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The Continental Army, Chapter V

Rounding Out the Army
The retreat through New Jersey had made Washington acutely aware of Howe’s numerical strength and specifically his advantage in artillery and cavalry.10 In a series of letters to Congress during December 1776, the Commander in Chief pressed for more men. Additional infantry regiments, more artillery, and a force of cavalry headed his list of needs. Congress, impressed by the December crisis, acted upon those requests within a month. As a result, the Continental Army of 1777 became a more balanced force than that envisioned on 16 September. Washington would be able to organize the Army into elements capable of competing with the British in open battle.

Washington’s generals concurred with him in requesting additional strength. Central to the Army’s position was a recommendation to increase the infantry battalions from the 88 called for in September to a minimum of 110. Henry Knox had submitted a plan to raise 5 artillery regiments to support the full Army. Washington transmitted the plan to Congress with a recommendation that 3 regiments of artillery would be sufficient for the Main Army and the other forces in the northern half of the country. He also favored promoting Knox to brigadier general. In addition, the Commander in Chief asked for several new staff officers, a force of cavalry, and one brigadier general for every three infantry regiments and one major general for every three brigades. He asked Congress also to confirm preliminary steps he had taken during the retreat through New Jersey to raise additional infantry companies and to accept New York’s offer to raise a fifth regiment.11

Congress’ response was slowed when the delegates fled from Philadelphia to Baltimore. It finally acted on Washington’s requests on 27 December. It elected Knox brigadier general of artillery, directed Washington to establish the additional staff offices he required, and delegated to the Commander in Chief a number of emergency powers. It also ordered him to prepare a comprehensive system for promotions; Congress specified that officers should rise by seniority both within a regiment to the rank of captain and within a state’s “line” through field officer grades. A state’s line consisted of its quota of infantry regiments established in September. The most important element of the 27 December action, however, was contained in the following resolution:

Congress, having maturely considered the present crisis; and having perfect reliance on the wisdom, vigour, and uprightness of General Washington, do, hereby, Resolve, That General Washington shall be, and he is hereby, vested with full, ample, and complete powers to raise and collect together, in the most speedy and effectual manner, from any or all of these United

10. RG 93, National Archives (Return of the Forces…on the Banks of Delaware, 22 Dec 76). John Chester’s regiment in Paul Dudley Sargent’s brigade did not participate in the attack. Lesser prints a version of this return hut incorrectly identifies some of the units, Sinews, p. 43.
11. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:332-33, 350-51, 379-84, 400-409; Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3: 310-14.


States, 16 battalions of infantry, in addition to those already voted by Congress; to appoint officers for the said battalions; to raise, officer, and equip three thousand light horse; three regiments of artillery, and a corps of engineers, and to establish their pay. . 12

Unlike the September regiments, the “sixteen additional regiments,” the artillery regiments, and the light horse were organized directly by Continental authority rather than by the authority of the state governments and were placed completely under Washington’s control. The resolution gave Washington the requested 110 regiments, for in addition to the 16 new regiments and the 88 units of the September quotas, there were 6 regiments raised by Congress the previous summer which were not explicitly tied to a single state. Actually, only 3 of these 6 regiments retained a distinct character as “extras” after the winter: Warner’s (largely from the Vermont area) and the 1st and 2d Canadian Regiments. The other 3 actually were counted against state quotas. Dubois’ Regiment, a predominantly New York unit, passed into that state’s reorganized line when the quota was increased to five regiments. Maryland counted its portions of the German Battalion and the Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment as the eighth regiment of its line quota.13

Washington had expected Congress to accept any men raised in excess of the September quotas, and he had begun to recruit even before he learned of the new resolve. On 21 December he told Brig. Gen. William Maxwell to ask competent officers omitted from New Jersey’s reorganization to recruit at least fifty men. Washington promised to make them captains with power to select their own subalterns, subject only to his final confirmation. He made the same offer on 24 December to Col. Samuel Griffin, formerly of the Flying Camp. By this time Washington had concluded that the state legislatures were retaining infantry officers on political grounds rather than on military merit. This practice and New England’s reduced 1777 quotas under the September reorganization were depriving the Army of many competent leaders. The new legislation offered a way to overcome both problems, and as he settled into quarters at Morristown in January, he began organizing the new regiments. He assumed that Congress wanted them apportioned geographically, and he acted accordingly. (See Table 4.)14

Seven additional regiments were planned for New England. Henry Jackson was selected to command a regiment from Boston, which previously had not fielded a unit. Jackson had a reputation as a military expert, and he drew key officers from the town’s Independent Company of Cadets. A second regiment was given to William Lee, the lieutenant colonel of the 14th Continental Regiment. The 14th had declined to reenlist as a unit under the 1777 reorganization, but sufficient members remained to justify using it as the cadre for another additional regiment from Massachusetts. Deputy Adjutant General David Henley, who earlier had served as the brigade major of Heath’s Brigade, was given a third Massachusetts regiment as a reward for excellent staff service during the 1776 campaign. Washington expected Henley to be successful in recruiting because of his numerous contacts. Massachusetts’ subsequent problems in filling its line quota of infantry regiments and its assigned artillery regi-

