An Army for the War: 1777


Most Continental enlistments expired on 31 December 1776. Congress and Washington hoped to avoid a recurrence of the problems of the previous winter by beginning their preparations for reorganizing the Continental Army during the early fall of 1776. Profiting from that earlier experience, they not only started sooner but also retained the idea of developing plans in conferences between Congress and military leaders. The reorganization was applied to troops from every colony through the first comprehensive legislation to rationalize the ad hoc growth of the previous year. The central factor in the new plan was the nearly unanimous decision to recruit for the duration of the war rather than for a single year as in the past. Congress approved the proposals in September and modified them somewhat during the winter to adjust to changes that had occurred during the final phases of the 1776 campaign. Other modifications in Army organization came in 1777 when the Main Army gained its first experience in a war of maneuver rather than in a strict defense of fixed positions. The battles of 1777 would reveal the strengths and weaknesses of this planning effort.

The Eighty-Eight Battalion Resolve

The decisions made in Congress during September and early October 1776 determined the basic size and nature of the Continental Army for the rest of the war. Although delegates of various political persuasions agreed on the general outline of the new policy, there was extensive disagreement on details. The proposals first adopted by Congress settled the size of the Army, its apportionment among the several states, the conditions of enlistment, and the compensation for officers and men. Congress also approved amendments to the Articles of War.

Americans adamantly opposed long enlistments during the first year and a half of the Revolution. In addition to citing the precedent of the Provincials' one-year enlistments, politicians affirmed the ideal of a militia of citizen-soldiers rather than a standing army. Attitudes began to change during the summer of 1776, and even John Adams conceded that the newly independent nation needed "a regular Army, and the most masterly Discipline, because. . Without these We cannot reasonably hope to be a powerful, a prosperous, or a free People."1 During the summer a number of new units were raised for three years' service. The lessons of the defeats in New York accelerated this change. By the fall delegates were in universal agreement that British and Ger-

1. Burnett, Letters, 2:61.


man regulars could be opposed successfully on the battlefield only by a large body of trained and disciplined continentals.2

Once this agreement had been reached, Congress on 2 September 1776 directed the Board of War to draft a comprehensive plan. The board submitted its proposals on 9 September, and Congress devoted the next week to debates and amendments, settling details relating to enlistments, bounties, and state quotas. On 16 September it adopted the amended plan. Known as the eighty-eight battalion resolve, it called for eighty-eight regiments organized according to the structure approved in 1776. Congress' estimates of the population of each state governed its allocation of regiments. (Table 4) Quotas ranged from fifteen regiments each from Massachusetts and Virginia, to single regiments from Delaware and Georgia, the smallest states. Congress intended to retain existing regiments through reenlistment and to add additional ones only in cases where a state's quota exceeded its actual regiments. It approved cash bonuses and liberal postwar land grants to make enlisting for the duration of the war more attractive. Congress continued to commission all officers while allowing individual states to actually name the officers up to and including colonels. The states were expected to provide the arms, clothing, and other equipment for their respective regiments; they could withhold part of the men's pay to cover the cost of uniforms.3

Congress anticipated that the longer enlistment would increase discipline and training in the Army. No longer would there be a wholesale reorganization each winter. On 20 September Congress also modified the Articles of War. Washington had decided during the summer that the existing Articles did not sufficiently deter misbehavior, and in late July he had sent Judge Advocate William Tudor to Philadelphia to discuss a revision. Tudor and a congressional committee which included some of the finest legal minds in America produced the draft that Congress adopted. It expanded the number of articles to seventy-six, inserting material from the British Articles that had been omitted in earlier versions. The central changes added to the list of capital crimes and increased the maximum corporal punishment from 39 to 100 lashes. This version remained in effect for the rest of the war. Accompanying legislation commissioned Tudor as a lieutenant colonel and authorized deputy judge advocates to assist him in dealing with mounting casework.4

Before Washington learned of these September resolutions, he wrote a letter to Congress on 24 September requesting immediate action to reorganize the Army for the new year and improve discipline. His eloquent appeal overcame lingering objections and raised other issues. In particular, he asked Congress to increase the pay for officers and to furnish free uniforms to the men. Congress increased officers' salaries on 7 October and approved annual uniform allowances the next day.5

2. Ibid., 1:319, 360-61, 505-6; 2:44-45, 57, 78-79, 98-100, 106-7; Henderson, Party Politics, pp., 1025; White, "Standing Armies," pp. 128-35, 143-44; Cress, "The Standing Army, the Militia, and the New Republic," pp. 138-43.
3. JCC, 5:729, 747, 749, 751, 756-57, 762-63; Burnett, Letters, 2:82-83, 88-89, 95-100, 102, 105-7. The system conformed to procedures laid down in the Articles of Confederation, although that document did not go into effect until 1781.
4. JCC, 5:788-807; 7:265-66; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 1:576; Burnett, Letters, 2:54-57; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:194-95; 6:91-92, 125, 147, 151. The copying was so extensive that courts-martial transcripts were required to be sent to the Secretary at War, an office which did not exist in the United States until 1781.
5. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:106-16; JCC, 5:853-56.



State Estimated 1775 Pop-ulation (in thousands)a Infantry Regiment Quota
16 Sep 1776
Actual Infantry Regiments Raised Under Quota Additional Regiments (Infantry) Extra Regiments (Infantry) Artillery Regiments Light Dragoon Regiments Total
New Hampshire 100 3 3 b 0 0 0 3
Massachusetts 350 15 15 3 0 1 0 19
Rhode Island 58 2 2 1/2c 0 0 0 2 1/2
Connecticut 200 8 8 1 1/2d 0 1/2e 1 11
New York 200 4 5 1/2f 0 1/2e 0 6
New Jersey 130 4 4 2 0 0 0 6
Pennsylvania 300 12 139 2 1/2h 1/2i 1 1 18
Delaware 30 1 1 0 0 0 0 1
Maryland 250 8 7 0 1j 0 0 8
Virginia 400 15 15 3 0 1 2 21
North Carolina 200 9 9 1 0 0 0 10
South Carolina 200 6 5 0 0 1k 0 6
Georgia 25 1 5 0 0 0 0 5
Other 0 0 0 0 31 0 0 3
Total 2,443 88 92 14 41/2 5 4 119 1/2

a Evarts B. Greene and Virginia D. Harrington, American Population Before the Federal Census of  1790 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1935), p. 7.
b Scammell's Regiment planned but not raised.
c Half of Sherburne's raised; Cornell's planned but not raised.
d Webb's and half of Sherburne's.
e Lamb's raised half in New York and half in Connecticut.
f Half of Malcolm's.
g State Regiment subsequently 13th Pennsylvania Regiment.
h Includes half of Malcolm's.
i Half of German Battalion.
j Half of German Battalion; the remaining half of Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment.
k 4th South Carolina Regiment remained artillery.
l 1st and 2d Canadian Regiments and Warner's Regiment.


Washington wanted Congress to complete the reorganization before winter. At his urging, Congress requested the states to send legislative committees to Washington's headquarters and to Ticonderoga to discuss the retention of highly qualified officers. At the same time, Washington ordered the generals to compile by state lists of officers worthy of promotion or retention. When the liaison committees did not appear promptly, Congress on 4 November gave Washington and Schuyler the power to act on behalf of those states which had not yet sent committees. November also brought news that Massachusetts had promised to supplement the pay of its enlisted men and that other states were considering a similar course. Washington strongly opposed this trend. He warned that in the long run it would unbalance recruiting and foster jealousy. Congress agreed to forbid the practice on 12 November, but to overcome the reluctance of many men to enlist for an indefinite period, it allowed individuals to enlist for a fixed period of three years instead of for the duration of the war.6

6. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:152-56, 186-90, 200-201, 271-73, 289-90; JCC, 5:854-56; 6:920-21, 944-45; Burnett, Letters, 2:115-16, 139-41, 143-44, 154-59.

Trenton and Princeton

In the early fall of 1776, Washington and Congress assumed that operations were about to halt for the winter. The regiments would then have ample opportunity to regroup, reenlist their men, recruit, and complete preliminary training. When General Howe continued his offensive around New York City into early December, he upset those calculations. Washington's Main Army experimented with a new internal organization, won smashing triumphs at Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey, and incorporated the lessons of this first real experience with a fluid battlefield situation into its basic tactical philosophy.

During the brief lull after the inconclusive battle of White Plains on 28 October 1776, Washington divided his Main Army to guard against several possible courses of action by General Howe. Maj. Gen. Charles Lee remained in Westchester County with a corps to prevent an invasion of Connecticut. Washington personally led another corps into New Jersey to bar the route to Philadelphia. A third, smaller force under Maj. Gen. William Heath moved into garrison in the Hudson Highlands to preserve the lines of communication in that strategic area. Howe's capture of Fort Washington before it could be evacuated, however, not only deprived Washington of its large garrison but also unhinged his dispositions. Lt. Gen. Charles, Earl Cornwallis, quickly drove a wedge between Washington and the other American elements and forced the continentals to withdraw across the Delaware River. Howe ended the campaign on 14 December and ordered his army into winter quarters.

