The Formation and Evolution of the American Army 
during the Revolutionary War
Western Civ

Research Report
Web Resources


     On April 19, 1775, American farmers fired “the shot heard ‘round the world.” The men who fired the shot were not an elite body of troops; they were not even an organized army. The ragged mass of “troops” who fired the first shot of the war against the British were truly the “once embattled farmers” of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s “Concord Hymn.” Only through bloody battles and dismal defeats would they make the painstaking effort involved in training and tactical thinking that would eventually allow an American Army to persevere over the British.

Research Report

      For the colonies, the military scene of 1775 was bleak. The men who assembled that spring morning of 1775 roused themselves only to defend the property of their families and towns. These men, although organized into squads, platoons, and companies, could hardly be called a formal “army.” They arrived carrying only a muskets and limited ammunition (almost no rifles or bayonets); their uniforms consisted of the clothes on their backs. Few men had any idea of the situation they faced and most planned to be home by midday, so consequently, the companies had no rations. Worst, and the very thing that may have saved the British innumerable casualties, was the fact that these men were almost entirely devoid of training and inspired leadership. Men elected their officers and, while some officers may have had experience in the French and Indian War, the majority served because they were men of dignity or high station in their town. The rank and file’s training consisted mainly of the ability to assemble in a timely manner, load a musket, and fire a musket. Discipline was virtually nonexistent in the companies, namely because officers were elected by vote, and so had to cater to their charges, but also because the men, inexperienced as they were, had little idea of the value of discipline. George Washington, Virginia planter and later Commander-in-Chief, would later remark that, “there is no such thing as getting of officers of this stamp to exert themselves in carrying orders into execution – to curry favor with the men (by whom they were chosen, and on whose smiles possibly they may think they may again rely) seems to be one of the principal objects of their attention” (Middlekauff, 301). The only strength of the militia was quick mobilization, which gave them the legendary and romantic title of “Minutemen.” The militia was called up on the authority of the Committees of Safety, and since the British had held regular practice marches, the Minutemen had numerous opportunities to practice mobilizing before April 19. However, even in mobilization, rehearsed numerous times before the momentous April day, there were numerous stragglers, including some men who stopped off at a local tavern to hoist a pint, “cut the dust,” and “give a bear a hot flip” (Lancaster, 101).

      The alarm of April 19 spread throughout all of Massachusetts, reached all the way into Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. The men who had turned out on the 19th, not satisfied with taking potshots at retreating Redcoats, continued on to lay siege to the British garrison in Boston. There, the senior general of the Massachusetts militia in the personage of Artemas Ward took command, and troops started to pour in from all over New England. These troops and their officers formed a more heterogeneous mix than the hastily assembled farmers of April 19 did. Doubtlessly, many were still raw volunteers, but the men assembling around Boston included a fair number who had served during the French and Indian War, and thus had some basis of military training and mindset that the first formal Army of the United States could use as a firm foundation. Officers who reported for duty included John Thomas of Massachusetts, a surgeon and colonel during a British expedition into Canada during 1746, John Stark and John Sullivan of New Hampshire, Nathanael Greene, currently commander of the army of Rhode Island, along with Benedict Arnold and Israel Putnam of Connecticut, both ferocious fighters (Lancaster, 122-123). In later years, another source of troops would manifest itself for both the Americans and the British: slaves could be purchased, enlisted into the army, and then given their freedom after a specific time in the service. The First Rhode Island Infantry Regiment of the Continental line was made up primarily of black troops, and according to Major General John Sullivan, was "entitled to a proper share of the day's honors" (Adams).

     On July 2, 1775, Washington arrived at Cambridge to take command the “8-Months Army” gathered there. It seems Washington had arrived with some degree of trepidation, for either through modesty or sincere doubts he deprecated his own military skills, and he as not at all confident in the men he was given to lead. Apparently, though, the Battle of Bunker Hill, fought two weeks prior, had given him some hope, for raw American troops under such a notable figure as Colonel William Prescott had maintained admirable fire discipline in the face of a British naval bombardment, a concerted British attack, and a dwindling supply of ammunition (Middlekaufff, 293). The troops had not pulled their triggers until the portion of the 2200 British troops committed that day came within 50 yards, well within the 90 yard effective range of the musket. They had beaten off two waves of attackers, and only yielded the hill to the third wave because their ammunition ran out and the British got within bayonet range (Middlekauff, 282-92).