12. JCC, 6:1040, 1043-46. A companion piece of legislation directed a liaison committee, left in Philadelphia when Congress departed, to establish a magazine and ammunition laboratory (factory) at Carlisle, Pennsylvania. A state’s line was an administrative device rather than a tactical entity.
13. Samuel Adams, Writings, 3:342-46; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:138.
14. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:415-16, 429-30; 7:417-19.

meet, however, forced Washington to give the additional regiments from that state a low recruiting priority, and they remained at Boston during the 1777 campaign.15

The other four New England additional regiments suffered problems as well. Ezekiel Cornell of Rhode Island, another deputy adjutant general and a former lieutenant colonel of the 11th Continental Regiment, turned down Washington’s offer of a regiment to command the brigade of state troops that Rhode Island raised in 1777. Alexander Scammell, Sullivan’s protege and also a deputy adjutant general, declined a regiment to accept command of the 3d New Hampshire Regiment. No further efforts were made to raise either of these regiments. Greater success came in Connecticut. Samuel Blatchley Webb, one of Washington’s aides, made substantial progress in raising a regiment there once he received support from the state government. Connecticut and Rhode Island jointly furnished the base for the last regiment; Henry Sherburne of the latter state received the command in recognition of his gallantry at The Cedars. Although the regiment took the field in 1777, it was never able to organize all its companies.16

The state affiliation of the five additional regiments Washington allocated to the middle portion of the country was less clear. In contrast to New England, where he had a large body of former continentals, in the middle states, Washington had to draw officers from veterans of the previous summer’s militia forces. Col. William Malcolm, who had commanded a New York City militia regiment for most of 1776, was given one regiment. Brig. Gen. George Clinton and his brigade major, Albert Pawling (who became the new regiment’s major), raised four of its companies in New York. Brig. Gen. John Armstrong organized the other four companies in Pennsylvania. The regiment did not assemble as a unit until October. Two veteran New Jersey militia leaders, David Forman and Oliver Spencer, raised regiments with cadres from New Jersey. In building his regiment, Forman made use of preliminary work done by Col. Samuel Griffin, who had turned down the command because he expected to become a general.17

The other two regiments were based primarily in Pennsylvania, although recruits came from neighboring areas as well. Following the recommendation of Richard Henry Lee, Washington gave one command to Thomas Hartley, the lieutenant colonel of the 6th Pennsylvania Battalion. Like most commanders of additional regiments, Hartley had a wide latitude in selecting his junior officers. Acting Adjutant General Morgan Connor (the major of the 1st Continental Regiment) became Hartley’s lieutenant colonel when James Wilkinson, a Northern Department staff officer, declined. John Patton, who had commanded a battalion of the Pennsylvania State Rifle Regiment with distinction during operations around New York, received command of the other regiment, with Assistant Quartermaster General John Parke and Brigade Major Peter Scull as field officers.18

Washington was sensitive to criticism that implied he favored his native south, and he was circumspect in commissioning additional officers from that region. Georgia and the Carolinas, lying outside the sphere of his immediate command, did not appear at all. He also excused Maryland from a direct role in the regiments because of

15. Ibid., 6:433, 499-500; 7:86-87,136-40,165-66.
16. Ibid., 6:499, 505-6; 7:11,132-33.
17. Ibid., 6:476, 494; 7:33-34,93,191,389; 9:364,461.
18. Ibid., 6:490, 493, 498-99; 7:60n, 374-75; JCC, 12:1225-26.

DAVID FORMAN (1745-?) of New Jersey organized Forman’s Additional Continental Regiment in 1777 after demonstrating skill as a militia commander in the 1776 campaign around New York City. (Portrait by Charles Willson Peale, ca. 1784.)

its responsibilities for the rifle regiment and the German Battalion. Washington initially allotted only two regiments to Virginia. Both commands went to close associates: William Grayson, one of Washington’s aides, and the noted frontiersman Nathaniel Gist. Grayson recruited in northern Virginia and in nearby Maryland, where his future brother-in-law, Brig. Gen. William Smallwood, had great influence. Gist’s was a special light infantry regiment. He was to raise four companies on the southern frontier as rangers and then enlist up to 500 Cherokees and other southern Indians to serve with the regiment as scouts. Their presence was intended also to ensure their tribes’ good behavior. Washington reluctantly added a third Virginia regiment two months later. Lord Stirling had grouped three volunteer Virginia companies into a provisional battalion under Capt. Charles Mynn Thruston, a powerful political leader in the Shenandoah Valley. When they performed well in northern New Jersey, Washington told Thurston to recruit a regiment in the northwestern part of the state, but Thurston had little success in filling his unity

