Continental Army

Continental Army

Overview
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 by the colonies that became the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

. The Continental Army was supplemented by local militias
Militia (United States)
The role of militia, also known as military service and duty, in the United States is complex and has transformed over time.Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Page 36. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995. " The term militia can be used to describe any number of groups within the...

 and other troops that remained under control of the individual states. General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 was the Commander-in-Chief of the army throughout the war.

Most of the Continental Army was disbanded in 1783 after the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 ended the war.
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Encyclopedia
The Continental Army was formed after the outbreak of the American Revolutionary War
American Revolutionary War
The American Revolutionary War , the American War of Independence, or simply the Revolutionary War, began as a war between the Kingdom of Great Britain and thirteen British colonies in North America, and ended in a global war between several European great powers.The war was the result of the...

 by the colonies that became the United States of America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Established by a resolution of the Continental Congress
Continental Congress
The Continental Congress was a convention of delegates called together from the Thirteen Colonies that became the governing body of the United States during the American Revolution....

 on June 14, 1775, it was created to coordinate the military efforts of the Thirteen Colonies
Thirteen Colonies
The Thirteen Colonies were English and later British colonies established on the Atlantic coast of North America between 1607 and 1733. They declared their independence in the American Revolution and formed the United States of America...

 in their revolt against the rule of Great Britain
Kingdom of Great Britain
The former Kingdom of Great Britain, sometimes described as the 'United Kingdom of Great Britain', That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England, shall upon the 1st May next ensuing the date hereof, and forever after, be United into One Kingdom by the Name of GREAT BRITAIN. was a sovereign...

. The Continental Army was supplemented by local militias
Militia (United States)
The role of militia, also known as military service and duty, in the United States is complex and has transformed over time.Spitzer, Robert J.: The Politics of Gun Control, Page 36. Chatham House Publishers, Inc., 1995. " The term militia can be used to describe any number of groups within the...

 and other troops that remained under control of the individual states. General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 was the Commander-in-Chief of the army throughout the war.

Most of the Continental Army was disbanded in 1783 after the Treaty of Paris
Treaty of Paris (1783)
The Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783, ended the American Revolutionary War between Great Britain on the one hand and the United States of America and its allies on the other. The other combatant nations, France, Spain and the Dutch Republic had separate agreements; for details of...

 ended the war. The remaining units possibly formed the nucleus of what became the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

.

Creation


The Continental Army consisted of troops from all 13 colonies. When the American Revolutionary War began at the Battles of Lexington and Concord
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first military engagements of the American Revolutionary War. They were fought on April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Province of Massachusetts Bay, within the towns of Lexington, Concord, Lincoln, Menotomy , and Cambridge, near Boston...

 in April 1775, the colonial revolutionaries did not have an army. Previously, each colony had relied upon the militia, made up of part time citizen-soldiers, for local defense, or the raising of temporary "provincial regiments" during specific crises such as the French and Indian War
French and Indian War
The French and Indian War is the common American name for the war between Great Britain and France in North America from 1754 to 1763. In 1756, the war erupted into the world-wide conflict known as the Seven Years' War and thus came to be regarded as the North American theater of that war...

. As tensions with Great Britain increased in the years leading up to the war, colonists began to reform their militia in preparation for the potential conflict. Training of militiamen increased after the passage of the Intolerable Acts
Intolerable Acts
The Intolerable Acts or the Coercive Acts are names used to describe a series of laws passed by the British Parliament in 1774 relating to Britain's colonies in North America...

 in 1774. Colonists such as Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee
Richard Henry Lee was an American statesman from Virginia best known for the motion in the Second Continental Congress calling for the colonies' independence from Great Britain. He was a signatory to the Articles of Confederation and his famous resolution of June 1776 led to the United States...

 proposed creating a national militia force, but the First Continental Congress
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from twelve of the thirteen North American colonies that met on September 5, 1774, at Carpenters' Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, early in the American Revolution. It was called in response to the passage of the Coercive Acts by the...

 rejected the idea.

