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The Continental Army: Chapter VI

Congress approved it and on 5 May 1778 commissioned Steuben as a major general. Washington had lobbied hard for the rank.60

When the Main Army took the field, Washington used the subinspectors as divisional adjutants general. He also clarified the status and authority of the inspectors. Tactical command remained with the unit commanders. Inspectors simply ensured that drills followed official Army doctrine. New legislation on 18 February 1779 authorized a single Inspector General with the rank of a major general and responsibility for preparing regulations. His staff conducted inspections on the authority of the Commander in Chief or commanding officer of a territorial department and reported through those commanders to the Board of War. Brigade inspectors (majors) absorbed the functions of the brigade majors and became the senior staff officers in each brigade. The senior subinspector (a lieutenant colonel) could temporarily act for the Adjutant General. Subinspectors also served as adjutants general for wings of the Main Army or separate departments.61

Col. Alexander Scammell replaced Timothy Pickering as Adjutant General on 5 January 1778. Scammell, a Harvard graduate with ample command and staff experience, worked with Steuben to standardize the Army’s paperwork. They developed printed forms for most of the routine regimental and brigade bookkeeping chores and even issued “blank-books” to each soldier for his personal records. Their partnership paved the way for the gradual merger of the two major staff agencies. Steuben developed policies while Scammell concentrated on routine administration. Congress agreed that consolidation made sense, and on 17 May 1779 it reduced the Adjutant General’s department to the Adjutant General, two assistants, and a clerk. They operated the headquarters orderly office. The Inspector General gradually rendered the mustering department redundant as well. On 12 January 1780 Congress abolished it.62 Consolidation was further extended on 25 September 1780. Legislation officially designated the Adjutant General as the assistant inspector general for the Main Army. It also authorized inspectors for artillery, cavalry, and militia on active duty with the Continental Army.63

Under Steuben the Inspector General became the Army’s supreme administrator and the virtual chief of staff to the Commander in Chief. Subordinate officials in the department assumed parallel positions under territorial, division, and brigade commanders. The transformation was remarkably free of bureaucratic friction. Changes in personnel and the growth of Washington’s personal staff had weakened the Adjutant General, the one official in a position to challenge Steuben’s hegemony. The latter’s close relationships with the final two Adjutants General, Scammell and Brig. Gen. Edward Hand, facilitated the new arrangement. In contrast to Europe, where either the Adjutant General or the Quartermaster General became paramount, the

60. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 11:329-31, 366; JCC, 11:465-66, 498-500, 728-29; 12:1010. Congress appointed Chevalier de la Neuville as inspector general to Gates’ northern command with the rank of brevet brigadier general. His younger brother, Noirmont de la Neuville, Conway’s aide, served as his deputy. Neither made a significant contribution.
61. JCC, 11:819-23; 13:111, 196-200; Burnett, Letters, 4:41; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 12:16, 66-68, 438-44; 14:444-46; 15:129-31, 288-90, 293, 475-76; Steuben Papers (Peters to Steuben, 2 Jun 78; William Davies to Steuben, 18 Jun and 21 and 26 Jul 79; subinspectors to Steuben, 20 Jun 79).
62. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 10:80-82, 245, 297, 332-33; 14:120-21, 224-27, 486; 15:356-58; 16:11-13, 134-36; 17:99-100, 495-96 18:64; JCC, 13:403-4; 14:600-601; 16:47; Steuben Papers (Davies to Steuben, 26 Jul 79; Scammell to Steuben, 22 Sep 79; Benjamin Walker to Steuben, 2 Feb and 10 Mar 80).
63. JCC, 17:764-70; 18:855-61. The act confusingly called brigade inspectors subinspectors.

rise of the Inspector General again demonstrates the flexibility exercised in the use of European precedents. Americans borrowed where appropriate, but they were not afraid to be innovative.64

The Reorganization of 1778-79 in Practice

The 1778 campaign opened before Washington had an opportunity to implement the organizational changes mandated in the 27 May 1778 resolve. Steuben, Duportail, and the other foreign volunteers, however, had already begun to make their contributions. France’s declaration of war on Great Britain pushed the War of American Independence into a global struggle in which North America became less important as a theater. The first impact of that change came in the British decision to evacuate Philadelphia rather than risk losing New York City. Washington set out from Valley Forge and caught up with Clinton’s army on 28 June at Monmouth. Maj. Gen. Charles Lee commanded the Continental van. Recently released in a prisoner-of-war exchange, he failed to understand the changes that had taken place in the abilities of the Army since December 1776. As a result, he mishandled his troops, and Washington had to settle for a hard-fought draw. Clinton reached New York City without further incident, and Washington moved to White Plains, New York, where his Main Army joined forces with the troops from the Highlands and prepared for further action.

