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Why  the  "Minutemen"  ?


In tribute to the brave men of Culpeper, Orange, and Fauquier counties who helped establish our lasting heritage of Freedom and the identity we all share today


The Minute Battalion of
Culpeper County, Virginia
1775 - 1776

Left to Right: Private Man, Officer in Captain Taliaferro's Company, Private Man, Officer in Captain Wm. Pickett's Company

Military Uniforms in America Plate No. 259
Copyright 1973 by Company of Military Historians

Provided to Culpepper Connections! by Chip Culpepper who received it from Gene Norris Culpepper.

     At the Virginia convention held May 1775, in Richmond, Patrick Henry and the Committee of Safety ordered the formation of two regular regiments within the colony and the formation of militia companies in 16 districts within the Virginia colony.  Each district was instructed to raise and discipline the equivalent of a battalion of men "to march at a minute's notice." The Culpeper District was to raise the largest battalion and consisted of 10 companies of “minute men” and one company of riflemen. Culpeper, Fauquier and Orange counties, forming a single district, raised a cadre of 350 men, 150 men from Culpeper, 100 from Orange and 100 from Fauquier, and called themselves the “Culpeper Minute Men”. They were officially organized on July 17, 1775, under a large oak tree in "Clayton's old field" (later known as Catalpa Farm). The Committee of Safety commissioned Lawrence Taliafero, of Orange, to be the Colonel; Edward Stevens, of Culpeper, to be the Lieutenant Colonel; and Thomas Marshall of Fauquier to be the Major of this Battalion. They also commissioned ten Captains for the Companies which were to make up the Battalion, among them were: John Jamieson, then Clerk of Culpeper County and a member of the Committee of Safety; Philip Clayton; James Slaughter; George Slaughter; and Capt. McClanahan, a Baptist minister, who regularly preached to his troops (it was the custom then to put all the Baptists in one Company, for they were among the most strenuous supporters of liberty). The Methodists went into another company, according to the wishes of the Committee of Safety which recommended that the different religious denominations each organize companies of their own kind.)

     The drums of war have been sounding for months now. In the colony of Massachusetts the citizens had been in open rebellion since spring and they had sent their militia north into Canada. In Virginia there was open conflict with Lord Dunmore and the British troops stationed in the colony. The men were eager to rid the colony of the British. The biggest problem was a lack of arms. Many were armed only with their hunting weapon and few cannon were available. September, 1775 was spent in learning the rudiments of formations, marching etc. In October 1775, the minutemen were sent to Hampton in response to British ships attempting to land. In early October they made ready to move toward Williamsburg and arrived on the outskirts of that town on Oct. 20. Initially they were met with some trepidation on the part of the local citizenry as they thought their appearance to be nearer that of savages than an army. However after learning that the tomahawks and knives they carried were for use against the British and not the townspeople, they were welcomed. The pub keepers were especially happy to have them in their midst. Their respite in the area did not last long as they received word that Lord Dunmore had ordered his troops and the British naval forces under the command of a Capt. Squire to begin raids of the towns along the James River. On October 24, the Committee of Safety placed the 2nd Virginia Regiment, commanded by Colonel William Woodford, on alert and also attached five companies from the Culpeper Minute Men Battalion to Woodford's command. One of Squire's ships was driven aground near Hampton during a storm and a part of its crew was captured by the local citizenry. They removed such goods and arms as they could, set fire to the ship and later released the captured seamen.The night of the 25th Squire landed some men in the Hampton area and they set about looting a number of homes. The evening of the 26th brought word to Williamsburg of the events at Hampton. The Committee of Safety ordered Woodford and the 2nd Virginia together with the riflemen company of the Culpeper Minute Men Battalion to Hampton. The riflemen were commanded by Capt. Abraham Buford. They traveled all night in a driving rain and arrived at Hampton about 8 of the clock in the morning. Woodford left the men in a church so that they might dry themselves and he rode to the riverfront to see what lay before them. He found the British ships in line in the James and soon the cannonading began. Woodford came back and moved the troops down into homes and other buildings which provided them cover. Here they held the advantage even though they lacked cannon. They were concealed and well protected and being expert riflemen were able to pick off the British sailors as they tried to stand to their cannon. The British were in an untenable position so Squire's ordered his flotilla to withdraw. As they were attempting to withdraw one of the ships drifted shoreward and was captured by the riflemen. The riflemen were able to effectively shoot the men manning the ships cannons, and the fleet eventually sailed away. Following this action Buford's company rejoined the battalion at Williamsburg and Green's company of riflemen continued repelling any attempts by the British to again land on our soil.



    The “Culpeper Minute Men” adopted uniforms consisted of linen hunting shirts of strong, brown lines, dyed green with an extract of the leaves of trees (probably the broad oak tree leaves). They carried tomahawks and knives as well as their muskets and powder horns. On the breast of each shirt was worked in large white letters the words: "LIBERTY OR DEATH." (A wag of the times said that this was too severe for him, but that he would enlist if they could change the motto to "Liberty or be Crippled."


   Their flag had a rattlesnake with 13 rattles, coiled in the center, read to strike. Underneath it were the words: "DON'T TREAD ON ME." On either side were the words: "LIBERTY OR DEATH." And at the top "THE CULPEPER MINUTE MEN." In October 1775, the minutemen were sent to Hampton in response to British ships attempting to land. The riflemen were able to effectively shoot the men manning the ships cannons, and the fleet eventually sailed away.

    The Minute Men also took part in the Battle of Great Bridge, the first Revolutionary battle on Virginia soil. The battle was a complete American victory. There were accounts of the battle that suggested the British were unnerved by the reputation of the frontiersmen.

     No sooner were they formed than the companies of Culpeper Minute Men were absorbed into regiments of the Continental Line, and by Act of Assembly in October 1776, they were dissolved and merged into the militia. Some joined the continental line, and others fought under Daniel Morgan. Several original Culpeper Minute Men were sufferers at Valley Forge.

      John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States, was a member of the original Culpeper Minutemen. 

     In 1860 the Culpeper Minutemen were reorganized under the rattlesnake flag. The company's staff was organized under the same oak tree where the Minutemen of 1775 were formed. When war came the men were mustered in under Co. B, 13th Infantry. Other Culpeper companies organized for Confederate service were the Little Fork Rangers and Brandy Rifles. A great deal of action took place in the county during the war, and several battles - notably Cedar Mountain and Brandy Station - and many engagements were fought on Culpeper soil. Both armies marched through, fought, and camped in the county repeatedly during the four-year struggle. During the winter of 1863-64, Grant's Army of 100,000 men camped within its borders.

     The Culpeper Minutemen were again mustered into service for the Spanish-American War but did not see active duty.



     In World War I the Minutemen Company lost its identity as it was absorbed in the 116th Infantry, 29th Division.

Grateful Thanks to “Culpeper Connections !”, “Sons of the American Revolution”, Jim Bayne (Virginia Society, Sons of the American Revolution), and “Wikipedia” as sources for the above combined history