The Continental Army, Chapter II

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official watchdog who ensured that regimental commanders actually furnished the men and equipment they claimed payment for. Massachusetts had appointed two mustermasters as early as 6 May 1775. Congress included a Mustermaster General in the first set of staff officers it authorized and delegated the selection to Washington. He chose Stephen Moylan, a wealthy merchant from Philadelphia, one of the earliest volunteers from outside New England. Congress authorized a deputy for the New York Department on 29 July.34

Commanders’ personal staffs of aides and military secretaries completed the Army’s 1775 administrative structure. Following British precedent, the Commander in Chief and the major general selected these individuals for their personal connections as well as their abilities. The aides acted as messengers; the military secretaries performed most of the correspondence duties. During 1775 Washington’s “family,” as these individuals on his personal staff were collectively known, consisted of various important young politicians and members of influential families. This talented group included at different times Thomas Mifflin (a Philadelphia merchant and member of the First Continental Congress) and Joseph Reed of Pennsylvania, John Trumbull of Connecticut, and Edmund Randolph, George Baylor, and Robert Hanson Harrison of Virginia.35

British logistical practices divided supervisory responsibilities between a civilian Commissary General of Stores and Provisions, concerned with foodstuffs and the procurement and storage of general supplies, and a military Quartermaster General, responsible for transportation, forage, camps, and the movement of troops. A separate logistical branch handled munitions. When Washington arrived at Boston, he reviewed the supply measures undertaken by the several colonies. He was particularly impressed by the work of Joseph Trumbull of Connecticut, the colony that Washington expected would furnish most of his supplies. On his recommendation, Congress appointed Trumbull Commissary General on 19 July. Washington appointed Thomas Mifflin as Quartermaster General on 14 August. In addition, three days later he appointed Ezekiel Cheever as Commissary of Artillery. He had persuaded Congress to create that office to handle the ordnance branch’s special needs. Cheever had performed that role for Massachusetts. Realizing the practical difficulties of consolidating logistics for widely separated armies, Congress created a parallel logistical organization of deputies for Schuyler’s forces.36

At this stage of the war Congress largely left the development of the logistical apparatus to the judgment of the local commanders, who relied on British precedents. The most important official in the daily life of the troops was the regimental quartermaster. In the Continental Army his position was elevated from additional duty to permanent status. He was responsible for distributing rations, clothing, and ammunition within the regiment, for assigning quarters, and for pitching camp. A daily duty detail of about six privates, known as the camp color men, assisted him. The Com-

34. JCC, 2:93, 190, 220-23; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:750, 790, 793, 795; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:320-29, 414; Charles Lee, The Lee Papers, 4 vole., New-York Historical Society Collections for 1871-74, 1:199-200.
35. Fitzpatrick, 3:309-11, 342, 352, 354, 368-69, 419, 425-26, 450-54; 4:68; Berthold Fernow, “Washington’s Military Family,” Magazine of American History 7 (1881):81-87.
36. JCC, 2:93, 190; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:309, 320-29, 378-79, 419, 427-28, 514-15; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:521-22, 529, 632, 641-43, 662-64.

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THOMAS MIFFLIN (1744 – 1800), a wealthy Quaker merchant from Philadelphia and member of the First Continental Congress, joined the Army in 1775 as Washington’s aide and later served as the quartermaster general and a brigade commander. He broke with Washington in late 1776, and in early 1778 was a leader in the movement to supersede Washington. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale. 1784.

missariat had numerous civilian functionaries. They included such specialists as conductors, storekeepers, clerks, laborers, and skilled craftsmen.37

Medical care drew attention very early in the war. The regimental surgeon and one or two assistants (mates) provided basic care in the Continental and British Armies. Washington, drawing on his French and Indian War experience, bolstered their efforts by trying to convince the soldiers of the importance of sanitation and diet. Congress followed the lead taken by Massachusetts and on 27 July 1775 created a centralized hospital organization and medical supply system. Dr. Benjamin Church, a Massachusetts political leader, was appointed as the first Director General and Chief Physician. In the autumn of that year, Church was revealed as a British spy and was replaced by the noted Dr. John Morgan of Philadelphia. Under Morgan, a major step toward central control was instituted when regimental medical personnel were required to pass competency examinations. Congress gave the New York Department a similar hospital corps under Dr. Samuel Stringer, an Albany politician and Schuyler’s personal physician.38

New England, a region with a strong religious tradition, naturally provided for the spiritual as well as physical welfare of its troops. Chaplains had served on all major New England expeditions since the Pequot War of 1637, and the clergy in those colonies had been politically active in the prewar period. In 1775 Connecticut and New Hampshire authorized a chaplain for each regiment, while Rhode Island allowed one

37. For a detailed treatment of the Continental Army’s logistical services, see Erna Risch, Supplying Washington’s Army (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1981), and victor L. Johnson, The Administration of the American Commissariat During the Revolutionary War (Philadelphia: university of Pennsylvania, 1941).
38. JCC, 2:209-11, 249; 3:297; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:440-41, 449-50- 4:2-3, 345-46- 5:125-26; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:558-59, 662-64; Philip Cash, Medical Men at the Siege of Boston, April 1775-April 1776: Problems of the Massachusetts and Continental Armies (Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 1973); Richard L. Blanco, “The Development of British Military Medicine 1793-1814,” Military Affairs 38 (1974):4-10.

