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Communicating America’s Founding Principles

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                              Public notices seeking recruitments for the Continental Army
                                                                    Posted July 1775 

                     To all brave, healthy, able-bodied, and well-disposed young men 
                  in this neighborhood, who have any inclination, join the troops under
                                              GENERAL GEORGE WASHINGTON
                                                      for the Defense of the
                                       Against the Hostile Designs of Foreign Enemies 

On July 3, 1775, General George Washington and his appointed officers rode onto the Cambridge Commons where the men from the Northeastern colonies had gathered to enlist in the Continental Army of the United States.  The recruitments were largely made up of militias from Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Vermont – men who had already faced British troops in battle at Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill.    

The concept of militia companies began in the early 1700s when settlements in the Massachusetts Bay Colonies experienced attacks by indigenous tribes and French military incursions.  By mid-century, however, the New England militias faced skirmishes and open warfare with British troops sent by Parliament to disarm the militias in preparation for the seizure and control of the city of Boston and all import and export traffic in its harbor.

Quote from article by Rob Orrison for the American Battlefield Trust: 

      “Most militias would train in town and community centers, usually
      on court days.  The events tended to have the air of a county festival,
      where entire communities came out to witness the drill and then
      host festivities afterward.  Militias were the main colonial military
      organization for defense … minutemen companies were established to
      provide more regular training (sometimes weekly) of the best men in
      the militia.”

George Washington maintained high standards of dress and decorum throughout the Revolutionary War.  However, uniforms and arms would not be available for the early enlistees for another year.  They wore their own clothes and carried their own weaponry.  Most notably, the gun owned by colonial families was the Pennsylvania Long Rifle.

The long rifle was manufactured in Philadelphia as early as 1704.  Especially useful for hunting and self-defense, its elongated barrel design allowed for a range five times greater than that of standard rifles in use in Europe.

The newly-formed Continental Army was entering into an eight-year-long battle with the British Army and Navy – the most powerful military known to the world, at that time.  Throughout the war, their highly-trained troops, and their sheer volume of firepower, caused great damage among the colonial troops.

However, the perpetually out-numbered Continental Army had, and used to great effect, the long rifle.  The British troops, in their red-coated uniforms, presented themselves as vulnerable targets on the battlefield, as well as when marching in two-by-two formations.   Consequently, the colonial sharpshooters, dressed in deerskin and drab clothing, well-camouflaged in the surrounding forests, where able to take accurate aim at the brightly-clad troops.

The following passage was excerpted from an article in The Free Library entitled The American Rifleman in the Revolutionary War:

      “When the resolution of enslaving America was formed in Great Britain,
       the British Parliament was advised by an artful man, who was governor
       of Pennsylvania, to disarm the people; that it was the best and most 
       effectual way to enslave them; but that they should not do it openly, 
       but weaken them, and let them sink gradually."
                                   --George Mason of Virginia, 1788

Our Founding Fathers were adamant about preserving the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  They were students of history and understood that from classical antiquity forward an armed citizenry was essential to the preservation of freedom.  Once disarmed, a people either submitted to tyrants or were overthrown by them.  Understanding that tyranny was the enemy of freedom, the Founders and the self-reliant colonists kept their arms and ultimately defeated the British Empire in the Revolutionary War.  


Rob Orrison article dated 3/30/21; updated 12/15/21.  battlefields.org