The minimum enlistment age was 16 years of age, or 15 with parental consent.

On April 23, 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress
Massachusetts Provincial Congress
The Massachusetts Provincial Congress was a provisional government created in the Province of Massachusetts Bay early in the American Revolution....

 authorized the raising of a colonial army consisting of 26 company regiments, followed shortly by similar but smaller forces raised by New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. On June 14, 1775, the Second Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 decided to proceed with the establishment of a Continental Army for purposes of common defense, adopting the forces already in place outside Boston (22,000 troops) and New York (5,000). It also raised the first ten companies of Continental troops on a one-year enlistment, riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia to be used as light infantry
Light infantry
Traditionally light infantry were soldiers whose job was to provide a skirmishing screen ahead of the main body of infantry, harassing and delaying the enemy advance. Light infantry was distinct from medium, heavy or line infantry. Heavy infantry were dedicated primarily to fighting in tight...

, who later became the 1st Continental Regiment in 1776. On June 15, the Congress elected George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 as Commander-in-Chief by unanimous vote. He accepted and served throughout the war without any compensation except for reimbursement of expenses.

Four major-generals (Artemas Ward
Artemas Ward
Artemas Ward was an American major general in the American Revolutionary War and a Congressman from Massachusetts...

, Charles Lee
Charles Lee (general)
Charles Lee was a British soldier who later served as a General of the Continental Army during the American War of Independence. Lee served in the British army during the Seven Years War. After the war he sold his commission and served for a time in the Polish army of King Stanislaus II...

, Philip Schuyler
Philip Schuyler
Philip John Schuyler was a general in the American Revolution and a United States Senator from New York. He is usually known as Philip Schuyler, while his son is usually known as Philip J. Schuyler.-Early life:...

, and Israel Putnam
Israel Putnam
Israel Putnam was an American army general and Freemason who fought with distinction at the Battle of Bunker Hill during the American Revolutionary War...

) and eight brigadier-generals (Seth Pomeroy
Seth Pomeroy
Seth Pomeroy was an American gunsmith and soldier from Northampton, Massachusetts. His military service included the French and Indian War and the early stages of the American Revolutionary War...

, Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery
Richard Montgomery was an Irish-born soldier who first served in the British Army. He later became a brigadier-general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War and he is most famous for leading the failed 1775 invasion of Canada.Montgomery was born and raised in Ireland...

, David Wooster
David Wooster
David Wooster was an American general who served in the French and Indian War and in the American Revolutionary War. He died of wounds sustained during the Battle of Ridgefield, Connecticut. Cities, schools, and public places were named after him...

, William Heath
William Heath
William Heath was an American farmer, soldier, and political leader from Massachusetts who served as a major general in the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War....

, Joseph Spencer
Joseph Spencer
Joseph Spencer was an American lawyer, soldier, and statesman from Connecticut. During the Revolutionary War, he served both as a delegate to the Continental Congress and as a major general in the Continental Army....

, John Thomas
John Thomas (general)
John Thomas was an American doctor and soldier from Massachusetts who became a major general in the Continental Army. He was a leader during the siege of Boston. Thomas briefly commanded the withdrawal from Canada after the unsuccessful invasion by the Continental Army. He died from smallpox...

, John Sullivan
John Sullivan
John Sullivan was the third son of Irish immigrants, a United States general in the Revolutionary War, a delegate in the Continental Congress and a United States federal judge....

, and Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene
Nathanael Greene was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, Greene was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. Many places in the United...

) were appointed in the course of a few days. Pomeroy declined and the position was left unfilled.

As the Continental Congress increasingly adopted the responsibilities and posture of a legislature for a sovereign state, the role of the Continental Army was the subject of considerable debate. There was a general aversion to maintaining a standing army among the Americans; but, on the other hand, the requirements of the war against the British required the discipline and organization of a modern military. As a result, the army went through several distinct phases, characterized by official dissolution and reorganization of units.