Howe assigned Trenton, one of his most advanced outposts, to Col. Johann Gottlieb Rall's reinforced Hessian brigade. Rall's regiments were among the best German auxiliary forces, but they were worn out, seriously short of officers, and handicapped by a cumbersome regimental organization. (Chart 6) Hesse-Cassel had modeled its army after Prussia's, giving each infantry regiment two 5-company battalions plus a grenadier company. The British had altered that formation before the regiments left Europe. The grenadier companies were detached to form 4-company grenadier battalions, and each regiment was divided into two single-battalion regiments. The new regiment was still large, but it had a small number of officers. It contained 5 companies for administrative purposes but fought in 8 platoons. Before it could fight, it required time to regroup into platoons. At Trenton the Hessians were billeted by company.7

Washington regrouped his forces behind the Delaware River. Units partially reequipped themselves with supplies brought forward from Philadelphia. Volunteers (associators) turned out from the Pennsylvania militia, and on 20 December Continental reinforcements arrived from the north. A British cavalry patrol captured Lee on 13 December, but Maj. Gen. John Sullivan took command of Lee's three brigades and marched them around the British to join Washington. As soon as Generals Schuyler and Gates learned of the fall of Fort Washington, they sent all the troops they could spare from Ticonderoga to bolster the Commander in Chief. Four regi-

7. Carl Leopold Baurmeister, Revolution in America: Confidential Letters and Journals, 1776-1784, of Adjutant General Major Baurmeister of the Hessian Forces, ed. Bernard A. Uhlendorf (New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 1957), pp. 6-17, 72-79; Ernst Kipping, Die Truppen von Hessian-Kassel in Amerikanischen Unabhangigkeitsirieg. 1776-1783 (Darmstadt: Wehr und Wissen Verlagsgesellchaft M. B. H., 1965), pp. 27-28; British Headquarters Papers, No. 10 (copy of treaty between Britain and Hesse-Cassel, 15 Jan 76).

Chart 6- Hesse-Cassel Infantry Regiment 1776

ments under Brig. Gen. Arthur St. Clair proceeded directly to Pennsylvania; three others diverted to Morristown, New Jersey, to threaten the British flank.8

Heath's division, at Washington's specific orders, remained in the Hudson Highlands to protect critically important ferries and distract the British garrison in New York City. As early as 8 November 1775 Congress had recognized that the Highlands region was the only area between New York City and Albany where the Hudson River could be blocked to warships. The commandant of the fortifications—at first a colonel but later a brigadier general—had been the senior Continental officer in the region during most of 1776. Heath's assignment transformed the Highlands into a de facto territorial department, a status which its strategic importance preserved for the rest of the war.9

8. Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:302; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:1125, 1260; Gates Orderly Book (Gates' General Orders for 5-18 Nov 76); Gates Papers (Gates to Schuyler, 30 Sep 76; to Ward, 9 Nov 76; to Hancock, 27 Nov 76; to Col Joseph Vose, 8 Dec 76; to Washington, 12 Dec 76; Robert H. Harrison to Gates, 26 Nov 76; Schuyler to Gates, 26 Nov 76; St. Clair to Gates, 27 Nov 76; Heath to Gates, 14 Dec 76); Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:414-16, 419.
9. JCC, 3:337-38; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:10-11, 123, 138-39, 317-19, 340-41, 435-56; 6:242-45, 257-58, 284-87; 16:150-54; Robert K. Wright, Jr., "Too Little, Too Late: The Campaign of 1777 in the Hudson Highlands" (Master's thesis, College of William and Mary, 1971), pp. 30-40.


GENERAL RETURN, MAIN ARMY, 22 DECEMBER 1776. This return of Washington's troops in eastern Pennsylvania became the basic document for evaluating the Army's ability to counterattack at Trenton, New Jersey, four days later. The 1776 version differs from the 1775 return because the later form now groups individual regiments into tactical brigades. This change was the major innovation of the Trenton and Princeton campaign. Returns in subsequent years normally listed only brigades and separate regiments.


GEORGE BAYLOR (1752-84) served as Washington's aide and was selected to carry dispatches to Congress announcing the Trenton victory. Baylor received command of the new 3d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment as a reward. (Miniature attributed to Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1778.)

Washington knew that ending the year on a positive note would encourage recruiting. He also wanted to regain control of New Jersey. After exploring the possibilities and ordering the harassment of British garrisons, he decided to strike Trenton. His plan for a night attack was tailored to his available forces. The task of sealing the town off to prevent reinforcement or escape went to militia supported by a single Continental brigade. The actual assault was carried out by his other seven Continental brigades using coordinated columns. Washington shifted from the regiment to the brigade as the basic combat element for this counterattack because attrition had eroded the effective strength of most of his regiments to dangerously low levels. An additional innovation was that an artillery company directly supported each brigade.

A return of 22 December 1776 indicates that the infantry strength of the actual attack force—the seven brigades less detachments—totaled 33 field officers, 412 company officers, 368 sergeants, and 5,820 rank and file. These figures do not include St. Clair's four regiments, which did not submit a return.10 Only two of the brigades contained substantially more than the official strength of a regiment. On the other hand, the ratio of officers and sergeants to rank and file was higher than usual, and the artillery company added materially to the firepower of each brigade, particularly in adverse weather. At Trenton, and at Princeton a week later, Washington's brigade commanders used both of these factors to advantage. Improved control paid particular dividends as brigades executed complex maneuvers at night and adjusted to rapidly changing battlefield conditions. Washington's army destroyed Rall's brigade at Trenton, severely mauled a detached British brigade at Princeton, and maneuvered the British out of all but a small toehold in New Jersey.

Thus in the space of little more than a week, Washington's small, veteran cadre shattered two enemy brigades and recovered most of New Jersey. In destroying the German auxiliaries' aura of invincibility as well, he robbed Howe of a major psychological advantage. Morale was generally restored. Washington spent the next several


months digesting the lessons of this brief campaign, with its introduction to the techniques of mobile warfare. He rewarded those subordinates who had performed well under pressure with his trust, and he concluded that the campaign had demonstrated the value of a brigade composed of several infantry regiments and an artillery company. Hereafter it became the basic element of the Main Army.

Rounding Out the Army

The retreat through New Jersey had made Washington acutely aware of Howe's numerical strength and specifically his advantage in artillery and cavalry.10 In a series of letters to Congress during December 1776, the Commander in Chief pressed for more men. Additional infantry regiments, more artillery, and a force of cavalry headed his list of needs. Congress, impressed by the December crisis, acted upon those requests within a month. As a result, the Continental Army of 1777 became a more balanced force than that envisioned on 16 September. Washington would be able to organize the Army into elements capable of competing with the British in open battle.

Washington's generals concurred with him in requesting additional strength. Central to the Army's position was a recommendation to increase the infantry battalions from the 88 called for in September to a minimum of 110. Henry Knox had submitted a plan to raise 5 artillery regiments to support the full Army. Washington transmitted the plan to Congress with a recommendation that 3 regiments of artillery would be sufficient for the Main Army and the other forces in the northern half of the country. He also favored promoting Knox to brigadier general. In addition, the Commander in Chief asked for several new staff officers, a force of cavalry, and one brigadier general for every three infantry regiments and one major general for every three brigades. He asked Congress also to confirm preliminary steps he had taken during the retreat through New Jersey to raise additional infantry companies and to accept New York's offer to raise a fifth regiment.11

Congress' response was slowed when the delegates fled from Philadelphia to Baltimore. It finally acted on Washington's requests on 27 December. It elected Knox brigadier general of artillery, directed Washington to establish the additional staff offices he required, and delegated to the Commander in Chief a number of emergency powers. It also ordered him to prepare a comprehensive system for promotions; Congress specified that officers should rise by seniority both within a regiment to the rank of captain and within a state's "line" through field officer grades. A state's line consisted of its quota of infantry regiments established in September. The most important element of the 27 December action, however, was contained in the following resolution:

Congress, having maturely considered the present crisis; and having perfect reliance on the wisdom, vigour, and uprightness of General Washington, do, hereby, Resolve, That General Washington shall be, and he is hereby, vested with full, ample, and complete powers to raise and collect together, in the most speedy and effectual manner, from any or all of these United 10. RG 93, National Archives (Return of the Forces...on the Banks of Delaware, 22 Dec 76). John Chester's regiment in Paul Dudley Sargent's brigade did not participate in the attack. Lesser prints a version of this return hut incorrectly identifies some of the units, Sinews, p. 43.
11. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:332-33, 350-51, 379-84, 400-409; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3: 310-14.
States, 16 battalions of infantry, in addition to those already voted by Congress; to appoint officers for the said battalions; to raise, officer, and equip three thousand light horse; three regiments of artillery, and a corps of engineers, and to establish their pay. . 12 Unlike the September regiments, the "sixteen additional regiments," the artillery regiments, and the light horse were organized directly by Continental authority rather than by the authority of the state governments and were placed completely under Washington's control. The resolution gave Washington the requested 110 regiments, for in addition to the 16 new regiments and the 88 units of the September quotas, there were 6 regiments raised by Congress the previous summer which were not explicitly tied to a single state. Actually, only 3 of these 6 regiments retained a distinct character as "extras" after the winter: Warner's (largely from the Vermont area) and the 1st and 2d Canadian Regiments. The other 3 actually were counted against state quotas. Dubois' Regiment, a predominantly New York unit, passed into that state's reorganized line when the quota was increased to five regiments. Maryland counted its portions of the German Battalion and the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment as the eighth regiment of its line quota.13

Washington had expected Congress to accept any men raised in excess of the September quotas, and he had begun to recruit even before he learned of the new resolve. On 21 December he told Brig. Gen. William Maxwell to ask competent officers omitted from New Jersey's reorganization to recruit at least fifty men. Washington promised to make them captains with power to select their own subalterns, subject only to his final confirmation. He made the same offer on 24 December to Col. Samuel Griffin, formerly of the Flying Camp. By this time Washington had concluded that the state legislatures were retaining infantry officers on political grounds rather than on military merit. This practice and New England's reduced 1777 quotas under the September reorganization were depriving the Army of many competent leaders. The new legislation offered a way to overcome both problems, and as he settled into quarters at Morristown in January, he began organizing the new regiments. He assumed that Congress wanted them apportioned geographically, and he acted accordingly. (See Table 4.)14

