Date Awarded


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)




James P Whittenburg


This study examines the process of recruitment and the social makeup of militiamen in seventeenth-century New England. King Philip's War, 1675--1676, was the first major military crisis the Massachusetts Bay Colony faced. The government responded by impressing over a thousand men, employing a recruitment system that evolved from the colony's founding in the 1630s. The Massachusetts militia system was a hybrid of the English militia with additional safeguards. The founders of Massachusetts believed the English militia of the 1620s overly nationalistic, at the expense of local control. Thus, the Massachusetts system was created to be centralized in command, but local in recruitment. When faced with a military emergency, Massachusetts established composite companies of militiamen to fight the enemy, leaving the town militia companies mostly intact for defense. After 1652, the decision of which men were pressed was made by a unique local institution: the town committee of militia, comprised of civilian and military leaders from the community.;This study includes a social portrait of every militiaman who served during the war from Essex County, Massachusetts and the twelve communities that sent them. Essex towns represented every major community type in colonial Massachusetts and offer the perfect microcosm for understanding military recruitment in seventeenth-century New England. The details of the lives, actions, and family backgrounds of all 357 enlisted soldiers offer a new and superior understanding of early American soldiers and the communities that impressed them.;Conventional historical wisdom asserts that the universal military obligation of the colonies, which forced all males from sixteen-to-sixty to serve, created seventeenth-century armies that mirrored society. This study finds that untrue. The militia committees in every town impressed a large majority of men who had some negative factor in their past, such as: low economic standing, criminal behavior, or short residency. Town committees of militia did not chose men equally from the population; but carefully selected soldiers who would be least missed by the town and its families if they were killed. Even the earliest American soldiers were not representative of their society; they were more the "Rabble" of their communities than their "Flower."



© The Author