(Images courtesy of MA State Archives)
Soldiers in Colonial and Revolutionary America took several distinct forms. Minute Man National Historical Park describes the best known - the minute men - and how they were different from the militia. The latter was originally meant to defend the British colonies. Later, as a result of revolution, the rebelling colonies would form a separate organization known as the Continental Army. (See Timeline.)
When searching for military records, namely of the revolutionary period in America, one place to experience is the State Archives of Massachusetts, where they have microfilm of the Massachusetts Muster and Pay Rolls. The original manuscripts are difficult to read, and contain records according to time period, therefore it is infinitely easier to find military records through the index, which is alphabetical. The image at the right is copied from microfilm of the index page featuring Prince Estabrook. It mentions he is from the Lexington Militia commanded by Capt. John Parker, his rank is Private, and he is being paid for his participation in a detachment reported on command at Cambridge from July 17 to July 18, 1775 by order of the Committee of Safety. It tells us the original record can be found on page 59 of volume 13.
The next image on the right is what page 59 of volume 13 looks like on microfilm. Very little of it is legible, but a magnified look reveals the first heading "Mens Names", where Prince Estabrook appears to be listed fifth from bottom. There is also a signature in the right margin that is very dark, but is possibly that of "John Parker."
Another source of Revolutionary military records is a publication known as "Massachusetts Soldiers and Sailors." It is a compilation from the archives published in 1896 by the Secretary of the Commonwealth, and specifically notes that "all names are given exactly as they appear on the original records"...and the "arrangement of facts" are given "as nearly as possible."
Here is a related lesson from our third-grade curriculum for use in classroom instruction:
To see our third- and fifth-grade curricula in their entirety, visit the educator resources page of our website.Lesson 19h