The first two years of the War of American Independence witnessed the growth of the Continental Army from a nucleus of New England and New York units patterned after the Provincials of earlier wars into a force with men from every state as well as foreign volunteers. Through those volunteers, particularly Steuben and Duportail, European military theory and training merged with practical American experience. Beginning at Valley Forge this blend led to a relatively sophisticated organization that was sufficient to meet most of the battlefield problems faced by the Continental Army. During the final years of the Revolution a growing shortage of men and the general collapse of the American economy forced retrenchment. In time the Continental Army disappeared as a standing military force, but not before its triumph at Yorktown. When it disbanded, moreover, it did so in an orderly manner that reinforced the political stability of the new nation.
The concern of the 27 May 1778 congressional reorganization to reduce expenses and adjust quotas to a realistic level became more acute in succeeding years. As British operations shifted emphasis to Virginia and states farther south, Washington and Congress transferred large elements of the Main Army to the Southern Department. By October 1780, when the three-year enlistments of 1777 were about to expire, the need to realign the existing military organization became intense. The major reorganization that resulted attempted to deal realistically with the limitations while still extracting maximum utility from the available resources.
Washington, Congress, and the Board of War wrestled throughout the winter of 1778-79 with the fact that the Continental Army had not achieved the strength set for it in 1778. Congress had no power to enact the national draft that Washington desired, although it did recommend that the individual states consider using a draft to meet their quotas. On the other hand, Washington and Steuben had to persuade Congress not to undertake a major reorganization of the Infantry. The next winter a similar issue arose when some delegates sought a reduction in the number of regiments in the hope of obtaining a more efficient force of full units. Washington again recommended avoiding a large-scale reorganization for the time being, arguing now that he could not undertake a major offensive until he received French naval and economic aid. He expressed particular concern over the impact that a reduction would have on the officer corps, but he also pointed out deficiencies in the 27 May 1778 reorganization. On the basis of Steuben's report that a minimum rank and file strength of 324 men per regiment was needed for anticipated operations (allowing 36 men each
for the 1 light and 8 line companies), Congress on 9 February 1780 decided to establish quotas to place 35,211 men in the field for the coming campaign. No regiments were disbanded. Of this force, aside from supporting troops, the Infantry was to have a combat strength of 21,000; the Artillery, 2,000; and the Cavalry, 1,000.1
In January 1780 the Continental Army actually contained approximately that number of officers and men.2 The Southern Department included all the troops from Georgia and the Carolinas, the three provisional Virginia regiments, two regiments of dragoons, and Pulaski's legion. The equivalent of a brigade of continentals served in the Eastern Department, while the Northern and Western Departments each had two regiments. Sixteen brigades plus supporting troops, the heart of the Continental Army's fighting strength, remained either with the Main Army or in the Highlands Department. Excluding the New Hampshire Brigade at Danbury, Connecticut, the fifteen brigades in New Jersey and the Highlands included an Infantry contingent of 168 field, 1,209 company, and 273 staff officers; 1,650 sergeants; 1,579 drummers and fifers; and 14,673 rank and file. The Artillery had 180 officers and 1,190 enlisted men; the Cavalry, another 64 officers and 672 men. The brigades were short 331 officers, 315 sergeants, 242 drummers and fifers, and 13,353 rank and file.
In the spring of 1780 Washington began to consider an attack on New York City if he could obtain the assistance of a French expeditionary force under Lt. Gen. Jean, Comte de Rochambeau. Efforts began to increase the effective strength of the Main Army, but when Rochambeau's troops arrived at Newport, Rhode Island, too debilitated from the sea voyage for action that year, Washington reluctantly had to abandon his plans. In September the Main Army, the Highlands Department, the Northern Department, and the Eastern Department contained a dozen Continental brigades plus supporting units and a number of regiments in detached garrisons. The Continental Infantry now included 169 field, 1,091 company, and 261 staff officers; 1,381 sergeants; 774 drummers and fifers; and 17,232 rank and file. Artillerymen from three regiments totaled another 140 officers and 1,097 men, while the Cavalry contingent numbered somewhat more than 500 of all ranks. Militia reinforcements in New York and Rhode Island amounted to 181 officers and 3,192 men.3 There were acute shortages, particularly among ensigns, Artillery second lieutenants, and enlisted men. The Infantry force lacked 372 officers, 384 sergeants, 340 drummers and fifers, and 12,718 rank and file; the Artillery regiments, 77 officers and 652 men. Equally significant, over 200 Infantry officers were performing staff duties.
Routine recruiting problems represented only one part of the Main Army's strength problem. The deteriorating military situation in the Southern Department had robbed Washington of a substantial number of veteran regiments. To counter Britain's offensive against the southern states, Congress had ordered reinforcements sent to Charleston. Both of Washington's North Carolina regiments arrived there on 3 March 1780, joining the reorganized 3d North Carolina Regiment. The Virginia line (less the regi-
1. JCC, 15:1357-59, 1369, 1376-77, 1393-96; 16:36-38,
80-83, 110, 117-20, 123, 125-28, 146-51, 17880, 287; Fitzpatrick, Writings,
16:78-79; 17:172, 407-8, 431-36, 504-6; 18:202-4, 207-11; Burnett,
Letters, 5:33, 92-93; Steuben Papers (undated 1780 memorandum).
2. RG 93, National Archives (Monthly Return, Main Army, January 1780); Lesser, Sinews, pp. 148-50, prints a variant of this return.
3. RG 93, National Archives (Monthly Return, Main Army, September 1780); Lesser, Sinews, pp. 180-82, prints a variant of this return.
JOHANNES DE KALB (1721-80) was a Bavarian-born veteran of the French Army who came to America with Lafayette. He died of wounds received at Camden where he commanded the Maryland Division as a major general. (Posthumous portrait by Charles Willson Peale based on sketches made several months before de Kalb's death.)
ment at Fort Pitt) under Brig. Gen. William Woodford reached Charleston on 6 April 1780. The 1st, 2d, and 3d Virginia Regiments were at full strength while the other regiments had officer cadres only. Woodford's force then joined with the first two of the provisional Virginia regiments ordered raised in 1779.4 These North Carolina and Virginia units and the Georgia and South Carolina remnants surrendered on 12 May 1780 when Charleston fell. This defeat was the worst suffered by the Continental Army during the Revolution. The sustained (42-day) defense of an inferior position, however, did demonstrate the increased fighting ability of the Army. Through the sophisticated use of artillery cross fire and ricochet techniques the Americans kept the British at bay until jaeger sniper fire silenced the guns.5
On 5 April 1780 the Maryland division, which included the Delaware Regiment, and the 1st Continental Artillery Regiment had received orders to transfer to the Southern Department. General de Kalb, the commander of these troops moving south, provisionally reorganized them on 15 July while en route. When Charleston fell, his became the only significant combat force in the south. De Kalb formed a division of four full eight-company regiments and sent the surplus officers home to recruit. On 24 July General Gates assumed command of the Southern Department.6 After militia reinforcements arrived, Gates met a crushing defeat at Camden, South Carolina, on 16 August, but de Kalb's continentals fought well. The survivors of his division reas-
4. JCC, 15:1087, 1256, 1347; Burnett, Letters,
4:322-23, 419-20, 428-29; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 16:360, 382,
473; 17:124, 134-35, 151, 175, 206-8, 228, 236-38, 242-43, 309; Moultrie,
Memoirs of the American Revolution, 2:67, 114. For the provisional
Virginia regiments, see above, Chapter 6.
5. Kite, Duportail, pp. 172-75; Bernard A. Uhlendorf, ed., The Siege of Charleston (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1938); Heinrichs, "Extracts From the Letter-Book," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography, 22: 137-70.
6. JCC, 16:329, 17:508; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 17:228-29; 18:198-99, 204, 269; 19:78-79; Gates Papers (de Kalb to Bd of War, copy, 6 Jun 80; de Kalb to Gates, 16 Jul 80; Bd of War to Gates, 15 Jun 80; Gates to Richard Caswell, 25 Jul 80; de Kalb's division orders, 15 Jul 80; Return, 22 Jul 80).
sembled quickly, thanks to their superior training, as a provisional regiment composed of two four-company battalions and two light infantry companies.7
Washington's efforts to procure replacements to offset the transfer of his Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware regiments were facilitated by the prospect of a Franco-American attack on New York City and by a special congressional committee which visited headquarters in late spring. The primary mission of the committee was to investigate the logistical system, which was tottering on the brink of collapse because of rampant inflation and other problems in the American economy, and to prepare recommendations for reform. Congress especially wanted to trim expenses. The committee's secondary mission was to identify surplus regiments and to recommend revised regimental structures to achieve further savings. The committee members—Philip Schuyler, John Mathews, and Nathaniel Peabody—interpreted their mandate broadly and supported Washington's preparations for the planned operation. When Washington canceled the attack in late June, the committee returned to its basic task; the recommendations it submitted to Congress would form the basis for reforms in the various support departments in the fall.8
By October 1780 the Continental Army had received a series of major blows: the fall of Charleston, the debacle at Camden, and the terrible shock of Benedict Arnold's treason. The economy still verged on the brink of total collapse, and the three-year enlistments of 1777 would expire during the coming winter. As early as 15 September Washington had recommended to Congress that it centralize all military affairs under itself and resort to three-year drafts. He argued that maintaining a strong Continental Army would cost less than constantly calling out the militia, and he reminded the delegates that
7. Steuben Papers (Otho Williams to Steuben, 12 Oct 80;
Mordecai Gist to Steuben, 12 Oct 80; Return, 1 Oct 80); Gates Papers (to
Washington, 3 Sep 80; Return, 23 Sep 80). The defeat caused Maryland to
abandon efforts to organize an eighth regiment, the "Regiment Extraordinary."