During the year that followed Monmouth, Washington and Congress gradually implemented the 27 May 1778 organizational changes. Action came state-by-state. Various factors influenced the timing of each reorganization and the specific arrangements: recruiting success, the initial strength of the regiments, and their geographical location. On 9 March 1779, after a careful review, Congress reduced the state lines to 80 regiments by lowering New Jersey’s quota to 3, Pennsylvania’s to 11, Virginia’s to 11, North Carolina’s to 6, and Georgia’s to one.65

New Hampshire’s three regiments made the transition to the new structure on 23 December 1778. Connecticut’s eight regiments did so on 11 July 1779, and eleven days later the units of the three Massachusetts brigades stationed in the Hudson Highlands followed suit. The other Massachusetts brigade reorganized its three strongest regiments on 1 August when they returned from detached duty in Rhode Island; Bigelow’s Regiment (and Alden’s Regiment, which was not in the brigade) reorganized somewhat later. The Massachusetts regiments had not had numerical designations since 1776, but following the recommendation of a board of general officers, Washington numbered them on 1 August 1779 according to the relative seniority of their colonels in 1777.66

The New York Brigade had assembled for the first time on 22 July 1778. Washington continued to use it to defend New York’s frontier, and all five of its regiments reorganized on 30 May 1779. Although Congress had allowed New Jersey to reduce its

64. Ward, Wellington’s Headquarters, pp. 130-31; David G. Chandler, The Campaigns of Napoleon (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1966), pp. 56, 144-61. Steuben was familiar with at least one French source; among his papers is an undated manuscript entitled “Instructions Relatives au Department des Inspecteurs de l’Armee.”
65. JCC, 13:108-9, 143, 298-99; Burnett, Letters, 4:377-79; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 13:485-91; 14:3-12, 26-32, 71-72, 86-87.
66. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 15:342, 406, 461-62; 16:33-34, 51-53; 17:15-16; JCC, 15:1033; Gates Papers (Inspection Report for Glover’s Brigade, 18 Aug 79).

quota to three regiments in 1778, the 4th New Jersey Regiment did not actually disband until 7 February 1779. The other three regiments then reorganized and incorporated the 4th’s personnel.67 Congress had reduced Pennsylvania’s quota of regiments to ten on 26 February 1778, but on 27 March it had allotted Hartley’s Additional Regiment as an eleventh Pennsylvania regiment. Washington made the reduction on 22 July 1778; Pennsylvania was thus able to adopt the new regimental organization well in advance of the other states.68 The Maryland and Delaware regiments spent the winter of 1777-78 at Wilmington and were successful in their recruiting. They reorganized on 12 May 1779. From 16 December 1778 until 13 January 1779 the Delaware Regiment had been reinforced by the transfer of Delaware men under Capt. Allen McLane from Patton’s Additional Regiment.69

In late 1777 Virginia loaned (until 1780) the 1st and 2d Virginia State Regiments to the Continental Army to replace that year’s losses. A greater problem than replacing those losses was reenlisting the veterans in the 1st through the 9th Virginia regiments whose terms expired during the winter of 1777-78. Washington experimented with a series of provisional reorganizations, including reducing Virginia’s brigades to three on 22 July 1778. The permanent reorganization came on 12 May 1779; Washington consolidated eight weak regiments into four and renumbered the line. On 5 May 1779 he had already ordered Brig. Gen. Charles Scott, in charge of recruiting in the state, to organize all available officers and recruits into three provisional regiments as reinforcements for the Southern Department. The first of these units, under Col. Richard Parker, left Petersburg in October and reached Charleston, South Carolina, on 5 December. The second, under Col. William Heth, did not arrive until 7 April. Col. Abraham Buford left the state with the third still later.70

