The Continental Army: Washington and the Continental Congress


Formation of a New England army in the first months after Lexington marked the first phase in the military struggle with England, but even as the regional army gathered before Boston, a significant step in the creation of a national force was being taken in Philadelphia. The Continental Congress convened there on 10 May 1775 to resume its coordination of the thirteen colonies' efforts to secure British recognition of American rights. It faced the fact that four colonies were already in a state of war. News arrived a week later that Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold had captured Fort Ticonderoga, an event which expanded the dimensions of the conflict and largely ended hopes of a swift reconciliation with Britain. The Continental Congress reluctantly moved to assume direction of the military effort. Thus far the organization of forces had followed colonial precedents, but to establish an army representing all thirteen colonies. Congress had to break new ground.

Adoption of the Army

The New England delegations immediately tried to secure congressional support for armed opposition to Great Britain. They argued that New England was merely protecting itself from British aggression, and that in so doing it was acting to defend all the colonies. Their goal was the adoption by Congress of the troops at Boston, an action which would both remove the objection that the war was a regional issue and broaden the base of support for the military effort.1

The first step in this direction came on 15 May when James Duane of New York introduced a letter from the New York City Committee of One Hundred. That body, concerned with a rumor that British troops were on their way to the city, requested congressional advice. Congress recommended that the British regulars be left alone as long as they committed no overt actions, but it urged the New Yorkers to prevent the troops from erecting fortifications and to defend themselves if attacked. Congress used

1. Edmund C. Burnett, The Continental Congress (New York: Macmillan Co., 1941), pp. 64-75; Jonathan Gregory Rossie, The Politics of Command in the American Revolution (Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 1975), pp. 2-15; H. James Henderson, Party Politics in the Continental Congress (New York: McGraw-Hill Book Co., 1974), pp. 34-54, 72-89, 102-8.


this occasion also to appoint a committee to consider the general defensive needs of that colony. The committee included Virginia delegate George Washington.2

On the next day Congress formed itself into a Committee of the Whole to "take into consideration the State of America."3 This important parliamentary maneuver reflected the fact that Congress although unsure of its objectives, was absolutely convinced of the importance of presenting an appearance of unanimity to the world. As the Committee of the Whole, the delegates could freely debate in secret and arrive at a consensus without placing any disagreements into the record.4 Congress successfully used this formula for the next month.

The first business brought before the Committee of the Whole was a motion on 16 May by Richard Henry Lee of Virginia that Congress raise an army. The motion received some support from all elements of the political spectrum, but it also faced opposition. The delegates knew of the Massachusetts plan for a regional army, but they assumed that the force at Boston amounted to only nine or ten thousand men. Although no action was taken on Lee's motion at this time, it was clear that there was congressional support for a defensive military posture.5

The impact of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga was evident in the deliberations on 18 May. Information from Ticonderoga now led Congress to assume that the British planned to use troops stationed in Canada against the colonies. Congress instructed the local committees in Albany and New York City to move military supplies to safety and to call on New England for assistance in defending Ticonderoga.6 On the next day the report of the study committee that had been established following Duane's motion was referred to the Committee of the Whole for considerations On 21 May John Adams referred to the fact that many delegates had become convinced that the British were hostile when he wrote to colleagues in Massachusetts, "I can guess that an Army will be posted in New York, and another in Massachusetts, at the Continental Expense."8 Other delegates also expected formal action to confirm "Continental" or "American" armies for Boston and New York.

On 25 May the Committee of the Whole delivered a report on three specific measures to be recommended to New York. Two currently undefended strategic points needed fortification: King's Bridge, which linked Manhattan to the mainland, and the Hudson Highlands, a zone some forty miles above New York City where the Hudson River narrowed between hills. The committee also recommended that the colony's militia be brought to a state of readiness and that the New York Provincial Congress raise up to 3,000 men to serve, under terms similar to those of the men at Boston, until 31 December 1775. They would garrison Ticonderoga and the other posts. Congress unanimously approved these recommendations on 26 May after adding a preamble

2. Worthington C. Ford, ed., Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789, 34 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904-37), 2:49-53 (hereafter cited as JCC); Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:351, 353.
3. JCC, 2:53-54.
4. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:465.
5. Ibid., pp. 351, 356, 366-69.
6. Ibid., pp. 356, 358, 362-63, 369-70; JCC, 2:55-56.
7. JCC, 2:57. On 1 June another committee, established on 27 May (including Washington, Philip Schuyler, and Thomas Mifflin), reported on ways and means to procure arms: ibid., pp. 67, 74.
8. Smith, Letters of Delegates, pp. 364, see also pp. 442-43, 445-46, 464-65.


JOHN ADAMS (1735 - 1826), a delegate to the Continental Congress from Massachusetts, played a key role in establishing the Continental Army and in its early direction, despite his lack of military experience. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1791.)

emphasizing that Congress hoped for reconciliation but had to defend the colonies. Actually, the only debate came over the size of the New York force.9

On 31 May Congress received a report from Benedict Arnold that indicated British forces were massing at St. John's (St. Jean, Quebec) at the northern end of Lake Champlain. Congress asked Connecticut to send troops to help defend Ticonderoga from them. The delegates deliberately left vague the number of men to allow freedom of action to the Connecticut authorities, who were closer to the scene. In actuality, this request amounted to Congressional approval for movement of the 4th Connecticut Regiment (approximately 1,000 men). The delegates felt the need to act swiftly. Connecticut's men were already organized; the New York Provincial Congress, on the other hand, had not yet raised its troops.10

Decisive action came on 14 June when Congress adopted "the American continental army" after reaching a consensus position in the Committee of the Whole. This procedure and the desire for secrecy account for the sparseness of the official journal entries for the day. The record indicates only that Congress undertook to raise ten companies of riflemen, approved an enlistment form for them, and appointed a committee (including Washington and Schuyler) to draft rules and regulations "for the government of the army."11 The delegates' correspondence, diaries, and subsequent actions make it clear that they really did much more. They also accepted responsibility for the existing New England troops and the forces requested for the defense of the various points in New York. The former were believed to total 10,000 men; the latter, both New Yorkers and Connecticut men, another 5,000.12

9. JCC, 2:59-61, 64-66; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:407, 409-10.
10. JCC, 2:73-74; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:422-24, 429-31, 449-50.
11. JCC, 2:89-90; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:488-90, 503-4, 507-8, 515-16, 526-27.
12. JCC, 2:95, 99; Smith, Letters of Delegates, pp. 486-90, 498-500, 502-4, 507-8, 515-16, 519-21, 526-27, 539-40.


