Book Review – The Minute Men: The First Fight: Myths and Realities of the American Revolution
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.
For quartering large bodies of armed troops among us…
Declaration of Independence
When George the 3rd decided to impose tyranny upon the American Colonies, one of the many things he did was to begin dismantling the existential threat to his rule: the local militia system. General John Galvin, US Army, Retired, has done a wonderful job of describing not only the Special Forces units of that militia – the Minute Men – but also the first battle of the American Revolution, the 20-mile running ambush called Lexington & Concord.
The self-defense system of the colonial period was composed of two parts: the general militia, which could be considered regular troops, and the Minute Men, a special force of militia ready at a minute’s notice and specially trained for rapid response, assault, and communication – much like today’s Special Forces. Much of the battle on April 19, 1775 was fought by Minute Men, and it was they who fired the first American shots at the Concord Bridge.
Gen. Galvin spends a few chapters describing the evolution of the minute man concept – a council of war, ready at a minute’s warning, with a decentralized command structure and integrated communications system, then proceeds into a detailed description of the battle. Despite their lack of technology, Minute Men were extremely adept at what they trained for, and highly capable – even if their enemy did not think of them as such. This difference in attitude is particularly well described, as Galvin shows not only that it takes training and equipment to be an effective soldier, but attitude as well. The Americans had the attitude of soldiers preparing for war, while the British Redcoats had an attitude of contempt towards their enemy’s supposed inferiority.
Fred is fond of saying that April 19th, 1775 was the date when “marksmanship met history, and liberty was born”. While this is true (the Americans were much better shots than the Redcoats) there were other aspects of the battle that played perfectly into the hands of the Americans. For instance, the British suffered not only from disunited command throughout the day, but also allowed the Americans time to assemble, reinforce, and prepare ambushes. Galvin’s description of the battle is extremely detailed, omitting nothing.
For some reason, I wrote a lot of marginalia in this book, something I’m not prone to do. The text lends itself to that, with it’s short and succinct chapters, well summarized ending paragraphs, and easy readability. A war college could easily adopt this as a text for a specialized class on tactics, or general study of the battles of the Revolution. If your interests cover either, you should pick this up, for it is well worth your time.