The Citizen-Soldier Reconsidered: Technology, the Militia, and the Black Boys Uprising of 1765

Clark H Summers, Salve Regina University


This dissertation argues that a significant factor contributing to the successes of the American colonial militia against British regulars during the American Revolution was technological: the fusion of adaptive hybrid tactics acquired through contact with the Indians, combined with the superior accuracy and range of the Pennsylvania rifle. Each of these two technologies represent a unique and singular advance, however each by itself did not provide the advantages necessary for American militiamen to achieve tactical parity with British professional soldiers. The fluid maneuver and non-linear aspects of adaptive hybrid tactics were not sufficient to counter the shock effects of British regimental linear infantry tactics absent the long range accuracy and stand-off distances made possible by rifles. Likewise, the significant improvements of the Pennsylvania rifle over contemporary smoothbore muskets in range and accuracy were negated by its unsuitability for conventional infantry tactics. Only when both the technologies of adaptive hybrid tactics and the Pennsylvania rifle were combined would they provide a means for American militiamen to reach tactical parity. The original research presented here focuses on the experience of the Pennsylvania militia formations established and evolving over the course of the French and Indian War, and during the subsequent years of Pontiac’s War, from 1754 to 1765. In particular, the “Black Boys Uprising” of 1765 in the Conococheague Region of Pennsylvania serves as the index case, the first time American militiamen successfully defeated British regulars by employing adaptive hybrid tactics combined with accurate long-range rifle fires. This event demonstrates the means by which American militia might achieve tactical parity with British regulars.

Subject Area

American history|Philosophy of Science|Military history

Recommended Citation

Summers, Clark H, "The Citizen-Soldier Reconsidered: Technology, the Militia, and the Black Boys Uprising of 1765" (2018). Doctoral Dissertations. AAI10982011.