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The Continental Army, Chapter III

By March the regiments at Boston had passed through the period of greatest danger associated with the reorganization. Excluding artillery, Washington had 27 Continental regiments. They contained 828 officers, 694 sergeants, 365 drummers and fifers, and 12,510 rank and file. Militia reinforcements added 400 more officers and 6,500 enlisted men. The Main Army was roughly back to its 1775 strength in raw numbers. Just under 3,000 of the Continentals were sick at that time, although only 10 percent of these were hospitalized. Thirteen hundred more, including the entire 14th Continental Regiment, were on detached duties. All of the 25 reorganized infantry regiments on the siege lines were over half-strength. One had recruited over 90 percent of its rank and file goal, 10 others were at least three-quarters full, and only 5 were below 60 percent. In terms of real combat strength, half the regiments were over the 400-man level; only one was below 300. The regiments were not yet full, but they had made considerable progress.29

Washington, however, had been profoundly disturbed by the reorganization. On 9 February he summarized his view for Congress:

To go into an enumeration of all the Evils we have experienced in this late great change of the Army…would greatly exceed the bounds of a letter….I shall with all due deference, take the freedom to give it as my opinion, that if the Congress have any reason to believe, there will be occasion for Troops another year. . . they would save money, and have infinitely better Troops if they were [to enlist men] for and during the war…. The trouble and perplexity of disbanding one Army and raising another at the same Instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was, is. . . such as no man, who has experienced it once, will ever undergo again.30

The Canadian Department
The congressional committee sent to Cambridge in the fall of 1775 to discuss reorganization was instructed to deal with the troops in the Northern Department as well as those in eastern Massachusetts. With Washington’s approbation, however, they limited their talks to the Main Army, realizing that the two field forces faced unique problems. In fact, Philip Schuyler’s reorganization difficulties dwarfed Washington’s. Rather than being concentrated in a small area, his troops faced a number of different situations. Congress sent a special committee to his headquarters to begin the reorganization, but events left the northern area in a state of flux until July 1776.

On 11 October 1775 Congress instructed Schuyler to encourage the Canadians to join the Revolution. It particularly stressed a guarantee of religious freedom for Roman Catholics, a major concession for American Protestants. Schuyler was even authorized to organize a Continental regiment from Canadians who were willing to join his army. He was also to confer with his senior officers and to determine how to raise the troops needed to defend Canada and the Lake Champlain forts during the coming winter. After receiving additional reports, Congress formed a committee to visit Schuyler. Three New Englanders were selected on 2 November: Robert Treat Paine,

29. General Return, Main Army, 2 Mar 76, RG 93, National Archives (also printed in Lesser, Sinews, pp. 17-18).
30. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:315-18. At this point in the war duration enlistments probably were not feasible.

John Langdon, and Eliphalet Dyer. When Dyer fell ill, New York’s Robert R. Livingston, General Montgomery’s brother-in-law, replaced him.31

Because the need for action was immediate, this committee’s instructions included fairly broad powers. It took specific steps to encourage the Canadians to enlist and to solve logistical problems. Its primary purpose, however, was to collect data about the garrison needed for Canada and the forts in northern New York. It brought Schuyler information about the regimental organization and rates of pay that Congress had just approved, blank commissions for the Canadian regiment, and instructions to reenlist as many of the department’s men as possible and to raise in New York or New England as many others as he might need to complete the conquest of Canada. The committee set out on 12 November and reached Ticonderoga on 28 November after inspecting the fortifications in the Hudson Highlands. It discovered that Schuyler and Montgomery, who had been promoted to major general on 9 December, had already begun the reorganization. The committee approved their actions, gathered information, and on 23 December submitted its report to Congress.32

Congress acted on the report on 8 January 1776, before it learned of Montgomery’s defeat at Quebec. The committee had accepted Schuyler’s opinion that 3,000 men were needed for the winter; it recommended raising three regiments, including a Canadian regiment. Taking note of some of the negative aspects of the report, including the news that Seth Warner’s and Timothy Bedel’s men had gone home and that the other units had suffered heavy attrition, Congress approved an even larger garrison of nine regiments (about 6,500 men). Three were the units recommended by the committee: the regiment of Canadians and two regiments from Schuyler’s veterans of 1775. They were to be reinforced by six new organizations. Congress requested New York, New Hampshire, and Connecticut each to raise a regiment for Canadian service. The remainder of the garrison was to come from regiments being formed in New Jersey and Pennsylvania. All nine would have the same structure as Washington’s twenty-six reorganized infantry regiments.33

