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Poems for Kids. Poems for Teens. Lesson Plans. Teach this Poem. Poetry Near You. Academy of American Poets. National Poetry Month. American Poets Magazine. Poems Find and share the perfect poems. The Continental Army. Used with permission of the author. Dusting Thank you for these tiny particles of ocean salt, pearl-necklace viruses, winged protozoans: for the infinite, intricate shapes of submicroscopic living things. For algae spores and fungus spores, bonded by vital mutual genetic cooperation, spreading their inseparable lives from equator to pole.
Washington Takes Command of the Continental Army
My hand, my arm, make sweeping circles. Dust climbs the ladder of light. For this infernal, endless chore, for these eternal seeds of rain: Thank you. For dust. Marilyn Nelson The House on Moscow Street It's the ragged source of memory, a tarpaper-shingled bungalow whose floors tilt toward the porch, whose back yard ends abruptly in a weedy ravine.
Nothing special: a chain of three bedrooms and a long side porch turned parlor where my great-grandfather, Pomp, smoked every evening over the news, a long sunny kitchen where Annie, his wife, measured cornmeal, dreaming through the window across the ravine and up to Shelby Hill where she had borne their spirited, high-yellow brood. In the middle bedroom's hard, high antique double bed, the ghost of Aunt Jane, the laundress who bought the house in , though I call with all my voices, does not appear.
Nor does Pomp's ghost, with whom one of my cousins believes she once had a long and intimate unspoken midnight talk. He told her, though they'd never met, that he loved her; promised her raw widowhood would heal without leaving a scar. Both have supporters who claim they won the war. For decades after the Revolution, politicians spouted clouds of hot air on the subject, mostly aimed at denigrating the regular army in favor of the militia.
The militia long predated the American Revolution. As early as the Massachusetts charter empowered the royal governor to organize regiments of militia in every county. All able-bodied men between sixteen and sixty were required to serve. Each had to keep a musket, bullets and powder ready to repel an attack by the French or Indians.
The Continental Army in the Revolutionary War
The militia was a kind of standing home army that met on training days to stay acquainted with handling guns and performing military maneuvers. The minutemen were an elite group of militiamen who met and trained hard in the sixteen months between the Boston Tea Party and the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, Many people, including members of the Continental Congress, have confused them with ordinary militiamen.
As a result the militia performed disastrously in the opening years of the Revolution. Emergency soldiers, summoned from home on short notice, the militia lacked confidence on the battlefield. Washington and some of his generals, notably Daniel Morgan and Nathanael Greene, learned to use the militia as auxiliary troops around a core of regulars with triumphant effect at battles such as Cowpens. At Saratoga the militia poured in after the Continentals had proved they could fight the British army to a standstill.
Their raw numbers convinced General John Burgoyne that he was hopelessly surrounded. When the British invaded New Jersey in , the militia, knowing the Continental army was in nearby Morristown, fought vigorously. When the war shifted to the South and the southern Continental army was virtually destroyed by successive defeats at Savannah, Charleston and Camden, the militia under the leadership of experienced soldiers such as Thomas Sumter, carried the brunt of resistance for a while.
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But their lack of discipline and fondness for plunder alienated as many people as their battlefield valor encouraged. It required the revival of the southern army under General Nathanael Greene to make a decisive impact on the war. At Bennington and Kings Mountain, the militia, again led by experienced officers, scored victories without the help of Continentals.
When Washington marched to Yorktown, he left New Jersey completely in the hands of the militia. The conclusion seems inescapable: the militia could not have won the war alone but the war probably could not have been won without them. After the battle of Springfield, two voices summed up the appeal of both types of soldiers. Read More You may also like 21 Comments What a great subject.
Thanks for just bringing it up. Among the things to remember about the militia is that each unit is unique.
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Not just in training but also in weaponry. For instance, very few southern militia regiments had bayonets or proper muskets. Providing arms for the militia remained a problem to the very end of the war. Many of the southern and backcountry regiments carried rifles instead of muskets and were incapable of holding a bayonet anyway.
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So, just exactly how are men without 18 inches of cold steel of their own to stand to a British bayonet advance? Once the British advance got close enough they could beat a hasty retreat while the light infantry came on with their own bayonets to hold the ground. It seems that, even before Von Steuben there were a few Continentals armed and ready to meet such an advance.
They just needed the right equipment and some experience with the subject. Instead, inexperienced and underequipped militia from North Carolina not backcountrymen were placed to face the right wing. Once again, the militia are without bayonets to stand the advance but are quite capable of getting in some licks at a good distance. Then, beat a hasty retreat and let the Continentals face a depleted and tiring British bayonet charge.
