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All these circumstances fully confirm the opinion I even entertain, and which 1 more than once in my letters took the liberty of mentioning to Congress, that no dependence could be put in a militia or other troops than those enlisted and embodied for a longer period than our regulations heretofore have prescribed. I am persuaded, and as fully convinced as I am of any one fact that has happened, that our liberties must of necessity be greatly hazarded, if not entirely lost, if their defense is left to any but a permanent standing army; mean one to exist during the war. Nor would the expense incident to the support of such a body of troops as would be competent to almost every exigency far exceed that which is daily incurred by calling in succor and new enlistments, which when effected are not attended with any good consequences. Men who have been free and subject to no control can not be reduced to order in an instant, and the privileges and exemptions which they claim and will have, influence the conduct of others, and the aid derived from them is nearly counterbalanced by the disorder, irregularity, and confusion they occasion.
I can not find that the bounty of $10 is likely to produce the desired effect. When men can get double that sum to engage in the militia for a month or two, and that militia frequently called out, it is hardly to be expected. The addition of land might have a considerable influence on a permanent enlistment. Our number of men at present fit for duty is under 20,000; they were so by the last returns and best accounts I could get after the engagement on Long Island, since which numbers have deserted. I have ordered General Mercer to send the men intended for the flying camp to this place, about a thousand in number, and to try with the militia if practicable to make a diversion upon Staten Island. Till of late I had no doubt in my own mind of defending this place, nor should I have yet if the men would do their duty, but this I despair of. It is painful and extremely grating to me to give such unfavorable accounts, but it would be criminal to conceal the truth at so critical a juncture."
On the 15th of September, the occupation of New York by the British followed the battle of Long Island. Washington reported the conduct of the troops on this occasion to the President of Congress in a letter dated September 16:
As soon as I heard the firing, I rode with all possible despatch toward the place of landing, when, to my great surprise and mortification, I found the troops that had been posted in the lines retreating with the utmost precipitation, and those ordered to support them (Parson's and Fellow's brigades) flying in every direction and in the greatest confusion, notwithstanding the exertions of their generals to form them. I used every means in my power to rally and get them into some order, but my attempts were fruitless and ineffectual, and on the appearance of a small party of the enemy, not more than 60 or 70, their disorder increased, and they ran away in the greatest confusion, without firing a shot.
Washington's situation at this time was aggravated by his total inability to make head against the enemy and by fears of the breaking up of his own Army. Knowing that the service of the 30,000 militia authorized in June would be over within the year, he wrote to the President of Congress from Harlem Heights on the 24th of September:
We are now, as it were, upon the eve of another dissolution of our Army. The remembrance of the difficulties which happened upon the occasion last year, and the consequences which might have followed the change if proper advantages had been taken by the enemy, added to a knowledge of the present temper and situation of the troops, afford but a very gloomy prospect in the appearance of things now and satisfy me beyond the possibility of a doubt that unless some speedy and effectual measures are adopted by Congress our cause will be lost.
It is in vain to expect that any or more than a trifling part of this Army will again engage in the service on the encouragement offered by Congress. When men find that their townsmen and companions are receiving $20, $30, and more for a few months' service, which is truly the case, it can not be expected, without using compulsion; and to force them into the service would answer no valuable purpose. When men are irritated and their passions inflamed they fly hastily and cheerfully to arms, but after the first emotions are over, to expect among such people as compose the bulk of
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 4, pp. 72, 73, 74.
an army that they are influenced by any other principles than those of interest is to look for what never did and I fear never will happen; the Congress will deceive themselves, therefore, if they expect it.
To urge upon Congress the importance of a good corps of officers, with a pay corresponding to their merit and sacrifices, he continues:
A soldier reasoned with upon the goodness of the cause he is engaged in and the inestimable rights he is contending for, hears you with patience and acknowledges the truth of your observations, but adds that it is of no more importance to him than to others. The officer makes you the same reply, with the further remark, that his pay will not support him, and he can not ruin himself and family to serve his country, where every member of the community is equally interested and benefited by his labors. The few, therefore, who act upon principles of disinterestedness, comparatively speaking, are no more than a drop in the ocean.
It becomes evident to me then, that, as this contest is not likely to be the work of a day, as the war must be carried on systematically, and to do it you must have good officers, there are no other possible means to obtain them, but by establishing your army upon a permanent footing and giving your officers good pay. This will induce gentlemen and men of character to engage; and, till the bulk of your officers is composed of such persons as are actuated by principles of honor and a spirit of enterprise, you have little to expect from them. They ought to have such allowances as will enable them to live like and support the character of gentlemen, and not be driven by the scanty pittance to the low and dirty arts which many of them practice to filch from the public, more than the difference of pay would amount to upon an ample allowance. Besides, something is due to the man who puts his life in your hands, hazards his health, and forsakes the sweets of domestic enjoyments. Why a captain in the Continental service should receive no more than 5 s. currency per day for performing the same duties that an officer of the same rank in the British service receives 10 s. for, I never could conceive; especially when the latter is provided with every necessary he requires upon the best terms, and the former can scarce procure them at any rate. There is nothing that gives a man consequence and renders him fit for command like a support that renders him independent of everybody but the State he serves, a
Washington also calls attention to the vital importance of selecting officers for known character and intelligence, instead of commissioning them because of their ability to raise men. He urges that
If such pay be allowed the officers as will induce gentlemen of character and liberal sentiments to engage, and proper care and precaution are used in the nomination, more regard being had to the character of persons than to the number of men they can enlist, we should in a little time have an army able to cope with any that can be opposed to it, as there are excellent materials to form one out of. But while the only merit an officer possesses is his ability to raise men, while those men consider and treat him as an equal and in the character of an officer regard him no more than a broomstick, being mixed together as one common herd, no order or discipline can prevail, nor will the officer ever meet with that respect which is essentially necessary to due subordination.
