A Rabble in Arms
Massachusetts Towns and Militiamen during King Philip’s War
Publication Year: 2009
While it lasted only sixteen months, King Philip's War (1675-1676) was arguably one of the most significant of the colonial wars that wracked early America. As the first major military crisis to directly strike one of the Empire's most important possessions: the Massachusetts Bay Colony, King Philip's War marked the first time that Massachusetts had to mobilize mass numbers of ordinary, local men to fight. In this exhaustive social history and community study of Essex County, Massachusetts's militia, Kyle F. Zelner boldly challenges traditional interpretations of who was called to serve during this period.
Drawing on muster and pay lists as well as countless historical records, Zelner demonstrates that Essex County's more upstanding citizens were often spared from impressments, while the “rabble” — criminals, drunkards, the poor— were forced to join active fighting units, with town militia committees selecting soldiers who would be least missed should they die in action. Enhanced by illustrations and maps, A Rabble in Arms shows that, despite heroic illusions of a universal military obligation, town fathers, to damaging effects, often placed local and personal interests above colonial military concerns.
Published by: NYU Press
Title Page, Copyright, Dedication
Download PDF (40.4 KB)
List of Figures, Maps, and Tables
Download PDF (42.0 KB)
Download PDF (46.2 KB)
I am extremely grateful for the support and encouragement of the faculty, staff, and graduate students of the Lyon Gardiner Tyler Department of History at the College of William and Mary, especially James Axtell and Philip Daileader. I must single out James P. Whittenburg, whose patience, understanding, and insight made writing a joyful...
Download PDF (336.9 KB)
On a late August day in 1675, a lone rider arrived in the coastal town of Marblehead, Massachusetts, bearing dispatches for the local committee of militia.1 The message came from Major General Daniel Denison in nearby Salem, the commander of the Essex County Regiment. King Philipâs War had been raging since June and Massachusetts Bay was mobilizing...
A Note on Method
Download PDF (259.7 KB)
King Philipâs War (1675â1676) offers the ideal moment in time to study the character of impressed seventeenth-century New England soldiers and how and why they were chosen for service. This study is built primarily on the techniques of historical prosopography, or collective biography. In order to capture their true identity, I created a social...
1. âFor the bestordering of the militiaâ: English Military Precedent and the Early Massachusetts Bay Militia
Download PDF (1.8 MB)
The 1628 Charter of the Massachusetts Bay Company gave the company and its âchief commanders, governors, and officersâ an order to provide âfor their special defense and safety, to incounter, expulse, repell, and resist by force of armsâ all enemies of the colony.1 The governor and General Court of Massachusetts Bay took this charge seriously, writing...
2. The Massachusetts Bay Militia and the Practice of Impressment during King Philipâs War
Download PDF (3.1 MB)
When King Philipâs War broke out in the Plymouth Colony on June 20, 1675, the authorities in Plymouth immediately alerted their allies in Massachusetts Bay. The Massachusetts General Court was not in session, but during its first meeting after receiving news of the hostilities, on July 9, 1675, the Court began to prepare for conflict, voting for several...
3. Many Men, Many Choices: Impressment in Essex Countyâs Thriving Towns
Download PDF (189.3 KB)
Impressment for active military service was a local matter in colonial New England. The militia committees, which made the fateful decision of who went to war, resided in each community and were made up of local elites who personally knew most of the men they sent off to fight. That was the reason that the General Court established the committees...
4. Few Men, Few Options: Impressment in Essex Countyâs Small Towns
Download PDF (170.8 KB)
Local control of the militia was a hallmark of seventeenth-century Massachusetts Bay. As has been demonstrated, the power of locally controlled committees of militia to levy soldiers was nearly absolute in most of Essex Countyâs large or thriving towns. Militia committees used their impressment power not only to raise the troops necessary to fulfill...
5. The Pressed Men of Essex County: The Social Identity of the Soldiers of King Philipâs War
Download PDF (1.3 MB)
Many documents from the period of King Philipâs War and countless sources afterâtown histories, genealogies, community records, and other sourcesâclaim to record the men who served in King Philipâs War. Yet, scores of the men so listed were never on the front lines; some received payment for services or provisions they supplied, while others...
6. The Effects of Impressment: War and Peace in Essex County
Download PDF (2.8 MB)
King Philipâs War raged in southern New England from June 1675 to September 1676.1 While men from Essex County fought in many different units and capacities during the war, soldiers from the county made up a sizeable portion of eight active-duty units, six infantry and two cavalry. The history of these âEssex companiesâ is essential to forming an...
Afterword: The Military of Massachusetts Bay Transformed
Download PDF (55.5 KB)
In the midst of King Philipâs War, although few in the colony perceived it at the time, a major shift occurred in the way that Massachusetts Bay conducted war. The change in the nature of offensive warfare was subtle, but significant. Amazingly, the exact day that the change transpired can be identified, a rare occurrence for such an important but...
Appendix 1.The Soldiers of Essex Countyin King Philipâs War, 1675â1676
Download PDF (69.3 KB)
Appendix 2. Rowleyâs 1662 Tax List: Ranked byFamily with Soldiersâ Families Highlighted
Download PDF (49.7 KB)
Appendix 3. Topsfieldâs 1668 Tax List: Ranked by Family with Soldiersâ Families Highlighted
Download PDF (44.7 KB)
Appendix 4. An Examination of the Age of Essex County Soldiers and Officers in King Philipâs War, 1675â1676
Download PDF (44.0 KB)
Appendix 5. The Occupations of the Soldiers of Essex County, 1675â1676
Download PDF (38.8 KB)
Abbreviations Used in the Notes
Download PDF (38.8 KB)
Download PDF (272.8 KB)
Download PDF (101.8 KB)
Download PDF (39.8 KB)
Download PDF (72.8 KB)
About the Author
Download PDF (23.5 KB)
Page Count: 344
Publication Year: 2009