Seven additional regiments were planned for New England. Henry Jackson was selected to command a regiment from Boston, which previously had not fielded a unit. Jackson had a reputation as a military expert, and he drew key officers from the town's Independent Company of Cadets. A second regiment was given to William Lee, the lieutenant colonel of the 14th Continental Regiment. The 14th had declined to reenlist as a unit under the 1777 reorganization, but sufficient members remained to justify using it as the cadre for another additional regiment from Massachusetts. Deputy Adjutant General David Henley, who earlier had served as the brigade major of Heath's Brigade, was given a third Massachusetts regiment as a reward for excellent staff service during the 1776 campaign. Washington expected Henley to be successful in recruiting because of his numerous contacts. Massachusetts' subsequent problems in filling its line quota of infantry regiments and its assigned artillery regi-

12. JCC, 6:1040, 1043-46. A companion piece of legislation directed a liaison committee, left in Philadelphia when Congress departed, to establish a magazine and ammunition laboratory (factory) at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A state's line was an administrative device rather than a tactical entity.
13. Samuel Adams, Writings, 3:342-46; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:138.
14. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:415-16, 429-30; 7:417-19.


meet, however, forced Washington to give the additional regiments from that state a low recruiting priority, and they remained at Boston during the 1777 campaign.15

The other four New England additional regiments suffered problems as well. Ezekiel Cornell of Rhode Island, another deputy adjutant general and a former lieutenant colonel of the 11th Continental Regiment, turned down Washington's offer of a regiment to command the brigade of state troops that Rhode Island raised in 1777. Alexander Scammell, Sullivan's protege and also a deputy adjutant general, declined a regiment to accept command of the 3d New Hampshire Regiment. No further efforts were made to raise either of these regiments. Greater success came in Connecticut. Samuel Blatchley Webb, one of Washington's aides, made substantial progress in raising a regiment there once he received support from the state government. Connecticut and Rhode Island jointly furnished the base for the last regiment; Henry Sherburne of the latter state received the command in recognition of his gallantry at The Cedars. Although the regiment took the field in 1777, it was never able to organize all its companies.16

The state affiliation of the five additional regiments Washington allocated to the middle portion of the country was less clear. In contrast to New England, where he had a large body of former continentals, in the middle states, Washington had to draw officers from veterans of the previous summer's militia forces. Col. William Malcolm, who had commanded a New York City militia regiment for most of 1776, was given one regiment. Brig. Gen. George Clinton and his brigade major, Albert Pawling (who became the new regiment's major), raised four of its companies in New York. Brig. Gen. John Armstrong organized the other four companies in Pennsylvania. The regiment did not assemble as a unit until October. Two veteran New Jersey militia leaders, David Forman and Oliver Spencer, raised regiments with cadres from New Jersey. In building his regiment, Forman made use of preliminary work done by Col. Samuel Griffin, who had turned down the command because he expected to become a general.17

The other two regiments were based primarily in Pennsylvania, although recruits came from neighboring areas as well. Following the recommendation of Richard Henry Lee, Washington gave one command to Thomas Hartley, the lieutenant colonel of the 6th Pennsylvania Battalion. Like most commanders of additional regiments, Hartley had a wide latitude in selecting his junior officers. Acting Adjutant General Morgan Connor (the major of the 1st Continental Regiment) became Hartley's lieutenant colonel when James Wilkinson, a Northern Department staff officer, declined. John Patton, who had commanded a battalion of the Pennsylvania State Rifle Regiment with distinction during operations around New York, received command of the other regiment, with Assistant Quartermaster General John Parke and Brigade Major Peter Scull as field officers.18

Washington was sensitive to criticism that implied he favored his native south, and he was circumspect in commissioning additional officers from that region. Georgia and the Carolinas, lying outside the sphere of his immediate command, did not appear at all. He also excused Maryland from a direct role in the regiments because of

15. Ibid., 6:433, 499-500; 7:86-87,136-40,165-66.
16. Ibid., 6:499, 505-6; 7:11,132-33.
17. Ibid., 6:476, 494; 7:33-34,93,191,389; 9:364,461.
18. Ibid., 6:490, 493, 498-99; 7:60n, 374-75; JCC, 12:1225-26.


DAVID FORMAN (1745-?) of New Jersey organized Forman's Additional Continental Regiment in 1777 after demonstrating skill as a militia commander in the 1776 campaign around New York City. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1784.)

its responsibilities for the rifle regiment and the German Battalion. Washington initially allotted only two regiments to Virginia. Both commands went to close associates: William Grayson, one of Washington's aides, and the noted frontiersman Nathaniel Gist. Grayson recruited in northern Virginia and in nearby Maryland, where his future brother-in-law, Brig. Gen. William Smallwood, had great influence. Gist's was a special light infantry regiment. He was to raise four companies on the southern frontier as rangers and then enlist up to 500 Cherokees and other southern Indians to serve with the regiment as scouts. Their presence was intended also to ensure their tribes' good behavior. Washington reluctantly added a third Virginia regiment two months later. Lord Stirling had grouped three volunteer Virginia companies into a provisional battalion under Capt. Charles Mynn Thruston, a powerful political leader in the Shenandoah Valley. When they performed well in northern New Jersey, Washington told Thurston to recruit a regiment in the northwestern part of the state, but Thurston had little success in filling his unity

Because of serious recruiting problems, Washington attempted to raise only 15 of the 16 approved regiments, and 2 of those were stillborn when their colonels declined the commands. Although some of the additional regiments were quite successful, none could compete equally with the regiments organized under the September 1776 state quotas. On 17 June 1777 Congress approved North Carolina's offer to raise another regiment under Col. Abraham Sheppard. At least 300 of its men were required to report to Washington within a reasonable period, but this sixteenth additional regiment was absorbed within a year during a reorganization of the weak North Carolina line.20

The three artillery regiments authorized by Congress on 27 December, like the sixteen additionals, represented an expansion requested by Washington rather than a new departure. The September quotas had not mentioned artillery, and Washington

19. Ibid., 6:491-92, 494-96; 7:6-7, 11-12, 102, 201-2, 229, 295-97, 307-8.
20. Steuben Papers (Scammell to Frederick Steuben, 25 Sep 79); JCC, 8:475.


presumably was free to use one or two of the eighty-eight regiments for that purpose. During December Colonel Knox prepared a plan for five artillery regiments to properly support the enlarged Continental Army. Knox's plan called for artillery regiments for every geographical region, not just for the Main Army. On his own authority Washington ordered Knox to begin recruiting three of those regiments to support the forces in the central portion of the nation. His request to Congress, and Congress' 27 December authorization, dealt with those regiments.21

Like the infantry regiment, the artillery regiment of 1777 followed the same general organization which had prevailed during 1776. Congress did not change the allocation of staff and company officer positions or the division of the regiment into a dozen companies. It did make two changes. The number of field officers dropped from 5 to 3, since the total pool of artillery field officers was now large enough to allow for detachment without crippling the regiment. The second change regrouped the enlisted men in each company; the number of matrosses dropped from 32 to 28, and the specialists and noncommissioned officers now consisted of 6 sergeants, 6 corporals, 6 bombardiers, and 6 gunners. This arrangement provided balanced crews for up to six guns, plus an ammunition section within each company.

The Trenton campaign disrupted matters, but Knox was able to begin recruiting once the Main Army settled into quarters at Morristown. Continued support for the Main Army was provided by state artillery units under Maj. Thomas Proctor (two Pennsylvania companies) and Capt. Alexander Hamilton (one New York company), and by Capt. Sebastian Bauman's Continental company. The officers of the old 1776 artillery regiment set out to recruit. Two of the new regiments, commanded by majors of the 1776 regiment, relied on veterans for cadres. John Crane, a native Bostonian, raised 9 companies in Massachusetts. John Lamb, recently released by the British, recruited in the area between Connecticut and Philadelphia. Nine of his companies were new— 3 from New York, 2 from Pennsylvania, and 4 from Connecticut, where Lamb's family had moved after the fall of New York City. The other 3 companies were existing units. Bauman's Company and Hamilton's (under the command of John Doughty of New Jersey) were assigned intact. Isaiah Wool added new recruits to the remnants of Lamb's 1775 company.22

Washington and Knox intended to organize their third new artillery regiment from the Middle Department, using Proctor's Pennsylvania companies supplemented by companies from New Jersey and Maryland. Pennsylvania undermined this plan by expanding the Pennsylvania state artillery into a ten-company regiment under Proctor on 6 February 1777. The state then transferred the regiment to the Continental Army during the summer of 1777 with only ten companies instead of the twelve Knox had intended.23

Artillerymen also supported the other territorial departments. Capt. Ebenezer Stevens of Knox's regiment acted as the senior artillery officer in the Northern De-

21. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:1314; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:401.
22. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:82, 138-39, 263, 467; 8:276, 460; 12:71-72; 18:303-4; John Lamb Papers (to Washington, 12 Mar 79; to Board of General Officers, 6 Aug 79; Knox to Lamb, 13 and 20 Apt 77, 24 May 77, and 17 and 22 Jan 80; Eleazur Oswald to Lamb, 16 Feb, 7 Apr, 17 Jun, and 23 Jul 77; Crane to Washington, 16 Mar 79 (copy); Report of Board of General Officers on Artillery Ranks, 8 Aug 79), New-York Historical Society.
23. JCC, 8:482-83, 551, 564; 12:865; Burnett, Letters, 2:427; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:386, 415; 15:80-81; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 5:234-35, 357, 451, 455; 6:676-77; 7:121; 2d ser., 1:713.