Because of serious recruiting problems, Washington attempted to raise only 15 of the 16 approved regiments, and 2 of those were stillborn when their colonels declined the commands. Although some of the additional regiments were quite successful, none could compete equally with the regiments organized under the September 1776 state quotas. On 17 June 1777 Congress approved North Carolina’s offer to raise another regiment under Col. Abraham Sheppard. At least 300 of its men were required to report to Washington within a reasonable period, but this sixteenth additional regiment was absorbed within a year during a reorganization of the weak North Carolina line.20

The three artillery regiments authorized by Congress on 27 December, like the sixteen additionals, represented an expansion requested by Washington rather than a new departure. The September quotas had not mentioned artillery, and Washington

19. Ibid., 6:491-92, 494-96; 7:6-7, 11-12, 102, 201-2, 229, 295-97, 307-8.
20. Steuben Papers (Scammell to Frederick Steuben, 25 Sep 79); JCC, 8:475.

presumably was free to use one or two of the eighty-eight regiments for that purpose. During December Colonel Knox prepared a plan for five artillery regiments to properly support the enlarged Continental Army. Knox’s plan called for artillery regiments for every geographical region, not just for the Main Army. On his own authority Washington ordered Knox to begin recruiting three of those regiments to support the forces in the central portion of the nation. His request to Congress, and Congress’ 27 December authorization, dealt with those regiments.21

Like the infantry regiment, the artillery regiment of 1777 followed the same general organization which had prevailed during 1776. Congress did not change the allocation of staff and company officer positions or the division of the regiment into a dozen companies. It did make two changes. The number of field officers dropped from 5 to 3, since the total pool of artillery field officers was now large enough to allow for detachment without crippling the regiment. The second change regrouped the enlisted men in each company; the number of matrosses dropped from 32 to 28, and the specialists and noncommissioned officers now consisted of 6 sergeants, 6 corporals, 6 bombardiers, and 6 gunners. This arrangement provided balanced crews for up to six guns, plus an ammunition section within each company.

The Trenton campaign disrupted matters, but Knox was able to begin recruiting once the Main Army settled into quarters at Morristown. Continued support for the Main Army was provided by state artillery units under Maj. Thomas Proctor (two Pennsylvania companies) and Capt. Alexander Hamilton (one New York company), and by Capt. Sebastian Bauman’s Continental company. The officers of the old 1776 artillery regiment set out to recruit. Two of the new regiments, commanded by majors of the 1776 regiment, relied on veterans for cadres. John Crane, a native Bostonian, raised 9 companies in Massachusetts. John Lamb, recently released by the British, recruited in the area between Connecticut and Philadelphia. Nine of his companies were new— 3 from New York, 2 from Pennsylvania, and 4 from Connecticut, where Lamb’s family had moved after the fall of New York City. The other 3 companies were existing units. Bauman’s Company and Hamilton’s (under the command of John Doughty of New Jersey) were assigned intact. Isaiah Wool added new recruits to the remnants of Lamb’s 1775 company.22

Washington and Knox intended to organize their third new artillery regiment from the Middle Department, using Proctor’s Pennsylvania companies supplemented by companies from New Jersey and Maryland. Pennsylvania undermined this plan by expanding the Pennsylvania state artillery into a ten-company regiment under Proctor on 6 February 1777. The state then transferred the regiment to the Continental Army during the summer of 1777 with only ten companies instead of the twelve Knox had intended.23

Artillerymen also supported the other territorial departments. Capt. Ebenezer Stevens of Knox’s regiment acted as the senior artillery officer in the Northern De-

21. Force, American Archives, 5th ser., 3:1314; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 6:401.
22. Fitzpatrick, Writings, 7:82, 138-39, 263, 467; 8:276, 460; 12:71-72; 18:303-4; John Lamb Papers (to Washington, 12 Mar 79; to Board of General Officers, 6 Aug 79; Knox to Lamb, 13 and 20 Apt 77, 24 May 77, and 17 and 22 Jan 80; Eleazur Oswald to Lamb, 16 Feb, 7 Apr, 17 Jun, and 23 Jul 77; Crane to Washington, 16 Mar 79 (copy); Report of Board of General Officers on Artillery Ranks, 8 Aug 79), New-York Historical Society.
23. JCC, 8:482-83, 551, 564; 12:865; Burnett, Letters, 2:427; Fitzpatrick, Writings, 8:386, 415; 15:80-81; Pennsylvania Archives, 1st ser., 5:234-35, 357, 451, 455; 6:676-77; 7:121; 2d ser., 1:713.