Soldiers in the Continental Army were citizens who had volunteered to serve in the army (but were paid), and at various times during the war, standard enlistment periods lasted from one to three years. Early in the war, the enlistment periods were short, as the Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

 feared the possibility of the Continental Army evolving into a permanent army. The army never reached over 17,000 men. Turnover was a constant problem, particularly in the winter of 1776-77, and longer enlistments were approved. Broadly speaking, Continental forces consisted of several successive armies, or establishments:
  • The Continental Army of 1775, comprising the initial New England
    New England
    New England is a region in the northeastern corner of the United States consisting of the six states of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Connecticut...

     Army, organized by Washington into three divisions, six brigades, and 38 regiments. Major General Philip Schuyler's ten regiments in New York were sent to invade Canada
    Canada
    Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

    .
  • The Continental Army of 1776, reorganized after the initial enlistment period of the soldiers in the 1775 army had expired. Washington had submitted recommendations to the Continental Congress almost immediately after he had accepted the position of Commander-in-Chief, but these took time to consider and implement. Despite attempts to broaden the recruiting base beyond New England, the 1776 army remained skewed toward the Northeast both in terms of its composition and geographical focus. This army consisted of 36 regiments, most standardized to a single battalion of 768 men strong formed into eight companies, with a rank and file strength of 640.
  • The Continental Army of 1777-80 was a result of several critical reforms and political decisions that came about when it was apparent that the British were sending massive forces to put an end to the American Revolution
    American Revolution
    The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

    . The Continental Congress passed the "Eighty-eight Battalion Resolve", ordering each state to contribute one-battalion regiments in proportion to their population, and Washington was subsequently given authority to raise an additional 16 battalions. Also, enlistment terms were extended to three years or "the length of the war" to avoid the year-end crises that depleted forces (including the notable near collapse of the army at the end of 1776 which could have ended the war in a Continental, or American, loss by forfeit).
  • The Continental Army of 1781-82 saw the greatest crisis on the American side in the war. Congress was bankrupt, making it very difficult to replenish the soldiers whose three-year terms had expired. Popular support for the war was at its all-time low, and Washington had to put down mutinies both in the Pennsylvania Line
    Pennsylvania Line
    Pennsylvania, like many other colonies, was involved with the war and developing problem of the American Revolution.-History:Philadelphia was the site of the Constitutional Convention. It also served as the capital city for a while. Threats from Britain caused the country to relocate to...

     and New Jersey Line
    New Jersey Line
    The New Jersey Line was a formation within the Continental Army. The term "New Jersey Line" referred to the quota of numbered infantry regiments assigned to New Jersey at various times by the Continental Congress. These, together with similar contingents from the other twelve states, formed the...

    . Congress voted to cut funding for the Army, but Washington managed nevertheless to secure important strategic victories.
  • The Continental Army of 1783-84, was succeeded by the United States Army
    United States Army
    The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

    , which persists to this day. As peace was closed with the British, most of the regiments were disbanded in an orderly fashion, though several had already been diminished.


In addition to the Continental Army regulars, local militia units, raised and funded by individual colonies/states, participated in battles throughout the war. Sometimes, the militia units operated independently of the Continental Army, but often local militias were called out to support and augment the Continental Army regulars during campaigns. (The militia troops developed a reputation for being prone to premature retreats, a fact that was integrated into the strategy at the Battle of Cowpens
Battle of Cowpens
The Battle of Cowpens was a decisive victory by Patriot Revolutionary forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War...

.)

The financial responsibility for providing pay, food, shelter, clothing, arms, and other equipment to specific units was assigned to states as part of the establishment of these units. States differed in how well they lived up these obligations. There were constant funding issues and morale problems as the war continued. This led to the army offering low pay, often rotten food, hard work, cold, heat, poor clothing and shelter, harsh discipline, and a high chance of becoming a casualty.

Operations





At the time of the Siege of Boston
Siege of Boston
The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

, the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge, Massachusetts
Cambridge is a city in Middlesex County, Massachusetts, United States, in the Greater Boston area. It was named in honor of the University of Cambridge in England, an important center of the Puritan theology embraced by the town's founders. Cambridge is home to two of the world's most prominent...