THOMAS FORREST (1747-1825) of Pennsylvania is typical of the talented men who served in the Continental Army. He rose from captain to lieutenant colonel in the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment and served in Congress from 1819 to 1823. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1820.)

partment during 1776, and in November a congressional delegation directed him to reorganize that department's artillery forces for the coming year. Using veteran troops at Ticonderoga as cadres, Stevens reorganized three companies using Massachusetts recruits. He recruited a fourth company, composed of artificers to perform maintenance, at Albany from miscellaneous personnel. Stevens believed throughout 1777 that he commanded a separate corps, but in fact his companies were part of Crane's regiment, which they joined in 1778.24 Two regiments in the Southern Department provided the total of five which Knox had contemplated. One was the 4th South Carolina Regiment. Congress had authorized the other on 26 November 1776 by expanding two existing companies in Virginia into a ten-company regiment under Col. Charles Harrison and Lt. Col. Edward Carrington. It remained in garrison in its home state throughout 1777.25

Knox's original proposal also encompassed the special logistical requirements of the artillery. He wanted Congress to create a company of artificers, to regroup the staff of the Commissary of Military Stores, and to establish laboratories and a foundry so that the Army could begin producing its own cannon, ammunition, and related items. He and Washington recommended that Congress import weapons from Europe until those facilities came into service. The most essential materiel, they argued, was a mobile train of brass field pieces consistent in makeup with European practice: one hundred 3-pounders, fifty 6-pounders, and fifty 12-pounders, plus a number of heavier 18- and 24-pounders for general support and sieges. Congress promised to obtain these pieces.26

24. Lamb Papers (Oswald to Lamb, 16 Feb 77; Knox to Lamb, 20 Apr and 24 May 77); Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:276.
25. JCC, 6:981, 995; 8:396, 514, 655; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:117; 9:332; 10:520; Virginia Gazette (Dixon and Hunter), 28 Feb 77. The Virginia regiment's companies contained 4 officers, 1 sergeant, 4 corporals, 4 bombardiers, 8: gunners, and 48 matrosses.
26. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:280-82; JCC, 6:963.


After some discussion Congress established a foundry at Philadelphia and laboratories at Carlisle, Pennsylvania, and Springfield, Massachusetts. The latter sites served throughout the rest of the war as ordnance depots for Army operations in the northern half of the country. Knox personally supervised the creation of the Springfield laboratory. The somewhat larger Carlisle establishment came under the authority of Lt. Col. Benjamin Flower, who had been commissary of military stores for the Flying Camp in 1776. At the same time, Flower recruited two companies of ordnance technicians and repairmen who, unlike the hired artisans of earlier years, were full-time soldiers. Capt. Isaac Coren, the "Director of the Laboratory for the United States," commanded one company, which was located at Carlisle and had a standard artillery company organization. The second company, led by a master carpenter, consisted of a full range of skilled workers to maintain the Main Army's artillery park, or general reserve.27

During the winter Washington and Knox addressed the problem of improving the mobility of the field artillery to furnish direct support to the infantry. During the Trenton campaign each infantry brigade had been supported by a company of artillery with two to four guns. This experiment proved so successful that the concept of a direct support company remained a fixture of the Continental Army for the remainder of the war. Other artillery companies served in the artillery park or manned the heavy garrison artillery of fixed fortifications. The brigade support company, preferably from the same state as the infantry, varied its armament according to the brigade's particular mission. The ideal armament consisted of two 6-pounders in 1777, although this weapon required the largest crew of any field piece—twelve to fifteen men including an officer. Since doctrine called for concentrated fire on enemy infantry, rate of fire and maneuverability were more important than range.28

During 1775 and 1776 the Continental Army relied primarily on old British artillery pieces imported during the colonial period or captured in the first actions of the war. The other source of cannon was domestic production of iron guns. The American iron industry was producing 30,000 tons of bar and pig iron in 1775, one-seventh of the world's total. It quickly turned to military production. Unfortunately, these sources contributed few weapons suitable for battlefield use. Most cannon were so heavy that they were limited to permanent fortifications. Washington counted on the foundry in Philadelphia and foreign imports to provide the lighter brass guns for the direct support companies.29

The imports came primarily from France. The French and, to a lesser extent, the Spanish governments furnished clandestine aid to the American colonies through the firm of Hortalez and Company in the hope of weakening Great Britain. Indirectly at

27. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:474; 7:18-23; 8:38; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 5:209-10.
28. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:364, 454; 8:100-101, 175, 235, 318-21, 396-99, 457-58; 9:290; Lamb Papers (Oswald to Lamb, 17 and 25 Jun. 23 and 25 Jul. and 14 Aug 77; Walker to Lamb, 21 Jul 77; Moodie to Lamb, 9 May 77; Knox to Lamb, 2 Dec 77). Washington similarly sought to improve the maneuverability of ammunition wagons: Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:83.
29. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 4:534-35; Fairfax Downey, "Birth of the Continental Artillery," Military Collector and Historian 7 (1955):61-62; Keach Johnson, "The Genesis of the Baltimore Ironworks," Journal of Southern History 19 (1953):151-79; Irene D. Neu, "The Iron Plantations of Colonial New York," New York History 33 (1952):3-24; Spencer C. Tucker, "Cannon Founders of the American Revolution," National Defense 60 (1975):33-37; Salay, "Arming for War," pp. 202, 241-75; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:69; 8:37.


first and more openly later, the French shipped to America over 200 artillery pieces and over 100,0001763-model Charleville muskets, as well as other supplies. The first shipment arrived at Portsmouth, New Hampshire, in April 1777. Knox judged twenty-three French 4-pounders too cumbersome for American conditions and sent them to Springfield to be melted down and recast. The other guns were sent to the Main army.30

The Continental Army's artillerymen turned to John Muller's Treatise of Artillery as a handbook for mounting these guns and casting their own. Muller's work had first appeared in 1757 as a textbook for the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich, and an American edition appeared in Philadelphia in 1779 dedicated to the Continental Artillery. His proposals were particularly important to Americans for he called for mobile iron guns and offered detailed instructions for casting them and for constructing light carriages.31

The emphasis on mobility extended to the third element in Congress' 27 December legislation. Unlike the additional infantry regiments and the expanded artillery, the 3,000 light horse represented a new element in the Continental Army. Most European armies still used heavy cavalry as an offensive battlefield force. During the middle of the century a renewed interest in reconnaissance and skirmishing had led to the return of some light horsemen. The terrain in America had eliminated the need for heavy cavalry during the colonial period, although some troopers had served as messengers or scouts. By the start of the Revolution a few colonies had regiments of mounted men, but they were mobile infantry rather than true cavalry. The cost of owning, feeding, and equipping a horse ensured that the men of such units came from the social elite.

The British Army's large cavalry contingent was organized for European combat. As a result, only two light cavalry regiments served in America during the Revolution. The 17th Light Dragoons arrived in Boston in May 1775 and served throughout the war; the 16th reached New York in October 1776 and remained for only two years. Each regiment consisted of six troops plus a small headquarters consisting of a titular colonel, a lieutenant colonel, a major, an adjutant, a chaplain, and a surgeon. Each troop initially contained a captain, a lieutenant, a cornet (equivalent to an infantry ensign), a quartermaster, 2 sergeants, 2 corporals, a hautboy (drummer), and 38 privates. In the spring of 1776 the establishment of a troop was increased by another cornet, a sergeant, 2 corporals, and 30 privates. General Howe was given the option of either mounting the augmentation with locally procured horses or using the men as light infantry.32 One German cavalry regiment, the Brunswick Dragoon Regiment von Riedesel, served in Canada, but as infantry.33

Several times during 1775 and 1776 Congress toyed with the idea of adding mounted units to the Continental forces in the north, but it did not act since operations were largely static. The ranger regiments authorized in 1776 in the south were

30. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 1:1011-23; Burnett, Letters, 2:218-19, 591; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:2-3, 37, 254, 318-19.
31. John Muller, A Treatise of Artillery, ad ed. (London: John Millan, 1780; reprint, with introduction by Harold L. Peterson, Ottawa: Museum Restoration Service, 1965), pp. v-xxv; Sebastian Bauman Papers (to Lamb, 25 Jun 79; Samuel Shaw to Bauman, 17 Feb 77), New-York Historical Society.
32. British Headquarters Papers, No. 27 (Barrington to Gage, 31 Aug 75), 114, 491 (Barrington to Howe, 29 Jan 76 and 16 Apr 77).
33. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 6:271-73. It had 4 troops, each with 3 officers and 75 men, plus a staff of 8 officers and 16 men.


mounted infantry rather than true cavalry and were intended to patrol large areas. But during the later phases of the New York campaign, Washington concluded that proper reconnaissance called for horsemen. The usefulness of a detachment of Connecticut militia troopers under Maj. Elisha Sheldon, and the intimidation of some of Washington's infantrymen by British light dragoons, prompted the Commander in Chief to ask Congress to add light horsemen to the Continental Army.34

Congress' initial response came on 25 November 1776 when it requested Virginia to transfer Maj. Theodorick Bland's six troops of light horse to the Continental Army. The state had raised them during the summer. Each contained 3 officers, 3 corporals, a drummer, a trumpeter, and 29 privates. Three quartermasters provided logistical support for the group. Virginia complied, and in March 1777 Bland reenlisted his troops as continentals and reorganized them into a regiment.35 On 12 December Congress, at Washington's suggestion, directed Sheldon to raise a Continental regiment of light dragoons and appointed him lieutenant colonel commandant of cavalry, a rank equivalent to colonel of infantry. Washington gave Sheldon the same free hand in selecting junior officers that he delegated to the colonels of the additional regiments.36