8. JCC, 16:75-79, 293-312, 332-33, 350-57, 362; 17:472, 522-23, 528, 579-80, 589-90, 604-5, 607-8, 719-20; 18:878-88, 1109-11; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 18:207-11, 356-58, 416-19, 425-32, 455-59; 19:2,7785,118,391-94; Burnett, Letters, 5:80, 89-92, 114, 126-78, 222, 343,372-74.
9. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 20:50; see also 19:402-13, 481-82. For an account of the logistical problems at this point, see Erna Risch, Supplying Washington's Army (Washington Government Printing Office, 1981).
10. JCC, 17:786; 18:839,844; Burnett, Letters, 5:378-79,389-90. A similar system had been proposed by the Board of war in February, but Congress had declined to act on it. JCC, 16:248-51.
TABLE 5- 1781 QUOTAS
|State||Infantry Regiments||Artillery Regiments||Legionary Corps||Partisan Corps||Artificer Regiments||Total Regimental Equivalents|
On 3 October 1780 congress gave preliminary approval to a comprehensive reorganization plan which attempted to balance financial constraints and Washington's wishes. As James Duane told the Commander in Chief, the plan was "submitted, as it is, to your Opinion. It is only to be considered as an Essay open to such Alterations as you may suggest." On 21 October Congress adopted verbatim the changes Washington had requested.11
The final plan specified that on 1 January 1781 "the regular army of the United States" was to consist of 49 infantry regiments, Moses Hazen's special Canadian infantry regiment, 4 artillery regiments, 4 legionary corps, 2 partisan corps, and a regiment of artificers. Although not mentioned in the legislation, the Corps of Engineers, the companies of sappers and miners, the Marechaussee, and the Corps of Invalids remained unchanged. All other units had to disband and transfer their enlisted men to the line regiments. Congress allotted every regiment, except Hazen's and the two partisan corps, to a single state (Table 5) to simplify subsistence and troop replacement. At Washington's request, it gave the Army rather than the state governments the power to decide which officers were to retire. Seniority would be the determining factor in resolving disputes.
The heart of the reorganization was the realignment of the Infantry. Congress apportioned the forty-nine regiments on the basis of realistic estimates of the men available in each state, rather than total population. A fiftieth regiment, Hazen's unallotted regiment, which now became the Canadian Regiment, continued under its four-battalion configuration. It absorbed the remaining Canadians from James Livingston's old 1st Canadian Regiment plus various other men.12 Washington did not object to the total number of infantry regiments, but he doubted that every regiment would achieve full strength. He also complained that the three regiments allotted to South Caro-
11. JCC, 18:893-97, 959-62; Burnett, Letters,
5:404, 407, 414-15 (Duane quotation), 417-18, 422-23, 428; Steuben
Papers (to Washington 23 Oct 80); Fitzpatrick, Writings, 20:157-67,
263-64, 277-81, 311-12, 400.
12. JCC, 19:427-28; 20:711-12; RG 93 National Archives (Bd of War report, 28 Jun 81).
lina and Georgia would have to be excluded since those states were occupied by the enemy. The plan would then provide for only 18,000 infantrymen. Washington said he needed 22,000: 18,000 for mobile field forces, 2,500 for garrisons in the Hudson Highlands, and 1,500 for service on the frontiers.
The congressional plan continued the basic regimental alignment of one light and eight line companies, all equal in size. It added three enlisted men to each company and left the number of officers unchanged. Washington, however, persuaded Congress to make substantial alterations. (Chart 11) Each regiment's three field officers—colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major, or lieutenant-colonel commandant and two majors—now no longer served as company commanders. This change enlarged the pool of field-grade officers for special assignments and significantly increased the number of captains within each regiment. Every company could expect to have three officers present in combat. Two additional sergeants, one for the first time officially designated the first sergeant, and another corporal joined each company. The number of privates in a regiment [i.e., company] increased from fifty-three to sixty-four. Four extra lieutenants joined the staff to fill the permanent positions of paymaster, adjutant, quartermaster, and recruiter. The regimental recruiter remained in his home state with a drummer and a fifer and worked full time to secure replacements. Extra lieutenants were available because of the reduced number of regiments; they also filled positions left vacant by the shortage of ensigns.
Washington was pleased with the new infantry regiment. The rank and
file strength of each company, the true measure of unit fighting power,
had increased by slightly more than 20 percent, from 56 to 68 men. Officer
and sergeant strength increases promised better control. A regiment engaging
in combat at full strength could deploy
544 rank and file (120 percent of the 1778 figure), 40 sergeants, 24 company officers, and 3 field officers. Although the new regiment did not regain the power of the 1776 regimental arrangement, it was substantially better organized and more efficient than the typical British regiment.
The new artillery regiment (Chart 12) gained eleven enlisted men, all matrosses, in each company but had fewer companies. The number of staff and company officers did not change. Congress initially planned to have 9 companies per regiment, but Washington convinced the delegates that 10 companies would simplify administration. Although the number of artillery companies in the Army dropped to 40 (in 4 regiments), the number of matrosses rose sharply from 1,344 to 1,560. Congress allotted the regiments to Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, the states which had been their primary recruiting areas in the past. The 1st and 3d Continental Artillery Regiments converted to the new structure through attrition. Lamb's 2d, a very strong regiment, and Proctor's 4th, with only eight companies, presented more of a problem. Lamb had been engaged in a long-standing argument with Pennsylvania over controlling his men from that state. Washington consolidated the two companies of the 2d which had been raised in Pennsylvania with Gibbs Jones' separate company and Isaac Coren's company of laboratory technicians in the Regiment of Artillery Ar-
tificers. The two resulting companies transferred to the 4th, bringing both regiments to the ten-company limit.13
In the case of the four light dragoon regiments, Congress proposed only minor changes, adding five privates to each troop. Bearing in mind current forage problems and the success of experiments of the 2d and 4th regiments, Washington countered with a very different proposal. (Chart 13) Under his plan each regiment would dismount two troops, thus turning the regiment into a European-style legionary corps. "I prefer Legionary Corps," he told Congress, "because the kind of Service [reconnaissance duties] we have for horse almost constantly requires the aid of Infantry."14 The infantry contingent gave each regiment the ability to defend its quarters. The savings from eliminating over one hundred horses plus specialized equipment per regiment also argued for the change. As in the case of the artillery regiments, these legionary corps were allocated to their original recruiting areas.
Washington made one further recommendation with respect to mounted units. He stated, "Tho' in general I dislike independent Corps, I think a Partisan Corps with an Army useful in many respects. Its name and destination [mission] stimulate to enterprize."15 Congress approved the retention of one for the Main Army and one for the Southern Army, under Lt. Col. Henry Lee and Colonel Armand, respectively. Although similar (Chart 14) in most respects to a legionary corps, the partisan corps had a troop organization that was quite different. Each troop had only 50 privates, and 3 of the 6
13. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 18:277-79, 311; 20:344-45;
21:45-46, 411; 22:45-48; Lamb Papers (Knox to Lamb, 8 Sep, 2 and 21 Nov
80; Robert Walker to Lamb, 31 Oct 80; Ebenezer Stevens to Lamb,
3 Nov 80).
14. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 20:163.
15. Ibid., 20:163.
troops were dismounted. The latter variation made the corps more self-reliant, allowing it to operate at a greater distance from its army than a legionary corps.
Congress reduced support troops to one regiment containing eight 60-man companies. The delegates allotted it to Pennsylvania at that state's request. The legislation did not specify which of the two existing artificer regiments would be retained, but on 29 March 1781 Congress finally directed Baldwin's Quartermaster Artificer Regiment to disband. Its men reorganized into two companies, one each in the Main and Southern Armies. Flowers' Artillery Artificer Regiment formed the regiment's other companies, but the full complement of eight companies never existed. The regiment's men served in detachments for the remainder of the war. A provisional pioneer company in the Southern Army in 1782 supplemented them.16
The final plan for the Continental Army in 1781 called for 61 regimental equivalents. States supporting the Southern Department furnished, on paper, 21 infantry regiments, 1 artillery regiment, 2 legionary corps, and 1 partisan corps. Washington expected the Main Army to have the services of 29 infantry regiments (including Hazen's oversized unit), 3 artillery regiments, 2 legionary corps, and 1 partisan corps, plus the companies of sappers and miners, the Marechaussee Corps, the Corps of Invalids, and his guard. The total of 61 also included the dispersed artificer regiment. The distribution of units reflected the different operations faced in each theater. Washington had more artillery, infantry, and specialist troops to attack the fortified base at New York. The Southern Army's larger cavalry force gave that army more mobility.
Implementation of the reorganization took place officially on 1 January 1781, and
16. Ibid., 20:339-40; 21:402; 23:202-4; 24:133; JCC, 22:148-49; Burnett, Letters, 5:76-79, 462; Jefferson, Papers, 5:574-78. Philadelphia's urban status promised to make Pennsylvania a fertile recruiting area for "mechanics."