When North Carolina’s nine regiments joined the Main Army in 1777, they were so weak that their field officers recommended transferring all enlisted men to the three senior regiments. On 29 May 1778 Congress ordered the transfer and directed North Carolina to use the surplus officers to form four new regiments. Late in 1778 the cadres of the new units went to South Carolina in provisional formations. The 3d North Carolina Regiment had to return home in the spring of 1779 to recruit. The 1st and 2d regiments finally reorganized under the new structure on 22 July 1779 in the Hudson Highlands.71

Although the Georgia and South Carolina units did not serve in the north, they also declined in strength. Idleness, climate, and the expiration of enlistments took

67. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 12:216; 13:264-65; 14:73-74, 414-16; 20:295-96; JCC, 10:361; Burnett, Letters, 3:109; Stirling Papers (undated 1778 return of recruiting officers).
68. Pennsylvania Archives, 2d ser., 11:307-8, 336-37; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 12:215-18; JCC, 10:288, 13:298-99; Burnett, Letters, 3:123-24; Stille, Anthony Wayne, pp. 125-26, 158-59, 175-77. Hartley was a popular recruiter.
69. JCC, 12:1225-26; 13:58; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 10:360; 15:46-47, 265-67; Archives of Maryland, 18:312-16; Anderson, Persona/ Recollections, pp. 53-55.
70. JCC, 8:737; 9:967; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 9:329, 367, 481-82; 10:54-56; 153, 254-55; 12:79-81, 139, 215-17, 279; 14:72, 498-99; 15:17-19, 46; “Revolutionary Army Orders for the Main Army Under Washington, 1778-1779,” Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, 17 (1910):417-18; George Weedon, Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon, ed. Samuel W. Pennypacker (New York: Dodd, Mead and Co., 1902), pp. 80, 206-7; Palmer, Calendar of Virginia State Papers, 1:319; Edward McCrady, The History of South Carolina in the Revolution, 2 vols. (New York: Macmillan Co., 1902), 1:427.
71. JCC, 11:550-51; 13:14-15, 132, 385; 14:560-61; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 10:268-69; 12:8; 15:462; Burnett, Letters, 3:382-84, 426.

Benjamin Lincoln

BENJAMIN LINCOLN (1733-1810) joined the Continental Army in 1777 as a major general after serving at that rank in the Massachusetts militia. As commander of the Southern Department at Charleston in 1780 he presided over the worst American defeat in the war, but he was also present at the great victories of Saratoga and Yorktown and ended the Revolution as the secretary at war. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1782.)

their toll. A full company of the 1st South Carolina Regiment, serving as marines, was lost on 8 March 1778 when the frigate Randolph blew up during an engagement with the British ship of the line Yarmouth off Barbados. Georgia’s troops suffered virtual annihilation during the winter of 1778-79 when the British overran that state in a new offensive. Congress finally empowered Maj. Gen. Benjamin Lincoln, who had assumed command of the Southern Department on 4 December 1778, to consolidate the two state lines and to organize them under the new regimental structure. Local political jealousies blocked action until 20 January 1780. Lincoln reorganized the Georgia units, now existing only on paper, as one infantry regiment and one regiment of mounted rangers. South Carolina’s troops formed one artillery regiment and three regiments of infantry.72

Congress concentrated reductions and economics on separate companies and additional regiments. They generally were weaker to begin with and lacked the political support of the state lines. Congress normally consolidated units from the same or adjacent areas, retired the excess officers, and transferred the consolidated unit to a state line if possible. Patton’s and Hartley’s Additional Regiments, plus the four Pennsylvania companies of Malcolm’s, consolidated as the 11th Pennsylvania Regiment in 1779. Spencer’s Additional Regiment absorbed Malcolm’s other companies. The three additional regiments from Virginia consolidated on 22 April 1779 under Col. Nathaniel Gist. Massachusetts’ three additional regiments combined under Col. Henry Jackson on 24 July 1779 as the 16th Massachusetts Regiment. Col. Samuel Blatchley Webb’s Connecticut regiment became the 9th Connecticut Regiment. Sherburne’s Additional Regiment, on the other hand, disbanded on 1 May 1780. Its personnel transferred to Webb’s or Jackson’s regiments or to the 2d Rhode Island Regiment,