Congress' 27 December resolve then allowed Washington to raise up to 3,000 light dragoons, and to determine how they should be organized. Washington interpreted the legislation to mean that Bland's and Sheldon's men were included in the authorized figure, and he decided to add only two more regiments. He wanted to see if he could fill them before he tried to raise others. At the request of Congress, command of one of the new units went to Washington's aide George Baylor, who had carried the news of the Trenton victory to Baltimore. Lt. George Lewis of the Commander in Chief's Guard became one of his captains. The other regiment went to Stephen Moylan, another aide, who had served as Mustermaster General and Quartermaster General.37

On 14 March 1777 Congress approved Washington's regimental organization for the light dragoons. (Chart 7) It provided 3 field officers, a staff, and 6 troops for each regiment. Every troop contained 3 officers, 6 noncommissioned officers, a trumpeter, and 34 privates. One of the sergeants specialized in logistics, and two privates, an armorer and a farrier, received higher pay. The farrier provided rudimentary veterinary care and shod the horses. The staff was similar to an infantry regiment's, with the addition of a riding instructor and a saddler to keep leather gear in repair. Four supernumeraries were cadets undergoing training who served the colonel as messengers. The Continental light dragoon regiment was comparable to the British version, but it provided more specialists on both the troop and regimental level to allow greater dispersion on reconnaissance missions.38

Washington believed that the light dragoons' primary mission was reconnaissance, not combat. He instructed his troopers to use inconspicuous dark horses and ordered

34. JCC, 2:173, 238; 5:606-7; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:587, 590-91; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:163-64, 236-37, 242, 324; 6:39, 230-31.
35. JCC, 6:980; 7:34; Burnett, Letters, 2:269; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:456-57; 7:103, 338-39; Henning, Statutes at Large; 9:135-38, 141-43; McIlwaine et al., Journals of the Council of the State of Virginia, 1:153, 254-55, 269, 288; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 6:1531, 1556; 5th ser., 3:1270.
36. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:350-51, 384, 386-88; JCC, 6:1025; Burnett, Letters, 2:176.
37. JCC, 7:7; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:483-84; 7:51, 193-94, 304-5.
38. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 12:290; JCC, 7:178-79; 9:869; Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:403. Sheldon's regiment operated with a slightly different configuration until 5 November 1777.

Chart 7- Light Dragoon Regiment 1777

the officers to recruit native-born Americans rather than immigrants whose loyalty was less certain. The problems involved in procuring the horses and the special cavalry weapons and equipment, in training the horses for combat, and in developing high standards of individual skill contributed to the long period needed to organize the regiments. Assistance from Virginia and Connecticut, where Bland's, Baylor's, and Sheldon's regiments recruited, eased part of the difficulty, Moylan's organized at Philadelphia, where it had access to the Army's supply center. The fact that three of the four regiments came from Virginia and Connecticut, the two states noted for raising horses in the eighteenth century, indicated the importance of supply factors in Washington's allocation of the regiments.39

Fielding the New Army

While Washington formed his new regiments, the individual state governments reorganized their lines. Congress' 16 September 1776 resolve and supplemental instructions were clearly intended to produce uniform regiments, but particular problems and attitudes in some states led to variations in detail. During the spring these regiments, the additionals, the artillery, and the light dragoons arrived at the desig-

39. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:123, 214-15, 219-20, 324, 368, 421; 8:53-54, 136, 264-65.


nated rendezvous according to strategic considerations. Washington and the department commanders then marshaled them into brigades and divisions. Congress and the military leaders also took this opportunity to make adjustments in the staff and support organizations of the expanded Army.

The states of the lower south had the easiest time adjusting to the new quotas because their regiments remained in their home states as the Southern Department's primary combat forces. Georgia did not reduce its force to the single regiment of the 16 September quota but retained the four infantry and one ranger units authorized during 1776. The rangers and the 1st Georgia Regiment lost strength during the spring as original enlistments expired, but the 2d and 3d reached operational strength through extensive recruiting in North Carolina and Virginia. The 4th Georgia Regiment kept enlisting men from as far away as Pennsylvania into October 1777.40 The six South Carolina regiments adjusted to the new organizational structures by additional recruiting. The two rifle regiments (the 5th and 6th South Carolina Regiments) converted to infantry, and half of the 3d exchanged rifles for muskets. The 4th remained an artillery regiment, absorbing the separate artillery companies. Recruiting remained a major problem, and officers ranged as far as Pennsylvania in a search for volunteers.41

The regiments from North Carolina and Virginia did not remain at the disposal of the Southern Department commander, Brig. Gen. Robert Howe, but joined the Main Army. The 8th Virginia Regiment and various North Carolina detachments stationed in South Carolina returned to their home states during the spring to be refilled.42 Since the current enlistment period of the six North Carolina and nine Virginia regiments lasted until 1778, they remained unchanged. North Carolina's government raised three more regiments during the spring to meet its quota, although it felt that the total was unreasonably high. All nine North Carolina regiments reached Philadelphia in early July, but only two of the regiments mustered over 200 effectives, and the nine totaled only 131 officers and 963 enlisted men. They should have contained an aggregate of about 7,000.43

Five Virginia regiments joined Washington in late 1776, and 10 others followed in the spring. In addition to the 9 existing units, the state raised 6 new ones following the same techniques it had employed in 1775 and 1776. Virginia was the only state that rejected the standard infantry structure and formed ten companies for each regiment. It also enlisted its men for only three-year terms, not for the duration as Congress preferred. Four of the new regiments were organized from scratch, but two contained cadres already in existence. Col. Daniel Morgan, recently released from captivity, built his 11th Virginia Regiment around the five Virginia companies from the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment and the survivors of his original 1775 rifle company. Col. James Wood's 12th Virginia Regiment contained the five state frontier companies, who had reenlisted as Continental units. Maj. John Neville, their former commander, became Wood's lieutenant colonel. The state raised two infantry and one

40. McIntosh, "Papers," 38:256-57, 266-67, 357-59, 363-67; Margaret Godley, ed., "Minutes of the Executive Council, May 7 Through October 14, 1777," Georgia Historical Quarterly 34 (1950):110-13; JCC 9:782-83.
41. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:49-54, 66, 68, 72-76; Burnett, Letters, 2:452; Pinckney, "Letters," 58:77-79.
42. JCC, 5:733-34; 6:1043-44; 7:21, 52, 90-91, 133.
43. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 1:1384; Burnett, Letters, 2:95-97; Gates Papers (Returns of Troops at Philadelphia, 7 and 8 Jul 77).


artillery regiment of state troops to take over the burden of local defense and, at Congress' request, added two separate Continental companies to protect the frontier. This effort exhausted the state's manpower, and for the first time officers had difficulty finding recruits.44

Unlike the south, the middle states were faced with a situation in which most existing enlistments expired on 31 December 1776 or shortly thereafter, and one in which regiments were on active duty outside the state. They turned to legislative liaison committees, establishing new arrangements which retained, through reenlistment, the 1776 regiments and added new ones as necessary. The new regiments depended on veterans of militia or state service, particularly with the Flying Camp, for their cadres. While this expedient created turmoil in some lines because of arguments over relative rank, it allowed each of the 1777 regiments to start with an experienced core.

Delaware's reorganization was the simplest. It merely filled vacancies in its single regiment through promotions.45 Maryland's problems were more complex. That state argued that its quota was based on misleading total population figures and made an effort to raise only seven of its assigned eight regiments. The original 1776 regiment and attached separate companies became the 1st and 2d Maryland Regiments. The 4th through 7th formed around cadres from the four regiments sent to the Flying Camp, and the 3d assembled its officers from a variety of sources.46

Despite great enthusiasm among their officers for remaining in service, New Jersey and Pennsylvania took longer than Maryland to accomplish their reorganizations. Regiments at Ticonderoga got a later start in recruiting than those serving with the Main Army. New Jersey refilled its three regiments from 1776 and added a fourth built around militiamen. To free the Continental officers for recruiting duties, the state raised four temporary battalions of state troops to take up defensive responsibilities during the winter.47 Pennsylvania also retained existing units by reenlisting the men. The 1st Continental Regiment became the 1st Pennsylvania Regiment by virtue of its seniority, with the 1st through 6th Pennsylvania Battalions becoming the 2d through 7th Pennsylvania Regiments. Col. Aneas Mackay's frontier regiment became the 8th. Sufficient personnel of the 3d and 5th battalions had escaped capture at Fort Washington to allow them to re-form as the 4th and 6th Regiments through additional recruiting. Two of the three new regiments, the 9th and 10th, drew officers from the state troops of 1776; the 11th drew its officers from various sources. William Cook's six-company frontier regiment had not yet made any substantial progress in organizing; it added two more companies and became the 12th.48 The state also con-

44. Henning, Statutes at Large, 9:179-84, 192-98, 210-11, 213-14; McIlwaine, Journals of the Council of State, 1:250, 270-71, 310, 321, 325, 337-40, 368; James Wood, "Correspondence of Col. James Wood," Tyler's Quarterly Historical and Genealogical Magazine 3 (1921):38-40.
45. Fitzpatrick, writings, 6:485; Robert Kirkwood, The Journal and Order Book of Captain Robert Kirkwood of the Delaware Regiment of the Continental Line, ed. Joseph Brown Turner (Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware, 1910), pp. 4-6; Anderson. Personal Recollections, pp. 7, 26-29.
46. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:120-1, 125, 132, 163-64, 182; Archives of Maryland, 18:76-292; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:397.
47. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 2:1258-59; 3:1316, 1449, 1474-75; Fitzpatrick, 6:81-82; 7:27, 200-201; Gates Papers (Schuyler to Gates, 13 Nov 76).
48. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 9:90; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 2:92, 94; 3:195-200; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 5:40-41, 51, 176-77, 522-23, 545; 7:583-85; 2d ser., 1:41-42, 51-52, 717-18; 10:106-7; 4th ser., 3:656-57; Charles J. Stille, Major-General Anthony Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line in the Continental Army (Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott, 1893), pp. 39-40, 43-48, 54; Gates Papers (Francis Johnston to Gates, 20 Feb 77).