CHARLES TUFFIN ARMAND, MARQUIS DE LA ROUERIE (1750-93) was a French volunteer who went by the title Colonel Armand while serving in America. He organized and commanded the 1st Partisan Corps and then returned to his native land where he died during the French Revolution as the leader of a counterrevolution in Brittany. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1783.)
by February Washington transmitted to the Board of War the new arrangement of his officers plus a list of those retired by the disbandments.17 The Main Army implemented the reduction and reorganization in its various winter quarters. The four New England lines easily accomplished the transition by consolidating units or by disbanding high numbered ones and transferring personnel. New Hampshire chose the latter route; Rhode Island, the former, in the process ending its experiment in segregation. Massachusetts cut its regiments from 16 to 10, and Connecticut cut its regiments from 9 to 5 through consolidations. Both renumbered their lines to reflect the commanders' seniority. Because the new regiment had a larger organization, brigades required only three infantry regiments to sustain the combat power of four old ones. The region organized six brigades: 3 from Massachusetts, 2 from Connecticut, and 1 from New Hampshire. Rhode Island's regiment rounded out the 2d Connecticut Brigade, and the 10th Massachusetts Regiment served as the third element of the New Hampshire Brigade. This arrangement produced a regional force of three divisions with significant homogeneity and strength.18
New York's reduction from five to two regiments occurred in the Northern Department, where the New York Brigade was stationed. Consolidation produced the required enlisted strength but left a surplus of experienced officers. The state used them to organize a new corps of state troops to assume responsibility for frontier defense with Congress' financial support.19 New Jersey simply disbanded its 3d Regiment and reorganized the remaining two regiments at Pompton. A full company of
17. Fitzpatrick Writings, 21:12-13, 38-39, 82-83,
18. Ibid., 20:410, 491; 21:40-41, 45, 69-70, 405.
19. Ibid., 20:295-97, 417-18; 21:17; JCC, 19:339; 23:525; Burnett, Letters, 5:148, 157-58, 177-78, 44445; 6:313-15, 322-23, 333-34, 337-38; Philip van Cortlandt, The Revolutionary War Memoir and Selected Correspondence of Philip Van Cortlandt, ed. Jacob Judd (Tarrytown: Sleepy Hollow Restorations, 1976), pp. 57-58.
the 2d immediately marched to the Wyoming Valley to assume garrison responsibilities in that region; New Jersey troops became neutral mediators in the Connecticut-Pennsylvania jurisdictional dispute.20 Both New York and New Jersey continued to field a brigade, although both brigades remained short a regiment.
The reorganization caused a major crisis in the Pennsylvania line, which was camped for the winter at Morristown. On the evening of 1 January, before the reorganization was actually implemented, the enlisted men mutinied over chronic shortages of food, clothing, and pay. The reorganization acted as the precipitating factor since most men believed that it released them from 1777 enlistments ambiguously recorded as "for three years or the duration of the war." Sergeants took control after an initial scuffle and marched the regiments to Princeton where they negotiated with representatives of Pennsylvania and Congress. The men turned several British agents over to the negotiators and indicated that they only wanted a redress of grievances. The settlement set up an impartial review panel which examined each man's enlistment. It released 1,250 infantrymen and 67 artillerists from Continental service by the end of January. The remaining 1,150 men were judged to have clearly enlisted for the duration, but they received furloughs until 15 March. Other terms included promises of back pay, clothing issues, and freedom from any punishment for the mutiny. The reorganization, with an effective date of 17 January, consolidated cadres on paper for six regiments and ordered them to reassemble at specific towns.21
The mutiny not only deprived Washington of two brigades of troops but also opened the door to future revolts. On 20 January the New Jersey regiments mutinied in an effort to obtain similar concessions. Washington reacted swiftly and asked Congress not to interfere. He sent Maj. Gen. Robert Howe from the Highlands with a detachment of New Englanders and orders to "compel the mutineers to unconditional submission" and to execute "a few of the most active and most incendiary leaders." On 27 January Howe suppressed the mutiny and ordered two ringleaders to be shot, thereby checking the spread of unrest.22
Washington realized that recruitment problems in the south dwarfed his own. He favored the creation of a mobile force capable of pinning the British into coastal enclaves, but the high level of military activity in that area complicated the reorganization. On 14 October 1780 he had selected Nathanael Greene to replace Gates as the department commander. Washington also sent Steuben to assist Greene in rebuilding the Southern Department's forces. After leaving Steuben in Virginia to supervise the establishment of a logistical structure and the rehabilitation of Virginia's forces, Greene arrived at Charlotte, North Carolina, on 2 December and formally relieved Gates the next day.23
The heart of the Southern Army remained the infantry regiments from Maryland and Delaware. After Camden these troops had formed a single provisional two-battalion
20. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 21:29, 32-33, 37-38.
21. Stille, Anthony Wayne, pp. 248-63; William Henry Smith, ed., The St. C/air Papers, 2 vols. (Cincinnati: Robert Clarke & Co., 1882), 1:532-33; Burnett, Letters, 5:516-33, 540-41; Pennsylvania Archives, 2d ser., 11:631-74; 4th ser., 3:796-99.
22. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 21:124-25, 128-30, 135-37, 146-49; John Shreve, "Personal Narrative of the Services of Lieut. John Shreve of the New Jersey Line of the Continental Army," ed. S. H. Shreve, Magazine of American History 3 (1879):575.
23. JCC, 18:906, 994-96; Gates Papers (Southern Department General Orders, 3 and 4 Dee 80); Fitzpatrick, Writings, 20:50, 181-82, 238-39, 321.
JOSEPH REED (1741-85) served Washington as an aide and later became the president (governor) of Pennsylvania. In the latter capacity he negotiated the settlement of the 1781 mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1783.)
regiment. The Delaware men served in Capt. Peter Jacquette's line company and Robert Kirkwood's light infantry company. Surplus Delaware officers returned to that state to refill the rest of the regiment. They organized two more companies by mid-1781.24 The Maryland veterans from the provisional regiment and the first reinforcements sent to Greene by the state then refilled the 1st and 2d Maryland Regiments. The 6th and 7th disbanded, and the 3d, 4th, and 5th reorganized at cadre strength in Maryland. The 5th refilled first and reached Greene by mid-February 1781; the 3d and 4th set out on 28 August and 4 September, respectively.25
With no organized forces from Georgia or the Carolinas, Greene had to rely on Virginia to supplement his Maryland and Delaware veterans. Civil officials in Virginia handled the actual recruiting for Steuben, who had remained in the state to supervise the rebuilding of its regiments. Washington intended to refill the Virginia units lost at Charleston by using repatriated prisoners, convalescents, and new recruits. Steuben was unable to implement this logical program because of a series of problems. Continental officers were diverted to organize a series of provisional units needed to meet specific crises or to command militia units mobilized to fend off British raiders. Another problem arose when escaped American prisoners of war claimed on their return that captivity had released them from their enlistments. By spring frustrations with these problems led to a breach between Steuben and Governor
24. William Seymour, A Journal of the Southern
Expedition, 1780-1783 (Wilmington: Historical Society of Delaware,
1896), pp. 7-11; Kirkwood, Journal and Order Book, pp. 11-13; Caleb
Prew Bennett, "Orderly Book of Caleb Prew Bennet at the Battle of Yorktown,
1781," ed. Charles W. Dickens, Delaware History 4 (1955):108-9,
113, 121, 139, 146.
25. Gates Papers (Josiah Hall to Gates, 12 Oct 80; Gist to Gates, 26 Oct 80); Steuben Papers (Greene to Gist [copy], 10 Nov 80; Gist to Steuben, 14 Feb 81; Gist to Governor Thomas Lee, 8 Feb 81); Fitzpatrick, Writings, 21:82-83; Arthur J. Alexander, "How Maryland Tried To Raise Her Continental Quota," Maryland Historical Magazine 42 (1942):191-92. Secondary sources usually make errors in regimental numbers, most frequently mistaking Lt. Col. Benjamin Ford's 5th as the 2d Maryland Regiment.
Thomas Jefferson. The Virginia reorganization actually amounted to only a rearrangement of officers on paper. The sole exception was the 9th Virginia Regiment stationed at Fort Pitt. It regrouped as the 7th Virginia Regiment with just two companies.26
Without the Virginia infantry regiments Greene's army remained dangerously weak. Washington and Congress had sent him Henry Lee's 2d Partisan Corps in December 1780, and in February 1781 they decided to shift the Pennsylvania line to his department once it recovered from the mutiny. Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair found the reorganization of the Pennsylvania line unexpectedly difficult. To expedite matters he did not fill the permanent regiments. Instead he formed three provisional regiments, each containing eight forty-men companies. A detachment of the 4th Continental Artillery Regiment with four guns, together with one troop of the 4th Legionary Corps (containing all the men in the corps who had horses) complemented them. After overcoming major financial and logistical problems and crushing a minor mutiny, Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne finally left York, Pennsylvania, with these units in late May. St. Clair stayed to continue recruiting.27
The careful plans of October 1780 for sixty-one regimental equivalents divided into two major commands thus did not materialize. Washington's Main Army and subsidiary commands in the north lost the services of the 2d Partisan Corps as well as Pennsylvania's legionary corps, artillery regiment, and 6 infantry regiments when these units moved to the badly depleted Southern Department. The latter never obtained the 7 infantry regiments projected for Georgia and the Carolinas, and it had the services of only 1 of 8 Virginia and 2 of 6 Maryland and Delaware infantry regiments. None of the Pennsylvania troops, moreover, reached the area during the first part of 1781. When they did arrive, Greene's single artillery regiment amounted to crews for just a handful of fieldpieces; his two legionary corps operated as a small cavalry regiment; and of the two partisan corps, only Lee's remained fit for combat. On the other hand, the regiments serving in the Continental Army in 1781 contained very experienced cadres. The reorganization left only the most competent officers and produced units with very efficient organizations. During 1781 those troops would engage in the war's decisive campaigns.
The 1781 campaign conclusively demonstrated that the Continental Army had matured into a small but effective military force despite pay and supply problems. Washington and Greene wrested the strategic initiative from the British, adjusting their plans to take advantage of changing circumstances. With French military, naval, and financial support, they caused a major defect in British dispositions and then exploited it to the maximum.
26. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 19:381-82; 20:465; 21:82;
Jefferson, Papers, 4:17-18, 349-50, 603-4; 5:111-16, 162-63; 6:30-32;
Palmer, Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 1:594-96; Gates Papers
(Muhlenberg to Gates, 12 Oct 80; Abraham Buford to Gates, 21 Oct and 1
Nov 80; Ebenezer Stevens to Gates, 16 Nov 80; Return of Southern Army,
5 Nov 80); W. A. Irvine, ed., "Affairs at Fort Pitt in 1782," Historical
Magazine, 1st ser. 7 (1863):306-9.
