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George Washington’s “Go To” Militia Unit

The Indispensables: The Diverse Soldier-Mariners Who Shaped the Country, Formed the Navy, and Rowed Washington Across the Delaware by Patrick K. O'Donnell

The subtitle “The diverse soldier-mariners who shaped the country, formed the Navy, and rowed Washington across the Delaware” summarizes well - except it fails to tell us that this is the story of one militia unit from a small fishing town: Marblehead Mass.

The unit is followed from pre-war Marblehead where shared experiences contributed to unit cohesion, thru the war years, and to post-war issues. The unit had rich, poor, young, mature, white, black and Native American soldiers. Using maritime skills, they built and crewed our first ocean going ships. They also completed evacuation of the entire army across the East River at Hell’s Gate and later attacked Trenton after a surprise winter crossing of the Delaware River. On land, they participated from early raids in Salem and Portsmouth, then at Lexington and Concord, New York, and thru the horrid winters at Valley Forge and Morristown to the end of the war. The unit’s doctor headed Washington’s mandated vaccination of the army for smallpox.

Much emphasis is placed on unit cohesion based on shared hometown, maritime background, and links of family and marriage. Meticulously researched stories of individual unit members support the story. Beyond the unit’s soldiers, the effects of war on the soldier’s families back in Marblehead - the home front - during and after the war are carefully covered. This story broadens perspective in terms of the economic and social diversity of the people who gave us our country - fighters and their families.

Though well researched, the writing is fresh and engaging. Enjoy!

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