The two veteran regiments were not formed until 15 April 1776. In November Montgomery had regrouped his forces for the drive on Montreal, keeping only those of his men who would extend their enlistments from December until mid-April. His New York regiments remained nominally intact, but he partially refilled the 1st Connecticut Regiment by disbanding the 4th and 5th Connecticut Regiments and transferring the personnel who extended. When the extended enlistments expired, the two new regiments came into being. As Washington had initially hoped to do, Schuyler wanted to mix officers from several colonies in each regiment. One was to have 5 companies from New York and 3 from Massachusetts, and the other was to have 4 from New Hampshire, 3 from Connecticut, and 1 from New York. General Wooster expressed what became the consensus that this scheme was impractical. Instead, one regiment was made up from New York veterans under Maj. John Nicholson of the old

31. JCC, 3:284-85, 298, 312, 317-18, 339; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 2:161-63, 281; Burnett, Continental Congress, pp. 108-12.
32. JCC, 3:339-41, 350, 418, 446-52; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 2:326, 327n, 368, 377-79, 397-98, 407-8, 411-13.
33. JCC, 4:39-44. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 3:60, 71-73, 77-79, 85-86, 88-89. See Chapter 4 below for background on the Pennsylvania and New Jersey units.

3d New York Regiment. Lt. Col. Samuel Elmore, who had been transferred from the old 4th to the old 1st Connecticut Regiment, commanded the other new Continental regiment, which was composed of Connecticut men and other New Englanders. Both regiments were assigned to light duty in the Mohawk Valley later in the year.34

The organization of the other regiments in the north followed a slightly different course than Congress had planned. Schuyler had begun reorganizing the 2d New York Regiment, an Albany-based unit, as soon as he had learned of Montgomery’s death, and he and its commander, Colonel Van Schaick, were able to assemble it swiftly at Albany as the regiment requested from New York.35 Washington received Schuyler’s report of the Quebec defeat on 18 January and immediately convened a Council of War. Without knowing of the 8 January congressional action, the council recommended diverting to Canada three planned militia regiments that had been allocated to reinforce Boston: one each from Connecticut, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts. Washington wrote to these colonies the next day, recommending that they raise the regiments not as short-term militia units but for a full year as Continentals. Congress accepted the first two as the regiments authorized on 8 January and later accepted the Massachusetts unit as well.36

The three New England colonies recruited the regiments, as Washington had recommended, in areas close to Canada and filled them fairly rapidly. Connecticut formed its regiment in Litchfield County, which had a tradition of sending men to serve at Lake Champlain. A handful of officers were veterans of the old 4th Connecticut Regiment, but most, including Col. Charles Burrall, now entered Continental service for the first time. Capt. John Bigelow’s company was equipped as artillery rather than infantry.37 New Hampshire assembled its regiment at Coos (Haverhill) and marched it overland instead of waiting for the spring thaw to open Lake Champlain to water transport. Timothy Bedel became colonel in recognition for his ranger service. In May Maj. Isaac Butterfield ignominiously surrendered most of the regiment to an inferior force at The Cedars. He and Bedel were court-martialed for cowardice and banned from ever serving again, but Bedel successfully appealed and later served on the northern frontier.38 Col. Elisha Porter, a popular western Massachusetts leader, filled that colony’s regiment by using town quotas to raise five companies in Hampshire County and three in Berkshire County. Local politicians and the field officers selected the staff and company officers. This expedient hastened organization but created administrative difficulties.39

