The Origins of the Sudbury Companies of Militia & Minute
(Transcribed from a 1975 manuscript)
On May 21, 1963, at the urging of one Publius, a Committee of Correspondence met at the Red Horse Tavern in the town of Sudbury, Massachusetts.
The gentlemen of the Committee were twelve, all told: Alfred Bonnazoli; Albert Berberian; Joseph Brown; Roger Bump; Arthur Fay, Jr.; Dr. Maurice Fitzgerald; Frank Koppeis; Edward Kreitzek; Donald MacRae; John Powers; Frank Sherman; Rex Trailer. They had heretofore been known as distinguished, upright, honest citizens.
These gentlemen resolved to raise a militia in Sudbury, renewing an organization centuries old in the town. The militia was to be organized in the fashion of the Minutemen of 1774, with musters to be held at the Wayside Inn.
At the first such muster, held a week later, the twelve elected officers: for the field, Colonel Alfred Bonnazoli; Lieutenant-Colonel Frank Sherman; Major Maurice Fitzgerald (Adjutant); and Captain Joseph Brown (Quartermaster). For the Company: Captain of Foot John Powers; Lieutenants of Foot Albert Bereberian (First Platoon), Arthur Fay, Jr. (Second Platoon); and Roger Bump (Third Platoon) and [as] Captain of Horse Rex Trailer.
You will note that, of the twelve men, nine were officers; this left Frank Koppeis, Edward Kreitsek, and Donald MacRae to be troops. (It was not recorded which was First, Second, or Third Platoon.)
By December of 1963, the Minutemen numbered 34. By February, 113 men answered the roll call.
Plans were made for a gala military ball, to be held April 17 at the historic Wayside Inn; many have been held since then, but none more inspiring to those who attended.
Then Concord's Celebrations Committee made its first mistake, and invited the Sudbury Company to participate in Patriot's Day events. The invitation, according to Joseph Brown, was enthusiastically accepted by the field officers. How the company officers felt is not recorded: footsore, probably.
At any rate, the 19th of April, 1964, arrived. It was a balmy (which was appropriate) Springlike Sunday, "the brooks were fresh, the tree buds bursting, the grasses green and lush", according to [Joseph] Brown. Fifer Ted Brown and drummer Fred Stone were dispatched to the old Common, there to sound the alarm. Rod Yetton rode express in from Concord to warn the inhabitants of Sudbury of the approach of the British. The musket-fire of Emory Warren echoed a sound a hundred and eighty-nine years gone, and Bob Wellman tolled the steeple bell to summon the troops. Reverend Bill Simmerman's voice carried out from the old stocks: "We will meet the hateful tyrant, and overcome him!"
At 10:35 in the morning, the Great March began. Colonel Bonnazoli, then a septuagenarian, led his troops around the Common, to the delight of a slightly mystified audience. Twenty-one horses, and three Companies of Foot, set off to Concord. Along the way, they were joined unexpectedly by the Uxbridge Fife and Drum Corps, likewise on their first march to Concord.
Joe Brown remembers the high spots of many trips: Sergeant Hanley, Defender of Concord; the oxen; pontoon bridges; Ferndock's Ferry, and the bathing of the Minutemen; Ernie and his wagon; fording the Assabet; the dirty Third; parachutists at Dakin Farm; turkey-shoots; the march to Meriam's Corner (and the Epsom Salt foot-baths that followed); the ceremony at Col. Barrett's grave, like so many Sudbury innovations, instantly adopted by Concord; the Irregulars.
The only sure thing about the Sudbury Companies of Minute and Militia is that there will be more mysterious events along the road: more irreplaceable memories.
But when you look behind the laughter and the frivolity and the irreverence of the Sudbury Minutemen, you see something that was somehow conceived by a dozen men, somehow nurtured and kept alive: a pride, yes, an honest-to-God pride, of all emotions, in being a Minuteman from Sudbury.
Other men, in other towns, started Companies of Minute and Militia, too: good men, with good ideas and good intentions. But those other companies didn't turn out to be Sudbury's, and Sudbury's didn't turn out to be anybody else's.
Joe Brown, and Al Bonnazoli, and John Powers, and Doc Fitzgerald, and Frank Sherman, and Art Fay, and Ed Kreitsek, and Roger Bump, and frank Koppeis, and Don MacRae, and Al Berberian, and Rex Trailer.
Hundreds and hundreds of people owe these twelve men some of the brightest moments of our lives.
And thanks to you, Publius. Whoever you were.