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detained a few days to cross Lake George, they undertook a march from here of two hundred miles with the greatest alacrity. * * Our Army requires to be put on
a different footing. Habituated to order, I can not, without the most extreme pain, see that disregard of discipline, confusion, and inattention which reign so generally in this quarter, and I am therefore determined to retire. Of this resolution I have advised Congress, a
General Montgomery on the 13th of October, while investing St. Johns, wrote to General Schuyler:
I had had a road cut to the intended ground and some fascines made, when I was informed by Major Brown that a general dissatisfaction prevailed, that unless something was undertaken in a few days there would be a mutiny, and that the universal sense of the army was to direct all our attention to the east side. The impatience of the troops to get home has prevented their seeing the impossibility of undertaking this business sooner, the duty being hard for the troops in the present confined state of operations. When I mentioned my intentions I did not consider that I was at the head of troops who carry the spirit of freedom into the field and think for themselves. Upon considering the fatal consequences which might flow from a want of subordination and discipline should this ill humor continue, my unstable authority over troops of different colonies, the insufficiency of the military law, and my own want of powers to enforce it, weak as it is, I thought it expedient to call the field officers together, etc.
RESULTS OF THE CAMPAIGN.
No matter how absolute the necessity for calling out undisciplined troops, history teaches that useless extravagance, often accompanied by inaction or disaster, will surely ensue. Such was the case in the campaign of 1775. The battles of Lexington, Concord, and Bunker Hill, fought before any of the troops were taken into Continental pay, were the only military operations of the army near Boston during the year.
When Washington took command his army numbered 17,000 men, but the number fit for duty did not exceed 14,500. The strength of the enemy was estimated by the council of war at 11,500; but after deducting the sick and wounded his real effective strength was not over 6,500. Notwithstanding this disparity in numbers, neither Washington nor his generals deemed it prudent to attack, and the year passed away in hopeless inactivity.
The invasion of Canada, the only important offensive movement of the campaign, ended in disaster. General Montgomery, after occupying Montreal and joining Arnold, who had made his famous march through the wilderness of Maine, attempted to take Quebec by assault, this step being resolved upon on account of the approaching expiration of the terms of service of nearly all his men. In the action which followed, fought on the last day of the year, Montgomery lost his life, and his troops were repulsed, about 60 being killed and wounded and between 300 and 400 made prisoners. The total number of troops in Continental pay during the campaign of 1775, as appears from the report of the Secretary of War, Henry Knox, submitted to Congress in 1790, was 27,443. In addition to the above, it is estimated that the colonies of Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, furnished 10,180 militia, making the whole American Army 37,623. For the most part this force, from want of supplies, organization, and discipline, was maintained at public expense in a state of demoralizing inactivity.
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 3, note on pp. 132-191.
CAMPAIGN OF 1776.
CONDITION OF WASHINGTON'S ARMY.
Washington thus describes the conditions of his army at the beginning of 1776 in letter of January 4, 1776, to Joseph Reed:
Search the volumes of history through, and I much question whether a case similar to ours is to be found, namely, to maintain a post against the flower of the British troops for six months together, without powder, and then to have one army disbanded and another to be raised within the same distance of a reinforced enemy. It is too much to attempt. What may be the final issue of the last maneuver, time only can unfold. I wish this month was well over our heads. The same desire of retiring into a chimney corner seized the troops of New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts, so soon as their time expired, as had wrought upon those of Connecticut, notwithstanding many of them made a tender of their services to continue till the lines could be sufficiently strengthened. We are now left with a good deal less than half-raised regiments and about 5,000 militia, who only stand engaged to the middle of this month, when, according to custom, they will depart, let the necessity of their stay be ever so urgent. Thus for more than two months past I have scarcely emerged from one difficulty before I have been plunged into another.a Up to January 14, but 10,500 men had been enlisted in the establishment of 20,370 authorized by Congress in the previous October, and of this number a large portion was reported as not joined. The recruiting was obstructed by discontented officers and progressed so slowly that Washington gave up all hopes of raising the army by voluntary enlistments, and on the 16th of January he wrote to the general court of Massachusetts Bay mentioning the use of "coercive measures" to fill the regiments to their proper strength. Meantime the term of service of the 5,000 militia called in from the 10th of December till the 15th of January having expired, Washington, on the 16th of January, deeming it "indispensably necessary to make a bold attempt to conquer the ministerial troops in Boston, before they could be reinforced in the spring," requested the opinion of the council of war as to the feasibility of an attack, and the council agreed that an attempt ought to be made. As the present force was inadequate, it recommended that 13 regiments of militia be called into service till the 1st of April; this number was afterwards reduced to 10, in consequence of 3 regiments being needed for service in Canada.