34. JCC, 5:472, 615; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:362-63, 386-87; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 4:1216-19; 5:549-50; 5th ser., 1:1083, 1153; 2:857-58; Thomas Jefferson, The Papers of Thomas Jefferson (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1950- ), ed. Julian P. Floyd, 1:436-47; Lt. Col. Rudolphus Ritzema to Col. Alexander McDougall, 19 Nov 75; McDougall Papers; Wooster to Congress, 10 Apr 76, Papers of the Continental Congress, RG 360, National Archives; Berthold Fernow, ed., New York in the Revolution, 2 vols. (Albany: Weed, Parsons and Co., 1887), 1:52, 74.
35. Schuyler to McDougall, 25 Jan 76, McDougall Papers; JCC, 4:43; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 3:300301; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 4:1094; 5:294, 301, 312, 330-31, 1467-69.
36. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:254-61; JCC, 4:99-100.
37. Conn. Records, 15:225-27, 406-7; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:1174-75.
38. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:302-3; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 4:14-18, 810-11; 5th ser., 1:16769, 747-48; Sullivan, Letters and Papers, 1:169-72, 271-77, General Gates to Bedel, 4 Mar 78, Gates Papers, New-York Historical Society.
39. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 4:1270-75, 1298-99, 1404-8; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:324-25; General Ward to Congress, 3 Feb 76, RG 360, National Archives; Elisha Porter, “The Diary of Colonel Elisha Porter of Hadley, Massachusetts,” ed. Appleton Morgan, Magazine of American History 30 (1893):185-206.

On 19 November 1775 Montgomery had directed his kinsman James Livingston to begin raising the regiment of Canadians authorized by Congress. Livingston, a New Yorker, had married a woman from Montreal and had settled at Chambly. He formed the regiment at nearby Pointe Olivier and moved it up to Quebec in December.40

Several Canadians who had been expelled from Quebec by the British also began to recruit men, although only the partnership of Edward Antil and Moses Hazen proved successful. When Antil, son of a former chief justice of New Jersey, carried the news of Montgomery’s death from Quebec to Congress, he used the opportunity to recommend Moses Hazen as a popular local leader. Hazen was a New Hampshire native who had served as a captain in Rogers’ Rangers during the French and Indian War. Although he had been allowed to purchase a lieutenancy in the British 44th Foot, he had been forced into retirement in 1763 and had settled in Canada. After marrying a French-Canadian, he became an economic and social leader in the Richelieu Valley. Hazen arrived in Philadelphia shortly after Antil. On 20 January 1776 they secured authorization to raise a second Canadian regiment. Unlike Livingston’s the new unit was patterned after French regiments in Europe during the Seven Years’ War. Its 1,000 rank and file were organized in four battalions, each with five 50-man companies.41

Colonel Hazen and Lieutenant Colonel Antil returned to Canada and on 10 February organized the 2d Canadian Regiment, primarily in the Richelieu and St. Lawrence Valleys. Many French veterans of the French and Indian War who had remained as settlers in Canada in 1763 joined the unit, but only half the regiment was recruited before the pro-American sympathies of the Canadian populace subsided. Hazen’s personal financial backing during this period gave the regiment a special status. Since Congress did not reimburse Hazen, it allowed him to retain a proprietary interest in the regiment. As a result the unit retained its unique four-battalion organization throughout the war.42

Although both Canadian regiments drew heavily on French-Canadians for their enlisted strength, most of the officers came from the small English-speaking community. A majority of this segment of the population had been born in America, including the two colonels, and were ardent supporters of the Revolution. The influential French clergy, however, supported the British Crown. Bishop Briand of Quebec excommunicated Catholic Canadians who supported the Americans, including Francois-Louis Chartier de Lotbiniere, a Recollet priest who served as Livingston’s chaplain. The evacuation of Canada in the summer of 1776 then added exile to this spiritual hardship for the men of the regiments and their families. Both regiments had to be

40. Montgomery to Schuyler, 19 Nov and 5 Dec 75, and Arnold to congress, 11 Jan 76, RG 360, National Archives.
41. Arnold to Congress, 12 Jan 76, RG 360, National Archives; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 5:550; JCC, 4:75, 78, 223, 238-39; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 3:112-13, 122-24, 146-48, 154, 161, 167, 459. Valuable sources for the formation of the Canadian regiments include the following: George Francis Gilman Stanley, Canada Invaded, 1775-1776 (Toronto: Hakkert, 1973); Gustave Lanctot, Canada and the American Revolution, 1774-1783, trans. Margaret M. Cameron (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1967); and Allen S. Everest, Moses Hazen and the Canadian Refugees in the American Revolution (Syracuse: University of Syracuse Press, 1976).
42. JCC, 5:811-12; 6:900; 8:589; 19:427-29; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 5:751-53; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 8:17-20; Board of War Report, 28 Jun 81, RG 360, National Archives; Gates to (probably Congress), October 1778, and Hazen to Gates, 28 Jan 79 and 12 Dec 82, Gates Papers.