27. JCC, 19:177, 275; Jefferson, Papers, 4:322-24; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 21:272-73, 294, 473-74; 22: 191-92; Smith, St. Clair Papers, 1:544-45, 548-49; Stille, Anthony Wayne, pp. 264-67; Historical Magazine, 1st ser. 6 (1862):337-38; RG 360, National Archives (Keene to Bd of War, 10 Apr 81; St. Clair [to Board of War], 5 Apr 81).
ARTHUR ST. CLAIR (1736-1818) served in the British Army during the French and Indian War and then settled in Pennsylvania. He raised the 2d Pennsylvania Battalion and eventually rose to the rank of major general. He was governor of the Northwest Territory and commander of the United States Army in the decade following the Revolution, suffering defeat at the hands of the Indians in Ohio in 1791. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1782.)
The year's operations began in the Carolinas. General Cornwallis suffered a major setback at Cowpens on 17 January when his light troops under Lt. Col. Banastre Tarleton engaged the Southern Department's light troops under Brig. Gen. Daniel Morgan. Several experienced contingents of irregulars plus some special militia units composed primarily of Virginia Continental veterans served with Morgan, and he developed tactics which blended their talents with those of his regulars. Deploying the former in a double line of skirmishers, Morgan caused Tarleton to commit his reserve before his troops reached the Continentals. A sharp counterattack broke through the disorganized British line and destroyed Tarleton's force. Losses in this battle and in an earlier defeat on 7 October at King's Mountain deprived Cornwallis of most of his light troops.28
Cornwallis chased Greene across the Dan River into Virginia, but the pursuit so debilitated his regiments that they had to withdraw and refit. The pause allowed Greene time to regroup his troops, establish a supply system, and dispatch Henry Lee's 2d Partisan Corps into South Carolina to assist irregulars in harassing British outposts and lines of communications. By concentrating on quality and mobility, Greene turned the small size of his regular force into a logistical advantage. He called out large militia contingents only shortly before a battle. During the intervals the militia, Lee's 2d Partisan Corps, and Lt. Col. William Washington's composite detachment of the 1st and 3d Legionary Corps restricted British reconnaissance and freedom of movement.29
Greene reentered North Carolina and on 15 March fought Cornwallis at Guilford Court House. As at Cowpens, skirmish lines forced the British troops to deploy pre-
28. Lee, Memoirs of the War in the Southern Department,
pp. 230-31; [Banastre] Tarleton, A History of the Campaigns of l
780 and 1781, in the Southern Provinces of North America (London: T.
Cadell, 1787), pp. 214-22; Gates Papers (Morgan to Will[iam Clajon], 26
29. Hamilton, Papers, 2:529-31; Jefferson, Papers, 4:288-89; 5:360-62; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 20:321.
maturely, and they suffered heavy casualties. The Continentals punished Cornwallis with accurate artillery and small arms fire, and the Marylanders drove back the elite Guards Brigade in a bayonet charge before Greene broke off the action. British losses of nearly 50 percent crippled Cornwallis' regiments as fighting units and ruined their morale. Greene then bypassed Cornwallis and moved against the British base at Camden, South Carolina. He gambled that operations in South Carolina would restore patriot morale and deprive the British of logistical support. Cornwallis chose not to follow, hoping to disrupt Greene's base in Virginia before his own subordinates met defeat.30
In a series of engagements and maneuvers Greene gradually drove Lt. Col. Francis Rawdon and Lt. Col. Alexander Stewart into coastal enclaves. On 8 September he attacked Stewart's camp at Eutaw Springs, South Carolina. Militia and irregulars led the attack, with the Continentals in reserve. The high number of relatively untrained recruits forced Greene to deploy into line too soon and the attack lost some of its momentum. When terrain and stiffening resistance slowed his advance, Greene committed his reserve in "a brisk charge with trailed Arms, through a heavy cannonade, and a shower of Musket Balls."31 This maneuver routed the main British body. Broken terrain and casualties among key American officers, however, had disrupted many units, and Stewart was able to rally some of his men. Rather than risk defeat, Greene withdrew. Eutaw Springs left the British incapable of further offensive action in the south. Cornwallis' gamble that his subordinates could hold the Carolinas and Georgia had failed.
While Greene was beginning his spring offensive, Washington had assembled his army's light infantry companies. Each now had five sergeants and fifty rank and file. On 19 February 1781 he formed them into three battalions. Lt. Col. Elijah Vose's battalion contained the companies of the 1st through 8th Massachusetts Regiments. Lt. Col. Jean-Joseph Gimat's battalion included the remaining 2 Massachusetts companies, the 5 Connecticut companies, and the single Rhode Island company. Lt. Col. Francis Barber's battalion began with the 2 New Hampshire light companies and the single light company of Hazen's Canadian Regiment; on 22 February it gained 3 line companies and the 2 light companies from New Jersey. Lafayette took command of this Light Corps on 20 February.32
Benedict Arnold, in his new role as a British brigadier, had begun operating along Virginia's James River in January 1781. Washington sent Lafayette's light infantrymen south to trap him in a joint operation with French warships from Newport, Rhode Island. Shallow waters frustrated the first naval expedition, while a superior British squadron drove off a second. Lafayette's Continentals remained in Virginia, however, even as British reinforcements from New York City and Cornwallis' column from North Carolina arrived. Although Lafayette could not now defeat the British, Cornwallis lacked the mobility to catch him or to prevent the arrival in Virginia of General Wayne's Pennsylvanians. Wayne reorganized his provisional units on 14 July into two stronger regiments, and the excess officers returned to Pennsylvania to re-
30. Tarleton, Campaigns, pp. 271-79; Charles O'Hara,
"Letters of Charles O'Hara to the Duke of Grafton," ed. George C. Rogers,
South Carolina Historical Magazine 65 (1964):159-66, 173-79.
31. RG 360, National Archives (Greene to Congress, 11 Sep 81).
32. Wright, "Corps of Light Infantry," American Historical Review, 31:459-61; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 21:169-70, 232-35, 253, 274. Lafayette had already commanded the Light Corps in 1780.
HENRY LEE (1756-1818) was a member of Virginia's prominent Lee family who started his career in the Continental Army as a captain in the 1st Continental Light Dragoon Regiment and went on to raise the 2d partisan Corps. He earned the nickname "Light Horse Harry" while leading the latter unit in operations in the south in 1781. His son, Robert E. Lee, also had a distinguished military career. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782.)
cruit.33 Cornwallis ended the summer by selecting Yorktown as the site for a permanent naval base.
While Greene and Lafayette gradually pressed British troops in the south into a few coastal enclaves, Washington planned a Franco-American offensive to recapture New York City. By June, when he called on General Rochambeau to march his expeditionary corps from Rhode Island, the Main Army and outposts contained eight brigades, Hazen's regiment, two artillery regiments, the 2d Legionary Corps, and various special units.34 Including the light companies with Lafayette (about 1,300 men), the infantry portion of Washington's force amounted to 61 field, 623 company, and 118 staff officers; 810 sergeants; 461 drummers and fifers; and 7,854 rank and file. The fact that the regiments remained 120 officers, 295 sergeants, 166 drummers and fifers, and 6,510 rank and file below authorized levels was discouraging. The artillery portion, with 91 officers and 711 men, was short 45 officers and 597 men; Col. Elisha Sheldon's legion had 23 of 32 officers and 303 of 423 men. Rochambeau's French corps added over 5,000 experienced, professional troops, in 4 two-battalion infantry regiments, 1 legion, 2 companies of miners, 6 artillery companies, and 1 company of bombardiers. These troops had participated in the important 1778 war games, which had tested the latest French military theories and doctrines. Washington also expected Admiral Francois, Comte de Grasse, to move up from the West Indies with additional troops and a large naval squadron.35
33. John Davis, "Diary of Capt. John Davis, of the Pennsylvania
Line," ed. Joseph A. Waddell, Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
1 (1893):5-7; Joseph M. Beatty, ed., "Letters From Continental Officers
to Doctor Reading Beatty, 1781-1788," Pennsylvania Magazine of History
and Biography 54 (1930): 159-61; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 21:254-56,
34. RG 93, National Archives (General Return, Main Army, June 1781). Lesser, Sinews, pp. 204-5, prints a variant of this return.
35. Quimby, Background of Napoleonic Warfare, pp. 233; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 22:86-87, 102-7, 10911, 116-22, 156-58, 207-9; Ludwig von Closen, The Revolutionary Journal of Baron Ludwig Von Closen, 1780-1783, trans. Evelyn N. Acomb (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1958), pp. 4-5, 92, 132.
WILLIAM WASHINGTON (1752-1810) was a cousin of the commander in chief who joined the 3d Virginia Regiment as a captain in 1776 and transferred to the light dragoons in 1777. During Greene's campaign in the south he was the senior cavalry officer in the field. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1781.)
Washington and Rochambeau joined forces at Dobbs Ferry, New York, on 6 July. They were encouraged by the news that the frigate Resolue had reached Philadelphia with arms, clothing, medicines, and two million livres in cash. When word arrived that de Grasse intended to sail to Chesapeake Bay rather than directly to New York, Washington and Rochambeau then decided to attack Cornwallis rather than New York City. Washington took about half of the Main Army and all the French troops south. Maj. Gen. William Heath, assisted by Generals McDougall, Stirling, and Stark, remained behind to secure West Point and the northern frontier. He retained, in addition to various contingents of militia and state troops, the New Hampshire Massachusetts, and Connecticut infantry regiments, the Corps of Invalids, the 3d Continental Artillery Regiment, and the 2d Legionary Corps. Superintendent of Finance Robert Morris and allied logistical staffs, drawing heavily on cash supplied by France, handled the largest and most complex troop movement of the war with skill and dispatch. Washington's shrewd use of deception obscured the change in plans from the British until they were powerless to intervene.36
De Grasse's squadron turned back a British relief fleet off the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay on 5 September, completing the isolation of Cornwallis. Washington opened his headquarters at Williamsburg ten days later and began organizing the allied troops for siege operations. Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, the senior American commander, took charge of the Right Wing of the allies. The six brigades of Continentals formed divisions under Lincoln, Lafayette, and Steuben, and formed the first line of the American wing. Virginia militia formed the second line. The Continental force amounted to 41 field, 355 company, and 66 staff officers; 547 sergeants; 272 drummers and fifers, and 6,412 rank and file. The militia contributed another 188 of-
36. Burnett, Letters, 6:208-11; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 22:236-37, 395-97, 401-2, 450-51, 501-2; 23:1112, 19-23, 25n, 33-34, 50-58, 68-72, 75-77, 104-7; RG 360, National Archives (Heath to Congress, 5 Sep 81); Victor L. Johnson, "Robert Morris and the Provisioning of the American Army During the Campaign of 1781," Pennsylvania History 5 (1938):7-20.
ficers and 3,426 men. Rochambeau commanded the Left Wing, consisting of his own corps and some 3,000 troops from the West Indies under Lt. Gen. Claude Anne, Marquis de Saint-Simon Maublerce.37 The siege itself progressed rapidly and in accord with formal European procedures. Artillery fire crushed Cornwallis' defenses, and on 19 October his troops marched out of their works and laid down their arms.
