 6:23:41 PM
George,

The "minute men" were the militia. The term comes from the phrase "within a minutes notice" and it applies to all militia being ready to serve when called upon.

I don't know if he said it but in the beginning of the war it was true because time after time the militia broke in the face of British Regulars across open fields leaving the Continentals in major trouble. And yes they were being asked to do things they were both untrained for and not equipped to do so it was a bit unfair. For one thing they weren't equipped with bayonets so to ask them to stand in face of a bayonet charge was asking too much but it was asked.
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


john hayward
Allenstown, NH, USA
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Posts: 131

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/16/2017 8:46:44 PM
John
What was your take on washington's immortals? I have it but haven't read it yet

prr

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Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/17/2017 7:45:27 PM
Yes, Washington actually made that statement, in a letter to John Hancock in late 1776, found at the State department website: https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-06-02-0305# I have given two paragraphs from that letter, that illustrate his views of the militia. The sentence in your quote is found in the second paragraph.

To place any dependance upon Militia, is, assuredly, resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender Scenes of domestick life—unaccustomed to the din of Arms—totally unacquainted with every kind of Military skill, which being followed by a want of Confidence in themselves when opposed to Troops regularly traind—disciplined, and appointed—superior in knowledge, & superior in Arms, makes them timid, and ready to fly from their own Shadows. Besides, the sudden change in their manner of living (particularly in the lodging) brings on sickness in many; impatience in all; & such an unconquerable desire of returning to their respective homes that it not only produces shameful, & scandalous Desertions among themselves, but infuses the like spirit in others—Again, Men accustomed to unbounded freedom, and no controul, cannot brooke the Restraint which is indispensably necessary to the good Order and Government of an Army; without which Licentiousness, & every kind of disorder triumphantly reign. To bring men to a proper degree of Subordination is not the work of a day—a Month— or even a year—and unhappily for us, and the cause we are Ingaged in, the little discipline I have been labouring to establish in the Army under my immediate Command, is in a manner done away by having such a mixture of Troops as have been called together within these few Months....

The Jealousies of a standing Army, and the Evils to be apprehended from one, are remote; and in my judgment, situated & circumstanced as we are, not at all to be dreaded; but the consequence of wanting one, according to my Ideas; formed from the present view of things, is certain, and inevitable Ruin; for if I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been most Serviceable or hurtful upon the whole I should subscribe to the latter. I do not mean by this however to arraign the Conduct of Congress, in so doing I should equally condemn my own measures (if I did not my judgment) but experience, which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to Militia, that no Man who regards order, regularity, & Œconomy; or who has any regard for his own honour, character, or peace of Mind, will risk them upon this Issue.




Quote:

Quote:
If I was called upon to declare upon Oath, whether the Militia have been
most serviceable or hurtful upon the whole; I should subscribe to the latter.
– George Washington, September 1776


Did General Washington actually make this statement?

If so, was this just the musing of a professional soldier? The British made similar comments about their militia groups....


Cheers,

George
--George


John R. Price
Wilkes-Barre, PA, USA
top 20
E-7 Sgt First Class
Posts: 460

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/17/2017 7:55:49 PM
John,

I enjoyed the book. A little bit of a rough read at times and without doubt Maryland Line slanted both in deeds and perceptions. I want to say a good unit history but it really is more because the original Maryland unit morphed into multiple units with members fighting in many different units during the war. The book follows some of the "originals" to their new units and gives some of their exploits.
---------------
A battle long forgotten by our country in a war never understood by our country.
"to satisfy our endless needs and justify our bloody deeds, in the name of destiny and in the name of God"


john hayward
Allenstown, NH, USA
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E-4 Corporal
Posts: 131

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/17/2017 8:23:49 PM
Thanks

prr

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Posts: 9

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/26/2017 12:41:33 AM
Glad you recommended it. I have not read a book on the War from such a "boots on the ground" perspective. It is a very good read so far (1/4 of the way through), easy to read, exciting. I tend to see wars from a big picture point of view, so this is a nice change of pace.



