Grand River Branch

United Empire Loyalists' Association of Canada

 

 

 

 


Selected Reprints from the

Grand River Branch Newsletter, Branches



 

"The Formation of the Continental American Army Who Fought Against the British Forces, German Mercenaries Loyalist Units During the American Revolution

(1775-1783)"

Angela E.M. Files, May 2004, Vol.16 No.1,  Pages 5-8

 


 

 

"The time is now near at hand which must probably determine whether Americans are to be free men or slaves; whether they are to have any property they can call their own...  The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this Continental Army.  Our cruel and unrelenting enemy (the British) leaves us only the choice of brave resistance, or the most object submission.  We have therefore to result to conquer or die".

Writing of George Washington  •   July 2, 17765

 

 

  The birth of the Continental Army was on June 14, 1775, the date the Congress6 adopted the New England Army.  To rally recruits Commander-in-Chief George Washington wrote and spoke the above words.

 

Events Prior to the Formations of the Continental Army

Battle of Lexington, Massachusetts - April 19, 1775

 

  On the night of April 1775 General Gage sent 700 troops to seize a powder magazine at Concord.  The Boston Whig committee sent Paul Revere and William Dawes to warn the Minutement8 along the 18-mile route to Concord about the coming of the red coats, the British forces.

 

  On the morning of April 19, 1775 about 15 Minutemen were drawn up on the greens of Lexington.  The British commander ordered the Patriots9 to disperse, a shot was fired by a volley and 8 Minutemen were killed.  It has never been determined which side fired the initial shot, but this was considered the first battle of the American Revolution.

 

The Battle of Concord10 - April 19, 1775

 

  A stout resistance was made at the Battle of Concord and the British began their return to Boston, their mission only partly accomplished.  Minutemen and militia11 swarmed along the line of the march, firing behind fences and trees.  the regulars were saved by a relief call to them from Boston.

 

  Casualties were 49 Americans and 73 British.  That night the provincials12 began the siege of Boston, which lasted 11 months.

 

The Need for Continental Army

 

  On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia, accepted the fact of war, created a Continental field Army and appointed to George Washington of Virginia as its commander.  It was evident that the soldiers were needed for the war between Great Britain and for the American colonies.  Man, money and supplies had to be produced by the the thirteen colonies.

 

Attempted Invasion of Canada

 

    The second Congress ordered to makeshift forces under Brigadier General Richard Montgomery (1736 - December 31, 1775) and Benedict Arnold (1742 - 1801) to invade Canada.  On December 31, 1775 in an attack on Cape Diamond Bastian, Montgomery was killed and was reburied in 1818 at St. Paul's Chapel in New York City.

 

  Appointed by George Washington to command an expedition against Québec City, Arnold led the disastrous march with 100 men through the cold wintery Maine forests and had an unsuccessful assault on the British Citadel.13  After a military career on the rebel and loyalist side and the business world, Arnold died in London in 1801.

 

The Development of an Army

 

  The first Army of General George Washington was a multitude of people under very little discipline, order or government.  Men regarded an officer no more than the broomstick.  Uniforms were almost non-existent, ammunition scarce, weapons, drills and camp routine unknown.

 

General George Washington's Opinion about an Army

 

   There never was a doubt in Washington's mind on the ability of the states to support an army many times the size of the one which commanded.  he complained over and over again, on the lack of public spirit, of the farmers' greed to sell their abundant crops to the British invader, while the Patriot Army starved, of the absorption of the merchants in their un warranted gains from profiteering, of the speculators who were preying on the victuals of his great countryside.14

 

The Military Camp at Valley Forge (1777 - June 1778)

 

    After defeats at the Battle of Brandywine (September 11, 1777) and Germantown (October 4, 1777) and subsequent occupations in Philadelphia, General George Washington encamped with about 11,000 men on December 19, 1777 at Valley Forge for his winter quarters.  He chose this site of 2033 acres, 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia because it was defensible and strategically located to enable him to protect Congress then in session in York Pennsylvania from a sudden British attack.

 

Grand River Branch UEL Branch Trip to Valley Forge (September 26, 1987)15

 

    As we traveled to the Valley Forge Park, I could visualize Washington's soldiers with their feet bound up with rags and guard shivering all night without overcoats.   The frozen pads traversed by the patrols were marked with blood!  The Commissary Department16 was so incompetent that the necessary articles piled up in the stores all winter long while the soldiers did without.

 

The Arrival of General Steuben17

 

    In February 1778, a General in the Revolutionary Army, Baron Frederick von Steuben, a Prussian, came to Valley Forge, trained, disciplined and reorganized the Army.  Writing a manual of tactics for the Army remodeled its organization, organized an efficient staff and improved its discipline, he became known as the drillmaster of the American Revolution.  He was rewarded for his military service with the yearly pension of $2400 and grants of land from several states.  He finally retired to his New York tract of land in Steuben Township near what is now the city of Utica.  Steuben's enthusiasm for precision gave the Continental Army a new measure of confidence and the rejuvenated rebels were prepared to meet the British.