     The army Washington would lead would require not only men, but also material with which to fight, such as muskets, musket balls, gunpowder, uniforms, food, entrenching tools, artillery, and a unifying force to form the disparate state units into an American army. Congress provided the unifying force in the form of a proclamation of a Continental Army, to consist of Infantry Regiments of the Line, and of a few Regiments of Cavalry. Material came from a number of sources, some unexpected. Since Congress had no power to tax the colonies, the individual colonies raised money to outfit their troops with uniforms, and on occasion sent blankets or rations. This practice of each colony outfitting its own troops was not only detrimental to the unity and morale of the troops, it was utterly inefficient. For instance, Virginia might not send blankets until New Hampshire had made a “fair” contribution, and thus nobody sent material on a timely basis or even in sufficient amounts. Even when material was sent, the Quartermaster Department was often not notified. For instance, when the Army was in winter quarters at Valley Forge, in desperate need of fuel, shelter, clothing, and food, quantities of each lay unused and rotting in fields in the surrounding area. Logistics were also a problem since the Continental Army did not possess enough horse or oxen teams with wagons to transport its supplies. Thus, it had to hire local teams, which drained the treasury, or commandeer teams, which raised public opinion against the Army (Grizzard). The supply chain problem was not solved until Nathanael Greene was appointed Quartermaster General during the winter at Valley Forge and, after arguing about not having a combat command, threw himself tirelessly into his work and devised a suitable system of logistics and supply (Plumb, 219). On the international scene, France and Spain saw fit to create a fictional front company, “Roderigue Hortalez and Company,” to provide money and material for the colonists without drawing undo attention towards themselves (Middlekauff, 399). America would later owe a great debt of gratitude to the French, who, after British Major General “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne’s defeat at Saratoga, would see fit to send two naval task forces and eight Regiments to service in the colonies. The second naval force, commanded by the French Admiral de Grasse, would be instrumental in taking away the British’s option of retreating by sea from Yorktown. At home, colonists had stashes of cannon and gunpowder to contribute, often obtained through disreputable but humorous means.

There was the question of militia cannon in Boston. Those in Charlestown (across from Boston, not in South Carolina) had been secretly trundled away into the interior by far-sighted patriots. That must not happen in Boston. A double guard was placed over the Old and New Gun Houses. To Gage’s wrath, feather-footed miscreants found a side door to the Old Gun House, craftily took the pieces out through Frank Johonnot’s garden. When this loss was discovered, Gage decreed that the guns remaining in the New Gun House – “which stands directly opposite the encampment of the 4th Regiment and in the middle of the Street near the large Elm tree” – be placed inside the camp itself the very next night, the house to be under heavy guard until that time. In the morning gunner officers threw open the house and found it empty (Lancaster, 78).
     In addition to these cannon, in 1775, New Hampshire militiamen under John Sullivan had stormed Fort William and Mary, commandeered all of its powder and arms, and destroyed the fort (Lancaster, 79). The Green Mountain Boys under Ethan Allen of the New Hampshire Grants (Vermont) took Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, Allen’s only real accomplishment of the war.  He later negotiated with the governor of Canada to make Vermont a British province (Johnson, 22). The real boon of the Ticonderoga conquest, however, was not the fort itself, although it was a powerful presence at the foot of Lake Champlain. When Washington found that he had a need for more artillery, he placed Henry Knox, a Boston bookseller with a deep interest in artillery and field fortifications, in charge of all Continental Artillery, commissioned him a colonel, and ordered him to move the vast repository of guns from Fort Ticonderoga to Boston. Knox dismantled the guns, which included field pieces, mortars, a howitzer, and “the Old Sow,” a heavy mortar, and used ox sleds to trundle them through mountains and forests to their waiting emplacements around Boston (Heathcote).

      Thus the new American Army was formed, supplied, and armed. A doctrine for conducting warfare must now be adopted, but choices were somewhat limited due to the territory in which the British were willing to engage (according to their doctrine,) and the various talent or lack thereof that Washington had to work with in his army. From this context, the point of doctrine must be examined from no less than three sides: Existing British doctrine, which the Continentals would need to adjust to, the military backgrounds and skills of the officers and men comprising the Continental Army, and the emotional/mental makeup of the common American infantryman. First, the disposition of the troops and a lack of an aristocratic military tradition in the country forced Washington to adopt a doctrine of defensive warfare, or warfare from fixed, entrenched positions.

