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"Militia and bayonets" Topic

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972 hits since 10 May 2017
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Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2017 7:13 a.m. PST

Does anyone have any information on which militia units were equiped with bayonets? I know some were issued them in the FIW and still had them in the AWI.

historygamer10 May 2017 7:50 a.m. PST

I'm not aware of any. Which colonies do you think armed their militia during the F&I war with bayonets?

GuyG1310 May 2017 7:57 a.m. PST

Per John Galvin in "The Minutemen", the Mass Militia had bayonets for about 50% of their Militia in April 1775.

SashandSaber Sponsoring Member of TMP10 May 2017 8:54 a.m. PST

Some Loyalist militia units had bayonets -- i.e. Samuel Bryan's North Carolina Volunteers were issued bayonets.


Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2017 9:06 a.m. PST

If you consider the Philadelphia Associators a militia unit, they were drilled and had bayonets.

historygamer10 May 2017 9:48 a.m. PST

Guy13 – what is that conclusion (50%) based upon?

Chris – who issued the bayonets to the NCV – I am assuming the Crown?

Winston – I just finished a book on PA militia – by the Rev War I think all Associator units were considered militia. The title of Associators was Ben Franklin's idea to overcome Quaker resistance to an organized militia during the F&I period (it was all volunteer), unlike the later militia system during the war. Actually earlier (Jenkin's Ear, IIRC). Can you cite your source on Phil Associators having bayonets? Just curious. I know the Penn family bought artillery for the city's defenses. I'm trying to recall what small arms were acquired.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2017 10:17 a.m. PST

I believe I read in Joseph Seymour's book on the Pa Associators that they had bayonets.

They were drilled, uniformed, organized almost as a Legion or small army, with infantry, cavalry and artillery. Wouldn't it stand to reason that a drilled uniformed infantry unit would also have bayonets?

Btw, I highly recommend Seymour's book.

As to who would issue them bayonets, couldn't any competent blacksmith make them? It's not like manufacturing a rifle or musket. It's pretty straightforward.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2017 11:49 a.m. PST

Did the chaps all had issued muskets or their own? If standardized ok, otherwise an interesting mess.

historygamer10 May 2017 1:32 p.m. PST

Bayonets were steel, not iron. So that rules out a blacksmith.

If militia brought their own it would be a myriad of weapons, many of which were too fragile to mount a bayonet.

nevinsrip Sponsoring Member of TMP10 May 2017 2:53 p.m. PST

I think that the term "militia" covers a pretty wide spectrum. There's a huge difference between a small town company of "minutemen" and a semi-professional outfit, like the Associators.
The larger, more organized militias probably had bayonets, especially if they had an armory. The small town "bring your own gun" types probably did not.

Interesting that the Loyalists Units are not considered militias. Yes, there were Loyalist militias all over the country, but the DeLancey Brigade, Queens Rangers and others
are looked on more as regulars, rather than militias.
Yet, British Officers never accepted Loyalists as their equals.
How do you consider Loyalist Units?

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2017 6:18 p.m. PST

Perhaps I was not specific enough in the OP. I was referring to organized militias, not the adhoc minutemen assemblies.

FuriousT Inactive Member10 May 2017 8:52 p.m. PST

This article sheds some light on the Massachusetts militia and their supply of bayonets on the eve of the Revolution. To my knowledge there are also some militia muskets in the collection at Minuteman National Park that have been outfitted with locally manufactured bayonets in an attempt to rectify supply issues. link

Edit: and to clarify minutemen were part of the organized militia system, which in turn was an arm of the state. Fisher's Paul Revere's Ride does a great job of explaining it, but it's somewhat akin to the modern National Guard/Reserve system. The Minutemen were the guys in the militia who were on high alert and could be called out while the rest of the militia apparatus was still getting geared up. That being said I'm not sure if that made a difference in the way they were armed and equipped

FuriousT Inactive Member10 May 2017 8:59 p.m. PST

More specific details for Lexington and COncord from the same author:
A few references to bayonets there, including local govt's paying to supply bayonets to the militia

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP10 May 2017 10:54 p.m. PST

Your first link would imply that around a third of militia at Lexington and Concord "could have" bayonets. Being adept in their use is another matter altogether.
So, if your rules penalize for "inferior weapons", they would qualify.