The little reliance that can be placed upon raw troops, their want of confidence in themselves, their bad health, due to a change of life and habits, their tendency to desert and provoke mutiny, their waste of stores and ammunition, and especially their enormous expense, are next fully described:
To place any dependence upon militia is assuredly resting upon a broken staff. Men just dragged from the tender scenes of domestic life, unaccustomed to the din of arms, totally unacquainted with every kind of military skill (which is followed by want of confidence in themselves when opposed by troops regularly trained, disciplined, and appointed, superior in knowledge and superior in arms), are timid and ready to fly from their own shadows.
Besides, the sudden change in their manner of living, particularly in their lodging, brings on sickness in many, impatience in all, and such an unconquerable desire of returning to their respective homes that it not only produces shameful and scandalous desertions among themselves, but infuses the like spirit in others. Again, men
• Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 4, p. 112.
accustomed to unbounded freedom and no control can not brook the restraint which is indispensably necessary to the good order and government of an army, without which licentiousness and every kind of disorder triumphantly reign. To bring men to a proper degree of subordination is not the work of a day, a month, or even a year, and unhappily for us and the cause we are engaged in, the little discipline I have been laboring to establish in the army under my immediate command is in a manner done away by having such a mixture of troops as have been called together within these few months.
Relaxed and unfit as our rules and regulations of war are for the government of an army, the militia (those properly so called, for of these we have two sorts, the sixmonths' men and those sent in as a temporary aid) do not think themselves subject to them, and therefore take liberties which the soldier is punished for. This creates jealousy, jealousy begets dissatisfaction, and this by degrees ripens into mutiny, keeping the whole army in a confused and disordered state, rendering the time of those who wish to see regularity and good order prevail more unhappy than words can describe. Besides this, such repeated changes take place that all arrangement is set at naught and the constant fluctuation of things deranges every plan as fast as it is adopted.
These, sir, Congress may be assured, are but a small part of the inconveniences which might be enumerated and attributed to militia, but there is one that merits particular attention, and that is the expense. Certain I am that it would be cheaper to keep 50,000 or 100,000 in constant pay than to depend upon half the number and supply the other half occasionally by militia. The time the latter are in pay before and after they are in camp, assembling and marching, the waste of ammunition, the consumption of stores, which, in spite of every resolution or requisition of Congress, they must be furnished with or sent home, added to other incidental expenses consequent upon their coming and conduct in camp, surpass all idea and destroy every kind of regularity and economy which you could establish among fixed and settled troops, and will, in my opinion, prove, if the scheme is adhered to, the ruin of our
JEALOUSY OF A STANDING ARMY.
During the Revolution, the intense feeling of opposition to a standing army almost wrought the ruin of our cause. Since then, this feeling has been diligently kept up and has formulated itself into the maxim that "A standing army is dangerous to liberty." Without considering the distinction between the hirelings of a despot and an army of citizens created by the representatives of a free people, it has been and still is the policy of our Government to maintain an inexpensive military establishment and upon the smallest possible basis. To such an extent has this been carried that our Regular Army has not been able to meet even the ordinary exigencies of times of peace.
The annals of the Revolution show conclusively that for the lack of a well-disciplined regular army, enlisted for the war, we were continually forced to call out double and treble the number of raw troops. So far as the Army is concerned, it is believed that a careful study of the history of this period will convince the candid inquirer that our liberties can be imperiled only by a policy which eschews well grounded principles of military organization and compels us in time of danger to call forth vast bodies of men, when smaller numbers should suffice.
Washington's letter, from which we have already so fully quoted, ends as follows:
The jealousy of a standing army, and the evils to be apprehended from one, are remote, and, in my judgment, situated and circumstanced as we are, not at all to be dreaded; but the consequence of wanting one, according to my ideas formed from the present view of things, is certain and inevitable ruin. For, if I was called upon to declare upon oath whether the militia had been most serviceable or hurtful, upon
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 4, p. 110.
the whole I should subscribe to the latter. I do not mean by this, however, to arraign the conduct of Congress; in so doing I should equally condemn my own measures, if I did not my judgment, but experience, which is the best criterion to work by, so fully, clearly, and decisively reprobates the practice of trusting to militia, that no man who regards order, regularity, and economy, or who has any regard for his own honor, character, or peace of mind, will risk them upon this issue, a
REORGANIZATION OF THE ARMY.