, in June 1775, is estimated to have numbered from 14-16,000 men from New England (though the actual number may have been as low as 11,000 because of desertions). Until Washington's arrival, it remained under the command of Artemas Ward, while John Thomas acted as executive officer and Richard Gridley
Richard Gridley
Richard Gridley was born in Boston, Massachusetts. He was the son of Richard Gridley and Rebecca Scarborough. He was a soldier and engineer who served for the British Army during the French and Indian Wars and for the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War.He married Hannah Deming...

 commanded the artillery corps and was chief engineer.

The British force in Boston
Boston
Boston is the capital of and largest city in Massachusetts, and is one of the oldest cities in the United States. The largest city in New England, Boston is regarded as the unofficial "Capital of New England" for its economic and cultural impact on the entire New England region. The city proper had...

 was increasing by fresh arrivals. It numbered then about 10,000 men. Major Generals Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe
William Howe, 5th Viscount Howe, KB, PC was a British army officer who rose to become Commander-in-Chief of British forces during the American War of Independence...

, Clinton
Henry Clinton (American War of Independence)
General Sir Henry Clinton KB was a British army officer and politician, best known for his service as a general during the American War of Independence. First arriving in Boston in May 1775, from 1778 to 1782 he was the British Commander-in-Chief in North America...

, and Burgoyne
John Burgoyne
General John Burgoyne was a British army officer, politician and dramatist. He first saw action during the Seven Years' War when he participated in several battles, mostly notably during the Portugal Campaign of 1762....

, had arrived late in May and joined General Gage
Thomas Gage
Thomas Gage was a British general, best known for his many years of service in North America, including his role as military commander in the early days of the American War of Independence....

 in forming and executing plans for dispersing the rebels. Feeling strong with these veteran officers and soldiers around him—and the presence of several ships-of-war under Admiral Graves
Samuel Graves
Admiral Samuel Graves RN was a British Admiral who is probably best known for his role early in the American War of Independence.-Military career:Graves joined the Royal Navy in 1732...

—the governor issued a proclamation, declaring martial law
Martial law
Martial law is the imposition of military rule by military authorities over designated regions on an emergency basis— only temporary—when the civilian government or civilian authorities fail to function effectively , when there are extensive riots and protests, or when the disobedience of the law...

, branding the entire Continental Army and supporters as "rebels" and "parricides of the Constitution." Amnesty was offered to those who gave up their allegiance to the Continental Army and Congress in favor of the British authorities, though Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams
Samuel Adams was an American statesman, political philosopher, and one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. As a politician in colonial Massachusetts, Adams was a leader of the movement that became the American Revolution, and was one of the architects of the principles of American...

 and John Hancock
John Hancock
John Hancock was a merchant, statesman, and prominent Patriot of the American Revolution. He served as president of the Second Continental Congress and was the first and third Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts...

 were still wanted for high treason
High treason
High treason is criminal disloyalty to one's government. Participating in a war against one's native country, attempting to overthrow its government, spying on its military, its diplomats, or its secret services for a hostile and foreign power, or attempting to kill its head of state are perhaps...

. This proclamation only served to strengthen the resolve of the Congress and Army.

After the British evacuation of Boston (prompted by the placement of Continental artillery overlooking the city in March 1776), the Continental Army relocated to New York. For the next five years, the main bodies of the Continental and British armies campaigned against one another in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. These campaigns included the notable battles of Trenton, Princeton, Brandywine, Germantown, and Morristown, among many others.

The Continental Army was racially integrated, a condition the United States Army would not see again until the Korean War
Korean War
The Korean War was a conventional war between South Korea, supported by the United Nations, and North Korea, supported by the People's Republic of China , with military material aid from the Soviet Union...

. Negro slaves
African Americans in the Revolutionary War
The Continental Congress was not only presented as a fight for liberty for white colonists. Some African Americans saw the Revolution as a fight for liberty, but their own liberty and freedom from slavery. Others responded to the Dunmore's Proclamation, and fought for their freedom as Black Loyalists...

 were promised freedom in exchange for military service in New England, and made up one fifth of the Northern Continental Army.

