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The Continental Army, Chapter VII

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

Artillery Regiment 1781

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-

Legionary Corps 1781

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.

Partisan Corps 1781

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, 250-51.
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.