In a written communication Washington called the attention of Congress to the importance of engaging men for the war even at the expense of a bounty. His remarkable letter on this subject, dated February 9, 1776, plainly and forcibly points out the evils, dangers, and extravagance of short enlistments:
The purport of this letter will be directed to a single object. Through you I mean to lay it before Congress, and, at the same time that I beg their serious atten
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 3, pp. 225, 226.
tion to the subject, to ask pardon for intruding an opinion, not only unasked but in some measure repugnant to their resolves.
The disadvantages attending the limited enlistment of troops are too apparent to those who are eyewitnesses of them to render any animadversions necessary, but to gentlemen at a distance whose attention is engrossed by a thousand important objects the case may be otherwise. That this cause precipitated the fate of the brave and much to be lamented General Montgomery, and brought on the defeat which followed thereupon, I have not the most distant doubt, for, had he not been apprehensive of the troops leaving him at so important a crisis, but continued to blockade Quebec, a capitulation, from the best accounts I have been able to collect, must inevitably have followed. And that we were not one time obliged to dispute these lines under disadvantageous circumstances proceeding from the same cause, to wit, the troops disbanding of themselves before the militia could be got in, is to me a matter of wonder and astonishment, and proves that General Howe was either unacquainted with our situation or restrained by his instructions from putting anything to hazard till his reinforcements should arrive.
The instance of General Montgomery (I mention it because it is a striking one, for a number of others might be adduced) proves that instead of having men to take advantage of circumstances you are in a manner compelled, right or wrong, to make circumstances yield to a secondary consideration. Since the 1st of December I have been devising every means in my power to secure these encampments; and though I am sensible that we never have since that period been able to act upon the offensive and at times not in a condition to defend, yet the cost of marching home one set of men, bringing in another, the havoc and waste occasioned by the first, the repairs necessary for the second, with a thousand incidental charges and inconveniences which have arisen and which it is scarce possible either to recollect or describe, amount to near as much as the keeping up a respectable body of troops the whole time ready for any emergency would have done.
To this may be added that you never can have a well-disciplined army.
To bring men to be well acquainted with the duties of a soldier requires time. To bring them under proper discipline and subordination not only requires time; but is a work of great difficulty, and in this army, where there is so little distinction between the officers and soldiers, requires an uncommon degree of attention. To expect, then, the same service from raw and undisciplined recruits as from veteran soldiers is to expect what never did and perhaps never will happen. Men who are familiarized to danger meet it without shrinking; whereas troops unused to service often apprehend danger where no danger is.
Three things prompt men to regular discharge of their duty in time of action; natural bravery, hope of reward, and fear of punishment. The two first are common to the untutored and the disciplined soldier; but the last most obviously distinguishes the one from the other. A coward, when taught to believe that if he breaks his ranks and abandons his colors, he will be punished with death by his own party, will take his chance against the enemy; but a man who thinks little of the one and is fearful of the other acts from present feelings, regardless of consequences.
Again, men of a day's standing will not look forward, and from experience we find that as time approaches for their discharge they grow careless of their arms, ammunition and camp utensils. Nay, even the barracks themselves have felt uncommon marks of wanton depredation, and lay us under fresh trouble and additional expense in providing for every fresh set when we find it next to impossible to procure such articles as are absolutely necessary in the first instance. To this may be added the seasoning which new recruits must have to a camp and the loss consequent thereupon. But this is not all. Men engaged for a short, limited time only have the officers too much in their power, for to obtain a degree of popularity in order to induce a second enlistment, a kind of familiarity takes place which brings on a relaxation of discipline, unlicensed furloughs, and other indulgences incompatible with order and good government; by which means the latter part of the time for which the soldier was engaged is spent in undoing what you were aiming to inculcate in the first.
To go into an enumeration of all the evils we have experienced in this late great danger of the army and the expenses incidental to it, to say nothing of the hazard we have run and must run between the discharging of one army and the enlistment of another, unless an enormous expense of militia is incurred, would greatly exceed the bounds of a letter. What I have already taken the liberty of saying will serve to convey a general idea of the matter; and therefore I shall, with all due deference, take the freedom to give it as my opinion that if the Congress have any reason to believe that there will be occasion for troops another year, and consequently for another enlistment, they would save money and have infinitely better troops, if they were, even at a bounty of $20, $30, or more, to engage the men already enlisted, till
January next and such others as may be wanted to complete the establishment, for and during the war. I will not undertake to say that the men can be had upon these terms; but I am satisfied that it will never do to let the matter alone as it was last year, till the time of service was near expiring. The hazard is too great, in the first place; in the next, the trouble and perplexity of disbanding one army and raising another at the same instant, and in such a critical situation as the last was are scarcely in the power of words to describe and such as no man who has experienced them once will ever undergo again.a
EVACUATION. OF BOSTON AND TRANSFER OF OPERATIONS TO NEW YORK.
