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
Angela E.M. Files, May 2004, Vol.16 No.1, Pages 5-8
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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
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.
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.
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 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 high command included the following persons:
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.
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!
During the American Revolution, families were divided in their loyalties to the British Tory forces or the Continental forces which these organizations represent: