Why were the colonial soldiers called minute men?
According to Massachusetts colonial law, all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to keep a serviceable firearm and serve in a part-time citizen army called the militia. Their duty was to defend the colony against her enemies; chiefly the Indians and the French.
The colonial militia sometimes fought side by side with British soldiers, particularly during the last French and Indian War in the 1750's and early 60's. However, as a result of the mounting tensions between Great Britain and her American colonies, that would soon change.
In October of 1774, following the lead of the Worcester County Convention, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress called upon all militia officers to resign their commisions under the old Royal Government and for new elections to be held. This effectively purged the officer corps of loyalists.
They also called upon the towns (most of which supported one or more companies of militia) to set aside a portion of its militia and form them into new, special companies called minute men.
Minute Men were different from the militia in the following ways:
- While service in the militia was required by law, minute men were volunteers.
- The minute men trained far more frequently than the militia. Two or three times per week was common. Because of this serious commitment of time, they were paid. One shilling per drill was average. Militia only trained once every few months (on average) and were paid only if they were called out beyond their town, or formed part of an expedition.
- Minute Men were expected to keep their arms and equipment with them at all times, and in the event of an alarm, be ready to march at a minute's warning - hence they were called "minute men."