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for its brigade. However, difficulties arose in Massachusetts. On 20 May the colony dropped a plan to provide one chaplain for each regiment and instead accepted the offer of the Congregational synod to provide clergymen on a rotating basis. Congregationalism was the colony’s officially supported denomination. Within two weeks this plan was discarded as unworkable, and the colony’s generals and field officers selected nine official chaplains. This method of letting the units select chaplains, rather than assigning them, became standard in every colony except the Carolinas and Georgia.39

Regimental organizations also contained an important specialist category whose function was technically not considered a staff one. Companies included a drummer and, in most cases, a fifer as well. Unlike modern musicians, these individuals, who commonly massed behind the regiment during a battle, were concerned with signaling rather than with morale. The eighteenth-century drum produced a sound that could carry several miles, and in groups its pounding was audible over the din of combat. Standard beats regulated the routine of camp life and transmitted orders during battle. Drummers and fifers also administered corporal punishment, maintained the regimental guard room, and assisted the surgeon and quartermaster in evacuating casualties. As early as 1777 these musicians began to carry arms, and their combat functions became more important than their musical skills as the war progressed. In 1776 fife and drum majors were added to the regimental staff as performing musicians responsible for instructing the fifers and drummers.40

Later in the war the “field music” provided by the fifers and drummers was supplemented by that of “bands of music.” These were true bands and normally contained up to eight musicians equipped with woodwinds and horns. Unlike European armies, the Continental Army did not hire civilians as bandsmen; instead, it allowed soldiers to perform in a band as an additional duty. The bands, which only a few regiments maintained, were legally the property of the regimental officers who had pooled their funds to purchase instruments and who paid the musicians. Washington had to ask officers’ permission to use a band at an unofficial dance or even at a formal Continental Army ceremony.

The type of staff officer that proved most difficult to obtain was the military engineer. Many civilian occupations required skills which could be applied to the Army; merchants, for example, were able to step into various logistical assignments. Military engineering was a highly technical field. American engineers knew a great deal about civil construction and could erect a simple fieldworks, but their skills were not on a par with those of formally trained European military engineers. Congress had authorized Washington and Schuyler each to have one chief engineer and two assistants, but at Boston, Washington had to make do with a handful of men who were at best gifted amateurs: Col. Richard Gridley and Lt. Col. William Burbeck of the Artillery Regiment, Jeduthan Baldwin, and Rufus Putnam. This group created a ring of earthworks which the British chose not to attack, but the engineers could not press a formal siege of the town. Their lack of skill turned operations into a mere blockade, a

39. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:766, 815-16, 876, 1384; Eugene Franklin Williams, “Soldiers of God: Chaplains of the Revolutionary war” (Ph.D. diss., Texas Christian University, 1972).
40. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:181-82; 9:124-27; 11:335-36, 366-67; 14:293-94; Simon Vance Anderson, “American Music During the war of Independence, 1775-178399 (Ph.D. diss., University of Michigan, 1965); Raoul F. Camus, Military Music of the American Revolution (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1976).

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fact that strongly influenced Washington’s tactical organization, since it dictated trying to lure the British into costly frontal attacks.41

Finally, turning the force at Boston into an army also involved creating special staff officers to maintain disciplined Obedience and internal control were absolute necessities for the linear warfare of the eighteenth century. New England’s military and civil law both grew from English roots, but the disciplinary system the New England colonies created for their armies was less draconian than Great Britain’s. Massachusetts approved its Articles of War on 5 April 1775. Connecticut and Rhode Island adopted similar versions in May, and New Hampshire implemented Massachusetts’ code on 29 June. Derived from British articles in force since 1765, the fifty-three clauses adopted by each colony defined crimes, punishments, and legal procedures. Minor offenses were punishable by summary action of the regimental commander, intermediary crimes were subject to a regimental court-martial, and the most serious were tried at a general court-martial. Most infractions were handled with fines or corporal punishment (up to a maximum of thirty-nine lashes); desertion in combat and betraying the password to the enemy were the only offenses subject to the death penalty.

The Continental Articles of War adopted by Congress on 30 June added sixteen clauses to the basic Massachusetts text. The extra articles covered applicability of the system, administrative forms, pardons, sutlers, and disposition of the personal effects of deceased soldiers. This material, contained in the British articles, had been omitted by the New Englanders. The Continental text was distributed at Boston on 10 August. Following a conference between a congressional committee and Washington’s staff, Congress adopted sixteen changes on 7 November, expanding the list of capital crimes. The revision, prompted by the realization that under existing articles treason was not a punishable offense, went into effect on 1 January 1776. Since it also resolved lingering doubts about the legal applicability of the Continental Articles to men enlisted prior to 14 June, Washington now began serious efforts to enforce them.