OTHO HOLLAND WILLIAMS (1749 - 94) joined the Continental Army in 1775 as a first lieutenant in Price's Maryland Rifle Company and rose to the rank of brigadier general. From 1780 to 1782 he served as deputy adjutant general in the Southern Department. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale completed after the Revolution.)

At least some members of Congress assumed from the beginning that this force would be expanded. That expansion, in the form of increased troop ceilings at Boston, came very rapidly as better information arrived regarding the actual numbers of New England troops. By the third week in June delegates were referring to 15,000 at Boston.13 When on 19 June Congress requested the governments of Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire to forward to Boston "such of the forces as are already embodied, towards their quotas of the troops agreed to be raised by the New England Colonies," it gave a clear indication of its intent to adopt the regional army.14 Discussions the next day indicated that Congress was prepared to support a force at Boston twice the size of the British garrison, and that it was unwilling to order any existing units to be disbanded. By the first week in July delegates were referring to a total at Boston that was edging toward 20,000.15 Maximum strengths for the forces both in Massachusetts and New York were finally established on 21 and 22 July, when solid information was on hand. These were set, respectively, at 22,000 and 5,000 men, a total nearly double that envisioned on 14 June.16

The "expert riflemen" authorized on 14 June were the first units raised directly as Continentals. Congress intended to have the ten companies serve as a light infantry force for the Boston siege. At the same time it symbolically extended military participation beyond New England by allocating 6 of the companies to Pennsylvania, 2 to Maryland, and 2 to Virginia. Each company would have a captain, 3 lieutenants, 4 sergeants, 4 corporals, a drummer (or horn player), and 68 privates. The enlistment period was set at one year, the norm for the earlier Provincials, a period that would expire on 1 July 1776.17

13. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:515-17, 543-44.
14. JCC, 2:99; see also Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:518-22, 539-40.
15. JCC, 2:100-101; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:561 ,569, 585-86.
16. JCC, 2:202, 207; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:662-64.
17. JCC, 2:89-90; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:313-15. On 12 June 1776 the organization of a rifle company was amended to include both a drummer and a fifer: JCC, 5:432.


Responsibility for recruiting the companies was given to the three colonies' delegates, who in turn relied on the county committees of those areas noted for skilled marksmen. The response in Pennsylvania's western and northern frontier counties was so great that on 22 June the colony's quota was increased from six to eight companies, organized as a regiment. On 25 June the Pennsylvania delegates, with authority from the Pennsylvania Assembly, appointed field officers for the regiment. Since there was no staff organization, company officers and volunteers performed the necessary duties. On 11 July delegate George Read secured the adoption of a ninth company that his wife's nephew had organized in Lancaster County. In Virginia Daniel Morgan raised one company in Frederick County, and Hugh Stephenson raised another in Berkeley County. Michael Cresap's and Thomas Price's Maryland companies were both from Frederick County. All thirteen companies were organized during late June and early July. They then raced to Boston, where their frontier attitudes created disciplinary problems.18

Selection of Commanders

The inclusion of troops from outside New England gave a continental flavor to the army at Boston. A desire to broaden the base of support for the war also led John Adams to work for the appointment of a southerner as the commander of "all the continental forces, raised, or to be raised, for the defense of American liberty."19 On 15 June Congress unanimously chose George Washington. Washington had been active in the military planning committees of Congress and by late May had taken to wearing his old uniform. His colleagues believed that his modesty and competence qualified him to adjust to the "Temper & Genius" of the New England troops. Washington was given the rank of General and Commander in Chief.20

Congress clearly respected Washington, for it granted him extensive powers which combined functions of a regular British commander with the military responsibilities of a colonial governor. His instructions on 20 June told him to proceed to Massachusetts, "take charge of the army of the united colonies," and capture or destroy all armed enemies. His was also to prepare and to send to Congress an accurate strength return of that army. On the other hand, instructions to keep the army obedient, diligent, and disciplined were rather vague. The Commander in Chief's right to make strategic and tactical decisions on purely military grounds was limited only by a requirement to listen to the advice of a council of war. Within a set troop maximum, including volunteers, Washington had the right to determine how many men to retain, and he had the power to fill temporarily any vacancies below the rank of colonel. Permanent promotions and appointments were reserved for the colonial governments to make.21

Although sectional politics were involved in Washington's selection, in strictly military terms, he was in fact the best-qualified native American. He had begun his

18. JCC, 2:103-4, 173; Pennsylvania Archives, 9 series (Philadelphia and Harrisburg, 1852-1925), 2d ser., 10:3-43; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:491-92, 598-99, 621-25.
19. JCC, 2:91.
20. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:416-17, 486-99, 507-9, 515-17; Henderson, Party Politics, pp. 53-54; JCC, 2:91-93, 96-97.
21. JCC, 2:92-93, 96-97, 100- 101.


military career in 1752 in the Virginia militia as one of four regional adjutants responsible for training. During the first phase of the French and Indian War, he served with gallantry as Edward Braddock's volunteer aide at the battle of the Monongahela, and later as the commander of Virginia's two Provincial regiments defending the colony's frontiers. In 1758 he commanded a brigade composed of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania units on John Forbes' expedition against Fort Duquesne. Washington was the only American in that war to command so large a force. The experience of these years taught him the importance of discipline, marksmanship, and professional study. Exposure to Forbes' ideas on adapting European tactics to the American wilderness also contributed significantly to his military education. Above all, he came to the conclusion that only unyielding commitment to hard work and attention to administrative detail could keep troops in the field.22

On 16 June, the day after Washington's appointment, Congress authorized a variety of other senior officers for its new army. Details were again settled by the Committee of the Whole. Positions for five major staff officers were established: an Adjutant General, a Commissary of Musters, a Paymaster General, a Commissary General, and a Quartermaster General. These officers were expected to assist the Commander in Chief with the administration of the "grand army." The forces allocated to New York already were considered a separate department and were authorized their own deputy quartermaster general and deputy paymaster general. A military secretary and 3 aides for Washington, a secretary for the separate department, and 6 engineers (3 for each force) completed the staff. Congress also created the ranks of major general and brigadier general. The number of generals remained uncertain for several days as Congress debated. Between 17 and 22 June it finally decided on 4 major generals, each having 2 aides, and 8 brigadier generals. These totals allowed each colony raising troops to have a share of the patronage. Congress then took steps for issuing paper money to finance the army, and on 30 June it adopted the Articles of War.23

