Washington’s Main Army retained its organization of three divisions and six brigades in January 1776. The average size of a brigade remained the same, although each now contained only four or five of the larger 1776 regiments. By early March, Henry Knox had accumulated enough heavy artillery to allow Washington to occupy dominant positions on Dorchester Heights, forcing the British to evacuate Boston. Washington correctly guessed that General Howe intended to attack New York and began sending units to that city on 14 March. The regiments went overland to Norwich, Connecticut, where they embarked and sailed the rest of the way along Long Island Sound. He opened his new headquarters at New York on 14 April, and the last of his units arrived three days later.
The shift of the Main Army to New York brought Washington into the area of Schuyler’s Middle Department. In the subsequent adjustment of responsibilities, Washington assumed control of the Middle Department and Schuyler reverted to a more limited command over a reorganized Northern Department. The change allowed the latter to concentrate on furnishing logistical support to the Canadian Department which remained as a separate command. New England reverted to the status of a territorial department (the Eastern Department) under Maj. Gen. Artemas Ward. He had wanted to resign, but Congress persuaded Ward to remain at Boston until a suitable replacement could be spared. His forces included an artillery company and five Continental regiments from Massachusetts that Washington had left behind. The 8th, 16th, 18th, and 27th Continental Regiments protected Boston. The 14th occupied the naval base at Marblehead.40
The Main Army in New York now gained some of the new regiments from the middle colonies to compensate for the five left in Massachusetts. Shortly thereafter Washington had to transfer the equivalent of two brigades to the north. In April he regrouped his regiments under the one major general and four brigadier generals he had available for command assignments. Each of the four resulting brigades contained four or five regiments and defended a specific area or terrain feature; the artillery remained outside the brigade formations, although Washington placed the riflemen in the brigades manning the most advanced positions.41 These units formed the nucleus of the Continental forces that would defend New York in August against the onslaught of Howe.
Meanwhile, state units were taking shape in New England to take over the burden of local defense. Washington’s policy, established in 1775 and maintained throughout
39. JCC, 4:47, 186, 209-20; Smith, Letters of Delegates, 3:315-17, 336-37, 342-43, 350-51, 384-85, 387, 406, 440, 633-35; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:221-23, 374, 381-82.
40. Ward to Congress, 22 Mar 76, RG 360, National Archives; JCC, 4:300; 5:694; 6:931; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:467-70; 5:1-4; Burnett, Letters, 1:450-52, 505-6; C. Harvey Gardiner, ed., A Study in Dissent: The Warren-Gerry Correspondence, 1776-1792 (Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1968), pp. 16-19; Samuel Adams, The Writings of Samuel Adams, ed. Henry Alonzo Cushing, 4 vols. (New York: G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 1907), 3:290-91.
41. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:512-13, 535-36; 5:36-37.
When the New England delegates became quite concerned with the adequacy of the Continental forces under Ward, they produced a study in May 1776 which recommended a New England garrison of 6,000 men. Congress responded first by ordering Ward’s five regiments to recruit to full strength. On 11 May it also retroactively accepted the two Rhode Island regiments, which remained in their home state until September, and on 14 May it authorized the other three New England colonies to raise new Continental regiments: two in Massachusetts and one each in Connecticut and New Hampshire.44 New Hampshire’s regiment was intended as a garrison for Portsmouth, but chaos resulted from an attempt to use state troops as a cadre, and Col. Nicholas Long made no recruiting progress until August. In Connecticut Andrew Ward recruited his regiment with more success in the Hartford area and in the northeastern part of the state, but on 1 August Washington ordered it to New York. Connecticut also raised two regiments of state troops under Benjamin Hinman and David Waterbury, former Continental colonels, to take over the burden of local defense. Massachusetts did not raise its regiments but placed three existing regiments of state troops under Ward’s control with the provision that they could not be sent out of the state. The net result, in terms of the Continental establishment, was an addition of 4 regiments: 2 from Rhode Island, 1 from New Hampshire, and 1 from Connecticut. On the other hand, the Connecticut and Massachusetts state troops released the department’s regular regiments for duty elsewhere.45
When Congress completed action on New England, it turned its attention back to New York. British forces had massed in positions from which they could attack New York City by sea and Ticonderoga by land from Canada. Eventually three of the newly raised Continental regiments in New England and all five of the original regiments were transferred to either the Main Army at New York City or to Ticonderoga. Late in May Washington and Congress concluded that a 2 to 1 numerical superiority was needed to successfully defend both locations. On the supposition that the British would employ 10,000 men against Ticonderoga and 12,500 against New York City, Congress decided that the Northern Department should have 20,000 men and Washington’s Main Army 25,000. To help achieve these totals, it called on the states for nearly
