During the colonial days, Minutemen were a small hand-picked elite force of citizen soldiers who were required to be highly mobile and able to assemble quickly. Minutemen were selected from militia muster rolls by their commanding officers. Typically 25 years of age or younger, they were chosen for their enthusiasm, political reliability, and physical strength. The Minutemen were the first armed militia to arrive or await a battle.
Most Colonial militia units were provided neither arms nor uniforms and had to equip themselves. Many simply wore their own farmers' or workmans' clothes, while others had buckskin hunting outfits. Some added Indian-style touches to intimidate the enemy, even including war-paint. Most used fowling pieces, hunting muskets, and rifles, which did not have bayonets. The colonial government did, however try to arm the minutemen with military quality muskets that were locally manufactured that used prepared paper cartridges instead of loose balls and powder horns and also used bayonets.
The title "minutemen" was formally adopted the year before the American Revolution started. At that time, in October of 1774, the Provincial Congress of Massachusetts voted to enroll 12,000 men under the title of Minutemen—volunteers who would be ready at a minute's warning to take the field with arms.
After the Continental Congress authorized an Army under the command of George Washington, minutemen units eventually ceased to exist. Following the American independence, the authors of the Constitution empowered Congress to "provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining the militia," thus creating the National Guard. Today, the National Guard of the United States is a joint reserve component of the United States Army and the United States Air Force. In 1903, important national defense legislation increased the role of the National Guard as a Reserve force for the U.S. Army. In World War I, the National Guard made up 40% of the U.S. combat divisions in France: in World War II, National Guard units were among the first to deploy overseas and the first to fight. The Guard stood on the frontiers of freedom during the Cold War; during the Vietnam War, almost 23,000 were called up for a year of active duty; some 8,700 were deployed to Vietnam. Over 75,000 were called upon to help bring a swift end to Desert Storm in 1991.
Today, the United States Reserve Forces Component includes both the U.S. Army Reserve and the Army National Guard. They have seen the nature of their Federal mission change, with more frequent call ups in response to crises in Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. They have also been called up since September 11, 2001 to provide security at home and combat terrorism abroad. They both, however, maintain their status as "citizen soldiers" by sacrificing time with both family and employment to maintain the high combat standards of our active military. Tens of thousands of these citizen soldiers now serve around the globe in harm's way continuing the honorable tradition of their forefathers of the 1700s.
The modern day minutemen and women of the Reserve Forces Component, who today continue the historic mission of their predecessors, are providing men and women trained and equipped to protect life and property in our homeland while also defending the United States and it's interests all over the world.