Minutemen in the Revolutionary War: Definition & History

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  • 0:00 Minutemen
  • 0:37 Background of the Minutemen
  • 1:20 Minutemen in the…
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Christopher Muscato

Chris has a master's degree in history and teaches at the University of Northern Colorado.

In this lesson, you'll explore the history and significance of the American Minutemen. Then, test your understanding of the Revolutionary War, military tactics, American history, and our national heroes with a brief quiz.


Minutemen were members of militias, or armies of non-professional soldiers, in the American Revolutionary War. They were major contributors to the war and were trained to respond to threats at a moment's notice. Not only did they provide quick military action, but they created a network to quickly relay information across the colonies. It was like the 18th-century version of an instant message, only instead of using cell phones, they used riders on horseback. Famous Minutemen include Paul Revere, who famously warned the colonists that, 'The British are coming! The British are coming!'

Background of the Minutemen

As early as 1645, colonists in British Massachusetts were required to serve in the militia to fight the French or Native American groups. Certain groups were trained for rapid deployment, called Minutemen because they were supposed to be ready in a minute's time. To be a Minuteman, a candidate had to be a healthy male aged 30 or younger. As these groups grew, they established social and political networks across the colonies. They stayed connected to political events, mostly those in Boston, and became involved in the early rumblings against the British crown. Their connections expanded into Dutch and French colonies and helped negotiate a much-needed gunpowder trade with the Dutch.

Minutemen in the Revolutionary War

In the 1760s, the British imposed a series of taxes that pushed the colonists over the edge. The colonists began actively protesting the British, discussing the possibility of independence, and preparing for war. Militias across the colonies grew in size and strength, and carefully observed the movements of British troops. In 1774, Boston started a boycott against buying British products. The colonists began forming their own formal militias and electing their own officers and eventually appointed a third of them as the Minutemen in preparation for revolution.

On April 7, 1775, surveillance suggested that British soldiers were about to head towards Concord, Massachusetts, where a huge cache of military supplies was hidden. One Minuteman, Paul Revere, was sent to warn the people of Concord, who moved the weapons and supplies. On April 18, Paul Revere and another Minuteman, William Dawes, were sent again to warn towns about more British movement. During this ride, Revere had instructed the North Church to alert colonists in Charlestown using lanterns: one lantern if the British were coming by land, two if they were coming by sea.

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