Reenforced by militia, Washington on the 5th of March began to throw up works on Dorchester Heights and take other measures which determined on the 17th the evacuation of Boston. During these operations the militia of the neighborhood were called in for the short space of three days. The total loss of Washington's Army in killed, from the time he took command to the end of the siege of Boston, did not reach 20, while the whole loss in killed from the battle of Lexington was less than 200. No sooner had the British evacuated Boston than Washington, recognizing New York as the next objective point, sent 5 regiments to defend it, and toward the end of April arrived there with nearly all his command.
Meantime, so distressing and perilous was the situation of our troops before Quebec, that Congress required him to send first 4, and later 6, additional regiments to Canada. This last detachment of 3,000 men, the sequence of an unfortunate resolution which only served to divide and scatter his Army, reduced the Continentals under his immediate command to 5,300 men, and, as at Boston, again forced him to depend upon militia called out for short periods of service. With this small band of regulars, and such raw troops as he could get together, he was soon to meet a disciplined enemy numbering from 20,000 to 30,000 men. The militia for the defense of New York were at first called out by Washington after consultation with the colonial governors, but so grave was the danger that Congress, by resolution of June 3, authorized a special reenforcement of 13,800 militia, of which Massachusetts was to send 2,000, Connecticut 5,500, New York 3,000, and New Jersey 3,300. The same day Congress also authorized the organization of a "flying camp" for the middle colonies, to be located in New Jersey, and to consist of 10,000 militia, of whom Pennsylvania was to furnish 6,000, Maryland 3,400, and Delaware 600.
On the 19th of July the flying camp was further increased by 4 battalions of militia from Pennsylvania, 3 from New Jersey, and 2 battalions of Continentals from Virginia. Despite the oft-repeated recommendations of Washington, the terms of service, both of this special militia force and of the men to compose the flying camp, were to expire on the 1st of December.
Congress on the 1st of June had called out 6,000 militia to further reenforce the army of Canada, of which number Massachusetts was to furnish 3,000 (4 battalions), Connecticut 1,500 (2 battalions), New York 750 (1 battalion), and New Hampshire 750 (1 battalion).
During the first half of 1776 the Continental Army was increased piecemeal. January 4, 10, and 16 an additional battalion was authorized from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and North Carolina, respectively; January 14, 4 battalions were called for from New York; March 25
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 3, pp. 278, 279, 280, 281.
2 battalions were authorized in South Carolina; May 16, 2 battalions were called for from Massachusetts and Connecticut, respectively, with a term of enlistment for two years, provided the men would consent; May 18, a regiment of rifles was authorized in Virginia; July 24, the regiment of South Carolina Rangers was taken into the Continental establishment; June 27, a regiment of rifles was created, partly composed of independent companies to be enlisted for three years.
The slow increase of the Continental Army shows that Congress was committed to a dual military establishment, one class of troops being Continental or regular, the other militia. In the former the gradual extension of enlistments to two and three years enabled the men to acquire the discipline which ultimately proved the salvation of our cause. The natural disposition of men to seek the easiest and shortest service prompted them to enlist in the militia in preference to the Continental regiments, and thus the only force which could be depended upon to cope with the British, both offensively and defensively, was always from one-third to one-half below its prescribed strength.
A very important step was taken on the 12th of June when a resolution was passed appointing a permanent committee of five members of Congress, styled the Board of War and Ordnance. Instead of being referred to special and temporary committees all military questions were now brought before this new board, whose functions were analagous to those of a Secretary of War.
DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE.
The legislation of the 12th of June was followed on the 4th of July by the culminating event of the year, the "Declaration of Independ
Whatever indecision might have marked hitherto the progress of the war, the time for action was now at hand, and well-digested measures looking to the speedy expulsion of the British from our soil should have been perfected forthwith. As events turned out, the lesson of history that raw levies can not withstand disciplined troops was again to be repeated.
When Lord Howe landed on Long Island his force, by his own account, was between 15,000 and 16,000 strong. To this Washington could oppose but 8,000 men, who were beaten in the battle of Long Island, fought on the 27th of August. On the 30th they were forced to fall back on New York. Stung by this defeat, Washington, on the 2d of September, wrote to the President of Congress:
Our situation is truly distressing. The check our detachment sustained on the 27th ultimo has dispirited too great a proportion of our troops and filled their minds with apprehension and despair. The militia, instead of calling forth their utmost efforts to a brave and manly opposition in order to repair our losses, are dismayed, intractable, and impatient to return. Great numbers of them have gone off-in some instances almost by whole regiments, by half ones, and by companies at a time. This circumstance of itself independent of others, when fronted by a well-appointed enemy superior in number to our whole collected force, would be sufficiently disagreeable, but when their example has infected another part of the army, when their want of discipline and refusal of almost every kind of restraint and government have produced a like conduct but too common to the whole, and an entire disregard of that order and subordination necessary to the well-doing of an army and which had been inculcated before, as well as the nature of our military establishment would admit of, our condition becomes still more alarming, and with the deepest concern I am obliged to confess my want of confidence in the generality of the troops.