Throughout its existence, the Army was troubled by poor logistics, inadequate training, short-term enlistments, interstate rivalries, and Congress's inability to compel the states to provide food, money or supplies. In the beginning, soldiers enlisted for a year, largely motivated by patriotism; but as the war dragged on, bounties and other incentives became more commonplace. Two major mutinies late in the war drastically diminished the reliability of two of the main units, and there were constant discipline problems.

The army increased its effectiveness and success rate through a series of trials and errors, often at great human cost. General Washington and other distinguished officers were instrumental leaders in preserving unity, learning and adapting, and ensuring discipline throughout the eight years of war. In the winter of 1777-1778, with the addition of Baron von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
Friedrich Wilhelm August Heinrich Ferdinand von Steuben , also referred to as the Baron von Steuben, was a Prussian-born military officer who served as inspector general and Major General of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War...

, of Prussia
Prussia
Prussia was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history...

n origin, the training and discipline of the Continental Army began to vastly improve. (This was the infamous winter at Valley Forge
Valley Forge
Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

.) Washington always viewed the Army as a temporary measure and strove to maintain civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military
Civilian control of the military is a doctrine in military and political science that places ultimate responsibility for a country's strategic decision-making in the hands of the civilian political leadership, rather than professional military officers. One author, paraphrasing Samuel P...

, as did the Continental Congress
Second Continental Congress
The Second Continental Congress was a convention of delegates from the Thirteen Colonies that started meeting on May 10, 1775, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, soon after warfare in the American Revolutionary War had begun. It succeeded the First Continental Congress, which met briefly during 1774,...

, though there were minor disagreements about how this was carried out.

Near the end of the war, the Continental Army was augmented by a French expeditionary force
Expédition Particulière
Expédition Particulière was the code name given by the French government for the plan to sail French land forces to North America to support the American rebel forces against Britain in the American Revolutionary War. In English they were known as the Special Expedition.The expedition of 5,000...

 (under General Rochambeau
Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau
Marshal of France Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau was a French nobleman and general who participated in the American Revolutionary War as the commander-in-chief of the French Expeditionary Force which came to help the American Continental Army...

) and a squadron of the French navy (under the Comte de Barras), and in the late summer of 1781 the main body of the army travelled south to Virginia to rendezvous with the French West Indies fleet under Admiral Comte de Grasse. This resulted in the Siege of Yorktown
Siege of Yorktown
The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...

, the decisive Battle of the Chesapeake
Battle of the Chesapeake
The Battle of the Chesapeake, also known as the Battle of the Virginia Capes or simply the Battle of the Capes, was a crucial naval battle in the American War of Independence that took place near the mouth of Chesapeake Bay on 5 September 1781, between a British fleet led by Rear Admiral Sir Thomas...

, and the surrender of the British southern army. This essentially marked the end of the land war in America, although the Continental Army returned to blockade the British northern army in New York until the peace treaty went into effect two years later, and battles took place elsewhere between British forces and those of France and its allies.

Demobilization


A small residual force remained at West Point
West Point, New York
West Point is a federal military reservation established by President of the United States Thomas Jefferson in 1802. It is a census-designated place located in Town of Highlands in Orange County, New York, United States. The population was 7,138 at the 2000 census...

 and some frontier outposts until Congress created the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 by their resolution of June 3, 1784.

Planning for the transition to a peacetime force had begun in April 1783 at the request of a congressional committee chaired by Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton
Alexander Hamilton was a Founding Father, soldier, economist, political philosopher, one of America's first constitutional lawyers and the first United States Secretary of the Treasury...

. 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.

