History Timelines 1620s

Image above: Lithograph by Sarony and Major, 1846, of the landing on Plymouth Rock by William Bradford and the pilgrims with the Mayflower in the distance. Courtesy Library of Congress. Right: Painting of the Signing of the Mayflower Compact, 1899, Jean Leon Gerome Ferris. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons.

Mayflower Compact

Pre-Revolution Timeline - The 1600s


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  • 1636 Detail

    December 23, 1636 - Massachusetts Bay Colony organizes three militias to protect itself from the Pequot Indians. Formation is regarded as the founding of the National Guard.

    First Muster, Massachusetts Bay Colony Militia, First National Guard

    War with the Pequot had been brewing for over one year, ever since the Block Island incident when a trader was killed on July 20, 1636. That had led to a variety of attacks, both by the Massachusetts Bay Colony and by the Pequot nation. However, it was time to get not only to a formal agreement of war, but a formal agreement on the constitution of colonial (what eventually would be state) militias.

    There had always been militias at the colonial outposts begun in America, whether that be with the Spanish at St. Augustine, the settlers at Plymouth, or the Massachusetts Bay Colony. John Endecott had begun a militia at Salem on April 17, 1629; it was to have one hundred men outfitted, include a captain, lieutenant, ensign, three sergeants, three drummers, a corporal, and around ninety privates. There were to be eight cannon, one hundred firearms, swords, pikes, and body armor to equip the force.

    Two months before the formal militia would form, the English and Narragansett signed an alliance against the Pequot, which was followed by the Pequot gaining allies in the Western Niantic. On December 23, 1636 (December 13 old calendar), the General Court decided that it must act decisively, and cement organization of the militia. The first General Court in the Americas had first met on August 25, 1630; their first act on militia had formed the force by April 12, 1631, but as the population grew rapidly, their edict of December 1636 became imperative.

    The Founding of the National Guard

    The General Court passed the act. It called for three militia regiments be formed from the existing militia companies in the towns around Boston. They were to fight the Pequot, but also be ready, if called upon, to fight the French, Spanish, or Dutch, if they later encroached on English territory.

    The General Court required all able-bodied men between ages 16 and 60, except judges and clergy members, be considered members of the colony's militia and equip themselves. There would be a North, South, and East Regiment. Today those regiments are still intact; 1st Squadron, 182nd Cavalry Regiment and 1st Battalion, 181st Infantry Regiment (North); 1st Battalion, 101st Field Artillery Regiment (South); and the 101st Engineer Battalion (East).

    The Massachusetts Bay Colony Regiments would include some significant names from the date of its formation through the date of Winthrop's fleet, and hold their first muster in Spring 1637.

    South Regiment - Colonel John Winthrop, Sr.; Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Dudley; Mustermaster Captain John Underhill. Boston: CPT John Underhill; Dorchester: CPT Israel Stoughton; Roxbury: (Note: Commander unidentified); Weymouth: (Note: Commander unidentified) Hingham: (Note: Commander unidentified).

    East Regiment - Colonel John Endecott; Lieutenant Colonel John Winthrop, Jr.; Mustermaster Captain William Trask. Salem: CPT William Trask; Saugus: CPT Daniel Patrick; Ipswich: CPT Daniel Dennison; Newbury: CPT John Spencer.

    North Regiment - Colonel John Haynes; Lieutenant Colonel Roger Herlakenden; Mustermaster Captain Daniel Patrick. Charlestown: CPT Robert Sedgwick; Watertown: CPT William Jennison; Newtown/Cambridge: CPT George Cooke; Concord: LT Simon Willard Dedham.

    In the Pequot War, the regiments of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, as well as the colonies of Plymouth and Saybrook, formed the total force, plus the allies from the Narragansett. The force would finally bring an end to that conflict on September 21, 1638, when the Treaty of Hartford was signed.

    This system of militias as pre-facto national guards (state level) units continued throughout the 1600's and into the late 1700's. Once the United States was formed after the American Revolution, several acts started to formulate the process of militias as national guard units and how they would be used. The First Militia Act of 1792 allowed the President, George Washington, to call up units if attacked by outside enemies. The Second Militia Act of 1792 formalized their organization and training. Washington would use the authority of the Second Act as precedent to call out troops against the Whiskey Rebellion. Despite the eventual change of time to the Gregorian calendar, which would denote December 23 as the date of the General Court's act, the National Guard itself uses December 13, 1636 as its official birthday.

    Source: Image above: Painting of the First Muster in Spring 1937, Massachusetts Bay Colony, i.e. first National Guard, by Don Troiani, 2011. Courtesy National Guard Bureau via Wikipedia Commons. Image below: Pequot War on February 22, 1837, 1890, Charles Stanley Reinhart. Courtesy Wikipedia Commons. Info source: "Massachusetts Military Roots, a Bibliographic Study," July 19, 1986, Captain Robert K. Wright, Jr., Departments of the Army and the Air Force Historical Services Branch Office of Public Affairs National Guard Bureau Washington, D.C. 20310; nationalguard.mil; Wikipedia.

    Pequot War

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