solidated its enlisted state troops into a regiment with ten 100-man companies. These men were still under their original enlistments (which lasted until 1 January" 1778), but on 10 June 1777 the regiment willingly transferred to the Continental Army as the 13th Pennsylvania Regiment.49

New York and New England units had served for two full campaigns, longer than any units from the southern or middle states. Casualties, normal attrition, and reduced quotas made it harder for these northern states to sustain the continuity of their regiments. New York faced a reduction from seven to five regiments and the loss of Manhattan and Long Island, fertile recruiting grounds. The old 1st from New York City was disbanded, and its veterans were used to fill vacancies in other units. The two Albany-area regiments, the 4th and Van Schaick's, were merged as the new 1st New York Regiment, and the old 2d and 3d were reorganized as the new 4th and 2d, respectively, reflecting the relative seniority of their new commanders. John Nicholson's regiment, which had been formed for service in Canada, disbanded, and Lewis Dubois' regiment provided the nucleus for the new 3d, although Colonel Dubois himself commanded a new 5th New York Regiment which Congress accepted on 30 November 1776.50

Connecticut had furnished eight regiments in 1776, and its quota in 1777 was the same. The legislature, however, completely regrouped the officer corps. Its aim was to place the best veteran officers in the most appropriate positions; it was willing to disregard prior service or considerations of unit continuity. The Connecticut Assembly made every effort to recruit rapidly, offering extra land grants and recruiting by geographical districts, but most regiments did not obtain substantial numbers until April or May.51 Rhode Island dropped from four to two regiments by using the same device that it had employed in the 1776 reorganization. The 9th and 11th Continental Regiments became, through reenlistment, the 1st and 2d Rhode Island Regiments. The best officers from the two disbanded regiments and some of their men filled vacancies. The state also created a brigade of state troops; this effort conflicted with the work of Continental recruiters although the brigade then helped to contain the British forces in Newport.52 New Hampshire similarly used its three existing Continental regiments as the core of its three 1777 regiments. Col. Timothy Bedel's regiment disbanded during the winter and Col. Nicholas Long's in July of 1777 when its 1776 enlistments expired. The state commissioned various veteran militia officers to fill out the three new regiments.53

49. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 2:80-81, 92-94; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 5:103-4, 107, 112-13, 318, 357; JCC, 8:482-83; Gates Papers (Pa. Council of Safety to Gates, 4 Mar 77, with enclosure).
50. JCC, 6:994; 8:710-11; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:206-11; 247-49, 312-20, 366-67; Calendar of Historical Manuscripts, Relating to the war of the Revolution, in the Office of the Secretary of State, Albany, New York, 2 vols., (Albany: Weed, Parsons, and Co., 1863-68), 2:31-53; William M. Willett, A Narrative of the Military Actions of Colonel Marinus Willett, Taken Chiefly From his own Manuscript (New York: C. & C. & H. Carvill, 1831), p. 39.
51. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 2:957-61; 3:799, 899-900, 1433; Hoadley et al., Public Records of the State of Connecticut, 1:12-16, 26, 65-70, 165-68; Charles S. Hall, Life and Letters of Samuel Holden Parsons (Binghamton, N.Y.: Otseningo Publishing Co., 1905), pp. 92-93; Samuel Blatchley Webb, Correspondence and Journals of Samuel Blatchley Webb, ed. Worthington Chauncey Ford, 3 vols. (New York: privately pub., 1893-94), 1:189-211.
52. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:200-202, 274; 7:42-44, 349-51; Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, 6:175, 183-85; R. I. Records, 8:10-11, 20, 30-33, 103-4, 126-27, 140-41, 172-73, 192-93; Greene, Papers, 1:307-8, 317, 360-64.
53. Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:317-22; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 2:1175-77; 3:624-25, 646-47, 796-98, 1125.


JOHN EAGER HOWARD (1752-1827) of Maryland is typical of the excellent regimental commanders serving in the Continental Army during the latter stages of the Revolution. He played a key role in the battle of Cowpens and went on to become a governor, congressman, and senator. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782.)

Massachusetts' quota of fifteen regiments reduced by two the number in service during 1776. One legislative committee traveled to New York to form seven regiments from the men on duty there in October 1776; a second went to Ticonderoga to arrange five regiments. Three others were organized within the state. Although the legislature's idea of offering additional pay was rejected by Congress, it exerted itself fully, and in April 1777 the legislature passed a bill authorizing a draft when recruiting tapered off. These efforts raised 7,816 men, mostly for the line regiments, by early July. The average number of recruits for each regiment was 470, with four above the 600-man level and only four below 400.54

The reorganized regiments assembled at three primary locations in the spring of 1777. Ticonderoga and Peekskill in the Hudson Highlands had obvious strategic importance. The troops at these places protected important fortifications, denied the Hudson River to British troops in Canada and New York City, and enjoyed substantial logistical support. Morristown, Washington's headquarters, sewed as the other rendezvous because it protected Philadelphia from British troops in New Jersey. Once the regiments reached these locations, Washington and the commanders of the Northern and Highlands Departments assembled them into brigades and divisions, the primary formations used in 1777 to maneuver the Continental Army.

In addition to the North Carolina and Virginia regiments drawn north from the Southern Department, Washington used regiments from the middle states to furnish most of the other troops for the Main Army. The infantry" regiments arrived throughout the spring in company-sized increments and by May achieved operational strength. On 11 May, excluding artillery" and light dragoons, the Main Army's 38 regiments of infantry (line and additional regiments from Virginia, Maryland, Dela-

54. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:399-400, 414-15, 494-96, 507-8, 711-13, 1030, 1083-84, 1170; Gardiner, Warren-Gerry Correspondence, pp. 59-60; Gates Papers (Joseph Avery's Return of Men Enlisted by Massachusetts, 10 Jul 77).


ware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey), plus detachments, included 50 field, 532 company, and 91 staff officers; 708 sergeants; 241 drummers and fifers; and 8,378 rank and file. Two thousand men were sick, about half in hospitals, and another 400 were absent on detached duties. Only about a third of the regiments were over half strength, but recruits continued to arrive in numbers.55

Washington's January 1777 plans called for a brigade to have three full infantry regiments (over 2,200 men) and for a division to have three brigades. When he asked Congress to appoint additional general officers to command these formations, he also requested the appointment of three lieutenant generals as senior commanders. Many delegates considered the new rank a threat to republican virtue, and Congress rejected the idea. After considerable maneuvering by delegates to advance favorite sons, Congress eventually created six new major and fourteen new brigadier generals.56 Washington adjusted his plans to the available number of officers and to the actual strength of the regiments, and between 11 and 22 May 1777 he established ten permanent brigades in the Main Army. Each contained four or five regiments, from the same state when possible. For example, the 3d Virginia Brigade consisted of the 3d, 7th, 11th, and 15th Virginia Regiments. Brig. Gens. Peter Muhlenberg, George Weedon, William Woodford, and Charles Scott commanded the 1st through 4th Virginia Brigades; Brig. Gens. Anthony Wayne, John DeHaas, and Thomas Conway, the 1st through 3d Pennsylvania Brigades; Brig. Gens. William Smallwood and Philippe-Hubert, Chevalier de Preudhomme de Borre, the 1st and 2d Maryland Brigades; and Brig. Gen. William Maxwell, the New Jersey Brigade. Two brigades formed a division.57 In addition to aides, the brigade staff included a brigade major, a brigade quartermaster, and a chaplain (who replaced the regimental chaplains). The division staff included a quartermaster officer and a conductor of military stores who repaired small arms and prepared ammunition.58

This formation of the Main Army allowed Washington great flexibility. During the summer of 1777, divisions shifted along the main roads between Morristown and Philadelphia as the British threatened either the Hudson Highlands or the capital. He expected a division in a detached role to harass the enemy advance and to buy time for the rest of the army to concentrate.59 In formal battle the Main Army deployed in a double line. The First Line consisted of two or more divisions in line abreast. The Second Line, or reserve, was deployed to the rear and provided depth to absorb shock. The Left Wing and Right Wing each contained portions of both lines. By December the Order of Battle of the larger Main Army had become more complex. Ten brigades deployed as the First Line and six as the Second. One additional brigade remained in

55. RG 93, National Archives (Weekly Return, Main Army, 21 May 77; a version of this return is printed in Lesser, Sinews, p. 46; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:236, 278-79, 396-97, 451-52; 8:49-50.
56. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:49-51; JCC, 7:90, 133, 141-42, 203, 213, 256, 323; 8:624; 9:823; Burnett, Letters, 2:261-63, 269-75, 287-88, 291-92, 299-301, 311-12. Robert Howe and Alexander McDougall exercised department commands during the year as brigadier generals and advanced to major generals in October.
57. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:447-48; 8:40-41, 88-89, 97-101, 170-72; 9:103-4, 149. The senior colonel commanded in the brigadier general's absence.
58. Ibid., 8:203-4, 337; JCC, 8:390, 609; Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:352.
59. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:62-64. There is a distinct similarity between Washington's use of the division as a force capable of limited independent action and Napoleon's use of the corps as described in Steven T. Ross, "The Development of the Combat Division in Eighteenth-Century French Armies," French Historical Studies, 4 (1965):84-94.


general reserve. Each wing additionally used two light dragoon regiments and some supporting infantry formations, both Continental and militia, for flank security.60