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
Evacuation Day (New York)
Following the American Revolution, Evacuation Day on November 25 marks the day in 1783 when the last vestige of British authority in the United States — its troops in New York — departed from Manhattan...

 without incident on 25 November. When Steuben's effort in July to negotiate a transfer of frontier forts with Maj. Gen. Frederick Haldimand
Frederick Haldimand
Sir Frederick Haldimand, KB was a military officer best known for his service in the British Army in North America during the Seven Years' War and the American Revolutionary War...

 collapsed, however, the British maintained control over them, as they would into the 1790s. 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
Henry Jackson (general)
Born in Boston, Massachusetts, on 19 October 1747, Henry Jackson was the youngest son of Joseph and Susannah Jackson. Before the War for Independence, he was an officer of the First Corps of Cadets in Boston, which was disbanded during the British occupation...

 of Massachusetts. The single artillery company, New Yorkers under John Doughty, came from remnants of the 2nd Continental Artillery Regiment.

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 singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverance of the Armies of the U[nited] States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle."
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.

Washington said farewell to his remaining officers on 4 December at Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern
Fraunces Tavern is a tavern, restaurant and museum housed in a conjectural reconstruction of a building that played a prominent role in pre-Revolution and American Revolution history. The building, located at 54 Pearl Street at the corner of Broad Street, has been owned by Sons of the Revolution in...

 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." 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.

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 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.

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 Harmar
Josiah Harmar
Josiah Harmar was an officer in the United States Army during the American Revolution and the Northwest Indian War. He was the senior officer in the Army for seven years....

, the First American Regiment
First American Regiment
The First American Regiment was the first peacetime regular army force authorized by United States Congress after the American Revolutionary War...

 slowly organized and achieved permanent status as an infantry regiment of the new Regular Army. The Lineage of the 1st American Regiment is carried on by the 3rd United States Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard).

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
Winfield Scott
Winfield Scott was a United States Army general, and unsuccessful presidential candidate of the Whig Party in 1852....

 in 1835 adapted the 1791 French Army Regulations for American use. At the Battle of Fallen Timbers
Battle of Fallen Timbers
The Battle of Fallen Timbers was the final battle of the Northwest Indian War, a struggle between American Indian tribes affiliated with the Western Confederacy and the United States for control of the Northwest Territory...

 in 1794, Maj. Gen. Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne
Anthony Wayne was a United States Army general and statesman. Wayne adopted a military career at the outset of the American Revolutionary War, where his military exploits and fiery personality quickly earned him a promotion to the rank of brigadier general and the sobriquet of Mad Anthony.-Early...

 applied the techniques of wilderness operations perfected by Sullivan's 1779 expedition against the Iroquois. The integration of ex-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.

Rank Insignia


During the American Revolution
American Revolution
The American Revolution was the political upheaval during the last half of the 18th century in which thirteen colonies in North America joined together to break free from the British Empire, combining to become the United States of America...

, the Continental Army initially wore cockades of various colors as an ad hoc form of rank insignia, as General George Washington
George Washington
George Washington was the dominant military and political leader of the new United States of America from 1775 to 1799. He led the American victory over Great Britain in the American Revolutionary War as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army from 1775 to 1783, and presided over the writing of...

 wrote:
Later on in the war, the continental army established its own uniform with a black cockade (as used in much of the British Army) among all ranks and the following insgnia:
Officer Rank Structure of the Continental Army
Major General
Major General
Major general or major-general is a military rank used in many countries. It is derived from the older rank of sergeant major general. A major general is a high-ranking officer, normally subordinate to the rank of lieutenant general and senior to the ranks of brigadier and brigadier general...

Brigadier General
Brigadier General
Brigadier general is a senior rank in the armed forces. It is the lowest ranking general officer in some countries, usually sitting between the ranks of colonel and major general. When appointed to a field command, a brigadier general is typically in command of a brigade consisting of around 4,000...

Colonel
Colonel
Colonel , abbreviated Col or COL, is a military rank of a senior commissioned officer. It or a corresponding rank exists in most armies and in many air forces; the naval equivalent rank is generally "Captain". It is also used in some police forces and other paramilitary rank structures...

Lieutenant Colonel
Lieutenant colonel
Lieutenant colonel is a rank of commissioned officer in the armies and most marine forces and some air forces of the world, typically ranking above a major and below a colonel. The rank of lieutenant colonel is often shortened to simply "colonel" in conversation and in unofficial correspondence...