Selection of the subordinate generals and senior staff officers led to political maneuvering as delegates sought appointments for favorite sons. On 17 June Congress elected Artemas Ward and Charles Lee as the first and second major generals and Horatio Gates as the Adjutant General. Ward received seniority because he was in command at Boston and because Massachusetts had furnished the largest contingent of troops. Ward was a Harvard graduate with many years of political experience. After two years of active duty as a field officer in the French and Indian War, he had compiled an excellent record as a militia administrator. Lee and Gates were professional English officers in their forties who were living in Virginia on the half-pay (inactive) list. Both had served in the French and Indian War and were associates of politicians in England and America who opposed British policies. Lee had also seen service in Portugal and in the Polish Army. Gates had ended the Seven Years' War as a major in the Caribbean. His appointment as Adjutant General (with the rank of brigadier

22. In addition to the standard biographies, the following works provide key insights into Washington's military background: George Washington, The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, ed. John C. Fitzpatrick, 39 vols. (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1931-44) 1:148-50, 331-36, 466-71, 490-91; 2:6-19, 295-98 (hereafter cited as Fitzpatrick, Writings); Oliver L. Spaulding, Jr., "The Military Studies of George Washington," American Historical Review 29 (1924):675-80.
23. JCC, 2:93-94, 97, 99, 102-4, 106, 111-22; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:503, 509, 518-22, 525-30, 533, 535-36, 539-42, 547-48; Henderson, Party Politics, pp. 53-54.


HORATIO GATES (ca. 1728 - 1806) was a former British officer living in Virginia when selected in 1775 as the first adjutant general As a major general he won glory at Saratoga and suffered humiliation at Camden. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782.)

general) reflected Congress' hope that his staff experience would enable him to provide Washington with strong administrative assistance.24

On 19 June two more major generals were appointed to satisfy other colonies' contributing large troop contingents. Philip Schuyler, a New York delegate with close ties to Washington, was expected to take command of the troops in his colony. A member of one of New York's leading families, the 42-year-old Schuyler had been a major in the French and Indian War, specializing in logistics. His experience, political connections, and extensive business interests in Albany were particularly valuable in his new command. Connecticut's delegation could not agree on a nominee for that colony's major general. In the end Israel Putnam's status as a folk hero outweighed consideration of seniority, and he received the appointment. Putnam, at 57, had seen extensive service in the French and Indian War, rising to the rank of lieutenant colonel. He had also been an early, vocal leader of the Connecticut Sons of Liberty.25

The process of selecting brigadier generals on 22 June was the product of a compromise. Congress allotted these appointments in proportion to the number of men contributed by each colony and followed the recommendations of the colony's delegates in the actual selection. Congress, however, created problems by ignoring seniority and status. When it elected Massachusetts' Seth Pomeroy, William Heath, and

24. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:503-4, 507-8, 529-30, 533, 537; Charles Martyn, The Life of Artemas Ward, the First Commander-in-Chief of the American Revolution (1921; reprint ed., Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1970); John R. Alden, Genera/ Charles Lee, Traitor or Patriot? (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1951); Paul David Nelson, General Horatio Gates: A Biography (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1976).
25. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:442-43, 521-22, 529-30, 535, 539-40, 542-43, 555-56, 626-27; Martin H. Bush, Revolutionary Enigma: A Re-appraisal of General Philip Schuyler of New York (Port Washington, N.Y.: Ira J. Friedman, 1969); Don R. Gerlach, Philip Schuyler and the American Revolution in New York, 1733-1777 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1964); Increase N. Tarbox, Life of Israel Putnam ("Old Put"), Major-General in the Continental Army (1876; reprint ed., Port Washington, N.Y.: Kennikat Press, 1970). Putnam's election was the only unanimous one other than Washington's.


NATHANAEL GREENE (1742 - 86) emerged from a Quaker background to become one of the Continental Army s most brilliant strategists and commander of the Southern Department. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale 1783.)

John Thomas as the first, fourth, and sixth brigadier generals, respectively, Thomas felt he had been slighted. The situation was resolved when Pomeroy declined the appointment, citing age, before Washington handed out the commissions. Congress then made Thomas the first brigadier general, although it did not fill the vacancy created by Pomeroy's withdrawal. Thomas, a surgeon, militiamen, and former Provincial born in 1724, had gained combat experience primarily in medical roles. Heath, thirteen years younger, was strictly a product of the militia.26

Richard Montgomery of New York became the second ranking brigadier general. Born in Ireland in 1738 and educated at Dublin's Trinity College, he had entered the British Army in 1756. After combat service in North America and in the Caribbean, he resigned in 1772 when he failed to receive a promotion to major. He moved to New York, married into the powerful Livingston family, and in 1775 won election to the New York Provincial Congress. Montgomery's appointment was intended to complement Schuyler's logistical and administrative skills with combat experience. David Wooster and Joseph Spencer of Connecticut became the third and fifth brigadier generals. Born in 1711 and educated at Yale, Wooster had served in Connecticut's navy during King George's War. He later commanded a regiment in the French and Indian War. Spencer, three years younger, had also served in both wars. The two men initially refused to serve under Putnam, disputing his seniority, and had to be coaxed into accepting their commissions. Delegate John Sullivan of New Hampshire, a 35-year-old lawyer, became the seventh brigadier general instead of Nathaniel Folsom. Nathanael Greene of Rhode Island completed the list.

In retrospect, the June 1775 decision of the Continental Congress to create the Continental Army seems remarkably free from political strife. Delegates of all shades of opinion supported each step, and arguments largely concerned technical details.

26. JCC, 2:103-4, 191; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:525-30, 542-43, 651-53, 662-64; Rossie, Politics of Command, pp. 16-24; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:465-67; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 3:1107-8.


Unanimity resulted from a conviction that British actions required defensive measures and from carefully worded compromises. Those individuals committed to the ideal of the citizen-soldier saw Congress' adoption of the short-term New England force as an acceptance of a yeoman army. Others, remembering practical lessons of the colonial wars, believed that they were forming an army based on the Provincial model. Officer selection was another area of compromise; the fact that Washington and Schuyler were given blank commissions from Congress to distribute to the regimental officers confirmed local selections while retaining a nominal national level of appointment.27

Washington Takes Command

Washington and Schuyler left Philadelphia on 23 June to take up their new responsibilities. The Commander in Chief reached Cambridge late in the evening on 2 July and formally opened his headquarters the next day. His mission was to tarn the various armed forces assembled around Boston into a unified army. Three major needs required his attention: a tactical and administrative organization above the regimental level; a centralized special staff; and a unified system of discipline. Washington was guided in this work by Congress' general directions and by the model provided by the British Army. Although the troops were still drawn primarily from the five northernmost colonies at the end of 1775, a national control over them was clearly emerging.