Improved arms and training reinforced the advantages inherent in the new tactical organization of 1777. The 1763-model French Army musket, known colloquially as the Charleville, became the standard infantry weapon. This .69-caliber smoothbore, which fired a 1-ounce ball, came with a metal ramrod and a 14-inch socket bayonet. It had greater range and was more durable, reliable, and accurate than the English Brown Bess. The Charleville was an ideal weapon for the Continental Army, in which the infantry regiment's structure placed a premium on musketry rather than shock actions.61 Spring and summer training stressed battlefield maneuvers rather than the manual of arms. New standing regulations covered the proper methods of marching and saluting, the baggage train, and guard duty. Washington told officers to "be very attentive, that their men keep their ranks always dressed, and use their feet in concert, which are equally conducive to the order, beauty, strength and expedition of a marching body."62

The Eastern Department did not face a serious threat from the British base at Newport and could rely, moreover, on New England's strong militia forces. Washington left it with only the three Massachusetts additional regiments for a garrison. The bulk of the New York and New England infantry regiments were assigned either to Ticonderoga or to the Hudson Highlands. In his original plan Washington instructed eighteen New Hampshire and Massachusetts regiments to go to the former, and the fifteen New York, Rhode Island, and Connecticut regiments, plus Samuel Blatchley Webb's and Henry Sherburne's additional regiments, to the latter. Slow recruiting and uncertainty over Howe's plans led Washington in time to alter this arrangement substantially. Two of the New York regiments shifted to the Northern Department while eight Massachusetts units reported to Peekskill.63

The Highlands remained strategically important during 1777 because troops stationed there could rapidly reinforce either the Main Army or the Northern Department. By mid-May Brig. Gen. Alexander McDougall's garrison had assumed respectable proportions. He had 18 infantry regiments: 3 from New York, 8 from Connecticut, 6 from Massachusetts, and Webb's; plus the first detachment of Rhode Islanders. The continentals included 13 field, 119 company, and 24 staff officers; 197 sergeants; 94 drummers and fifers; and 2,502 rank and file. The 400 sick and 200 detached continentals were offset by about 700 New York militia. Like the Main Army's regiments, McDougall's were still arriving by detachment.64 Israel Putnam assumed command

60. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:296-97; 10:94-95, 138-39.
61. Arcadi Gluckman, United States Muskets, Rifles and Carbines (Harrisburg: The Stackpole Co., 1959), pp. 55-61, James E. Hicks and Fred Porter Todd, "United States Military Shoulder Arms, 1795-1935," Part 2, Military Affairs 2 (1938):37-42, 75-76; Harold L. Peterson, Arms and Armor in Colonial America, 1526-1783 (Harrisburg: Stackpole Books, 1956), pp. 170-78, 190-92; Rebecca and Philip Katcher, "The Pennsylvania Division, 1780," Military Collector and Historian 27 (1975):120; Ernst Kipping and Samuel S. Smith, eds., At General Howe's Side: The Diary of General Howe's Aide de Camp, Captain Friedrich von Muenchhausen (Monmouth Beach, N. J.: Philip Freneau Press, 1974), p. 14.
62. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:255; see also pp. 227-31, 250-51, 256, 344-49; 9:79-80.
63. Ibid., 7:125, 272-78, 282-83, 424, 485-86; 8:6-7, 35, 43, 101-3; William Abbatt, ed., Memoirs of Major-General William Heath, new ed. (New York: William Abbatt, 1901), pp. 104-11; Gates Papers (to Hancock, 2 May 77).
64. Alexander McDougall Papers (Weekly Returns, Highlands Department, 17 and 24 May 77), New-York Historical Society. During this single week 700 continentals arrived.


on 1 June and instituted a brigade and division organization similar to the Main Army's. By 5 August, despite numerous transfers to other departments, the Highlands force consisted of two divisions each with two brigades.65 Philip Schuyler's Northern Department assembled brigades on the basis of Washington's instructions, ultimately forming four brigades of Massachusetts regiments and one of New Hampshire regiments. A division organization was not necessary as long as the troops were tied to the defense of Ticonderoga.66

While the tactical organization of the field armies was perfected during the first part of 1777, Congress and Washington improved the Army's administrative and support organizations as well. The expanded Army, dispersed over a broader area than before, made the Adjutant General's role as the central administrative figure even more important. After Col. Joseph Reed resigned at the start of the year, Washington limped along with temporary appointments until he persuaded Col. Timothy Pickering to accept the job. Through perseverance, Pickering restored order to the strength reporting system by the fall.67 An expansion of the mustering department on 4 April assisted Pickering. A deputy was assigned to each territorial department, and a sufficient number of subordinate officials were appointed to muster every unit once a month.68 The cross-checks established by this system and Pickering's program of separately prepared weekly and monthly returns eventually enabled Washington and Congress to have reliable and timely data on which to base their plans.

Washington reorganized his personal staff in 1777 largely as a result of personnel changes, but the new household group also assisted in improving administration. He conducted a search for influential young men with secretarial skills and a willingness to work as replacements for the aides lost to the additionals and dragoons. As a result, talented individuals such as Alexander Hamilton, Richard Kidder Meade, and John Laurens became aides during 1777.69 The new office of Commissary General of Prisoners, created by Congress on 27 December 1776, became part of the household. Its ostensible function was supervising prisoner of war compounds and ensuring that captured Americans received proper treatment. In fact, Washington used Commissary General Elias Boudinot to coordinate intelligence activities.70

Changes in the logistical structure during 1777 derived from two motives. One was a desire to improve efficiency through increased specialization. The other sought modifications to provide immediate support to the field armies. The Commissary Department split into the Department of the Commissary General of Purchases and the Department of the Commissary General of Issues on 10 June 1777. The first primarily procured items, while the latter stored them and handled some distribution func-

65. Israel Putnam, General Orders Issued by Major-General Israel Putnam, When in Command of the Highlands, in the Summer and Fall of 1777, ed. Worthington C. Ford (Brooklyn: Historical Printing Club, 1893), pp. 1, 11-12, 23-25, 46-47; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:354-55; 8:51, 234-35, 276-78, 450; 9:34-35.
66. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:485-86; Gates Papers (Hugh Hughes to Gates; Gates to Col Van Schaick, both 19 Aug 77).
67. JCC, 7:204, Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:418, 433; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:5, 67-78, 218, 336-37, 382; 8:114-16, 264.
68. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:381, 447-48; JCC, 7:221-22, 253, 322.
69. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:487; 7:41, 161, 218, 280; Douglas S. Freeman, George Washington: A Biography, 7 vols. (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1948-57), 4:391-92.
70. JCC, 8:421-22; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:383, 417-18.


JOHN LAURENS (1754-82) was the son of South Carolina delegate and President of Congress Henry Laurens. He served as Washington's aide and carried out many diplomatic assignments until he was killed in a minor skirmish outside Charleston near the end of the war. (Posthumous miniature by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1784.)

tions.71 The Quartermaster General's Department reorganized on 14 May. The department formed specialized groups to handle transportation, quarters, forage, and baking; upgrading the Army's transportation had the most immediate impact. The Quartermaster General remained directly responsible for the support of the Main Army; he had several assistants and a deputy for each division. Parallel structures were provided in each territorial department.72 The hospital service also reorganized to improve flexible support to the territorial departments and immediate service to the troops.73

Congress created one new logistical department on 27 December 1776. At Washington's request, it assumed responsibility for furnishing uniforms to the troops and established a Clothier General's Department under Philadelphia merchant James Mease. His department prepared estimates, purchased and stored clothing items, and issued them to the men through the regimental quartermasters. Washington hoped to eliminate the miscellaneous nature of the clothing that the Army had been using. Such clothing, he believed, was detrimental to discipline because it "has not only an ill appearance, but it creates much irregularity; for when a soldier is convinced, that he will be known by his dress to what Corps he belongs, he is hindered from committing many faults for fear of detection."74 Within the clothier's purview a Commissary of Hides and his subordinates turned raw hides produced by the Army's consumption of beef into needed leather goods.75

71. JCC, 8:434-43, 452, 469-70, 610; Burnett, Letters, 3:3-5, 39-40; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:16, 25; 10:80-82, 183-88, 243-46.
72. JCC, 5:839-41; 6:1051-52; 7:323, 355-59; 19:159.
73. Ibid., 7: 161-64, 197-200, 231-37, 244-45, 253-54; 8:626-27; Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:346.
74. Fitzpatrick, Writings 7:422.
75. Ibid., 6:109, 381, 404, 492-93; 7:127, 148, 229-30, 247-49, 420-22; 10:45-46; JCC, 6:880-81, 1043.


ELIAS BOUDINOT (1740-1821) of New Jersey served in the Continental Army as the first commissary general of prisoners, a job which included intelligence responsibilities. He later became president of the Continental Congress. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1782.)

Logic indicated that the two main British armies in Canada and New York would cooperate in 1777 in a drive to capture Albany and to sever New England from the rest of the country. General Howe's troops threatened also to advance through New Jersey and to take Philadelphia. The unfolding events of the campaign of 1777 tested Congress' and Washington's winter reorganizations.

