Benjamin Franklin Papers

The Officers of Minutemen in York County to the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety, 31 August 1775: résumé

The Officers of Minutemen in York County to the Pennsylvania Committee of Safety

LS: Pennsylvania State Library, Harrisburg

<York, August 31, 1775: The committee and militia officers of the county, at a meeting on July 20, carried out the recommendation of the Assembly and Congress by ordering the formation of a least five companies of minutemen, and elected the undersigned as field officers.8 Five companies are already raised and most of the officers chosen. Several of the companies are large, about 100 each, partly in order to be at full strength even if all the men cannot appear, and partly to permit removing whatever “improper Persons may push themselves in,” as well as those who have no settled residence.

The men are in the prime of life and for the most part good marksmen. “They considred that all their Mustering was mere parade without they actually intended to step forth when called up.” They have placed themselves under martial law and have been told that its penalties, designed for those who do not behave, are no threat to those who do; the regulations of the continental army might properly be adapted for them. They cannot be expected to muster frequently because of the expense and loss of time, but have agreed to meet more often than the rest of the militia. Unless they have six weeks’ training “we could not prudently attempt to meet regular Troops in the Field, though we might do Execution if permitted to act as irregulars.” Only those who have a settled residence in the county should be accepted, so as to be readily available in case of emergency; and there are plenty of these. If after they are trained they are not called to action, they may be used to support the militia. “Should they be wanted before the publick Arms are finished we are in Hopes they will be supplied by the Militia companies, tho their Arms will not be so good.” A company of riflemen will be raised to act as light infantry for the battalion, and if the latter is too small it can be enlarged.

A man may hold a commission in the minutemen, the committee has decided, and also in the militia. Otherwise many militia officers would have to be replaced, and “nothing seems to cause more confusion in Companies than the changing of officers.” The county has tried to fulfil the Assembly’s wishes. “Should there by any Alterations necessary because of the Tardiness of other Counties, we hope no such alterations will oblige this County to raise Minute-Men over again. Such a proceeding might be difficult to be carried into Execution.” Addressed to Franklin, John Dickinson, and the committee, and signed by Richard McCalister, Thomas Hartley, and David Grier.

P.S.: Mr. Swope (Swoope), the member of the committee of safety from the county, has seen this letter.9>

[Note numbering follows the Franklin Papers source.]

8The meeting was on July 28–9; see the York committee to the Pa. delegates above, Aug. 1. The recommendation of the Assembly was in the resolutions establishing the committee of safety, and that of Congress was in the plan for the militia adopted on July 18; see the editorial note above on the committee of safety, June 30, and the headnote on its advertisement, July 28. The Congressional plan stipulated that a quarter of the militia in any colony be selected from volunteers, formed into companies and battalions and given more intensive training than the rest, so as to be ready for action whenever and wherever they were required; these minutemen might withdraw after four months and be relieved by other volunteers from the militia. JCC, II, 188–9.

9The first three were colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major respectively of the battalion of minutemen; McCalister was also colonel of the third, and Hartley lieutenant colonel of the first, battalion of York associators. McCalister, or as he is often spelled McAllister (1724–95), one of the most prominent landholders in southern Pennsylvania, remained in active service through 1776. Thomas Hartley (1748–1800), a lawyer, commanded a Pennsylvania brigade at the Brandywine and Germantown, and was later an important political figure in the state. David Grier (1742–90), also a lawyer, had been in the French and Indian War; he subsequently took part in the Canadian campaign, rose to be a lieutenant colonel, was wounded in 1777, and served thereafter in the quartermaster’s department at York. For the three men’s commissions see 2 Pa. Arch., XIV, 476–7. Michael Swoope, as he spelled it, (b. 1748) was a major in Hartley’s battalion of associators and later became its colonel, was captured in 1776, and in 1778 was proposed as an exchange for WF (PMHB, XXXIX (1915), 394; instead, after brief parole, he spent the rest of the war in prison. For Hartley see the DAB and PMHB, XXV (1901), 303–6, and for the others George R. Prowell, History of York County, Pennsylvania . . . (2 vols., Chicago, 1907), I, 185–6, 195, 245, 807–8.

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