Regiments from the different New England colonies arrived at Boston in 1775 in a piecemeal fashion and occupied positions dictated by the terrain and the road network. Washington imposed greater rationality and control by introducing divisions and brigades as echelons between his headquarters and the regiments. He also adapted his organization to the specific geographical conditions and personalities at Boston. On 22 July, after some hesitancy because of problems of rank and precedence and lack of guidance from Congress, Washington assigned his available generals to command three divisions and six brigades.28

Each general defended a sector of the siege lines. The British occupied two peninsulas in Boston harbor connected to the mainland by narrow necks. Ward, with brigades under Thomas and Spencer, guarded the southern, or right, wing opposite Boston Neck. Lee manned the left wing, shutting off Charlestown Peninsula with Sullivan's and Greene's Brigades. The third division remained in the central area of the lines as a reserve force under Washington's close supervision. Putnam commanded Heath's Brigade and the sixth brigade. The latter was under the temporary command of the senior colonel because Pomeroy's vacancy had not been filled. This arrangement was retained throughout the siege. Each brigade, normally six regiments, defended its own sector, while the specialized riflemen and the artillery remained directly under Washington's headquarters.

Congress had begun creating a staff structure on 16 June, but it had filled only one

27. Henderson, Party Politics, pp. 53-54; White, "Standing Armies," pp. 95-97, 109-10, 112, 119; Cress, "The Standing Army, the Militia, and the New Republic," pp. 114-38.
28. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:349, 354-56, 396-97. The printed version of the General Orders for 22 July is incomplete.


BOSTON, JULY 1775. H. Charles McBarron 's modern painting shows Generals Washington and Ward and an aide examining plans of the siege lines. Infantry units in the background illustrate the lack of standard uniforms during this period.

post immediately, appointing Gates as Adjutant General.29 The primacy Congress accorded the post of Adjutant General is evident also in the general officer rank that Gates received. In the British Army the Adjutant General, working closely with the civilian Secretary at War, had responsibility for discipline, compilation of rolls and rosters, and supervision of drills and clothing. The specific model for the Continental Army's Adjutant General, however, was the temporary staff adjutant general that the British appointed for each major expeditionary force. This officer, whose position was relatively new, handled guards, details, paperwork (including the transmission of orders), and the formation of the infantry into the line of battle. A brigade-level officer, the brigade major, assisted him, plus a detail of sergeants who acted as messengers.

Washington let Gates have a free hand in establishing administrative procedures, a task Gates performed efficiently. The difficulties Gates experienced in compiling the first strength returns, a major portion of his job, led to the introduction of printed forms and regularized procedures.30 His authority extended to lower echelons through brigade majors and adjutants. British brigade majors were captains selected by a brigade commander to serve as his link between the expeditionary adjutant general and the regiments. The brigade major also supervised the daily working and guard parties of the brigade. His office was temporary since in the British Army a brigade was a

29. General background on the duties of staff officers is contained in the following: George Smith, An Universal Military Dictionary (London: J. Milan, 1779); S. G. P. Ward, Wellington's Headquarters: A Study of the Administrative Problems in the Peninsula, 1809-1814 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1957), pp. 10-31; Clifford Walton, History of the British Standing Army, AD 1660 to 1700 (London: Harrison and Sons, 1894), pp. 615-29, 637-47.
30. George A. Billias, "Horatio Gates: A Professional Soldier," in George A. Billias, ed., George Washington's Generals (New York: William Morrow and Co., 1964), pp. 82-84; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:318-19, 328, 335; Charles H. Lesser, ed., The Sinews of Independence: Monthly Strength Reports of the Continental Army (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1976), pp. xii-xxviii. RG 93, National Archives, contains weekly returns that were maintained as a separate system from the monthly returns to provide a check on the latter's accuracy.


GENERAL RETURN, MAIN ARMY, 19 JULY 1775. Adj. Gen. Horatio Gates compiled this first strength return of the Continental Army at the siege of Boston. This return established a general format for returns used throughout the war, i.e., a list of units, with a detailed accounting of officers, non-commissioned officers, and privates present or in various duty categories. It normally indicated how many enlisted men each unit still needed to recruit to reach its full authorization. Washington received weekly and monthly returns, which were prepared separately, and special returns. He used these in planning.


transitory formation. The adjutant paralleled the brigade major on the regimental level. In the British Army a junior company officer customarily was assigned this duty in addition to his normal tasks. He assisted the major, who retained nominal responsibility for the regiment's staff work. In the Continental Army both the brigade major and the adjutant initially were modeled after these British precedents but were normally established as separate staff officers. In addition, on 14 September Congress confirmed the New York Provincial Congress' selection of Edward Fleming as deputy adjutant general for the New York Department with the rank of colonel.31

On 27 June Massachusetts had appointed William Henshaw as adjutant general for Ward's troops and Samuel Brewer for its other major concentration of troops commanded by General Thomas. When Washington informed Congress of his command organization on 10 July, Congress assumed correctly that he had established three geographic centers, and it, therefore, authorized three brigade majors. Washington accepted Massachusetts' two adjutants general and Rhode Island's brigade major as de facto brigade majors and requested Congress to authorize three more, one for each of the army's six brigades. When Congress failed to reply, he acted in August on his own authority. He appointed David Henley, John Trumbull, and Richard Cary and confirmed Daniel Box of Rhode Island, Brewer, and Alexander Scammell, who had succeeded Henshaw. As the war continued, Congress normally delegated authority to appoint brigade majors to either the Commander in Chief or the territorial department commanders, who in turn deferred selection of specific individuals to the brigade commanders.32

In the weeks following 16 June Congress and Washington selected the remaining administrative staff, again following British precedents. Their intention was to use the Paymaster General, the disburser of funds, to consolidate Continental control over finances. Two important politicians, James Warren of Massachusetts and Jonathan Trumbull, Jr., of Connecticut, were elected on 27 and 28 July as the Paymaster General and the deputy paymaster general (for the New York Department). At the end of the siege of Boston, Warren declined to move with Washington and the Main Army to New York. Congress replaced him on 27 April 1776 with William Palfrey, a Boston merchant who had been John Hancock's business manager and Charles Lee's aide.33 This staff department would always be relatively small and unimportant. In the British Army, where regiments were the property of their colonels, the Paymaster General served as the channel through which funds were transmitted to the regiment's commercial agent to purchase needed items. Since most of these items were issued directly in the Continental Army, the agent system never developed, and the Paymaster General concentrated particularly on disbursing funds for salaries.