Plans to continue the offensive against other British garrisons in the south ended when de Grasse announced that his fleet had to return immediately to the West Indies. Rochambeau's decision to winter in Virginia allowed the Continentals to split up. General St. Clair took part of them and reinforced Greene, arriving at Round O, South Carolina, on 4 January 1782. His troops consisted of two Delaware companies, the 3d and 4th Maryland Regiments, a provisional Virginia regiment, General Wayne's two Pennsylvania provisional regiments and a third which arrived at Yorktown after the siege, and all available mounted troopers from the 1st, ad, and 4th Legionary Corps. Greene quickly regrouped the Pennsylvanians into two strong regiments, disbanded the 5th Maryland Regiment to fill the other four from that state, and transferred his own Delaware men to the new companies. Armand's 1st Partisan Corps had to remain behind in Virginia because it required a more time-consuming reorganization, which began with the transfer of fifty men from the light infantry corps to serve as a cadre.38
The rest of the Continentals, with a few exceptions, marched from Yorktown under Lincoln and joined Heath in the Highlands. On arrival, the Light Corps broke up and the individual companies returned to their regiments for the winter. Hazen's regiment escorted prisoners to Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and remained there as guards.39 Lamb's artillerymen, initially assisted by the sappers and miners, transported the heavy guns of the siege train and over two hundred captured British pieces to Head of Elk, Maryland. The captured guns were sent to Philadelphia to be overhauled by an artificer company. The field pieces were to accompany the troops to West Point, but Lamb's regiment camped for the winter at Burlington, New Jersey, with the siege train. It did not resume its march to West Point until August.40
Washington spent the winter at Philadelphia in discussions with Congress. The Continental Army had successfully met the battlefield challenge during 1781. Greene's army, Lafayette's contingent, and the Franco-American force had completely altered the course of the war. Yorktown ended British hopes of overrunning the south and left the enemy with only footholds at Savannah, Charleston, and New
37. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 23:134-35, 146-47; RG
93, National Archives (Weekly Return, Main Army, 3 Oct 81).
38. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 23:193-95, 198, 200, 216-17, 248-50, 258, 266-67, 270, 292-99, 309-13, 317-18; RG 360, National Archives (Greene to congress, 23 Jan 82); Steuben Papers (Abstract of Musters for the Southern Army, 1 Apr-19 Sep 82); William Nine, "Extracts From the Papers of General William Irvine," ed. W. A. Irvine, Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 5 (1881):268, 274-7s; Archives of Maryland, 18:429-75; Palmer, Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 2:127, 241, 582-85; Kirkwood, Journal and Order Book, pp. 27-30; Tuffin Charles Armand, Marquis de la Rouerie, "Letters of Col. Armand," New-York Historical Society Collections for 1878, pp. 323-30.
39. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 23:290-91, 293-94, 323-24, 374, 25:110-11; James Thacher, Military Journal of the American Revolution, From the Commencement to the Disbanding of the American Army (Hartford: Hurlbut, Williams & Co., 1862), pp. 302-3.
40. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 25:58-59. The convoy for the 1782 move required 114 horses and 200 oxen to move the artillery park's 39 wagons, 4 traveling forges, 18 howitzers, 16 fieldpieces, and 4 twelve-pounders. Lamb Papers (Knox to Lamb, 2 Nov 81 and 31 Jul 82; Knox to Washington, 30 Jul 82 [copy].)
JEAN-BAPTISTE-DONATIEN DE VIMEUR, COMTE DE ROCHAMBEAU (1725-1807) commanded the French expeditionary corps which served in North America under Washington from 1780 to 1782. The tact and skill of this professional soldier contributed directly to the success of the Yorktown campaign and the Franco-American alliance. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782.)
York City. Although French naval, financial, and military aid had played a major role in achieving the final victory at Yorktown, Washington had every reason to be proud of the Continentals' battlefield prowess and superior mobility. It was not long, however, before he had to deal with new problems caused by a shrinking military force.
During the last two years of the Revolution, the Continental Army did not engage in any major battle. Lack of French naval support prevented assaults on the remaining British strongholds, and changed political conditions in England made it clear that a negotiated peace would come in time. Congress and the American people, weary of a long war, increased the pressure on the military establishment to reduce expenses. Washington's role in gradually dismantling the Continental Army became one of his most important contributions to the new nation.
Washington's conferences with Congress during the winter of 1781-82 quickly established that the delegates wanted to trim expenses. The latter placed a limit for the first time on the number of general officers on active duty and began reviewing staff organizations to reduce expenditures. A committee recommended cutting the number of infantry regiments and the proportion of officers since "the Class of Men who are willing to become Soldiers is much diminished by the War and therefore the Difficulties of raising an Army equal to former Establishments have increased and will continue to increase."41 Washington countered that since 1777 the Army had proportionately reduced the number of its regiments faster than the British Army in America had, that captured documents indicated that the British Army had more Loyalists on its rolls than he had Continentals, and that combat experience had made clear that the
41. Burnett, Letters, 6:177-79.
GENERAL RETURN, MAIN ARMY, 27 OCTOBER 1781. Adj. Gen. Edward Hand compiled this return of Continental infantry present at Yorktown under Washington eight days after Cornwallis' surrender. The return reflects the actual strength of each of the six brigades in Virginia and accounts for various absences.
ROBERT MORRIS (1734-1806), the financial wizard of the Revolution, served during and after the war in various political roles. As a delegate in the Continental Congress he led the nationalist faction which strongly supported Washington, and as Superintendent of Finance, he contributed directly to the success of the Yorktown campaign. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, 1782.)
ratio of Continental officers to men was already too low. He won his case for the time being, but on 23 April 1782 Congress overturned one of the important features of the October 1780 reorganization. In the interest of economy, the delegates ordered that three lieutenants be eliminated from each regiment and that company officers be assigned to carry out the functions of adjutant, quartermaster, and recruiter.42
Continuing its drive for economy, Congress concentrated in 1782 on reducing the Army's support structure. It used the permanent executive ministers which replaced standing committees as the primary means for making these changes. Robert Morris, who had become Superintendent of Finance on 20 February 1781, played a major role, just as he had in the logistical effort for the Yorktown campaign. Even more important in this effort was Benjamin Lincoln, who had become Secretary at War on 30 October 1781. Although Lincoln's statutory functions were quite similar to those of the Board of War and his English counterpart, he acted in practice as Washington's liaison with Congress and Morris. Under Lincoln, the War Office consisted of an assistant, a secretary, and two clerks. They were able to reduce the size of most staff agencies, and they replaced many remaining officials with line officers acting in a part-time capacity. When Congress insisted on eliminating many positions concerned with direct support to the field armies, Washington protested that the changes particularly impaired the Army's mobility.43
Washington arrived at Newburgh, New York, on 31 March 1782 and formally resumed command in the north four days later. A private's letter home written at that time reflects the conditions he found: "Time are very dubros [sic] at present for there
42. JCC, 21:791, 1127, 1179-81, 1163-65, 1182-83;
22:211-12, 381-82; Burnett, Letters, 6:270-80; Fitzpatrick, Writings,
23:29-32, 452-56, 498-99; 24:391-92. The final return (27 April 1784) of
officers forced to retire by this "reform" is in Record Group 360, National
43. JCC, 19:126-28, 180; 20:662-67; 21:1030, 1087, 1173, 1186-87; 22:30-33, 36-37, 40-41, 129-31, 177-79, 216, 235, 244-45, 381, 408-15, 425-27; 23:683-86; Burnett, Letters, 6:11-12, 190-91, 230-31; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 23:410-12, 452-56; 24:98-99; 25:72-73; 26:84.
MONTHLY RETURN, MAIN ARMY, JUNE 1782. This monthly return for Washington's force at Newburgh, New York, in June 1782 is typical of the comprehensiveness of the Army's recordkeeping by the end of the war. It accounts for all officers and men of the infantry, artillery, 2d Legionary Corps, sappers and miners, and invalids.
is no news of Peace as yet. But the armies are all well diciplined [sic] and in wonderful good spirits and draw very good provisions."44 By the Continental Army's standards conditions were good. Yorktown had raised morale, and the Highlands area offered long-established depots and housing as well as training programs. The Army included a high proportion of hardened veterans who knew how to make the most of their circumstances.