 

The Organization of the Continental Army

 

    The Continental Army was patterned after the British.  It was the first distinctly American organization.  Like the British it was divided into three main departments: the Northern Army Department in New York, which was the most important; the Middle Departments, in the Middle United States, under George Washington and the Southern Department in the Carolinas and Georgia which existed largely on paper until 1780.

 

   The forces were composed mainly of the infantry, which was a regiment or battalion of eight companies, artillery, and brigade of four regiments under the Chief of Artillery, and a small Corps of Engineers and artifers who serviced and prepared ordinance.

 

The Officials of the Continental Army

 

   The high command included the following persons:

 

• Commander-in-Chief: George Washington; Relied on Council of War and Congressional Council
• Quartermaster General: Responsible for the delivery of supplies, a range camp, regulate marches, establish the order of battles
• Adjutant General:  Assisted the commanding officers to issue orders.
• Judge Advocate General:  Dealt with military law.
• Paymaster General:  Responsible for the payment of wages and salaries.  The military was paid sometimes with worthless paper currency.
• A Commissary-general of Masters:  Responsible for enlisting in discharging for military service.
• A Commissary-general of Provisions:  Supervised food and equipment.
• The Clothier General:  Responsible for the supply of clothing for soldiers, uniforms.
• A Chief Surgeon:  Supervised medical staff and was awarded land for his services.
• A Chief Engineer:  Supervised engineers in the usage of engines, machines and weapons.

 

 

The Promise of the Revolution

 

   During the first five years of the American Revolution, the majority of battles were fought in the north.  Usually, the Americans were on the defensive, trying to repel British forces; however, this changed with the entrance of France in 1778.  King Louis XIV of France (1754 - 1792)18 saw the Revolutionary War as an opportunity to gain revenge on England for the defeats in the Seven Years War (1756 - 1763) and to regain its empire in North America.  Trained French troops, particularly the French Navy and shipments of much-needed supplies aided the Continental troops, which were short of troops, weapons and funds.

 

The Termination of the American Revolution

 

   With the surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in October 1791, the military phase of the Revolutionary War was ended.  On October 19, 1781, British General Charles Cornwallis19 surrendered, although the British forces were superiour to those of the French and Americans, and they still controlled a number of important centres.  The British taxpayers were beginning to grumble about the cost of war!

 

Divided Loyalties

 

   During the American Revolution, families were divided in their loyalties to the British Tory forces or the Continental forces which these organizations represent:

 

• Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) - Founded in 1890, headquartered at 1776 D Street N.W., Washington, D.C.  20006.  A volunteer women's service organization dedicated to promoting patriotism, preserving American history and securing America's futures through better education for children.
• National Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (NSSAR) - Headquartered at 1000 South 4th Street, Louisville KY  40203.  This is an historical, educational and patriotic, nonprofit American corporation that seeks to maintain and extend the institution of American freedom; an appreciation for true patriotism; a respect for national symbols; the value of American citizenship and the unifying force created from the people of many nations when people form one nation.

 


Endnotes

1.

Continental Army

2. British forces -- Some British forces returned to the British Isles and others to various parts of the world.
3. Germantown mercenaries -- Frederick II (1720 - 1785) furnished Hessian troops to the British during the American Revolution.  Some of those to survive the Revolution were given land grants in Canada and some returned to Europe.
4. Loyalist Units -- Some Loyalist Units were disbanded in Canada and qualified for land grants.
5. George Washington (1732 - 1790), American general and first president of the United States; 1789 - 1797.  He wrote extensively about the conditions of his times.  Irving Washington - George Washington: A Biography, De Capo Press, New York.
6. Continental Congress; One of the two legislative congresses during and after the Revolutionary War, responsible for the Declaration of Independence and the Articles of Confederation.
7. Lexington Massachusetts -- a suburb of Boston today.
8. The Minutemen -- A group with military men just before and during the Revolutionary War who held themselves in readiness for instant military service.
9. Patriots were persons who zealously supported and defended the American cause.
10. Concord -- A town in eastern Massachusetts, near Boston, the site of the second battle of the Revolution.
11. Militia -- A body of men enrolled for military service, called out periodically for drilling exercise, but for actual service only in emergencies.
12. Provincials -- Pertain to any of the American provinces which were part of the thirteen colonies of Great Britain.  Local soldiers of the area began the attack on Boston.
13. Randall, William Stern: Benedict Arnold: Patriot and Traitor, William Morrow & Co., New York, 1990
14. Muzzy and Krout: American History for Colleges, Ginnand Co., Boston, USA  p. 65
15. Valley Forge -- A village in southeast Pennsylvania; winter quarters of George Washington and his Army from 1777 to 1778.  Jim and I always enjoyed the Grand River Branch bus trips, which increased our knowledge of American history.
16. Commissary -- A store that supplies food and equipment, especially in an army.
17. Steuben, Frederick Wilhelm Loudolff Gerhard Augustin von (1730 - 1794); Prussian general who aided Americans in the Revolution.  His statue stands in the park before the White House in Washington, D.C.
18. Louis XIV - King of France from 1774; deposed 1792 during the French Revolution (1789 - 1799); guillotined in 1793.
19. Cornwallis, Charles.  First Marquis (1738 - 1805) British General and statesman who surrendered to Washington at Yorktown, Virginia, October 19, 1781.