By Mr. Richard Winship Stewart, Center of Military History (U.S. Army)
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Extra resources for American Military History: The United States Army and the Forging of a Nation, 1775-1917
As the officers came from the highest classes, so the men in the ranks came from the lowest. They were normally recruited for long terms of service, sometimes by force, from among the peasants and the urban unemployed, and more than a sprinkling of paupers, peter-do-wells, convicts, and drifters were in the ranks. Since recruiting extended across international boundaries, foreign mercenaries formed part of every European army. Discipline, not patriotic motivation, was the main reliance for making these men fight.
This loosely knit combination of de facto governments superseded the constituted authorities and established firm control over the whole country before the British were in any position to oppose them. The de facto governments took over control of the militia, and out of it began to shape forces that, if the necessity arose, might oppose the British in the field. In Massachusetts, the seat of the crisis, the Provincial Congress, eyeing Gage's force in Boston, directed the officers in each town to enlist a third of their militia in minutemen organizations to be ready to act at a moment's warning, and began to collect ammunition and other military stores.
Selection was generally by volunteering, but local commanders could draft both men and property if necessary. Drafted men were permitted the option of hiring substitutes, a practice that favored the well to do. Volunteer, drafted man, and substitute alike insisted on the militiamen's prerogative to serve only a short period and return to home and fireside as quickly as possible. As a part-time citizen army, the militia was naturally not a well-disciplined, cohesive force comparable to the professional army of the age.
American Military History: The United States Army and the Forging of a Nation, 1775-1917 by Mr. Richard Winship Stewart, Center of Military History (U.S. Army)