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The Culpeper Minutemen was a militia group formed in 1775 in the district around Culpeper, Virginia. Like the minutemen across the British colonies, the men were drilled in military tactics and trained to respond to emergencies "at a minute's notice."
The Culpeper minutemen fought alongside the American patriots during first year of the American Revolution, and are remembered for their company flag. The flag was a white banner showcasing a rattlesnake, featuring the phrases "Liberty or Death" and "Don't Tread on Me".
In October 1775, the minutemen were sent to Hampton in response to the British naval ships attempting to land there. The riflemen were able to effectively shoot the men manning the ships, cannons, and the fleet eventually sailed away.
They next fought in the Battle of Great Bridge in December 1775. The battle was a total American victory. There were accounts of the battle that suggested the British were unnerved by the reputation of the frontiersmen.
The Culpeper Minutemen disbanded in January 1776 under orders from the Committee of Safety. Many of the minutemen continued to serve. Some joined the continental line, and others fought under Daniel Morgan.
Famous members of the Culpeper Minutemen include John Marshall, the fourth Chief Justice of the United States.
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The History of the Culpeper
Minute Men Battalion
At the Virginia convention held May 1775, in Richmond, the Colony of Virginia was divided into 16 districts and each district instructed to raise and discipline a battalion of men "to march at a minute's notice."
Culpeper, Fauquier and Orange counties, forming one district, raised a cadre of 350 men, 150 men from Culpeper, 100 from Orange and 100 from Fauquier, called the Culpeper Minute Men. Organized 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 strenous supporters of liberty, The Methodists went into another, according to the wishes of the Committee of Safety which recommended that the different religious denominations each organize companies of their own kind.)
They adopted uniforms consisting of hunting shirts of strong, brown lines, dyed with an extract of the leaves of trees (probably the broad of oak leaves). 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." The Minute Men took part in the Battle of Great Bridge, the first Revolutionary battle on Virginia soil.
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.
Several original Culpeper Minute Men were sufferers at Valley Forge.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
John Stuart Mill (1806 - 1873)