The British Commissary General of Musters (or Mustermaster General) was the

31. JCC, 2:220-23, 249; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:1803; 3:549, 564; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:631; 2:19-20. Fleming was actually a third choice after William Duer and Robert G. Livingston had declined the post.
32. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:581, 783, 1451-52; JCC, 2:190; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:662-64; 2:42; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:320-29, 352-53, 390-99, 425, 427, 456, 461-63; Edmund C. Burnett, ed., Letters of Members of the Continental Congress, 8 vols. (Washington: Carnegie Institution of Washington, 1921-36) 3:262-63; Henshaw, Orderly Book, p. 13.
33. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:346-52; 4:470-73; 5:11-12; JCC, 2:93, 209-12; 4:42-44, 296, 314-16; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:667-68, 682: Henderson. Party Politics, p. 54.


PAY ROLL. Capt. Philip Richard Francis Lee's pay roll for his company of the 3d Virginia Regiment for October 1777 is typical of this type of document. It lists all the company's members, their ranks, that part of the month each actually served, the pay due each, and any casualties or changes which took place during the month. The senior officer present when the roll was submitted had to attest to its accuracy and sign it. Captain Lee raised this company in Prince William County, Virginia, in 1776.


MUSTER ROLL. The monthly muster roll, shown here on two pages, was one of the most important documents kept by the Continental Army. It listed all officers and men in a company: their dates of enlistment, rank, and promotion; their length of enlistment; and the status of each on the day the company was officially inspected by the Mustermaster's Department. The roll was drawn up by the company commander and signed by him and by the inspecting officer. This roll for November 1777 is for Capt. Valentine Peyton's company of the 3d Virginia Regiment. The company was originally raised in 1776 in Fauquier County by Capt. John Ashby.


official watchdog who ensured that regimental commanders actually furnished the men and equipment they claimed payment for. Massachusetts had appointed two mustermasters as early as 6 May 1775. Congress included a Mustermaster General in the first set of staff officers it authorized and delegated the selection to Washington. He chose Stephen Moylan, a wealthy merchant from Philadelphia, one of the earliest volunteers from outside New England. Congress authorized a deputy for the New York Department on 29 July.34

Commanders' personal staffs of aides and military secretaries completed the Army's 1775 administrative structure. Following British precedent, the Commander in Chief and the major general selected these individuals for their personal connections as well as their abilities. The aides acted as messengers; the military secretaries performed most of the correspondence duties. During 1775 Washington's "family," as these individuals on his personal staff were collectively known, consisted of various important young politicians and members of influential families. This talented group included at different times Thomas Mifflin (a Philadelphia merchant and member of the First Continental Congress) and Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania, John Trumbull of Connecticut, and Edmund Randolph, George Baylor, and Robert Hanson Harrison of Virginia.35

British logistical practices divided supervisory responsibilities between a civilian Commissary General of Stores and Provisions, concerned with foodstuffs and the procurement and storage of general supplies, and a military Quartermaster General, responsible for transportation, forage, camps, and the movement of troops. A separate logistical branch handled munitions. When Washington arrived at Boston, he reviewed the supply measures undertaken by the several colonies. He was particularly impressed by the work of Joseph Trumbull of Connecticut, the colony that Washington expected would furnish most of his supplies. On his recommendation, Congress appointed Trumbull Commissary General on 19 July. Washington appointed Thomas Mifflin as Quartermaster General on 14 August. In addition, three days later he appointed Ezekiel Cheever as Commissary of Artillery. He had persuaded Congress to create that office to handle the ordnance branch's special needs. Cheever had performed that role for Massachusetts. Realizing the practical difficulties of consolidating logistics for widely separated armies, Congress created a parallel logistical organization of deputies for Schuyler's forces.36

At this stage of the war Congress largely left the development of the logistical apparatus to the judgment of the local commanders, who relied on British precedents. The most important official in the daily life of the troops was the regimental quartermaster. In the Continental Army his position was elevated from additional duty to permanent status. He was responsible for distributing rations, clothing, and ammunition within the regiment, for assigning quarters, and for pitching camp. A daily duty detail of about six privates, known as the camp color men, assisted him. The Com-

34. JCC, 2:93, 190, 220-23; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:750, 790, 793, 795; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:320-29, 414; Charles Lee, The Lee Papers, 4 vole., New-York Historical Society Collections for 1871-74, 1:199-200.
35. Fitzpatrick, 3:309-11, 342, 352, 354, 368-69, 419, 425-26, 450-54; 4:68; Berthold Fernow, "Washington's Military Family," Magazine of American History 7 (1881):81-87.
36. JCC, 2:93, 190; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:309, 320-29, 378-79, 419, 427-28, 514-15; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:521-22, 529, 632, 641-43, 662-64.


THOMAS MIFFLIN (1744 - 1800), a wealthy Quaker merchant from Philadelphia and member of the First Continental Congress, joined the Army in 1775 as Washington's aide and later served as the quartermaster general and a brigade commander. He broke with Washington in late 1776, and in early 1778 was a leader in the movement to supersede Washington. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale. 1784.

missariat had numerous civilian functionaries. They included such specialists as conductors, storekeepers, clerks, laborers, and skilled craftsmen.37

Medical care drew attention very early in the war. The regimental surgeon and one or two assistants (mates) provided basic care in the Continental and British Armies. Washington, drawing on his French and Indian War experience, bolstered their efforts by trying to convince the soldiers of the importance of sanitation and diet. Congress followed the lead taken by Massachusetts and on 27 July 1775 created a centralized hospital organization and medical supply system. Dr. Benjamin Church, a Massachusetts political leader, was appointed as the first Director General and Chief Physician. In the autumn of that year, Church was revealed as a British spy and was replaced by the noted Dr. John Morgan of Philadelphia. Under Morgan, a major step toward central control was instituted when regimental medical personnel were required to pass competency examinations. Congress gave the New York Department a similar hospital corps under Dr. Samuel Stringer, an Albany politician and Schuyler's personal physician.38

New England, a region with a strong religious tradition, naturally provided for the spiritual as well as physical welfare of its troops. Chaplains had served on all major New England expeditions since the Pequot War of 1637, and the clergy in those colonies had been politically active in the prewar period. In 1775 Connecticut and New Hampshire authorized a chaplain for each regiment, while Rhode Island allowed one