Quote:
John,

I enjoyed the book. A little bit of a rough read at times and without doubt Maryland Line slanted both in deeds and perceptions. I want to say a good unit history but it really is more because the original Maryland unit morphed into multiple units with members fighting in many different units during the war. The book follows some of the "originals" to their new units and gives some of their exploits.
--John R. Price


prr

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Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/28/2017 1:45:47 PM
Regarding the original question, it appears that contemporaries had a rather low opinion of the militia. Not only did GW, but others as well:

Colonel (and future Bridadier General) Otho Holland Williams, commanding officer of the Maryland Brigade, said of the performance of the militia (2nd Maryland) at Guilford Courthouse, that "The Second has but 8 commanding officers to 6 companies and has a large portion of State troops [militia]. I can give no better reason why that regiment refused to charge when it was ordered (Washington's Immortals 320)."

Before the battle at Guilford Courthouse, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan summarized General Greene's chances: "If [the militia] will fight, you will beat Cornwallis; if not, he will beat you, and perhaps cut your regulars to pieces (314)." Nearly half of Greene's forces were militia.

But the Battle of King's Mountain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kings_Mountain) put the American militia in a good light.

The author of the book referenced above (Washington's Immortals) spoke of the lack of arms and ammunition of the state militia, so perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on them. Who knows.

Michigan Dave
Muskegon, Michigan, MI, USA
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E-9 Cmd Sgt Major


Posts: 2752

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 8/28/2017 3:07:36 PM

Quote:
Regarding the original question, it appears that contemporaries had a rather low opinion of the militia. Not only did GW, but others as well:

Colonel (and future Bridadier General) Otho Holland Williams, commanding officer of the Maryland Brigade, said of the performance of the militia (2nd Maryland) at Guilford Courthouse, that "The Second has but 8 commanding officers to 6 companies and has a large portion of State troops [militia]. I can give no better reason why that regiment refused to charge when it was ordered (Washington's Immortals 320)."

Before the battle at Guilford Courthouse, Brigadier General Daniel Morgan summarized General Greene's chances: "If [the militia] will fight, you will beat Cornwallis; if not, he will beat you, and perhaps cut your regulars to pieces (314)." Nearly half of Greene's forces were militia.

But the Battle of King's Mountain (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Kings_Mountain) put the American militia in a good light.

The author of the book referenced above (Washington's Immortals) spoke of the lack of arms and ammunition of the state militia, so perhaps we shouldn't be too hard on them. Who knows.

--prr






Good points the American Militia wasn't that bad, specially the 2nd half of the war!
---------------
"The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract."

jthlmnn
Milwaukee, WI, USA
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Posts: 164

Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 9/6/2017 4:34:24 PM
I don't recall exactly where, forgive me, but I remember reading the opinion that in the latter part of the war the generals learned how to better utilize the militias, taking into account both strengths and weaknesses. Namely, that their equipage, talents, and dispositions made them most effective as skirmishers, flankers, and scouts. They did not have to hold rigid formations at the close range required by 18th century firearms. They had comparatively greater independence of movement and fire. Plus, the use of cover in these roles is more the norm.

It made sense to me.

JohnT

prr

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Revolutionary War, effectiveness of state militia vs. Continentals
Posted on: 9/7/2017 2:11:53 PM
In Washington's Immortals, I recall reading that the militia were given this role in at least a couple of the latter battles down south where the American forces won victories (or extracted a lot from the British, even in a loss). They were used as skirmishers who would fire and then run back, in a directed retreat, drawing the British into a trap. That sounds a bit like what you mentioned.




Quote:
I don't recall exactly where, forgive me, but I remember reading the opinion that in the latter part of the war the generals learned how to better utilize the militias, taking into account both strengths and weaknesses. Namely, that their equipage, talents, and dispositions made them most effective as skirmishers, flankers, and scouts. They did not have to hold rigid formations at the close range required by 18th century firearms. They had comparatively greater independence of movement and fire. Plus, the use of cover in these roles is more the norm.

It made sense to me.

JohnT
--jthlmnn


 (???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles    
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