Major
Major
Major is a rank of commissioned officer, with corresponding ranks existing in almost every military in the world.When used unhyphenated, in conjunction with no other indicator of rank, the term refers to the rank just senior to that of an Army captain and just below the rank of lieutenant colonel. ...

Captain Lieutenant
Lieutenant
A lieutenant is a junior commissioned officer in many nations' armed forces. Typically, the rank of lieutenant in naval usage, while still a junior officer rank, is senior to the army rank...

Ensign
Ensign (rank)
Ensign is a junior rank of a commissioned officer in the armed forces of some countries, normally in the infantry or navy. As the junior officer in an infantry regiment was traditionally the carrier of the ensign flag, the rank itself acquired the name....

No Insignia No Insignia No Insignia No Insignia No Insignia No Insignia

Major battles

  • Siege of Boston
    Siege of Boston
    The Siege of Boston was the opening phase of the American Revolutionary War, in which New England militiamen—who later became part of the Continental Army—surrounded the town of Boston, Massachusetts, to prevent movement by the British Army garrisoned within...

  • Battle of Long Island
    Battle of Long Island
    The Battle of Long Island, also known as the Battle of Brooklyn or the Battle of Brooklyn Heights, fought on August 27, 1776, was the first major battle in the American Revolutionary War following the United States Declaration of Independence, the largest battle of the entire conflict, and the...

  • Battle of Harlem Heights
    Battle of Harlem Heights
    The Battle of Harlem Heights was fought during the New York and New Jersey campaign of the American Revolutionary War. The action took place in what is now the Morningside Heights and west Harlem neighborhoods of Manhattan in New York City on September 16, 1776....

  • Battle of Trenton
    Battle of Trenton
    The Battle of Trenton took place on December 26, 1776, during the American Revolutionary War, after General George Washington's crossing of the Delaware River north of Trenton, New Jersey. The hazardous crossing in adverse weather made it possible for Washington to lead the main body of the...

  • Battle of Princeton
    Battle of Princeton
    The Battle of Princeton was a battle in which General George Washington's revolutionary forces defeated British forces near Princeton, New Jersey....

  • Battle of Brandywine
    Battle of Brandywine
    The Battle of Brandywine, also known as the Battle of the Brandywine or the Battle of Brandywine Creek, was fought between the American army of Major General George Washington and the British-Hessian army of General Sir William Howe on September 11, 1777. The British defeated the Americans and...

  • Battle of Germantown
    Battle of Germantown
    The Battle of Germantown, a battle in the Philadelphia campaign of the American Revolutionary War, was fought on October 4, 1777, at Germantown, Pennsylvania between the British army led by Sir William Howe and the American army under George Washington...

  • Battle of Saratoga
    Battle of Saratoga
    The Battles of Saratoga conclusively decided the fate of British General John Burgoyne's army in the American War of Independence and are generally regarded as a turning point in the war. The battles were fought eighteen days apart on the same ground, south of Saratoga, New York...

  • Battle of Monmouth
    Battle of Monmouth
    The Battle of Monmouth was an American Revolutionary War battle fought on June 28, 1778 in Monmouth County, New Jersey. The Continental Army under General George Washington attacked the rear of the British Army column commanded by Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton as they left Monmouth Court...

  • Siege of Charleston
    Siege of Charleston
    The Siege of Charleston was one of the major battles which took place towards the end of the American Revolutionary War, after the British began to shift their strategic focus towards the American Southern Colonies. After about six weeks of siege, Continental Army Major General Benjamin Lincoln...

  • Battle of Camden
    Battle of Camden
    The Battle of Camden was a major victory for the British in the Southern theater of the American Revolutionary War...

  • Battle of Cowpens
    Battle of Cowpens
    The Battle of Cowpens was a decisive victory by Patriot Revolutionary forces under Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, in the Southern campaign of the American Revolutionary War...