However I still believe that the Associators were drilled in the use.

Hey. It's only a +/-1 in the melee tables! grin

Major Bloodnok11 May 2017 3:09 a.m. PST

After 1714 the Colony of Massachusetts Bay, untill May of 1775, only required bayonets to be owned by troops that resided in Boston. Gov. Tryon of NY is quoted to have stated that since most of the NY militia didn't have bayonets the command to fix bayonets should be removed from the drill manual.

Loyalist troops were not considered equal in Regular officers eyes because they were not regular professional soldiers, but Provincials. This is why they were mostly clad in green early in the war. They had the same attitude towards their own militia. This is why Regular officers outrank the local officers in Britain as well as the Colonies.

Out of curiosity what unit that is bayonetless sticks around to melee Regulars? If knives and hatchets can succeed in facing a charge why were the new States' Gov'ts. scrambling to get bayonets to the militia? In the 1714 act that reguires the troops in Boston to get bayonets, it states that a bayonet is more usefull in offense and defense. Up untill them the Mass. Militia in Boston, as well as in the rest of MA only needed a "sword or cutlash" Though by 2745 it seems hatchets have become an accepted substitute for a sword.

In an inspection of the Strubridge Mass militia, in Feb. 1745. The most common fine was being "in need of all but a gun". The next most common was in "need of a hatchet". Of it seems that by 1745 hatchets have become an acceptable substitute for a sword.

HANS GRUBER11 May 2017 3:20 a.m. PST

Even if the militia had bayonets it doesn't mean they were comfortable with hand to hand combat. I would tend penalize militia in most melee situations, whether they had bayonets or not

historygamer11 May 2017 5:36 a.m. PST

Obviously the question is rather complicated, and for game purposes, depends on your scale. If portraying a battalion, I seriously doubt they would be represented as carrying bayonets though come companies might. My guess from my own readings and based on some of the references listed above is that early war city militias might, but not likely their country cousins.

Militia was generally raised by county, and formed into bigger battalions or regiments for field service. Some were turned into Continental regiments – but they would likely have been re-armed and issued uniforms as soon as possible.

Dave Crowell11 May 2017 5:18 p.m. PST

"Bayonets were steel, not iron. So that rules out a blacksmith."

Actually it doesn't. Many tools, such as axes and drawknives were forged by blacksmiths from wrought iron with steel edges forge welded on to the iron body.

Steel is also easilly forged by any blacksmith. Making steel technically could be done by a blacksmith, but likely wasn't done by most.

Also bayonets could be forged from iron, but would not be as effective.

Major Bloodnok11 May 2017 6:06 p.m. PST

Actualy they were often a mix of iron for the socket and neck with a steel blade. There are quite a few blacksmith made bayonets that have survived, some with split sockets that could be adjusted for different dia. barrels, and others that were held on by a wing-nut. However since bayonet making is not the typical job for a blacksmith most are not up to the standards of what would come out of an armoury.

GuyG1312 May 2017 7:57 a.m. PST

Historygamer, sorry I've been away- The 50% conclusion came from Regimental returns to the, IIRC< Committee of Safety. I'll have to pull the book and get the detail. It was based on 20K enrolled militiamen and 10k bayonets on hand. Galvin talks about how some units (Mostly companies within regiments) would give up their bayonets to fully equip other companies with bayonets.

historygamer12 May 2017 8:15 a.m. PST

For 1775? I'd be surprised, given the state of the Associators at that point of time.