withdrawn from the front lines to reorganize—Livingston’s in the Mohawk Valley and Hazen’s at Albany.43

Major General John Thomas
Major General John Thomas

Congress had reacted swiftly in January 1776 to news of the disaster at Quebec. In addition to officially adding the 2d Canadian Regiment and Colonel Porter’s regiment to the Canadian garrison, it asked Washington to transfer one of his regiments and a general officer from Boston. On 17 January Congress clarified the command situation by transforming the invasion force into a separate territorial department. Since it believed that Schuyler did not want the Quebec assignment and that Wooster was “too infirm,” Congress ordered Schuyler to shift his headquarters to New York City and instructed Charles Lee to go to Canada and to organize a department staff. Before Lee could set out, however, Congress reassigned him. On 6 March it then promoted John Thomas to major general as Lee’s replacement; Thomas formally assumed command at Quebec on 2 May. Congress ordered Schuyler to remain at Albany and supervise logistical support for Canada in addition to his other duties.44

During January Congress also considered the non-Canadian portion of the old New York Department. On the 19th of that month New York was again authorized to raise four regiments to defend itself. The colony’s Provincial Congress allocated company quotas to the various counties on 15 February and submitted nominations for field officers to the Continental Congress in March. Three of the regiments were assembled from 1775 veterans. Alexander McDougall’s 1st New York Regiment continued to be principally a New York City unit. Since Colonel Van Schaick had already reorganized the 2d for service in Canada, the old 3d and 4th were redesignated the 2d and 3d, respectively. James Clinton continued to command the former, drawn primarily from Ulster County and Long Island. Dutchess and Westchester Counties furnished the bulk of the 3d, while a new 4th was raised in Albany and other northern counties. Schuyler only gradually released the New York cadres remaining in Canada, a policy which retarded recruiting but which was a compromise with tactical considerations. The 1st assembled at New York, the 4th at Albany, and the 2d and 3d in the Hudson Highlands. Schuyler retained the 4th in northern New York, while the 2d assumed garrison responsibilities in the Highlands, and the 1st and 3d served at New York City.45

Canada continued to attract Congress’ attention. Knowing that the spring thaw would open the St. Lawrence River to the British, Congress and Washington ordered additional reinforcements to the north. Brig. Gen. William Thompson arrived in mid-May with the 8th (New Hampshire), 15th, 24th, and 25th (all Massachusetts) Continental Regiments, but they were immediately disabled by an outbreak of smallpox. Brig. Gen. John Sullivan reached St. John’s on 31 May with a second force con-

43. JCC, 5:645; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 1:797-800, 977, 1143-44, General Orders (After Orders), 21 Jul 76, Gates’ Orderly Book, New-York Historical Society; Hazen to General Steuben, 11 and 24 Feb 80, Steuben Papers, New-York Historical Society.
44. JCC, 4:70-71, 73, 99-100, 157-58, 186-87, 240-41; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 3:108-9, 116-17, 122-27, 163-64, 267-71, 275-76, 282, 288-89, 310, 336-37, 341-42, 346-47, 350-51; Lee, Papers, 1:25153, 271-72, 343-44.
45. JCC, 4:69, 190, 238; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 3:80, 100-102, 116-17, 121-24, 300-301, 346-47, 355-56, 381-83, 459; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:7-11; Sullivan and Flick, Minutes of the Albany Committee of Correspondence, 1:343-48; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 4:1081-82; 5:251-53, 267-80, 301, 314-18, 946-47, 968, 1439-40, 1467-69, 1498-99; Historical Magazine, 1st ser., Supplement 4 (1866), pp. 110-11.