The men in the wilderness are Montag's way station-a point of rest between 2 halves of his journey. They become his surrogate family, offering his more acceptance than he's ever known. After Montag's escape, he comes across the group of men outside the city. Granger gives him a drink that changes the chemistry of his perspiration, he can elude the Mechanical Hound. They also watch the televised pursuit of
Montag, which puzzles him, because the man they are chasing is not him. He watches his own supposed capture on the viewer, and is horrified that an innocent man died so that the Government could say they captured him.
Granger then introduces Montag to a number of the book people and explains to him how they keep the books alive by memorizing books or parts of them in order to preserve them for posterity. In fact, he introduces the men according to which book they've memorized. By using this oral tradition, the book people feel the content will not be lost, even if all the books are burned. At this point, war breaks out and the city is annihilated.
My suggestion for historical precedence would be the underground railroad. Members of this society offered food and shelter for those escaping slavery until they passed on to the next point. The escapees would spend one or two nights at each point, slowly making their way north through the country. The "railroad" itself stretched from the Deep South into Canada. We have something very similar here. The men offer Montag food and shelter before he passes on to his next destination. In one way, Montag is escaping slavery too. They also teach him the importance of keeping the books in their minds, and the skills he'll need to survive on his own. They become merely one stop for him on his journey.