Who We Are

We can tell you how to join.
You'll have to figure out why for yourself.

Officially, there are nineteen or twenty Minute companies in Massachusetts, but actually there's only one. This shows you the difference between the official world and the real world.

We of the Sudbury Cos., Militia & Minute, you see, refuse to recognize as real Minutemen a bunch of popinjays all dressed up in prissy little uniforms and marching, for God's sake in step. In 1775, they didn't wear uniforms, and they didn't march in step. And the few units that learned from us and look like real Minutemen, that is, scruffy and scraggy, and like something any respectable woman would throw out of the house the minute the cat brought it in, aren't real Minutemen, either, simply because they aren't from Sudbury. Too bad for them.

Our purpose is as simple as it can be: to relive (not re-enact, understand, because re-enacting is for other people to look at, while reliving is purely personal and for ourselves) the first fresh moments of American history, when a bunch of farmers and shopkeepers and bumpkins took out to lick the British army, which was practicably undefeated at the time, (A lot of us think the march was and is more important than the fighting at the North Bridge, because there's not a whole bunch of honor in shooting back, when somebody shoots at you first, just common sense, while marching off like that was a private and lonely act of sheer heroism, there being no draft boards at the time to force you.)

The rules for joining the Sudbury Cos. Militia & Minute, haven't changed much, in the last two or three hundred years. Basically, you just show up wherever a couple of Minutemen are and tell them you want to join, and presto, you're in. You can do this at one of our musters, which usually happen on the first Monday of the month in winter, at the Wayside Inn, and which are often, but not always, announced beforehand. You can also sign up at our Fair, or just by asking a Minuteman you know.

You have to be sixteen. But you don't have to live in Sudbury, if you know somebody who does.

If that sounds informal, you don't know the half of it. This is undoubtedly the least organized organization in the civilized world, and one of the least civilized, too, to hear us talk about it. We have no by-laws, nobody keeps minutes of the meetings, and if anybody ever obeyed an officer's order I'd like to hear about it.

You can be as active in the group as you like. Maybe three quarters of us don't do anything at all except appear in the sandy-eyed dawn of Patriot's Day and hike from Sudbury to Concord, wearing funny clothes and drinking all manner of mysterious liquids. A goodly number attend the Ball just before the march, which is an incredibly elegant and lovely affair (somehow the ladies make up for their spouses), a few belong to the Alarm Company, which, instead of being a crowd of elderly men with enough strength to raise an alarm, as it used to be, now consists of guys who spend practically every weekend in their funny suits, traipsing off to places like Tiverton, Rhode Island banging away with their muskets, swilling free beer and entertaining, and slightly alarming, the locals no end.

You can also join the Sudbury Ancient Fyfe & Drum Companie, which is an entirely separate organization, although nobody knows quite why. They'll give you free fife or drum lessons once a week, and if you practice an hour or so every day, you'll probably end up good enough to play with them. And even if you don't, you can play with them anyway. They're in this for the fun of it, too.

It's also possible for you to join the Horse Troop, but you have to gallop around on a gallant steed and endure the jeers of the Companie of Foot, which you will richly deserve.

We even have a shooting team, if you like trying to hit things with a cantankerous musketball. You might get a medal, which you'd better hide, so nobody sees it and snickers.

There's no initiation fee for joining. Usually, the Colonel passes the hat at musters, and you can drop in a buck or let it go by, whichever. Somebody might cadge a beer off you if you're gullible, and there's a charge for tickets to the Ball. Outside of that, you don't have to spend much. A musket you can get for fifty or sixty dollars, but you don't have to carry one; you see a deal of pitchforks and shovels in the march. You or your wife can make you clothes out of what you have around the house. The Quartermaster has patterns and information.

Minutemen come in all colors, from all walks of life, with every political belief man ever created. About all we have in common is an enduring admiration for the men and women of the eighteenth century and the gutty way they took their futures into their own hands. You can read about the battle at Concord all you want, and Lord knows you'll be doing that enough in the next couple of years. But until you actually haul yourself bleary-eyed out of bed at four o'clock in the morning, gather up your musket and canteen, and struggle twelve miles to Concord April 19th, you don't really know what happened. We're all playing, of course, and it isn't real, and nobody's going to shoot back at you. But still, you get a feeling, a hint, a whisper of what it must have been like. And in a nice painless manner, you can learn a lot about the Revolution, and the men who formed it, which you can pass on to your kids in a heartwarmingly superior manner.

The point is, you do pretty much what you want to do, as a member of the Sudbury Cos., Militia & Minute, which is the way it was in 1775 and the way it will be as long as any of us is able to draw breath. We're not sure this is the way the bureaucrats who run parades and reenactments want us to be, because we are, in truth, kind of slovenly-looking, if you look at us through modern DAR-type eyes. But we do know this: the outfits that wear all-alike uniforms have a lot of trouble recruiting fifteen or twenty members, while we muster about three hundred for our march. That's about as many as actually marched in 1775.

So if you'd like to join that long, wavering line, why, we'd love to have you. and no matter how many Rotary Clubs and Kiwanises you belong to, we'll bet the bunch you talk about the most is the Sudbury Cos., Militia & Minute.

After all, does Kiwanis let you -- let you? encourage is more like it -- to march down a public thoroughfare at seven o'clock in the morning, wearing funny clothes and drinking Southern Comfort?