The 5 Most Famous Militias in US History

The recent arrest of the Hutaree militia have brought a classic US tradition back into the limelight. Militias, which helped us win independence during the Revolutionary War, are as American as apple pie. Militias have tripled in number since 2008, making them especially relevant today. To acknowledge the American militia in its multiple forms, we’ve gathered a list of the most famous (and notorious) ones.

Revolutionary War Militias

Lacking a central command, the US army during the Revolutionary War was actually comprised of colonial militias. Most mlitiamen at the time were ill-equipped, poorly trained, and badly organized. Perhaps the most famous militia leader was George Washington, the Virginia militia general who went on to lead the newly formed Continental Army and eventually the entire country. The Minutemen, of which Paul Revere was a member, are another famous Revolutionary War militia. Wonder what those elite fighters would think of today’s Minutemen?


The Minuteman Project calls itself an activist organization, but its members have enough guns and violent tendencies to earn it a spot on this list. The Minutemen, who are vehemently against immigration, have a weekend warrior tendency of setting up camp at US-Mexican border areas, where they serve as a self-styled vigilante border patrol. Armed with binoculars and rifles–and often sitting in lawn chairs–the Minutemen task themselves with catching illegal immigrants and turning them over to the US border patrol. While the Minutemen haven’t managed to stop immigration, they have cultivated quite a reputation in both the US and Mexico.

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Ku Klux Klan

You’re a disgruntled, racist Confederate army veteran with a heart full of hatred and too much time at night. What to do? Round up 100 of your best buddies and go on a vigilante mission to restore white supremacy in the South, of course. In 1865, that’s just what a group of Tennessee vets did, resulting in the Klan we know today. Klansmen murdered and assaulted people of color right up to 2006. They remain active throughout the South today.

Symbionese Liberation Army

In the early 1970s, prison escapee Donald DeFreeze and radical feminist Patricia Soltysik formed the Symbionese Liberation Army (SLA), the left-wing extremist group best known for kidnapping Patty Hearst. During its 2-year lifetime, the SLA was responsible for two murders, one kidnapping (Hearst), and two bank robberies. Ironically, the mildest of the SLA offences—a botched shoplifting incident—led to a shootout that killed the group’s leaders and heralded its ultimate decline.

The Hutaree Militia

These rural Michiganders earned their place in history by plotting to attack police officers, then getting nabbed by the FBI. Their logic went something like this: The Antichrist is coming. We’ll defend ourselves by undergoing paramilitary training and gathering arms. Our “defense” protocol will also include triggering a larger uprising against the US government. We will start by attacking cops.

But the Hutarees’ creative integration of anti-government and Antichrist never took off. Now that they’re being charged with trying to start a war with the US, they might need a new anti-lawyer strategy.

Written by Drea Knufken

Drea Knufken

Currently, I create and execute content- and PR strategies for clients, including thought leadership and messaging. I also ghostwrite and produce press releases, white papers, case studies and other collateral.