In June Washington and Steuben began a series of comprehensive monthly brigade inspections. They judged appearance, paperwork, maneuvers, and marksmanship. Washington approved the overall performance and competitive spirit of the exercises but warned the men that "it is the effect of the shot not the report of the Gun that can discomfort the Enemy and if a bad habit is acquired at exercise it will prevail in real Action."45 This rigorous training program culminated on 31 August when Washington moved the Main Army down the Hudson River from Newburgh to Verplanck's Point to simplify subsistence. In the process he tested the feasibility of an amphibious attack on New York City. Five infantry brigades made the move by water, Pith baggage following in other boats. The individual units were assigned to boats in a manner which kept elements intact, and the flotilla maintained strict parade-ground alignment. These factors enabled the regiments to deploy promptly into line of battle as soon as the boats beached on Verplanck's Point. The experiment was a striking success. Indeed, if de Grasse's warships had been available for a real assault, Washington's veterans, with the aid of French troops, probably would have been able to seize Manhattan.46
Washington also established an honor system in 1782 to improve morale. He authorized a chevron worn on the left arm of the uniform coat for all enlisted men who "served more than three years with bravery, fidelity and good conduct." Two chevrons represented six years of good service. The Badge of Military Merit, a heart of purple silk edged with narrow lace bindings and worn over the left lapel, was a special decoration. Washington proudly proclaimed that "the road to glory in a patriot army and a free country is thus open to all."47 Only three of these badges were ever granted. Sgt. William Brown (formerly of the 5th Connecticut Regiment), Sgt. Elijah Churchill of the 2d Legionary Corps, and Sgt. Daniel Bissel, Jr., of the 2d Connecticut Regiment each received one in 1783.48
In August 1782, when Washington practiced the amphibious landing on Verplanck's Point, his force in the northern half of the nation included eight brigades, Hazen's regiment, two artillery regiments, a legionary corps, and a variety of smaller specialist units. The infantry contingent amounted to 67 field, 475 company, and 119 staff officers; 813 sergeants; 448 drummers and fifers; and 9,210 rank and file. These figures were roughly two-thirds of the authorized full strength; Washington lacked 114 officers, 283 sergeants, 78 drummers and fifers, and 5,154 rank and file. The two artillery regiments contained 100 officers and 907 men; the Corps of Invalids, 27 offi-
44. Sylvia J. Sherman, led., Dubros Times: Selected
Depositions of Maine Revolutionary War Veterans (Augusta: Maine State
Archives, 1975), p. 9. Also see Fitzpatrick, Writings, 24:101.
45. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 24:322.
46. Ibid., 24:303,309-10, 334, 358-59,459-60; 25:93-96,121.
47. Ibid., 24:488.
48. Ibid., 24:487-88; 25:142; 26:363-64, 481; see J. Hammond Trumbull, ea., The Memorial History of Hartford County, Connecticut, 1623-1884, 2 vols. (Boston: Edward L. Osgood, 1886),2:514-15, for Bissel.
cers and 337 men; and the sappers and miners, 5 officers and 77 men. Sheldon's 2d Legionary Corps and the Marechaussee contributed 30 officers and 355 men, giving Washington a strength of about 800 officers and 12,000 men.49
Because of the consistent failure to secure enough recruits, Washington bowed to Congress' desire to reduce the whole Continental Army still further. On 7 August Congress ordered all states to reduce their lines by 1 January 1783 to complete regiments containing not less than 500 rank and file. Washington's suggestion that junior regiments disband and furnish men to other units became the basic method of achieving this end. On 1 January 1783 New York retained its 2 full regiments. Connecticut reduced its line to 3 regiments and Massachusetts reduced its regiments to 8; all then contained at least 500 rank and file. Because the regiments of Rhode Island, New Jersey, and New Hampshire all came close to the minimum strength, Washington obtained special permission from Congress for those states to delay their reorganization until 1 March. Ironically, they then complained that they would have to furnish a disproportionate part of the Army, and they failed to secure the necessary recruits. On 1 March the 2d New Hampshire and 2d New Jersey Regiments reduced to battalion strength. Each had four companies, two field officers, an adjutant, a quartermaster, a paymaster, and either a surgeon or mate. On 19 November 1782 Congress had restored the regimental adjutant and quartermaster positions to full staff status. The Rhode Island Regiment reorganized as a battalion with six companies.50
Greene faced greater problems than Washington during 1782, although the British evacuated Savannah on 11 July and Charleston on 14 December. The Southern Army only engaged in skirmishes, but the provisional regiments, less stable than Washington's units, deteriorated. Washington directed Greene to rebuild the lines allotted to the Carolinas and Georgia, but he stopped the movement of replacements from Pennsylvania and Maryland. Greene reorganized his remaining Pennsylvanians as a single provisional regiment under Lt. Col. Josiah Harmar on 4 November 1782. On 1 January Congress reduced the Pennsylvania line on paper from six to three regiments; the latter remained depot cadres in contrast to Harmar's crack combat unit. Greene handled the Maryland regiments differently. He disbanded the 3d and 4th Maryland Regiments and transferred all personnel to the 1st and 2d Regiments as of 1 January 1783. The last two companies of the Delaware Regiment went home at the end of 1782. The men received extended furlough when they reached Christiana Bridge, Delaware, on 17 January 1783.51
In the case of the short-term Virginia troops, Greene simply released them as their enlistments expired. The state's permanent regiments reorganized on 1 January 1783. All but two disbanded; the arrangement retained officers in proportion to the number of enlisted men remaining from the old regiments. The 1st Virginia Regiment re-
49. RG 93, National Archives (Monthly Return, Main Army,
August 1782); Lesser, Sinews, pp. 232-33, prints a variant of this
50. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 24:352-55; 25:286-87, 312-13, 376, 425-26, 439-40, 456, 460-61; 26:3-4, 22, 140-42, 172; JCC, 22:451-53; 23:710-11, 736-39, 837; Burnett, Letters, 6:431-32, 537-38; 7:1-2, 11-13.
51. RG 360, National Archives (Wayne to Greene, 12 Jul 82; Greene to congress, 13 Aug 82); JCC, 23:549, 560, 837; Burnett, Letters, 6:446-47, 469-70, 480-81; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 24:409-10; 25:100, 110-11, 162-63, 193-94, 283-84, 328; 26:238; Archives of Maryland, 18:476-82; Seymour, Journal, pp. 40-42; Steuben Papers (southern Army Returns for 9 Jan and 2 Apt 83); Southern Department Orderly Book (Greene's General Orders for 14 Sep and 2, 3, and 4 Nov 82), New-York Historical Society. A detachment of new Maryland recruits served with the Main Army in 1782 under Maj. Thomas Landsdale.
formed at the Winchester, Virginia, replacement depot. The 2d, only partially filled, contained the Virginia men on duty at Fort Pitt. Virginia's portion of the 1st Continental Artillery became a single overstrength company with Greene under Capt. William Pierce; the Maryland portion remained a single company, also with Greene. The 1st and 3d Legionary Corps formally consolidated as the 1st Legionary Corps, with five troops.52
Stabilized conditions in 1782 allowed North Carolina to begin raising 1,500 men for an enlistment period of eighteen months. Greene first formed them into two temporary regiments and on 2 November permanently organized them as a regiment and a battalion. The South Carolina legislature decided to reorganize two regiments, but even after the evacuation of Charleston, it made no progress. Georgia planned to form a single regiment in 1782, and on 29 July it decided to mount two of the companies. Maj. John Habersham recruited some pardoned Loyalists, but Congress took no formal action in regard to the regiment since the regiment never reached operational strength.53
The first months of 1783 turned into a critical period in the Revolution. As the war moved to an end, pressure mounted in Congress to reduce expenditures by dismantling the Continental Army. One group of delegates made this demand in the hope of restoring the states to the central position of government. Another element wanted a stronger central government and saw the military as an ally in their efforts to get Congress to adopt a taxation program devised by Robert Morris. At the same time, the Army, both at the officer and enlisted levels, realized that it had to secure action from Congress on its own bread-and-butter issues, particularly arrears in pay, before the war came to an end. Discontent began to mount in the Main Army's winter quarters at Newburgh, New York. Washington sympathized, but he had real fears that the troops might become rebellious. He warned Congress that he would remain in camp and "try like a careful physician to prevent if possible the disorders getting to an incurable height."54
Hints that Congress might renounce the promise of half-pay made earlier in the war led General McDougall, accompanied by Col. John Brooks and Col. Matthias Ogden, to carry a petition to Philadelphia in January. Unlike earlier officer protests, this petition spoke for the entire Army. Washington privately wrote to several delegates, who favored stronger central government, that the petitioners had valid claims. A committee reported favorably on the petition, but Congress defeated a resolution offering the officers a sum equal to five years' pay as commutation for their pensions. A generation that had matured listening to rhetoric about the dangers of a "standing
52. JCC, 24 275-76; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 26:98,
101, 206; J. D. Eggleston, Officers of the Virginia Line at Winchester,
1783,', William and Mary Quarterly, 2d ser. 7 (1927):61; Katherine
Glass Greene, Winchester. Virginia, and Its Beginnings, 1743-1814 (Strasburg:
Shenandoah Publishing House, 1926), pp. 24144; Archives of Maryland,
18:477, see, 596-97; Southern Department Orderly Rook (Greene's General
Orders for 2 and 3 Nov 82); Palmer, Calendar of Virginia State Papers,
53. Burnett, Letters, 6:537-38; Allen D. Candler, Revolutionary Records, 3:57, 79-80, 157, 161-63; RG 360, National Archives (Wayne to Greene, 12 Jul 82; Greene to Congress, 13 Aug 82); Steuben Papers ("Abstract of Musters for the Southern Army," 1 Apr-19 Sep 82; Francis Mentges to Steuben, 9 Jan and 2 Apr 83).
54. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 25:269-70. Basic sources for this section discussion are the following: Headers son, Party Politics, pp. 318, 332-3s; Richard H. Kohn, "The Inside History of the Newburgh Conspiracy: America and the coup d'Etat," William and Mary Quarterly, 3d ser. 27 (1970):187-220; and Mintz, Gouveneur Morris, pp. 156-61.
army" then turned immediately to the Main Army to see how the Continentals would react.55
Alexander Hamilton, once Washington's aide and now a delegate from New York, urged Washington to use the Army's demands to push Congress toward strengthening the national government. Joseph Jones, a more moderate delegate from Virginia, gave the Commander in Chief a clearer picture of Congress' financial problems. He also warned Washington that "the ambition of some, and the pressure of distress in others; may produce dangerous combinations .... If there are men in the army who harbour wicked designs, and are determined to blow the coals of discord, they will greatly endeavour to hurt the reputation of those adverse to their projects."56 Washington's views were closer to those of Jones than those of Hamilton. Although he decided not to become involved openly in a political matter, he prepared to counter any actions of that small group of officers within the Army who might act. This group centered around Horatio Gates, who had rejoined the Main Army on 5 October 1782.57 In March Maj. John Armstrong, Gates' aide, prepared an anonymous address to the Continental Army, which Gates saw and approved. This document called upon the officers to plan a course of action to pressure Congress. Armstrong later explained that the purpose of the address was
The delegates overwhelmingly approved Washington's brilliant handling of the crisis. On 22 March, the same day that Washington's report on the officers' meeting arrived, Congress approved the commutation plan when the Connecticut delegation
55. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 25:430-31; Charles Thomson,
"The Papers of Charles Thomson, Secretary to the Continental Congress,"
New-York Historical Society Collections for 1878, pp. 70-80; Burnett,
Letters, 6:405-9, 514, 528, 553; 7:13-15, 29-31, 72-74; JCC,
22:424-25; 24:93-95, 145-51, 154-56, 178-79; Hamilton, Papers, 3:290-93;
Joseph Jones, Letters of Joseph Jones of Virginia, ed. Worthington
C. Ford (Washington: Department of State, 1889), pp. 97-103.
56. Jones, Letters, pp. 97-103. Also see Hamilton, Papers, 3:253-55.
57. Burnett, Letters, 7:27-28; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 26:185-88; Gates Papers (George Mesam to John Armstrong, 14 Sep 80 [copy]; William Clajon to Gates, 1 Mar and [11-14] Apt 81 and 10 Mar and 13 Apr 82). Clajon fed Gates poisonous comments on Washington ("George IV") and on Washington's supporters ("the Sanhedrin").
58. Gates Papers (Armstrong to Gates, 22 and 29 Apr 83).
59. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 26:211-18, 222-27, 229-34, 323-25.
reversed its earlier opposition. In accepting commutation, the officers ended both any threat of a coup and the political controversy that had revolved around half-pay pensions. The resolution of this matter and the news on 12 March of a preliminary peace treaty cleared the way for Congress to dismantle the Army. Congress ordered an end to hostilities on 11 April and approved the preliminary treaty four days later. Washington began the armistice at noon on 19 April—eight years to the day after the first shots at Lexington.60
Washington and Secretary at War Lincoln promptly worked out the mechanics of disbanding the Army. Congress adopted a general resolution on 23 April that was a compromise between those members who wished a swift disbandment to reduce expenses and those who were hesitant to act until the British had evacuated their last posts. Enlistments for the duration would expire only with the ratification of a definitive treaty, but Congress allowed the Commander in Chief to furlough the troops at his discretion. He would therefore be able to recall the Army if negotiations collapsed. On 26 May Congress ordered that all men were to march home under the control of officers; at the same time, it allowed them to keep their arms as a bonus.61
Washington announced the furlough policy on 2 June 1783. General Heath supervised the arrangement of the men who were to remain in service. He completed this task on 15 June, and six days later they moved into garrison at West Point. The force consisted of an infantry contingent of 4 regiments from Massachusetts, 1 regiment from Connecticut, 5 companies from New Hampshire, 2 companies from Hazen's regiment, and 2 companies from Rhode Island, plus 5 artillery companies: 2 from the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment and 3 from the 3d. A provisional light corps under Lt. Col. William Hull marched into Westchester County to help restore civil government in that strife-torn region. The rest of the Army, including the troops from the Southern and Western Departments, went home on furlough.62
On 17 August 1783 Washington turned command of West Point over to Maj. Gen. Henry Knox and set out for Congress.63 The previous year and a half had been trying for Washington. In 1782 he had sustained morale in the absence of military action and had honed the Main Army to a peak of training and efficiency. At Newburgh he had crushed a movement in the Army that had challenged the ideals of the Revolution. During June 1783 he had supervised the reduction of the wartime Continental Army to a small force suited to peacetime missions. Washington now turned his attention to the composition of that "peace establishment."
Objections to a Continental Army enlisted for the duration of the war had ended in late 1776 when Congress realized that single-year regiments modeled on the Provin-
60. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 26:221-22, 263-64, 268-69,
285-93, 334-36; JCC, 24:207-10, 238-52; Burnett, Letters, 7:88-90,
93, 106-8, 110-11, 246-48, 378-88; Hamilton, Papers, 3:317-21; Christopher
Collier, Connecticut in the Continental Congress (Chester, Conn.:
Pequot Press, 1973), pp. 63-67.
61. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 26:330-33, 350-52, 441-43; Burnett, Letters, 7:161-62, 24:253-54, 269-71, 275-76, 358-61, 364-65, 390, 496; 25:963, 966-67.
62. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 26:448, 464-65, 471-75; 27:6-7, 10, 15, 19-20, 25-26, 32-34, 38-39; JCC, 24: 403; 2d Continental Artillery Regiment Orderly Book (Regimental Orders, 10 and 11 Jun 83), New-York Historical Society; 3d Continental Artillery Regiment Orderly Book (Regimental Orders, 8, 9, and 11 Jun 83), New-York Historical Society.
63. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 27:111.
cials of the colonial period were insufficient for a long war. Those ideological arguments resurfaced, however, during the long debate over the legality of any permanent army in peacetime. These discussions in 1783 and 1784 would color the development of the United States Army for the remainder of the century.
Planning for the transition to a peacetime force had begun in April 1783 at the request of a congressional committee chaired by Alexander Hamilton. The Commander in Chief discussed the problem with key officers before submitting the Army's official views on 2 May. Significantly, there was a broad consensus of the basic framework among the officers. Washington's proposal called for four components: a small regular army, a uniformly trained and organized militia, a system of arsenals, and a military academy to train the army's artillery and engineer officers. He wanted four infantry regiments, each assigned to a specific sector of the frontier, plus an artillery regiment. His proposed regimental organizations followed Continental Army patterns but had a provision for increased strength in the event of war. Washington expected the militia primarily to provide security for the country at the start of a war until the regular army could expand—the same role it had carried out in 1775 and 1776. Steuben and Duportail submitted their own proposals to Congress for consideration.64
Although Congress declined on 12 May to make a decision on the peace establishment, it did address the need for some troops to remain on duty until the British evacuated New York City and several frontier posts. The delegates told Washington to use men enlisted for fixed terms as temporary garrisons. A detachment of those men from West Point reoccupied New York without incident on 25 November. When Steuben's effort in July to negotiate a transfer of frontier forts with Maj. Gen. Frederick Haldimand collapsed, however, the British maintained control over them, as they would into the 1790's. That failure and the realization that most of the remaining infantrymen's enlistments were due to expire by June 1784 led Washington to order Knox, his choice as the commander of the peacetime army, to discharge all but 500 infantry and 100 artillerymen before winter set in. The former regrouped as Jackson's Continental Regiment under Col. Henry Jackson of Massachusetts. The single artillery company, New Yorkers under John Doughty, came from remnants of the 2d Continental Artillery Regiment.65
Congress issued a proclamation on 18 October 1783 which approved Washington's reductions. On 2 November Washington then released his Farewell Order to the Philadelphia newspapers for nationwide distribution to the furloughed men. In the message he thanked the officers and men for their assistance and reminded them that
THE RESIGNATION OF WASHINGTON. John Trumbull finished his series of paintings of historic moments from the Revolution with this depiction of the moment when Washington returned his commission as commander in chief to the Continental Congress, then sitting at Annapolis, Maryland. (Painting completed between 1815 and 1822 by John Trumbull.)
Washington believed that the blending of persons from every colony into "one patriotic band of Brothers" had been a major accomplishment, and he urged the veterans to continue this devotion in civilian life.67
Washington said farewell to his remaining officers on 4 December at Fraunces' Tavern in New York City. On 23 December he appeared in Congress, then sitting at Annapolis, and returned his commission as Commander in Chief: "Having now finished the work assigned me, I retire from the great theatre of Action; and bidding an Affectionate farewell to this August body under whose orders I have so long acted, I here offer my Commission, and take my leave of all the employments of public life.''68 Congress ended the War of American Independence on 14 January 1784 by ratifying the definitive peace treaty that had been signed in Paris on 3 September.69
Congress had again rejected Washington's concept for a peacetime force in October 1783. When moderate delegates then offered an alternative in April 1784 which scaled the projected army down to 900 men in 1 artillery and 3 infantry battalions, Congress rejected it as well, in part because New York feared that men retained from
67. JCC, 25:702-5; Fitzpatrick, Writings,
27:167-69, 197-98, 205-8, 213, 222-30. Washington hoped the veterans would
settle around the frontier posts and be a buffer between the Indians and
68. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 27:285.