42. Ibid., 3:379-80. Also see pp. 486-87.
43. R. I. Records, 7:376, 384-86, 403-4, 410, 415, 432-38, 492-93; Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, 6:141-42.
44. JCC, 4:311, 344-47, 355, 357, 360; Samuel Adams, Writings, 3:288-90; Burnett, Letters of Congress, 2:78-79; R. 1. Records, 7:537-38, 554, 599-600, 606-9; Rhode Island Historical Society Collections, 6:154-55, 160-63, 170-73. Smith, Letters of Delegates, 4:3-4, 31-33, 228-29.
45. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 5:1272-74, 1288, 1296-97, 1312; 6:801-2; 5th ser., 1:3, 314, 404-5, 459-60; 2:805-6; 5th ser., 1:28-29, 48-49, 62-68, 991; 2:805-6; Conn. Records, 15:296-305, 416-17, 434, 485-87, 514-16; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:363, 463; Ward to Congress, 22 Nov 76, RG 360, National Archives.
30,000 militia: 6,000 for Ticonderoga, 13,800 for New York City, and 10,000 more for a flying camp (mobile reserve).46
Congress’ decision to turn to the militia rather than attempt to recruit more Continental regiments was based on practical and ideological reasons. Militia could take to the field quicker. Many delegates also believed that America faced a crisis which demanded the full participation of society for the Revolution to succeed. They felt that the militia, rather than the regular army, was the military institution which represented the peopled All of the colonies from Maryland northward responded to this and subsequent calls for militia, although few furnished their full quotas.
Pennsylvania’s contribution to the Flying Camp included two special units of state troops. They contained 1,500 men organized as the Pennsylvania State Musketry Battalion and the two-battalion Pennsylvania State Rifle Regiment. (See Table 3.) Pennsylvania had created them in March to replace the departing continentals. The former unit was expected to defend Philadelphia from British regulars; the latter could serve also on the frontier. The Pennsylvania state troops also included an artillery contingent, but rather than going to the Flying Camp, it remained near Philadelphia to guard the Delaware River defenses. The artillery company had been established in
46. JCC, 4:399-401, 410-14; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:56-58, 78n, 218-24.
47. Burnett, Letters, 1:492-94; Henderson, Party Politics, p. 104; White, “Standing Armies,” pp. 95-110; Cress, “The Standing Army, the Militia, and the New Republic,” pp. 134-38.
The militia reinforcements and the several Continental regiments that moved to New York during the summer increased the size of the Main Army. Although the militia came with their own brigadier generals, there was still a pressing need for senior officers. Congress responded on 9 August when it promoted Heath, Spencer, Sullivan, and Greene to major general and added six brigadier generals. Only Wooster of the original brigadier generals was passed over for promotion when Congress punished him for his quarrelsome conduct in Canada. The new brigadier generals primarily replaced generals killed, promoted, or captured; in almost every case the senior colonel from the same state was promoted. Congress added several more brigadier generals in September. The additional generals enabled Washington to reorganize his brigades in August before the battle opened in New York. Eight brigades of militia and four of continentals formed three “Grand Divisions.” Each division was a different size, to fit its defensive mission, but all contained both militia and continentals. This mixture continued throughout the New York campaign as other brigades were added.49
In mid-September the Main Army’s fourteen infantry brigades contained 31,000 officers and men.50 Over 7,000 were sick, although most were not sufficiently ill to be hospitalized. Another 3,500 were on detached duties. Fifty-seven percent of the total strength came from 36 regiments of militia and 4 regiments of state troops. The 25 Continental regiments accounted for 674 officers, 103 staff officers, 602 sergeants, 314 drummers and fifers, and 11,590 rank and file. Only slightly more than half of the rank and file were carried as present and fit for duty: 3,153 were sick and 2,356 were “on command.” Nearly two-thirds of the total on special duties were continentals rather than militia, a significant indication that they had better training. The regiments were reasonably complete. Half were over three-quarters full, if one includes the sick and detailed personnel. The eight which fell below two-thirds all had special reasons for their status. The 1st Continental Regiment was in the process of reorganizing, and the others had suffered heavy casualties in the battle of Long Island several weeks earlier. These figures indicate that only a fraction of Washington’s large army consisted of trained, reliable troops. On the other hand, his regular regiments were reasonably close to their prescribed organization and had the potential for performing well in battle. It is also of some note that although the Main Army still drew the majority of its men from New England, units from as far south as Virginia were present.