72. JCC, 10:159-65; 12:951; 14:631; 16:26-27, 156; Burnett, Letters, 3:359-61; 5:34-35; Candler, Revolutionary Records, 2:38-39, 185-89; Moultrie, Memoirs of the American Revolution, 1:198-99; 2:114 Gibbes, Documentary History, C: 6; RG 360, National Archives (Lincoln to Congress, 19 Dee 78); Steuben Papers (Ternant to Steuben, 7 Jan 80).

depending on their native state. When New York refused to accept the 1st Canadian Regiment as an element of its state’s line because of seniority issues, Washington reorganized it into five small companies. The 2d Canadian Regiment, however, continued under its special four-battalion configuration.73

Rhode Island’s reorganization represented a unique solution to its manpower problems. At various times other states turned to their Negro inhabitants, slave and free, when recruiting lagged among whites. Most of these blacks served in integrated units, performing the same duties as other continentals, but Rhode Island followed a different pattern. In January 1778 the 1st Rhode Island Regiment transferred its privates to the 2d; the former’s officers and noncommissioned officers returned home and refilled the 1st primarily with Negroes. The state government purchased slaves who wished to enlist from their owners and promised them emancipation at the end of the war. Lt. Col. John Laurens, one of Washington’s aides, persuaded Congress to approve a similar plan for South Carolina on 29 March 1779, but that state refused to act on the plan.74

The formation of permanent light infantry companies during the reorganization simplified Washington’s task of creating special strike forces. In 1779 four provisional light infantry regiments under General Wayne achieved a complete success in a night attack on Stony Point, New York. The following year six light battalions operated as a division under General Lafayette. The use of a specialized light infantry force may at first seem an exception to the European influence that had permeated other facets of the reorganization. Both Guibert and Saxe, for example, had stressed the value of training infantrymen for line as well as light infantry roles. However, every member of a regiment trained in both roles in the Continental Army, and the Light Corps itself was used in skirmishing as well as in standard linear formations.75

Washington and Knox found that implementing the artillery portion of the reorganization was easier than making the infantry changes. The only major impact came when three separate Maryland companies joined Col. Charles Harrison’s artillery regiment, provisionally in 1778 and permanently on 9 May 1780. The large Maryland companies, each with 4 officers and 102 enlisted men, had formally transferred to the Continental Army in late 1777 to support the Maryland infantry.76 Assigning numerical designations to the regiments completed the reorganization. Washington needed two boards of general officers to resolve seniority disputes. In August 1779 the generals decided that neither John Lamb nor John Crane could claim continuity from Knox’s 1776 regiment. Harrison’s regiment therefore became the 1st Continental Artillery Regiment. Col. Thomas Proctor’s became the 4th because it had not transferred to the Continental Army until the summer of 1777. Lamb and Crane drew lots to deter-

73. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 11:126; 13:55; 14:176, 180-81, 263, 354, 401-3, 426, 464; 16:3-4, 112-13; 18:319, 455, 462-63; 19:241-43; JCC, 12:1225; 13:58; Gates Papers (to Congress, Oct 1778; Hazen to Gates, 23 Jan 79; Jacques Laframboise et al. to Gates, 16 Sep 79; Gates to Washington, 24 Sep 79); Steuben Papers (Scammell to Steuben, 25 Sep 79; Hazen to Steuben, 11 Feb 80).
74. R. I. Records, 8:358-61, 399, 526, 640-41; Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, 6:209-10; Laurens, Army Correspondence, pp. 114-18; Burnett, Letters, 4:121-24, 289; 13:386-88; David O. White, Connecticut’s Black Soldiers, 1775-1783 (Chester: Pequot Press, 1973), pp. 17-19, 29-31.
75. Wayne Transcripts (to Irvine, 7 Jun 79), New York Public Library; Steuben Papers (Davies to Steuben, 31 May 79; Scammell to Steuben, 22 Jul 80; Hamilton to Steuben, 23 Jul 80.) In 1780 the light companies of the 1st and 3d Pennsylvania Regiments drew rifles and served as a special body within the Light corps under Maj. James Parr.
76. Archives of Maryland, 18:315-16, 571-78, 596-97; JCC, 9:822; 10:253; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 0:360, 520; 18:31-32, 277-79.