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Chapter Thirty-Nine. Militia, guerrilla warfare, tactics, and weaponry

Mark V. Kwasny

Subject History » Military History

Place Northern America » United States of America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405116749.2003.00042.x


Guerrilla warfare, known as partisan warfare or petite guerre in the eighteenth century, was an important characteristic of the American Revolutionary War. Generals and statesmen deliberately used it in pursuit of their war aims, but even without this push from the top, local militia forces and Amerindians all engaged in guerrilla activities from the start. Forces ranging in size from a dozen to over 1,000 fought each other in a series of brutal encounters using mostly muskets, rifles, sabers, axes, and knives. These partisan fighters fought for their homes, their families, and their very survival, in a fashion that guerrilla warriors in the twentieth century would easily recognize. The first clashes initiated this guerrilla warfare. The Massachusetts militia mobilized in April 1775 to resist the march of the hated British Army through the countryside, while in the South, local Whig militiamen rallied to suppress the Tories by defeating them at Moore's Creek on February 27, 1776. Lord Dunmore, royal governor of Virginia, launched raids in 1775 against Whig plantations, tried to get the Ohio Amerindians to attack the Virginia frontiers, and offered freedom to enslaved Blacks to enlist in his Loyal Ethiopians. British policy quickly incorporated the native warriors along the frontiers. In the South, the British encouraged the Cherokee to attack, while to the north, agents working ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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