Although Washington relied heavily on British precedents and the unofficial legal advice of William Tudor, a Harvard graduate who had studied law under John Adams, he recognized the importance of a permanent legal staff to assist him. Congress approved his plan to appoint a judge advocate to advise him and a provost marshal to enforce camp discipline. Tudor was appointed on 30 July as the “Judge Advocate of the Continental Army.” His principal function was supervising trials. The general supervision of discipline, however, remained a function of the Adjutant General. William Marony became provost marshal for the Main Army on 10 January 1776. The provost’s functions were identical to those of the post in the British Army: maintaining the camp jail and supervising the guards furnished daily by line regiments in rotation. The office suffered from a heavy personnel turnover throughout the war, largely

41. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:340-41; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 2:767-68, 1436; Lee Papers, 1:199-200; Jeduthan Baldwin, The Revolutionary Journal of Col. Jeduthan Baldwin. /775-1778 ed. Thomas William Baldwin (Bangor De Syrians, 1906), pp. 17-29. The British began formal military engineer training in 1741 with the founding of the Royal Military Academy at Woolwich.
42. The following discussion is based on: JCC, 2:111-22, 220-23; 3:331-34; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 1:1350-56; 2:564-70, 1145-46, 1180; 3:411-12, 1164; 5th ser., 1:576; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 1:517, 558-59, 584-85; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 3:320-29, 346-52, 378, 411; 4:7-13, 22-25, 206-7, 220, 224, 232-33, 527; Robert Harm Berlin, “The Administration of Military Justice in the Continental Army During the American Revolution, 1775-1783” (Ph.D. diss., University of California at Santa Barbara, 1976); Maurer Maurer, “Military Justice Under General Washington,” Military Affairs 28 (1964):8-16.

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because the provost was required also to serve as executioner. Washington normally selected a sergeant and conferred on him the temporary rank of captain.

By mid-October 1775 Washington had made great progress in organizing, staffing, and disciplining his army, although his correspondence indicates that he still was not satisfied. The Main Army actually exceeded the 22,000 men Congress had agreed to support.43 In addition to the artillery, the riflemen, and a handful of separate companies, it included 27 infantry regiments from Massachusetts, 5 from Connecticut, and 3 each from New Hampshire and Rhode Island. Although each colony’s units had different authorized strengths, all the regiments were at least 90 percent full on paper except for 11 from Massachusetts. Of the latter, 8 were between 80 and 90 percent complete, and 3 were below 80 percent. The individual regiments in the army averaged 474 rank and file total, ranging between 364 and 816. The total infantry rank and file strength of the Main Army was 19,497. There were also 690 drummers and fifers, 1,298 sergeants, 934 company officers, 163 regimental staff officers, and 94 field officers. Of the total rank and file strength, nearly 2,500 were sick, 750 were on furlough, and 2,400 were detached on various duties.

Four of the six brigades each contained approximately 2,400 men in combat strength. Sullivan’s Brigade was slightly larger with 2,700 men. The largest brigade was Spencer’s (3,200) because it contained two of the large Connecticut regiments and several separate companies. The relative strengths of the divisions reflected their defensive responsibilities. Ward’s had the most men (5,600), and Lee’s was only 400 smaller. The reserve division under Putnam was the smallest (4,800), while the 700 riflemen remained outside the divisional alignment.

This total force was substantial. Equipped with a staff organization and a disciplinary system, it was grouped in a tactical arrangement which suited its location and mission. On the other hand, the British had not tested it in battle. Washington finished 1775 unsure of the combat potential of his army and eager to resolve some of the remaining issues relating to its internal organization.

The War Spreads to Canada
Congressional control was not limited to Washington’s main army in eastern Massachusetts. The American seizure of Fort Ticonderoga on 10 May 1775 had played an important role in persuading Congress to take military action, but the irregulars who had taken the fort under the leadership of Ethan Allen of the Green Mountain Boys and Benedict Arnold, a Connecticut volunteer acting under a Massachusetts commission, quickly melted away. The fort and its valuable cannon required more security than the Albany County (New York) Committee of Correspondence could provide with

43. General Return, Main Army, 17 Oct 75; RG 93, National Archives. Interpretation of Continental Army strength returns requires an understanding of the categories used by the staff. Officers and noncommissioned officers were counted if present in camp but not if on detached duties. More complete information was furnished for rank and file (privates and corporals). Sick were classified as either “present” (with their unit) or “absent” (in hospital or on convalescent leave). The category “on command” included all men on detached duty, either in the immediate vicinity of camp or at a distance. A true picture of the combat strength of a unit would include not only the rank and file “fit for duty” but also a significant percentage of those on command (men who could he recalled on short notice) and those of the sick who were present (men capable of bearing arms in a defensive situation). Officers in company grades and sergeants also were part of the combat force. A variation of this return is printed in Lesser, Sinews, pp. 8-9.

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