37. For a detailed treatment of the Continental Army's logistical services, see Erna Risch, Supplying Washington's Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1981), and victor L. Johnson, The Administration of the American Commissariat During the Revolutionary War (Philadelphia: university of Pennsylvania, 1941).
38. JCC, 2:209-11, 249; 3:297; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:440-41, 449-50- 4:2-3, 345-46- 5:125-26; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:558-59, 662-64; Philip Cash, Medical Men at the Siege of Boston, April 1775-April 1776: Problems of the Massachusetts and Continental Armies (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1973); Richard L. Blanco, "The Development of British Military Medicine 1793-1814," Military Affairs 38 (1974):4-10.


for its brigade. However, difficulties arose in Massachusetts. On 20 May the colony dropped a plan to provide one chaplain for each regiment and instead accepted the offer of the Congregational synod to provide clergymen on a rotating basis. Congregationalism was the colony's officially supported denomination. Within two weeks this plan was discarded as unworkable, and the colony's generals and field officers selected nine official chaplains. This method of letting the units select chaplains, rather than assigning them, became standard in every colony except the Carolinas and Georgia.39

Regimental organizations also contained an important specialist category whose function was technically not considered a staff one. Companies included a drummer and, in most cases, a fifer as well. Unlike modern musicians, these individuals, who commonly massed behind the regiment during a battle, were concerned with signaling rather than with morale. The eighteenth-century drum produced a sound that could carry several miles, and in groups its pounding was audible over the din of combat. Standard beats regulated the routine of camp life and transmitted orders during battle. Drummers and fifers also administered corporal punishment, maintained the regimental guard room, and assisted the surgeon and quartermaster in evacuating casualties. As early as 1777 these musicians began to carry arms, and their combat functions became more important than their musical skills as the war progressed. In 1776 fife and drum majors were added to the regimental staff as performing musicians responsible for instructing the fifers and drummers.40

Later in the war the "field music" provided by the fifers and drummers was supplemented by that of "bands of music." These were true bands and normally contained up to eight musicians equipped with woodwinds and horns. Unlike European armies, the Continental Army did not hire civilians as bandsmen; instead, it allowed soldiers to perform in a band as an additional duty. The bands, which only a few regiments maintained, were legally the property of the regimental officers who had pooled their funds to purchase instruments and who paid the musicians. Washington had to ask officers' permission to use a band at an unofficial dance or even at a formal Continental Army ceremony.

The type of staff officer that proved most difficult to obtain was the military engineer. Many civilian occupations required skills which could be applied to the Army; merchants, for example, were able to step into various logistical assignments. Military engineering was a highly technical field. American engineers knew a great deal about civil construction and could erect a simple fieldworks, but their skills were not on a par with those of formally trained European military engineers. Congress had authorized Washington and Schuyler each to have one chief engineer and two assistants, but at Boston, Washington had to make do with a handful of men who were at best gifted amateurs: Col. Richard Gridley and Lt. Col. William Burbeck of the Artillery Regiment, Jeduthan Baldwin, and Rufus Putnam. This group created a ring of earthworks which the British chose not to attack, but the engineers could not press a formal siege of the town. Their lack of skill turned operations into a mere blockade, a

39. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:766, 815-16, 876, 1384; Eugene Franklin Williams, "Soldiers of God: Chaplains of the Revolutionary war" (Ph.D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1972).
40. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:181-82; 9:124-27; 11:335-36, 366-67; 14:293-94; Simon Vance Anderson, "American Music During the war of Independence, 1775-178399 (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1965); Raoul F. Camus, Military Music of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976).


fact that strongly influenced Washington's tactical organization, since it dictated trying to lure the British into costly frontal attacks.41

Finally, turning the force at Boston into an army also involved creating special staff officers to maintain disciplined Obedience and internal control were absolute necessities for the linear warfare of the eighteenth century. New England's military and civil law both grew from English roots, but the disciplinary system the New England colonies created for their armies was less draconian than Great Britain's. Massachusetts approved its Articles of War on 5 April 1775. Connecticut and Rhode Island adopted similar versions in May, and New Hampshire implemented Massachusetts' code on 29 June. Derived from British articles in force since 1765, the fifty-three clauses adopted by each colony defined crimes, punishments, and legal procedures. Minor offenses were punishable by summary action of the regimental commander, intermediary crimes were subject to a regimental court-martial, and the most serious were tried at a general court-martial. Most infractions were handled with fines or corporal punishment (up to a maximum of thirty-nine lashes); desertion in combat and betraying the password to the enemy were the only offenses subject to the death penalty.

The Continental Articles of War adopted by Congress on 30 June added sixteen clauses to the basic Massachusetts text. The extra articles covered applicability of the system, administrative forms, pardons, sutlers, and disposition of the personal effects of deceased soldiers. This material, contained in the British articles, had been omitted by the New Englanders. The Continental text was distributed at Boston on 10 August. Following a conference between a congressional committee and Washington's staff, Congress adopted sixteen changes on 7 November, expanding the list of capital crimes. The revision, prompted by the realization that under existing articles treason was not a punishable offense, went into effect on 1 January 1776. Since it also resolved lingering doubts about the legal applicability of the Continental Articles to men enlisted prior to 14 June, Washington now began serious efforts to enforce them.

Although Washington relied heavily on British precedents and the unofficial legal advice of William Tudor, a Harvard graduate who had studied law under John Adams, he recognized the importance of a permanent legal staff to assist him. Congress approved his plan to appoint a judge advocate to advise him and a provost marshal to enforce camp discipline. Tudor was appointed on 30 July as the "Judge Advocate of the Continental Army." His principal function was supervising trials. The general supervision of discipline, however, remained a function of the Adjutant General. William Marony became provost marshal for the Main Army on 10 January 1776. The provost's functions were identical to those of the post in the British Army: maintaining the camp jail and supervising the guards furnished daily by line regiments in rotation. The office suffered from a heavy personnel turnover throughout the war, largely

41. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:340-41; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:767-68, 1436; Lee Papers, 1:199-200; Jeduthan Baldwin, The Revolutionary Journal of Col. Jeduthan Baldwin. /775-1778 ed. Thomas William Baldwin (Bangor De Syrians, 1906), pp. 17-29. The British began formal military engineer training in 1741 with the founding of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.
42. The following discussion is based on: JCC, 2:111-22, 220-23; 3:331-34; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 1:1350-56; 2:564-70, 1145-46, 1180; 3:411-12, 1164; 5th ser., 1:576; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:517, 558-59, 584-85; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:320-29, 346-52, 378, 411; 4:7-13, 22-25, 206-7, 220, 224, 232-33, 527; Robert Harm Berlin, "The Administration of Military Justice in the Continental Army During the American Revolution, 1775-1783" (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Santa Barbara, 1976); Maurer Maurer, "Military Justice Under General Washington," Military Affairs 28 (1964):8-16.


because the provost was required also to serve as executioner. Washington normally selected a sergeant and conferred on him the temporary rank of captain.