As expected, the first blow fell on the Northern Department. General St. Clair's garrison could not hold Ticonderoga against Maj. Gen. John Burgoyne's British and German regulars, and it withdrew. Burgoyne's poor transport organization and Schuyler's systematic destruction of roads leading south prevented effective pursuit. The Northern Department's forces regrouped and began receiving reinforcements from the south. Although Schuyler, with the assistance of local militia forces, developed plans that led to the defeat of British detachments at Fort Stanwix and Bennington, he had lost the confidence of most delegates in Congress. Schuyler was recalled on 31 July, and Gates was named as the new Northern Department commander on 4 August. Gate's supporters claimed that his popularity in New England would allow him to attract more militia support than Schuyler could.76

In addition to Continental brigades from the Highlands Department, the reinforcements dispatched to the north included one very important unit from the Main Army. Washington formed a provisional rifle corps on 13 June 1777 under Col. Daniel Morgan of the 11th Virginia Regiment. The men, primarily from Virginia and Pennsylvania regiments, were selected for their marksmanship and woodcraft. Like Thomas Knowlton's 1776 rangers, the corps served as a light infantry and skirmishing force. In the Northern Department Morgan worked closely with a provisional light infantry de-

76. JCC, 7:202-3, 362-64; 8:375; 590, 596, 604; Burnett, Letters, 2:209-12, 336-37, 351-52, 376-77, 382-86, 424-26, 429-30, 440-41, 445, 465; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 9:8-9; Gates Papers (Hancock to Gates, 25 Mar and 14 Aug 77; Gates to Hancock, 20 Aug 77).


HENRY DEARBORN (1751-1829) of New Hampshire had a career which represents the influence of the Continental Army on the subsequent United States Army. Dearborn rose from captain to lieutenant colonel and commanded the provisional light infantry battalion during the Saratoga campaign. After the Revolution he served as secretary of war (1801-1809) and eventually as the senior major general in the Army (1812-1815). (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1796.)

tachment that Schuyler organized in August under Maj. Henry Dearborn; they quickly intimidated Burgoyne's Indians and drastically reduced his ability to procure accurate intelligence.77

Gates inflicted two defeats on Burgoyne at Bemis Heights, cut him off from Ticonderoga, and forced "Gentleman Johnny" to surrender on 17 October. Saratoga was unquestionably the greatest victory yet won by the Continental Army in terms of prisoners and captured arms and equipment. Nearly 6,000 enemy soldiers were taken, along with 42 cannon and massive quantities of stores.78 By the time Burgoyne surrendered, Gates' forces amounted to 1,698 officers and 20,652 men, exclusive of artificers, batteauxmen, and about 700 riflemen. Over 4,000 were absent, mostly stationed to cut off any British retreat toward Ticonderoga, and slightly more than 1,000 were sick.79

Over two-thirds of the Northern Department's soldiers, including some artillery and cavalry troops, were militiamen from New England and New York. Only five of the thirteen brigades were Continental; these contained 3 New Hampshire, 15 Massachusetts, and 2 New York infantry regiments plus the 1st Canadian Regiment. Three of the Continental brigades also contained militia regiments. The total Continental infantry contingent, including Morgan's riflemen and Dearborn's light infantry, comprised 52 field, 457 company, and 72 staff officers; 526 sergeants; 262 drummers and fifers; and 7,644 rank and file. Only 5,000 rank and file were combat effectives.80

77. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:156, 236-37, 246; 9:70-71, 78; Henry Dearborn, Revolutionary War Journals of Henry Dearborn, 1775-1783, eds. Lloyd A. Brown and Howard H. Peckham (Chicago: Caxton Club, 1939), pp. 100-13; Gates Papers (to Washington, 22 Aug and 2 Nov 77; to Morgan, 29 Aug 77).
78. Gates Papers (state of British and state of German Troops Surrendered, both dated 17 Oct 77; James Wilkinson's return of prisoners, 31 Oct 77; Ebenezer Stevens, return of captured stores, l Nov 77).
79. Ibid. (General Return, Northern Department, 16 Oct 77).
80. In addition to the General Return cited above, the following sources in the Gates Papers were used to arrive at correct figures: State of the Army at Saratoga, 17 Oct 77; Return of Continental Troops at van Schaick's Island, 7 Sep 77; Brigade Returns for [Brig. Gen. John] Paterson's, [Brig. Gen. John] Nixon's, and [Col. William] Shepard's [Glover's] Brigades, 25-26 Oct 77; and Richard Varick to Gates, 10 Sep 77.


Part of the Northern Department's strength had come from forces originally committed to the Hudson Highlands. When Putnam also sent three brigades to the Main Army during September, his department was left with only General Parsons' 1st Connecticut Brigade as a mobile field force, and the 5th New York Regiment, part of Lamb's artillery, and some New York militia as garrisons for the forts. Maj. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton took advantage of this weakness to attack, and on 6 October the main forts in the Highlands fell after a stubborn defense. Most of the garrisons escaped, and Clinton returned to New York when he learned of Burgoyne's surrender.81

General Howe had chosen not to attack the Highlands nor to move across New Jersey. Instead, he sailed by way of the Chesapeake Bay to attack Philadelphia from the rear. By the time Howe was ready to advance from his base at Head of Elk, Maryland, Washington had organized a light force under General Maxwell to harass him. The corps consisted of two provisional light infantry companies from each brigade in the Main Army, detachments of light dragoons and local militia, and a partisan unit.82 Howe forced Washington back and defeated the continentals along Brandywine Creek, Pennsylvania, by outmaneuvering them. Washington prevented a catastrophe by shifting brigades from his unengaged flank with an adroitness that impressed professional German officers serving with Howe, and his army escaped under the cover of aggressive rearguard action.83

Howe moved on to capture Philadelphia on 26 September, but he had to fragment his army to hold open a supply route to the lower Delaware River. On the night of 34 October Washington counterattacked at Germantown, Pennsylvania. The intricate plan, similar to that used at Trenton, called for a dawn attack by concentric columns covered by diversionary attacks. Excellent march discipline and intelligence enabled the leading Continental brigades to overrun the British 2d Battalion of Light Infantry and drive back other units, leading one astonished German officer to exclaim that he had just seen "something I had never seen before, namely the English in full flight."84 Confusion and the staunch British defense of the stone Chew House robbed the attack of its momentum, and Washington withdrew. The British spent the next month and a half dislodging the defenders of the fortifications on the Delaware River below Philadelphia.

By early November Washington's Main Army contained a dozen Continental brigades: 4 from Virginia, 3 from Pennsylvania, 2 from Maryland, and one each from North Carolina, New Jersey, and Connecticut.85 The combined strength of 1,167 officers and 15,927 men, excluding cavalry and artillery, represented about half the Continental Army's total force. There were 82 field grade officers, 865 company officers, and 220 regimental staff personnel. Sergeants accounted for 1,009 of the enlisted men, and drummers and fifers another 523, leaving 14,395 rank and file. Some 4,500 were sick, and another 2.100 were on command, mostly in defense of the river forts.

81. Wright, "Too Little, Too Late," pp. 73-88; McDougall Papers (Transcript of the court of Inquiry Into Putnam's Conduct, 5 Apr 78).
82. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 9:145, 148-49, 162-63, 172-73; John W. Wright, "The Corps of Light Infantry in the Continental Army," American Historical Review 31 (1926):454-55.
83. Uhlendorf, Revolution in America, pp. 1-27; Kipping and Smith, At Howe's Side, pp. 31-32; Henry Lee, Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department of the United States, ed. Robert E. Lee (New York: University Publishing Co., 1869), pp. 89-90.
84. Kipping and Smith, At Howe's Side, pp. 38-39; see also Uhlendorf, Revolution in America, pp. 5-27, and John Eager Howard "Col. John Eager Howard's Account of the Battle of Germantown," ed. Justin Winsor, Maryland Historical Magazine 4 (1909):314-20.
85. RG 93, National Archives (Weekly Return, Main Army, 3 Nov 77).


Washington's actual combat strength was probably about 10,000 men, too few to continue the campaign. After calling for reinforcements from Gates, he encamped at Valley Forge on 20 December.


The Continental Army that marched into Valley Forge in December 1777 was very different in organization than the one that had retreated through New Jersey one year earlier. The regiments were now on a permanent footing and formed a larger and more balanced force. The infantry regiments, both line and additional, the artillery, and the light dragoons all contained sizable veteran cadres. Added experience, and the fact that the basic regimental organization had remained the same, had enabled the Army to quickly incorporate the lessons of open warfare learned during the Trenton campaign. Experienced field officers of earlier years now commanded the permanent brigades, which were the most important innovation of 1777. These factors and the increasing sophistication of the staff explain how the varied field armies in the Northern, Highlands, and Middle Departments, containing regiments from every state except Georgia and South Carolina, survived the defeats and crises of 1777.

Better organization, additional staff officers with special skills, and increased emphasis on transportation made the Continental Army more mobile in 1777 than in 1776. Allowing brigades and divisions to undertake limited independent action was a basic concept that made it possible to shift strategic reserves rapidly enough to offset British control of the sea. While many of the battles of 1777 ended in defeat for the Continental Army, particularly for the Main Army, most of the defeats cannot be attributed to a lack of fighting ability of individual regiments. They came from errors in judgment by generals or from inadequate resources. Better training and doctrine were needed to improve the Army's performance.

Washington was more optimistic on Christmas Day 1777 than he had been a year earlier.86 He knew that his Army could not only fight but also even beat the British under favorable conditions. Two major concerns were to ensure that the Army won consistently and to sustain the strength that Congress had authorized. For all practical purposes, the Continental Army reached its maximum size, in terms of units, in 1777. Hereafter the states' role was not organizing new units but rather procuring individual replacements for existing regiments. This change reduced the influence of state governments and increased the military's control over its own destiny. Duration or other long-term enlistments contributed to the shift in power. The large quotas of regiments remained a particular problem, for they were overly ambitious. Nominally the 119 regiments fielded in 1777 should have contained over 90,000 officers and men. The Continental Army never came close to that total, and beginning in 1778 it faced problems of retrenchment rather than expansion.

86. For the logistical situation, which was verging on total collapse, see Erna Risch, Supplying Washington's Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1981).

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