THE NEW AMERICAN • MAY 1, 200637
manpower pool. These men of-fered their services to quasi-standing armies for offensiveexpeditions. They had marchedwest with Lord Dunmore in 1774to punish the Shawnee, and laterwith George Rogers Clark intoIllinois country to eliminate theBritish presence.When a military expedition wasplanned, the common militia wasnot called out as in earlier periods.Instead, commissioned officerswere called upon to establish andmeet specific manpower quotasfor each district. These new pro-vincial armies were used to aug-ment the increasing number of British professionals arriving inthe colonies. Later, they werecalled upon to fight against thesame British troops.
Independence and Reform
At the conclusion of the Frenchand Indian War, England becamethe holder of a vast empire. Alongwith the acquisition of large tractsof land came the increasing responsibilityof defense for a growing colony. So, theburden of defense shifted from the colo-nies to the Mother Country, and Englishtroops were stationed in America in everincreasing numbers.But the militia system did not entirelyfade away. Although it had evolved intoa quasi-professional volunteer system, itcontinued to remain a cherished institutionin the minds of most Americans. Men likeTimothy Pickering, later QuartermasterGeneral of the Continental Army, calledfor the strengthening of the militia throughreform. Pickering argued for compulsoryservice and the abolition of liberal exemp-tion and substitution laws. He echoed thesentiments of earlier opponents of stand-ing armies, proclaiming that the citizensoldier was a guarantor of free society.Pickering’s call for a strengthened mi-litia did not go unheeded. Colonial as-semblies revamped the militia system byincreasing the frequency of training days,assessing fines for missing musters, andreducing exemptions. On the eve of theWar for Independence, Tory officers andloyalists were thrown out of the militia inseveral colonies.
But the war with Britain could not befought by the militia alone. DefeatingBritish regulars would take professionalsoldiers.Although most Americans still mistrust-ed a standing army, the decision was madeto create a Continental Army. Despite therebirth of the militia, Congress felt that asmall professional force, augmented by themilitia, was essential to obtain a favorableoutcome to the war. In addition, GeorgeWashington held the militia in low regard;his negative experiences with them duringthe war with France were still fresh in hismind. Thus, the concept of the “dual army”tradition was born. Within this model, themilitia provided substantial numbers of partially trained soldiers. They were notexpected to face British regulars alone,although they did so at times with goodresults, but in most cases fought alongsideContinental troops.Despite Washington’s aversion to themilitia he was forced to rely heavily uponthem. There were simply too few Conti-nental soldiers available and even fewerexperienced officers. His successes in Del-aware following the retreat from New York were achieved largely through the effortsof militiamen who remained at his sidedespite their expiration of enlistments. In-deed, most men chose state militia serviceover regular soldiery. Among the militiathere was no stigma attached to militaryservice, and geographical and enlistmentlimitations ensured relatively brief serviceenlistments for citizen soldiers.Congress tried to augment the numberof Continental soldiers by offering boun-ties and land grants, but the army neverreached its full paper strength. Althoughthe Continental Army was the backboneof effective resistance, the militia providedcrucial manpower support. In addition toaugmenting Continental troops, the militiafought against Indians in the Northwest,garrisoned forts, and patrolled againstslave uprisings.
Militia battlefield performance was mixed,its successes often dependent upon thecaliber of its commanding leaders. Underthe command of men like Daniel Morgan,the militia could prove an effective fight-ing force. Their performance at Cowpensunder Morgan was masterful. Morgan
Call to action:
Wherever the British marched, Minutemen quickly gathered to attack them. Militiamen werealso expected to guard forts and towns and respond to any hostile forces, including Indians and brigands.
L i b r a r y o f C o n g r e s s