Eight days before this letter was written, but not until nearly two months and a half after the Declaration of Independence, Congress resolved:
That 88 battalions be enlisted as soon as possible to serve during the present war, and that each State furnish their respective quotas in the following proportions, viz:
As an inducement to enlist, a bounty of $20 was offered to every noncommissioned officer and soldier who would engage for the war, and to such officers and soldiers who should serve until its end a bounty in land was promised on the following scale:
Congress, under this resolution, was to commission all officers, original appointments and appointments to fill vacancies being vested in the several States. In the Continental establishment of 1775 this method of selecting officers had given rise to much jealousy and discontent. It was now equally productive of mischief.
Knowing that success depended largely upon the character and qualifications of his officers, Washington, then at Harlem Heights, wrote to the President of Congress, under date of October 4:
Your Army, as I mentioned in my last, is on the eve of its political dissolution. True it is you have voted a large one in lieu of it, but the season is late and there is a material difference between voting battalions and raising men. In the latter there are more difficulties than Congress are aware of, which makes it my duty, as I have been informed of the prevailing sentiments of this Army, to inform them, that unless the pay of the officers, especially that of the field officers, is raised, the chief part of those that are worth retaining will leave the service at the expiration of the present term.
Nor will less pay, according to my judgment, than I have taken the liberty of mentioning in the inclosed estimate, retain such officers as we could wish to have continued. The difference per month in each battalion will amount to better than £100. To this may be added the pay of the staff officers, for it is presumable they will also require an augmentation; but being few in number, the sum will not be
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 4, p. 116.
greatly increased by them, and consequently is a matter of no great moment. But it is a matter of no small importance to make the several offices desirable.
When the pay and establishment of an officer once become objects of interested attention, the sloth, negligence, and even disobedience of orders, which at this time too generally prevail, will be purged off. But while the service is viewed with indifference, while the officer conceives that he is conferring rather than receiving an obligation, there will be a total relaxation of all order and discipline, and everything will move heavily on, to the great detriment of the service, and inexpressible trouble and vexation of the general. The critical situation of our affairs at this time will justify my saying that no time is to be lost in making fruitless experiments.
At Cambridge, last year, where the officers, and more than a sufficiency of them, were all upon the spot, we found it a work of such extreme difficulty to know their sentiments, each having some terms to propose, that I once despaired of getting the arrangements completed, and I do suppose that at least a hundred alterations took place before matters were finally adjusted. What must it be then under the present regulations, where the officers are to negotiate this matter with the State they come from, distant perhaps 200 or 300 miles, some of whom, without leave or license from me, set out to make personal application the moment the resolve got to their hands? What kind of officers these are I leave Congress to judge. If an officer of reputation, for none other should be applied to, is asked to stay, what answer can he give but, in the first place, that he does not know whether it is at his option to do so, no provision being made in the resolution of Congress, even recommendatory of this measure; consequently, that it rests with the State he comes from, surrounded perhaps with a variety of applications and influenced probably by local attachments, to determine whether he can be provided for or not. In the next place, if he is an officer of merit, and knows that the State he comes from is to furnish more battalions than it at present has in the service, he will scarcely, after two years' faithful 'seryices, think of continuing in the rank he now bears when new creations are to be made and men, nowise superior in merit, and ignorant perhaps of service, appointed over his head. A committee sent to the Army from each State may upon the spot fix things with a degree of propriety and certainty, and it is the only method I can see of bringing matters to a decision with respect to the officers of the Army. But what can be done in the meanwhile toward the arrangement in the country I know not. In the one case you run the hazard of losing your officers, in the other of encountering delay, unless some method could be devised of forwarding both at the same instant.
Upon the present plan I plainly foresee an intervention of time between the old and new armies, which must be filled up with militia, if to be had, with whom no man who has any regard for his own reputation can undertake to be answerable for con sequences. I shall also be mistaken in my conjectures if we do not lose the most valuable officers in this Army under the present mode of appointing them; consequently, if we have an army at all, it will be composed of materials not only entirely raw, but, if uncommon pains are not taken, entirely unfit; and I see such a distrust and jealousy of my military power that the Commander in Chief has not an opportunity, even by recommendation, to give the least assurances of reward for the most essential services. a
If, in the days of the Revolution, an officer's promotion could not be urged even by a Washington, it is worthy of remark that with certain State governors, during the late War of the Rebellion, the combined recommendations of division, corps, and army commanders were powerless to influence the advancement of officers of known skill and ability.
Congress anticipated the suggestion that committees be sent to the Army by the different States, and much of the dissatisfaction that existed among the officers was thus allayed. The views of the Commander in Chief as to the military policy of Congress received the cordial support of all of his higher officers. On the 28th of October General Greene, next to Washington the most distinguished commander of the Revolution, wrote to a friend as follows:
I apprehend the several retreats that have lately taken place begin to make you think all is lost. Don't be frightened; our cause is not yet in a desperate state. The
a Sparks's Writings of Washington, vol. 4, pp. 131-134.