Anyway, not just the militia men but what equipment do they have? Just to mention one more instance in the southern campaign of militia saving the day. Prior to Guilford Courthouse, Greene did not have the manpower to stand up to Cornwallis and ran away across the Dan to Virginia. Jefferson called out the militia to help. Specifically, one group was the Lunenburg County militia from the Lynchburg area. They were a a regiment consisting largely of men with previous service in the Continental Army.
I could continue about the southern regiments. Overmountain Men were quite a different animal from the embarrassing militia from Charleston and the low country. Sorry to get wordy. Love the subject. The American militia continues to fascinate me as a topic for further exploration. Is there a defining work, out-of-print or otherwise, that covers the subject matter, or is one relegated to reading the various more localized studies?
Thanks for an appetizing article. The question of whether the patriot or loyalist militia were more effective has not been adequately explored. In both the northern and aouthern theaters, opposing militias were well matched. Certainly continental officers either lauded or blamed militia units more than British officers who neglected to give much credit to loyalist units..
John Galvin. Thanks for posting this article—it prompted some random thoughts in my enfeebled mind. The subject of the militia is indeed an interesting one and one that has not received the research attention it deserves. It is also an extremely complex subject because while there was one Continental Army there were thirteen militia structures and within each of those there were variations in local conditions and situations.
It is also complex because the militia was asked to do a great deal more than fight in pitched battles, with or without the Continentals. To simply judge the militia as soldiers in formal battle misses a great deal of the picture. They were also on guard to prevent British foraging and other incursions from New York.
During the British occupation of Philadelphia they also had to prevent the same things on the western side of the state. They were also fighting a civil war. At the same time they were expected to keep the economy of the state going, especially growing crops and raising animals that could be used to feed the Continental army during its several winters in the State. They were also expected to help transport food to the army and, until a law was passed to help them, some men paid fines for not turning out for their alternate month duty because they were driving supply wagons for a couple of weeks for the Continentals.
I found it extremely interesting, and telling, that historians have looked at the guides as simply local farmers who volunteered to guide Washington, while in fact they were militiamen who were out on active duty and were recruited from their companies. I chose the title for my book from a quote by George Washington describing why it might be that New Jersey was having trouble getting men to turn out for militia duty.
Another phrase I could have used was one from New Jersey Governor Livingston in which he described the militia laws of the State as placing an inordinate burden on the willing — that is, those willing to put up with the frequent call outs which a lot of men avoided in various ways. Perhaps the most important thing I learned in my research is that one should not extrapolate generalities about the militia by looking at one area or one time during the war. Another lesson learned was that it is unwise to look at how things were supposed to be, by law, rather than investigating how they actually played out.
Instead, let us try to understand the contributions made by the men in each situation, why they excelled or had difficulty, how each suffered at times, etc. Just as with the Continentals there are some great stories to ferret out about how men dealt with difficult situations and sometimes did amazing things often without credit and sometimes failed.
All great and valid points. They are indeed two different kinds of animals and need to be assessed individually on their own strengths and weaknesses. Representing the people of thirteen different states was not an easy matter, and the delegates were forced to govern by consensus and to administer by committee. When Washington arrived in Massachusetts to take command of the Continental army in July he immediately recognized the severe problems that would plague his army throughout the war. The first sight that awaited him at Cambridge was the motley-clad troops, and one of the first general orders that he issued 4 July called for exact returns of all sorts of supplies—provisions, ordnance stores, powder, lead, tools, tents, camp kettles, etc.
Continental Army • American Revolutionary War
The same month another general order 23 July was aimed at eliminating the difficulties and confusion caused by the shortage of uniforms. These concerns were repeated at a council of war held by the general officers at Cambridge three days later. In addition to living in crude huts that first winter, the men were quartered in thirty-six houses in Chelsea, crowding the local inhabitants, who were themselves, according to Lt.
To feed the army during the winter months, fifteen thousand barrels of flour were purchased in Philadelphia and shipped to Boston via Newburyport. In August teams of horses, carriages, and wagons had been hired to supplement those owned by the Continental army; by the following October the same items were impressed into service as hiring became more difficult due to the demands of the New England harvest. The same situation arose for boats and other small vessels. In early December baggage wagons and gun carriages, harnesses, etc. Hay for the horses was also in great demand.
It was not sufficient, however, simply to feed and quarter the men of the army. As soldiers they also had to be equipped to fight, and the lack of arms and ammunition were a constant problem. Critical shortages of arms, gunpowder, and ammunition appeared not only in Massachusetts, where the British army was encamped, but in Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, and even Virginia.
The situation had improved only marginally by September, despite desperate attempts to purchase and manufacture gunpowder, lead, and small arms.