The only thing I can think of is if they were left over from the F&I War and issued by the state. There were some armed clashes going on in the Wyoming Valley with groups of settlers from CT claiming the area for their state.

GuyG1312 May 2017 8:20 a.m. PST

My copy, printed in 1989, page 65:

"…Returns for the militia and minute men on April 14th show a total of 21,549 muskets and 10,108 bayonets, or a bayonet for every two soldiers. Many of the minute man companies received bayonets that had been taken from the militia to make sure that every minute man was equipped with one (the Acton, Lincoln, and Andover companies are examples)…" Its source is listed as Returns of the militia and minute men: Journals of Each Provincial Congress, Page 756.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP12 May 2017 8:22 a.m. PST

Thanks for all the helpful responses so far.

As far as militia(bayonet armed) not being able to stand-up to regulars in melee, it has been my expierence in the service that if your friend stays in a tight situation the odds are you will stay as well. In hand to hand the rifle butt is as effective(or even more-so) as a bayonet.

Even well-trained regular units, at times, would quickly break in melee. So, maybe morale is more important than equipment in melee situations?

historygamer12 May 2017 8:41 a.m. PST

Seems like this interesting thread is jumping back and forth between PA and MA – LOL.

Regarding MA – at least to me those numbers seem rather high. The combined colonies only field an army of 6,000 to a report 16,000.


historygamer12 May 2017 8:43 a.m. PST

Not just morale, but training. Like the old adage says, you fight like you train. By definition, militia rarely got together to drill beyond company level. The peace time British army suffered from the same problems as shown by Houlding in "Fit for Service."

GuyG1312 May 2017 8:59 a.m. PST

Historygamer- Galvin covers that in a later chapter in his book. A lot of the Militia went home after the first few weeks. They were having trouble paying them and most of them had to get back to farming…..

His book centers around the re-organization of the whole colony Militia in 1774- 1775. The 21k muskets may not mean 21K enrolled militiamen either. Its a fascinating book and an easy read.

42flanker12 May 2017 9:13 a.m. PST

Stone mountain


if your friend stays in a tight situation the odds are you will stay as well

In hand to hand the rifle butt is as effective (or even more-so) as a bayonet.

Striking with the butt of a musket requires closing with the enemy and coming well within the reach of his bayonet, or flailing wildly, either way exposing ones vitals to a thrust.

I doubt a militiaman without bayonet facing an enemy regular armed with a bayonet would feel this was a good second best option, far less offering an advantage.

Personal logo StoneMtnMinis Supporting Member of TMP12 May 2017 11:12 a.m. PST

@42flanker – I'll let you argue with my DI that told us don't fear the bayonet, because all you have to do is knock it aside(even with your bare hands) and you own him.

Luckily, I never had to put this, other than in training, to the test.

historygamer12 May 2017 11:23 a.m. PST

I'll have to do more research on the above 21k info, as to me, that is a stunning number. Makes me wonder what types of weapons – in magazines or privately owned? Issued, or stored? An amazing number considering the Crown Army at NYC was roughly 30K men. Also makes me wonder that if they did compile all those arms (from where??), why didn't they also acquire gunpowder? They were woefully short of that as it turned out.

Interesting stuff, thanks for sharing.

42flanker12 May 2017 1:01 p.m. PST

@StoneMtn – unlike the militia you had benefit of a DI – and, on a good day I'm guessing, a bayonet }:-)

Bill N12 May 2017 1:50 p.m. PST

Good info Guy. I never before worried much about how many militia had bayonets. I have read instances of militia being issued muskets, cartridge boxes and bayonets so I know some did, but it is interesting to see an actual figure. I have also seen references to muskets being ordered from colonial sources, complete with cartridge boxes and bayonets, which suggests it was thought that bayonets were something colonial manufacturers could produce.

As to the size of the militia, as I recall Massachusetts including Maine had a population of over 250,000 at the outbreak of the war, so I find 21,000 in the militia at the outbreak of the war to be a plausible figure for the enrolled militia. Only a fraction of them would have been in service at any given time.