  • Battle of Guilford Court House
    Battle of Guilford Court House
    The Battle of Guilford Court House was a battle fought on March 15, 1781 in Greensboro, the county seat of Guilford County, North Carolina, during the American Revolutionary War...

  • Siege of Yorktown
    Siege of Yorktown
    The Siege of Yorktown, Battle of Yorktown, or Surrender of Yorktown in 1781 was a decisive victory by a combined assault of American forces led by General George Washington and French forces led by the Comte de Rochambeau over a British Army commanded by Lieutenant General Lord Cornwallis...


See also

  • Departments of the Continental Army
    Departments of the Continental Army
    In the American Revolutionary War units of the Continental Army were assigned to any one of seven regional or territorial departments to decentralize their command and administration. This was necessary because the regiment was the largest permanent unit in the Continental Army...

  • Pluckemin Continental Artillery Cantonment Site
    Pluckemin Continental Artillery Cantonment Site
    The Pluckemin Artillery Cantonment Site in Pluckemin, New Jersey, a hamlet at the southern section of Bedminster Township, New Jersey, holds historic American Revolutionary War importance as the Continental Army's artillery winter cantonment during the winter of 1778-1779. Nestled on the western...

  • History of the United States Army
    History of the United States Army
    From its formation in 1775, the United States Army has been the primary land based portion of the United States military. Though not solely used as a military force, sometimes helping in domestic violence and disaster situations, the Army's primary responsibility has been the fighting of land...

  • Peter Francisco
    Peter Francisco
    Peter Francisco , known variously as the "Virginia Giant" or the "Giant of the Revolution" , was an American patriot and soldier in the American Revolutionary War. The cover page of a 2006 issue of Military History suggested he may have been the greatest soldier in American history...


  • Middlebrook encampment
    Middlebrook encampment
    The Middlebrook encampment refers to the seasonal encampment of the Continental Army during the American War for Independence near Middle Brook in Bridgewater Township, New Jersey . The site includes part of the ridge of the First Watchung Mountain...

     in Middlebrook, New Jersey, winter of 1776-1777 and winter of 1778-779
  • Valley Forge
    Valley Forge
    Valley Forge in Pennsylvania was the site of the military camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War.-History:...

     in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
    Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
    The Village of Valley Forge is an unincorporated settlement located on the west side of Valley Forge National Historical Park at the confluence of Valley Creek and the Schuylkill River in Pennsylvania, United States. The remaining village is in Schuylkill Township of Chester County, but once...

    , winter of 1777-1778

Further reading

  • Lengel, Edward G. General George Washington: A Military Life. New York: Random House, 2005. ISBN 1400060818.
  • Royster, Charles. A Revolutionary People at War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775–1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1979. ISBN 0807813850.
  • Carp, E. Wayne. To Starve the Army at Pleasure: Continental Army Administration and American Political Culture, 1775–1783. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1984. ISBN 080781587X.
  • Gillett, Mary C. The Army Medical Department, 1775–1818. Washington: Center of Military History, U.S. Army, 1981.
  • Martin, James Kirby, and Mark Edward Lender. A Respectable Army: The Military Origins of the Republic, 1763–1789. 2nd ed. Wheeling, Illinois: Harlan Davidson, 2006. ISBN 0882952390.
  • Mayer, Holly A. Belonging to the Army: Camp Followers and Community during the American Revolution. Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1999. ISBN 1570033390; ISBN 1570031088.

External links


Reference materials
  • RevWar75.com provides "an online cross-referenced index of all surviving orderly books of the Continental Army".
  • Wright, Robert K.
    Robert K. Wright, Jr.
    Robert K. Wright, Jr. is an American military historian and author.After growing up in Connecticut, he graduated in 1968 with a degree in history from the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Massachusetts. He entered the Army, serving as a Teletype operator in Berlin, and then with the...

     The Continental Army. Washington, D.C.: United States Army Center of Military History 1983. Available, in part, online from the CMH website
  • Bibliography of the Continental Army compiled by the United States Army Center of Military History

Primary Sources