By mid-October 1775 Washington had made great progress in organizing, staffing, and disciplining his army, although his correspondence indicates that he still was not satisfied. The Main Army actually exceeded the 22,000 men Congress had agreed to support.43 In addition to the artillery, the riflemen, and a handful of separate companies, it included 27 infantry regiments from Massachusetts, 5 from Connecticut, and 3 each from New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Although each colony's units had different authorized strengths, all the regiments were at least 90 percent full on paper except for 11 from Massachusetts. Of the latter, 8 were between 80 and 90 percent complete, and 3 were below 80 percent. The individual regiments in the army averaged 474 rank and file total, ranging between 364 and 816. The total infantry rank and file strength of the Main Army was 19,497. There were also 690 drummers and fifers, 1,298 sergeants, 934 company officers, 163 regimental staff officers, and 94 field officers. Of the total rank and file strength, nearly 2,500 were sick, 750 were on furlough, and 2,400 were detached on various duties.

Four of the six brigades each contained approximately 2,400 men in combat strength. Sullivan's Brigade was slightly larger with 2,700 men. The largest brigade was Spencer's (3,200) because it contained two of the large Connecticut regiments and several separate companies. The relative strengths of the divisions reflected their defensive responsibilities. Ward's had the most men (5,600), and Lee's was only 400 smaller. The reserve division under Putnam was the smallest (4,800), while the 700 riflemen remained outside the divisional alignment.

This total force was substantial. Equipped with a staff organization and a disciplinary system, it was grouped in a tactical arrangement which suited its location and mission. On the other hand, the British had not tested it in battle. Washington finished 1775 unsure of the combat potential of his army and eager to resolve some of the remaining issues relating to its internal organization.

The War Spreads to Canada

Congressional control was not limited to Washington's main army in eastern Massachusetts. The American seizure of Fort Ticonderoga on 10 May 1775 had played an important role in persuading Congress to take military action, but the irregulars who had taken the fort under the leadership of Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain Boys and Benedict Arnold, a Connecticut volunteer acting under a Massachusetts commission, quickly melted away. The fort and its valuable cannon required more security than the Albany County (New York) Committee of Correspondence could provide with

43. General Return, Main Army, 17 Oct 75; RG 93, National Archives. Interpretation of Continental Army strength returns requires an understanding of the categories used by the staff. Officers and noncommissioned officers were counted if present in camp but not if on detached duties. More complete information was furnished for rank and file (privates and corporals). Sick were classified as either "present" (with their unit) or "absent" (in hospital or on convalescent leave). The category "on command" included all men on detached duty, either in the immediate vicinity of camp or at a distance. A true picture of the combat strength of a unit would include not only the rank and file "fit for duty" but also a significant percentage of those on command (men who could he recalled on short notice) and those of the sick who were present (men capable of bearing arms in a defensive situation). Officers in company grades and sergeants also were part of the combat force. A variation of this return is printed in Lesser, Sinews, pp. 8-9.


the handful of volunteer companies at its disposal. Congress stepped in when it not only directed New York to raise 3,000 troops but also assumed responsibility for the 4th Connecticut Regiment sent to protect the area from British counterattack.

Washington and Schuyler, commander of the troops in New York, discussed plans on their trip north from Philadelphia. Washington gave his instructions to Schuyler on 25 June when they parted company at New York City. The Commander in Chief emphasized organization and the importance of creating a logistical apparatus. He also told his subordinate to follow any instructions that came directly from Congress. On 20 July Congress formalized Schuyler's territorial department as one of the basic command elements of the Continental Army when it instructed Schuyler: "to dispose of and employ all the troops in the New York department in such manner as he may think best for the protection and defense of these colonies, . . . subject to future orders of the commander in chief."44 Schuyler's little army in the New York Department (known for most of the war as the Northern Department) contained the 4th Connecticut Regiment, the 1st and 5th Connecticut Regiments near New York City, and the planned force of 3,000 New Yorkers. His subordinate generals, Montgomery and Wooster, reflected the two-colony origin of his command.45

The New York Provincial Congress, for a variety of reasons, did not approve a plan for organizing and recruiting its quota until 27 June. The selection of officers took another three days. The four regiments it fielded fell between the extremes of the New England regiments in size. (See Chart 1.) Each contained ten companies; a company included 3 officers and 72 enlisted men. The companies were apportioned among the various counties, whose committees of correspondence supervised recruiting. This apportionment gave the regiments a geographical basis, and their numerical designations reflected the militia precedence of the counties which furnished the bulk of the men in a particular regiment.46

Alexander McDougall commanded the 1st New York Regiment, which was raised in New York City. He had no military experience but was a leader in the city of the Sons of Liberty. A substantial proportion of his officers had backgrounds either in the French and Indian War or in the city's elite volunteer militia battalion. The 2d Regiment was assigned to the northern portion of the colony and to Albany, the other urban area in the colony. Its commander, Col. Goose Van Schaick, was the son of a former mayor, and many of the other officers also came from the Dutch segment of the population. The 3d and 4th Regiments divided the rest of the colony, roughly along the line of the Hudson River. James Clinton, a militant leader in Ulster County, commanded the 3d. James Holmes and Philip Van Cortlandt, more conservative leaders from Westchester and Dutchess Counties, respectively, became colonel and lieutenant colonel of the 4th. The officers of each regiment represented the prevailing political sentiments of their portion of the colony. The recently established Committee of Safety also decided to form an artillery company, and on 17 June it appointed John

44. JCC, 2:194.
45. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:302-4; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:1667-68. Schuyler's first monthly report to Washington, dated 15 July, includes the department's first return, dated 1 July.
46. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:1259, 1267, 1275, 1280, 1314-28, 1334-35, 1719-20, 1796; 3:23-25, 525, 532, 1268-69; James Sullivan and Alexander C. Flick, eds., Minutes of the Albany Committee of Correspondence, 1775-1778, 2 vols. (Albany: University of the State of New York, 1923-25), 1:120-21, 140-42.