GuyG1312 May 2017 2:08 p.m. PST

I highly recommend General Galvins book. It covers a small, but significant period in time. Shows how Mass was able to have a competent army in the field and how on April 19th, the groups of Colonial Militia was under fairly firm control of regimental field officers: The Minutemen The First Fight: The myths and realities of the American Revolution by General John Galvin. ISBN 0-08-036733-X

General Galvin was SACEUR when I was a young LT in Germany and I was able to get him to sign my copy. I had a friend in his HQ.

Jcfrog Supporting Member of TMP13 May 2017 2:40 a.m. PST

If bayonets were so inefective they would have been disused early in the 18 th cty.
About musket buts etc. it is not a one to one fight but a close order stuff, your guy has another behind with his bayonet he will thrust in you when you try lifting the first one. Nothing to do with post 1900 use.

It might not be so good in one to one fighting. Hence the hatchet thing, in forest / skirm. Combat. But in regular lines. And training, as we know morale makes for a lot.

Winston Smith Supporting Member of TMP13 May 2017 6:31 a.m. PST

Here's a question.
Suppose I am running a Concord scenario. I use Sword and the Flame.
Again suppose that a percentage of the Minutemen have bayonets. Let's say 25%.
Should I group them into one "unit"?
Also consider the training, or lack of training of the British in 1775 Boston.
Should this one unit be able to nullify any +1 I might give the British in the scenario?

I'm basing this on what seems to me to be woeful training by the British on the "shot heard around the world" day. They would get better….grin

historygamer14 May 2017 3:23 p.m. PST

The Lights were pretty effective when acting as flankers in surprising and attacking groups of Minute Men.

Virginia Tory15 May 2017 7:03 a.m. PST

"The Lights were pretty effective when acting as flankers in surprising and attacking groups of Minute Men."

Yes, actions that recurred throughout the day. I like Galvin's book, but am not so sure there was much higher command and control on the part of the militia. Seems like once the got to a location, they fired at the British and then wandered off. Individual groups may have stayed together.

Makes for a somewhat difficult scenario to model.

Supercilius Maximus Supporting Member of TMP15 May 2017 8:32 a.m. PST

@ VT,

Major General Heath was apparently present on the day, but did little more than observe (and then write a third person account of his observations of the day's events). Given the disparate nature of the Militia response to the operation, and the fact that the Massachusetts militia had only recently been reorganised, with most of the top officers being ditched at Tories, it would have been nothing short of miraculous had anyone taken control of any group[ larger than a few companies from the same area. Had there been any co-ordination above the level of the company, Smith and Percy would probably have been surrounded, but certainly would not have found their "surprise" route back to base via Charlestown Neck completely unobstructed.

historygamer15 May 2017 8:57 a.m. PST


Anything to add about militia and bayonets? I still find those Mass returns surprising.

Bill N16 May 2017 6:24 a.m. PST

Thought you gentlemen might find this interesting. It is from Maryland in March of 1776.

Sir. I had a line from you about Bayonets, I forged out by a servant I had (since runaway) about sixty, for one of the Militia Companys, and offered them at six shillings per peice I deliver one as a sample they are mostly unfinished but I could get them done by another smith I have, if I could have a guage given me as to the size of the Barrel they were originally intended to fix on guns of different Bores but if I had the size of the Muskets Barrel they can be finished all but fitting them to the sight which must be done by an artificer with the piece by him. if the Council of Safety should incline to take these, I will set about them and its likely I may make them up one hundred or more if I can & deliver them to your order, if I had the guns I wd gladly fit them but it cant be well done without.
I am Sir yr Hble Servt
Amos Garrett.

historygamer16 May 2017 6:46 a.m. PST

Interesting. And goes to show the challenge of making bayonets from scratch for unknown weapons.

Here is an interesting article on weapons in the colonies/states at the time:

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