About the 6th Middlesex County Regiment
The 6th Middlesex County Regiment was organized in the fall of 1999, a recreation of a north Middlesex County regiment from the revolutionary war period. Historically, the 6th Middlesex Regiment was composed of militia companies from several northern Middlesex county towns. This recreated regiment, like the original, is comprised of Middlesex county Minute and Militia companies organized as a single, larger regiment. Currently the regiment is comprised from the companies of Billerica, Carlisle, Chelmsford, Dunstable, Pepperell, Townsend and Westford, as well as individuals from the surrounding area.
The 6th Middlesex is a highly active organization participating in a wide variety of events, from musters, battle reenactments, encampments, demonstrations, and local sporting events, to the more traditional parades, memorial and 911 ceremonies. We endeavor to be as historically accurate as possible while bringing to life our local revolutionary period history to the enthrallment of local citizens, and visitors from all over the world.
Like many colonial militia companies in New England, the 6th Middlesex roots go back to the earliest settlement days (1600’s) of the local towns and villages. In the pursuit of game and other wild animals, the early settlers of Massachusetts became familiar with the use of powder, ball and musket, and even the boys were skilled marksmen. As early as the Spring of 1645, the General Court ordered that all youths between the ages of ten and sixteen years of age, should be instructed by competent soldiers in the exercise of arms, such as small guns, half pikes, and bows and arrows, provided their parents were willing.
The frequent attacks of the Indians kept the men schooled in the arts of war, and the trials of one campaign fitted them for the duties of the next. Many of the officers who served during the Revolution, received the rudiments of their military education in the French and Indian War; and the experience there gained, stood them in good stead.
According to Massachusetts colonial law, all able-bodied men between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to keep a serviceable firearm and serve in a part-time citizen army called the militia. Their duty was to defend the colony against her enemies; chiefly the Indians and the French. The colonial militia sometimes fought side by side with British soldiers, particularly during the last French and Indian War in the 1750's and early 60's.
Minute Men were different from the militia. While service in the militia was required by law, minute men were volunteers. The minute men trained far more frequently than the militia, with two to three times per week common. Because of this serious commitment of time, they were typically paid one shilling. The Militia only trained once every few months (on average) and were paid only if they were called out beyond their town, or formed part of an expedition. Minute Men were expected to keep their arms and equipment with them at all times, and in the event of an alarm, and be ready to march at a minute's warning - hence they were called "minute men."
Records indicate that in December of 1636 a North Militia regiment was formed, which was later designated as the Middlesex regiment, and then in 1680 become the 1st and 2nd Middlesex regiments, and was comprised of towns in the southern and northern parts of Middlesex. The 2nd Middlesex was made up of militia companies from Concord, Sudbury, Marlborough, Chelmsford, Billerica, Groton, Lancaster, and Dunstable. By 1762 the 6th Middlesex had emerged from this group and was made up of at least 2 companies led by Col. Bulkley.
The concept of Minute Men and Committees of Safety were dictated by the Massachusetts Provincial Congress. Dunstable’s representatives recorded the following: By the action of the first Provincial Congress, which in October 1774, created a committee of safety, and provided that a fourth part of the enrolled militia be “minute men” be held in readiness for immediate service, it became apparent that a collision between America and British forces was pending, and Dunstable, with patriotic resolution, hastened to make preparations to assist as far as possible in the common cause of freedom.
On March 1st, 1775 the following pledge evinces the patriotic spirit of people in the very commencement of the tremendous struggle:
"We the subscribers taking into our consideration the present difficulty, do hereby voluntarily engage with each other in the defense of our country, Priveledges and Libertys for the space of six months from this date; that we will submit ourselves to the Laws equally the same as if they were in full force representing out officers that now are, or hereafter may be chosen in all Military Duty."
- Dunstable, March 1st, 1775
Edward Butterfield, Nathaniel Holden, Lemuel Perham, George Bishop, Ebenezer French, Jonathan Bancroft, John Chaney, Ruben Lewis, John Cumings, John French, Zebedee Kendall, John Farrar, John Marsh, John Cockle, Samuel Roby, Eleazer French, Philip Butterfield, Jeralmeel Colburn, William French, Jonathan Sherwin, John Manning, Jacob Davis, Jesse Butterfield, Hezekiah Kendall, Henry Sheppard, William Glenne, Jonathan Woodward, and Thomas Trowbridge
(Taken from the History of the Town of Dunsable by Elias Nason, page 112) Note – Spelling is as recorded.
Bancroft & The British
In the predawn hours on April 19th, 1775 when the alarm was received that the British Regulars were marching to Concord to seize cannon, weapons, and powder, the local militia responded. Members of the 6th Middlsex regiment marched to Concord as part of their local militia company (Westford, Groton, Dunstable). Ebenezer Bancroft played a very important part in Dunstable and American History from 1755 thru 1781. Ebenezer Bancroft, who fought in the French and Indian Wars, and attained the rank of Lt in the Massachusetts Provincial guard, helped Captain Butterfield with the men but was not enrolled as part of the original 28 men.
At the breaking out of the Revolutionary War, the military spirit, again seized him and his words follow:
"While I was in the Provincial Army, orders came that all commissioned officers should take the oath of allegiance, I took that oath and it had such influence over me that in the commencement of the troubles with Great Britten, I was unwilling to take an active part in the military movements, but as soon as the news and actions of Lexington reached me, I hastened to the spot, and the sight of my fellow citizens dead on the field, and in my mind absolved me from my oath. I was then ready to engage heart and hand. I overtook the British at West Cambridge and made such use of my gun that it was said I lessened their number."
- Ebenezer Bancroft
On May 19th he was commissioned as Captain and served throughout the war attaining the rank of LT. Colonel and retired in 1781 (taken from The Tyngsboro VIA Feb 1937).
His history epitomizes the internal struggle many American experienced during the Revolution.
Many members of the 6th Middlesex returned home late that day, only serving the one day. Some, served several days, joining the growing thousands of minutemen camped outside of Boston.
In the ensuing months militia companies continue to converge on Boston and the siege of British troops trapped in the city. The newly formed Continental Congress formally approved the formation of a Continental army to be commanded by General George Washington. Local militia companies expanded in response to the outbreak of the revolutionary war. The 2d Middlesex Regiment expanded 19 February 1776 into the 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Middlesex Regiments and additionally formed a number of Continental Army units.
The 6th Middlesex, also known as Reed’s Regiment of Militia, was called up on September 27, 1777 as reinforcements for the Continental Army during the Saratoga Campaign. This regiment marched quickly to join the gathering forces of General Horatio Gates as he faced British General John Burgoyne in northern New York. The regiment served in General Briskett’s brigade of Massachusetts militia. With the surrender of Burgoyne’s army on October 17, the regiment was disbanded on November 9, 1777.
The 3d, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th Middlesex Regiments reorganized 29 November 1785 as the 2d Brigade, 3d Division.