Lamb, another New York City Son of Liberty, as its commander. Raised in the city, the company was organized on the same pattern as the companies of artillery at Boston.47

The Continental Congress authorized the formation of a special unit in Schuyler's army as a reward for Ethan Allen's role in the seizure of Ticonderoga. His Green Mountain Boys were a quasi-independent group in the area known as the Hampshire Grants (today's Vermont). Congress recognized that they possessed special skills in wilderness fighting, but it also knew that they were fiercely independent. It, therefore, instructed Schuyler and the New York Provincial Congress, which deferred to Schuyler, to allow Allen's men to organize seven companies and to elect their own officers. They were formed into a regiment with the same company structure and terms of enlistment that the New Yorkers had, but they were commanded by a lieutenant colonel rather than a colonel. To Allen's disgust, his men elected Seth Warner, a veteran of Rogers' Rangers of the French and Indian War, to the command.48

Schuyler, following congressional instructions, launched an invasion of Canada on 31 August. Montgomery received the primary tactical responsibility for the offensive. Governor Guy Carleton attempted to halt the Americans at St. John's, but Montgomery drove him back toward Quebec City before winter weather restricted American movements. The regiments of Schuyler's army were supplemented during this offensive by French-Canadians and by three companies of rangers commanded by Maj. Timothy Bedel. New Hampshire had raised these companies as state troops during the summer to guard the Connecticut River valley; on Washington's advice, the colony had offered them to Schuyler when it had become clear that the region was not in immediate danger.49

Washington launched a second invasion directly from Boston. This maneuver not only complicated Carleton's defensive problems but also enabled Washington to send reinforcements to Montgomery by the most direct route. On 11 September he gave Benedict Arnold, who had returned to Boston, command of a special force of 1,100 men drawn from the main army. Three rifle companies (Daniel Morgan's from Virginia and Mathew Smith's and William Hendricks' from the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment) and two provisional five-company infantry battalions of New Englanders reached the banks of the St. Lawrence River on 9 November after an epic trek through the wilderness of Maine. Lacking the strength to attack the city of Quebec alone, Arnold had to wait for Montgomery, who had paused at Montreal to regroup his disease-riddled ranks. The two forces linked outside Quebec on I December. Although Montgomery was able to persuade some of his troops to extend their enlistments beyond 31 December 1775, many more indicated that they would leave for home at the start of the new year. Carleton could not be bluffed into surrendering, and Lamb's field guns

47. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:1140, 1791, 1811-13; 3:445, 563; Historical Magazine, 1st ser., 7 (1863):194-95; Roger J. Champagne, Alexander McDougall and the American Revolution in New York (Schenectady: New York State American Revolution Bicentennial commission, 1975), pp. 90-95; Isaac Q. Leake, Memoir of the Life and Times of Genera/ John Lamb (Albany: Munsell, 1850). Rich insight into the creation of these first New York units comes from the papers of McDougall and Lamb; both collections are in the New-York Historical Society.
48. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:1339; 3:529-30, 570-71, 1268-69; JCC, 2:105; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:541.
49. JCC, 2:109-10; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:655-57, 1183, 1767; 3:60, 697, 779; Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:65-68, 71-72; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:370-71, 436-39.


MARINUS WILLETT (1740 - 1830) was a veteran of the French and Indian War, the New York City volunteer militia, and the Sons of Liberty when he became a captain in the 1st New York Regiment in 1775. He rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel and led the New York State troops from 1781 to war's end. (Portrait by John Trumbull, 1808).

were ineffective against the city's walls. Deciding to gamble on storming the works, Montgomery made his attempt on the night of 30-31 December under cover of a snowstorm. He was killed, and the attack was repulsed. A wounded Arnold, with only a handful of men, continued to blockade the city as 1776 began.


By the end of 1775 control over the war had passed from the individual northern colonies to the Continental Congress. Acting as a national government, that body had appointed general officers, had initiated the development of staff and disciplinary systems, had accepted financial responsibility for existing units, had authorized the creation of other units, and had formed two major operational commands under two of its members. Unanimously chosen as Commander in Chief, Washington took charge of the main army, which was penning the British into Boston. Philip Schuyler accepted responsibility for the smaller force that was created to defend New York but which was then employed in a preemptive invasion of Canada.

Various conditions prevented Congress and Washington from imposing a fully rational arrangement during the first months of the war. They had to accept existing military forces and react to the flow of events. More importantly, any action which Congress took had to be supported by delegates representing every shade of political opinion. The rhetoric of protest against British policy had strongly denied the need for a large "standing army" of regular soldiers in America on the grounds that the colonial militia forces, composed of virtuous citizen-soldiers, were perfectly adequate for local defense. The outbreak of hostilities in Massachusetts did not change this attitude. Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill only seemed to confirm the validity of that assumption.

To secure a broad base of support, Congress carefully stressed that it was acting only out of self-defense. The modest size of the forces at its command and the short pe-


riod of enlistment directly reflected the American opposition to the notion of a standing army. These features also stemmed from American experiences in raising troops during earlier colonial wars. In 1775 the American units resembled the Provincials of the French and Indian War, which had been raised for a specific term to counter a clearly identified enemy regular force. Since most of the Continental forces had been raised and organized by the governing bodies of the individual colonies, assisted by local committees of correspondence or safety, they were ideologically viable because they could still be considered responsible to "the people." Indeed, except for the rifle companies, the men technically remained enlisted in the service of the various colonial governments which had turned the units over to Congress.

The first Continental officers, like the officers who had commanded the Provincials, were drawn from the leaders of individual communities. They were products of the militia system, chosen for their experience, for their ability to raise men, and especially for their political reliability. That these leaders mirrored the socio-political elites of their respective colonies is not surprising. American society in the eighteenth, century was "deferential." Leadership in every sphere of life was entrusted to men of merit and wealth on the grounds that they had the greatest stake in society. In return, the leaders, according to this theory, were obligated to seine society to the best of their abilities.

Despite the various factors involved in their selection, the senior officers of the Continental Army turned out to have a remarkable amount of practical military experience, largely gained as captains and field officers during the French and Indian War. This experience was comparable to that of their opponents. In 1775 few of the junior officers in the British regiments in America had ever heard a shot fired in combat, and most of the senior officers had little combat experience beyond the lower field grades. The Continental commanders had an advantage in their more flexible approach to the art of war. Aware that they had much to learn, they tended to approach problems with a less rigid attitude. In effect, they "grew into their jobs."

Washington, in cooperation with Congress, worked during 1775 to impose unity and cohesion on the several armies he found at Boston. His task was made somewhat easier by the relative homogeneity of the New England colonies and by their long tradition of military cooperation. He made progress in creating a functional staff. Brigades, divisions, and separate territorial departments would form the pattern of Continental Army command organization throughout the war; all three echelons emerged in 1775. At the end of the year he was concerned particularly to continue fostering a sense of common identity and to standardize regimental organization. He also now turned to the task of reenlisting his soldiers directly under Continental auspices and reorganizing them into a genuinely Continental institution.

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