69. Ibid., 27:16-18, 277-80, 284-85; JCC, 25:836-39; 26:23-31.
Massachusetts might take sides in a land dispute between the two states. Another proposal to retain 350 men and raise 700 new recruits also failed. On 2 June Congress ordered the discharge of all remaining men except twenty-five caretakers at Fort Pitt and fifty-five at West Point. The next day it created a peace establishment acceptable to all interests.70
The plan required four states to raise 700 men for one year's service. Congress instructed the Secretary at War to form the troops into 8 infantry and 2 artillery companies. Pennsylvania, with a quota of 260 men, had the power to nominate a lieutenant colonel, who would be the senior officer. New York and Connecticut each were to raise 165 men and nominate a major; the remaining 110 men came from New Jersey. Economy was the watchword of this proposal, for each major served as a company commander, and line officers performed all staff duties except those of chaplain, surgeon, and surgeon's mate. Under Josiah Harmer, the First American Regiment slowly organized and achieved permanent status as an infantry regiment of the new Regular Army.71
Led by Continental veterans, this small peacetime Regular Army gradually expanded over the next decade. It had inherited the rules, regulations, and traditions of the Continental Army. Steuben's Blue Book remained the official manual for the regulars, as well as for the militia of most states, until Winfield Scott in 1835 adapted the 1791 French Army Regulations for American use. At Fallen Timbers in 1794 Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne applied the techniques of wilderness operations perfected by Sullivan's 1779 expedition against the Iroquois. The integration of ax-Continentals into the militia, coupled with the passage in 1792 of a national militia bill, improved the military responsiveness of that institution until the veterans began to age.72
America's victory in the War of American Independence surprised many European observers. One Frenchman attributed it to a frontier mystique: "It may be asserted that North-America is entirely military, and inured to war, and that new levies may continually be made without making new soldiers."73 Loyalist and some British observers suggested instead that the British did more to lose the war than the Americans did to win it.74 Many modern historians feel that the British faced insurmountable logistical obstacles and suffered from bad leadership, particularly on the political level. Others see the militia, either as a guerrilla force or as the enforcement arm of Revolutionary government, as the most important military institution of the time since it limited
70. JCC, 24:337, 492-94, 501n; 25:548-49, 722-45;
26:54-55, 201-7; 27:432-37, 486-88, 499-502, 51224, 530-31, Burnett, Letters,
7:166-69 189-91, 540-43, 546-47, 550-53, 572-73, 587-88, 604-5; Hamilton,
Papers, 3:211, 378-97; Fitzpatrick Writings, 27:140-44, 202-4;
"Thomson Papers,'' pp. 177-79.
71. The regiment s infantry contingent is perpetuated by the 3d Infantry, a parent regiment under the Combat Arms Regimental System, with active battalions in the Regular Army and Army Reserve; the artillery, by the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery.
72. Lyle D. Brundage, "The Organization, Administration, and Training of the United States Ordinary and Volunteer Militia, 1792-1861" (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1959), pp. 340-93; Jeffrey Kimhall, "The Battle of Chippewa: Infantry Tactics in the war of 1812," Military Affairs 31 (1967):169-86.
73. Marquis de Chastellux, Travels in North-America, in the Years 1780, 1781, and 1782, 2 vols. (London: G. G. J. and J. Robinson, 1787), 1:19. Also see Orville Theodore Murphy, Jr., "French contemporary Opinion of the American Revolutionary Army" (Ph.D. diss., University of Minnesota, 1957).
74. See, for example, C[harles] Stedman, The History of the Origin, Progress and Termination of the American War, 2 vols. (Dublin: privately printed, 1794), 2:499.
British authority to those areas physically occupied by troops. As the war became a global struggle, Britain's manpower reserves proved incapable of sustaining the effort.75
It is true that the militia played a very important role in the War of American Independence. Its political functions probably were indispensable, and as a military institution, supported by state troops, it continued to meets its traditional colonial responsibilities for local defense and for providing a general emergency reserve. On the other hand, it could not effectively operate as a main battle force at any distance from home or for an extended period. Congress recognized the militia's limitations from the beginning of the war and turned to full-time regular troops, the Continentals. As long as a field army of Continentals remained nearby, a British commander had to concentrate on it and leave the militia unmolested.
Britain's defeat cannot be explained by the problems of a 3,000-mile line of communications. The mother country sustained a war effort for eight years, five of them after North America became a secondary theater in a global conflict. The distance was a handicap, particularly insofar as it increased the time between a casualty and the arrival of a replacement, yet the British consistently provided their commanders with more regulars and military supplies than Washington and his subordinates had. British seapower was superior, but Washington's forces offset this advantage with better organization of land transport. American commanders used this tactical mobility to outmaneuver their opponents. When forced to flee, as in Washington's retreat through New Jersey or Greene's race to the Dan, they could always escape to a secure area and reorganize. The American ability to outdistance pursuit also robbed British battlefield victories of decisive impact. Washington's influence made American units more efficient, at least on paper, than British or German ones, particularly between 1776-78 and 1781-83. Greater line combat strength, higher ratios of officers and noncommissioned officers, and a developed regimental staff produced a powerful and responsive regiment. The British, moreover, never developed an effective echelon to match the Continental Army's permanent brigade instituted in 1777. The Continental Army's organizational concepts allowed greater control, even in semidispersed formations; the two-rank battle formation enhanced the advantages of the Army's emphasis on infantry marksmanship. Benefiting from the doctrine of aimed fire and target practice, the Continentals often inflicted heavy casualties on the British in a battle and normally dominated skirmishes.76
Knox's artillerymen also had a better organization and doctrine than the British. They concentrated fire on infantry targets, while the British used the more traditional and less effective counterbattery fire. As at Monmouth, tactical use of regimental headquarters as an intervening echelon of command enabled Knox to mass guns for a specific mission. More importantly, assigning a company of artillery to each permanent infantry brigade developed close teamwork between the arms. Rotating companies be-
75. For examples of some of the most recent interpretations
of the Revolution, see Stanley J. Underdal, ea., Military History of
the 'American Revolution: The Proceedings of the 6th Military History
Symposium, United States Air Force Academy, 10-11 October 1974 (Washington:
Office of Air Force History, 1976), and Don Higginbotham, ea., Reconsiderations
on the Revolutionary War: Selected Essays (Westport: Greenwood Press,
76. Baurmeister, Revolution in America, pp. 348-56; Charlotte S. J. Epping, trans., Journal of Du Roi the Elder, Lieutenant and Adjutant in the Service of the Duke of Brunswick, 1776-1778 (New York: D. Appleton and Co., 1911), pp. 107-8.
tween garrison, general support, and direct support assignments maintained training and ensured that every company could perform any mission in an emergency. Once the Army overcame early procurement problems, Knox also tailored the armament of each company to its specific task.
The mounted arm never had the opportunity to develop into a battlefield force, although Lt. Col. William Washington's troopers gave a fine account of themselves in the later phases of southern operations. On the other hand, it did perform well in its original mission of reconnaissance. Theoretical development and practical necessity combined to produce the 1781 legion, an excellent configuration for carrying out this role in the prevailing conditions. The partisan corps, a European concept, developed into an excellent independent, long-range force that could stiffen local irregulars.
A well-rounded group of support troops backed the combat units. Unlike the British Army, the Continental Army had specialized units to perform ordnance, maintenance, quartermaster, and military police functions. Highly trained engineers, both officers and units, functioned well in offensive and defensive assignments after 1777. Combat and support units, presided over by a competent general staff, functioned by 1782 as a team equal in quality to that of any European army of the day.
The officers of the Continental Army had been selected originally on the basis of political rather than military credentials. Experience nurtured latent talents and produced a competent group of commanders, although few individual members could be called "great captains." Once trusted subordinates (Greene, Heath, Sullivan, Stirling, Lincoln, and McDougall) became commanders of territorial departments, Washington assumed a more active role in general policy. His practice of consulting with his subordinates, usually in a council of war, has frequently been misinterpreted to mean that the Army was ruled by committee. This conclusion misjudges Washington's desire to encourage each officer to state his opinions and to feel that he was participating in the war effort. Washington was Commander in Chief in every respect. He alone carried that burden, and to him is due the credit.77
Tradition in the United States depicts the Continental Army as a hardy group of yeoman farmers and middle-class tradesmen under amateur officers who defeated a European army of lower class troops commanded by aristocrats. Recent studies indicate that after 1776 the Continental Army did not fit this image. The long-term Continentals tended to come from the poorer, rootless elements of American society to whom the Army, despite its problems, offered greater opportunity than did civilian life. Enlisted men were young (over half were under twenty-two when they enlisted) and mostly common laborers so poor as to be virtually tax-exempt. A sizable minority were hired substitutes or not native to the place where they had enlisted.
The Continental officer corps, on the other hand, came from the upper social strata. In the deferential society of eighteenth-century America, members of the leading families naturally assumed leadership in the regular forces just as they did in the militia, in politics and law, in the church, and in business. Although it was possible for an enlisted man to become an officer, particularly during the reorganizations of 1776 and 1777, Washington's desire to maintain a distance between officers and men as a disciplinary tool kept most of the latter from rising far. In small colonies, such as New
77. "Washington's Opinion of His General Officers," Magazine of American History 3 (1879):81-88; Stedman, American War, 2:448.
SIZE ROLL. Size rolls, such as this one of the 2d Continental Light Dragoon Regiment which that unit maintained throughout the war, differ from either muster or pay rolls. Size rolls contain much more personal information about a unit's officers and men because these rolls were for the unit commander's use rather than for the Army staff's. A commander recorded each member's name, rank, physical description, trade, home town, and enlistment data and updated the rolls throughout the war. If a man deserted, the commander could use the information on the rolls to track the offender. Notice that Cpl. Gideon Hawley ultimately received a commission as a cornet.
Jersey, a single family, reinforced by cousins, in-laws, political allies, or business associates, could dominate entire regiments.
In a force of this nature discipline posed a problem. Desertion rates were high, although few went over to the British. Washington coped by developing, in conjunction with his judge advocates, a system that adapted British military justice to the conditions of American society in the 1770's. His approach was mild by contemporary standards and extremely sophisticated. Washington did execute a few for particularly serious crimes. He preferred, however, to produce the same psychological effect on the Army by using last-second reprieves.
Washington led the Continental Army to victory in the longest war in
American history before Vietnam, overcoming physical and psychological
obstacles which at times appeared insurmountable. The fact that Washington
not only held the Army together but also molded it into a tough professional
fighting force is a tribute to his inspirational leadership and judgment.
That he then disbanded this force without incident when economic considerations
forced him to do so was to accomplish the nearly unthinkable in the view
of his contemporaries.
page updated 7 May 2001
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