The expansion of the Continental Army in 1776 required enlargement of the staff serving the Main Army and the creation of staffs in the territorial departments. Other changes in staff came because individuals were promoted or resigned. Adjutant General Gates and Mustermaster General Stephen Moylan, for example, were promoted
48. Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 3:1819-20, 1828; 4:524, 1573-75; 6:961; 5th ser., 1:1317; 2:69, 80, 97; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 4:751-52, 780; 5:33; 8th ser., 8:7429-46, 7461-65.
49. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 5:379-81, 422-23, 501-3; 6:3-4, 207-8; Burnett, Letters, 2:45-57; JCC, 5:597, 641; 6:898.
50. General Return, Main Army, 14 Sep 76, RG 360, National Archives. This return does not include the Flying camp or various regiments such as the Delaware Regiment that were not physically with their brigades on that day. Lesser, Sinews, pp. 32-35, prints another return from 28 September.
during the year. Joseph Reed was persuaded to accept the Adjutant General’s office with the rank of colonel; his former law student, Gunning Bedford, succeeded Moylan, moving up from deputy mustermaster general. Their personal relationship ensured that the two administrative departments would work in close cooperation. At the same time, Washington instituted a more comprehensive reporting system that gave him up-to-date information on the state of his army. His British opponents did not enjoy a similar system and consequently were at a disadvantage in planning.51
The other major administrative section of the staff, Washington’s personal aides and secretary, also experienced changes. Increases in pay and a congressional decision to give the Commander in Chief’s aides the rank of lieutenant colonel (major generals’ aides were majors) eased misgivings about career development. When the expanded size of Washington’s army greatly increased the workload of his personal staff, Congress added a fourth aide on 24 August. New aides during 1776 were Samuel Blatchley Webb, Richard Cary, and William Grayson. The aides were supplemented by a new special unit formed on 12 March 1776, the Commander in Chief’s Guard. Four men from each regiment at Boston were selected for the unit, which was commanded by Capt. Caleb Gibbs (formerly adjutant of the 14th Continental Regiment) and Lt. George Lewis, Washington’s nephew. These officers served as supplemental aides, with Gibbs acting as headquarters commandant and running the household. The unit protected Washington’s person, the army’s cash, and official papers.52
Comparable expansion took place in the areas of logistical and medical support.
51. JCC, 4:177, 187, 236, 311, 315; 5:419, 460; 6:933; 10:124; Force, American Archives, 4th ser., 6:1013-14; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:202-7, 223; Greene, Papers, 1:264-65; British Headquarters Papers, nos. 1894, 2443, 3320 (Charles Jenkinson to Henry Clinton, 5 Apr and 23 Nov 79 and 5 Feb 81). In 1776 reports required a ream of paper a month per regiment.
52. JCC, 4:311; 5:418, 613; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 4:287, 369, 381, 387-88; 5:50, 125, 165, 337-38, 481; Carlos E. Godfrey, Commander-in-Chief’s Guard: Revolutionary War (Washington: Stevenson-Smith, 1904), pp. 19, 35-38. In 1776 Washington also had an assistant secretary, Alexander Contee Harrison, and Congress appointed the French arms exporter Pierre Penet an honorary aide.