All he [Washington] permitted himself was the “painful” admission “that our Troops will not do their duty.” … What he meant in this unfavorable assessment of his young soldiers was that they lacked the responsibility – or loyalty – that made professional soldiers continue to fight when they knew they were about to die or to be captured. A sense of honor should bring men to such sacrifices, and Washington could never quite grasp what made some men incapable of feeling its call. “The honor of making a brave defense does not seem to be a sufficient stimulus, when the success is very doubtful, and the falling into the Enemy’s hands probable,” he reported sadly. Hence his reliance on “posts,” which were chosen not simply for their tactical value but to persuade the American soldier to do his duty. Because “Young Troops” were not to be depended upon, he had avoided exposing them on “open ground against their Superiors both in number and Discipline.” And “I have never spared the Spade and Pick Ax; I confess I have not found that readiness to defend even strong Posts, at all hazards, which is necessary to derive the greatest benefit from them (Middlekauff, 335).”
     Evidently, Washington’s men were perfectly willing to man defensive posts where they had good cover and felt well protected, but were reluctant to fight exposed in open terrain. They were mostly raw, untrained troops going against one of the best professional armies in the world, one whose soldiers were willing to die en masse and still carry the day, as they had at Bunker Hill. This attitude troubled Washington to no end. Washington was deeply distressed that his troops did not possess the virtue of Honor, but chalked this lack of steadfastness to the fact that the independent, democratic “I’m just as good as you are” American spirit did not lend itself well to military discipline, where men must surrender individual freedoms in order for the unit to survive as a whole. This in itself presents one of the paradoxes of the American Revolution, where men who wanted to fight to be free had to surrender personal freedoms, sometimes including their lives, in order to secure political freedom (Middlekauff, 335). However, it would be unfair not to give credit where credit is due. John Glover’s 21st Massachusetts Infantry Regiment,  the Marbleheaders, were the perfect models of military discipline, and Washington preferred them as his Headquarters Guards, probably for this very reason. Even though they were Massachusetts men with the “leveling” attitude, they had been fisherman prior to the War, and serving on a ship of any size taught them the necessity of taking orders from an officer and working together as a unit (Lancaster, 141-142). Units that served as models of courage and honor for the Army were Colonel John Haslet’s Delaware Continentals and Colonel William Smallwood’s Marylanders, along with Brigadier General William Alexander, Lord Stirling of New York, and Major Mordecai Gist of Smallwood’s Marylanders. Many times during the war, these units would stand fast against withering enemy fire or a bayonet charge, because they were well disciplined, well led, and knew their duty. The best example was at the Battle of Long Island, where Lord Stirling, Major Gist, and 250 men of the Maryland regiment attacked six times against the British and Hessian Grenadiers of Lieutenant General Charles, Earl Cornwallis. Only Gist and nine Marylanders made it back to the main Army, but the heroic sacrifice of the 250 made it possible to save thousands of men from the rest of the Army (Lancaster, 198-210). American training doctrine vastly improved during the winter at Valley Forge, when Inspector-General Friedrich Von Steuben of Prussia wrote out the first set of drills for the United States Army. Von Steuben started with a trial group of one hundred soldiers, and when he had trained them to his exacting European standards, he sent them back to their respective units to be examples for their fellows, while he selected another hundred to undergo training. Von Steuben was very good at what he did, and entertained the men with his fluent vocabulary of French, German, and English profanity. Von Steuben made a valuable impact on American military ideals when he prompted Washington to insist on officers taking part in drills and the instruction of their men, which until that point had been handled by NCOs (Lancaster, 334-5).

     American troops had their strengths and weaknesses, and so did their British (and Hessian) counterparts. The British Army featured the Regiment as the basic organizational unit. Infantry Regiments were the backbone of the Army and came in two flavors: Royal (raised by the king) or Proprietary (raised by a man picked by the king.) In either case, officers had to purchase their commission, which was treated as a commodity to be sold or gambled, and advancement came not by merit but by wealth. A regiment had three field officers (colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major), but the colonel of a proprietary regiment seldom commanded his unit, simply drawing profits from the sale of commissions and leaving the administration of the unit to the lieutenant colonel. A regiment would be composed of eight line companies and two flank companies, one each of Grenadiers and Light Infantry. The line companies included the average soldier and were designed specifically for lining up on the battlefield and trading volleys with the enemy. British enlisted men seldom joined voluntarily, so the line companies frequently included criminals, the unemployed, and the mentally retarded. The Grenadiers and Light Infantry were made of somewhat tougher stuff. The Grenadiers were typically physically intimidating men and were used for shock actions, such as a bayonet charge against enemy fortifications. The Light Infantry were similar to American irregular units but more formal in style; they were proficient in scouting, flanking maneuvers, and fighting in forest terrain. What weakened the British regiments was that the flank companies were often detached and massed with the flank companies of other regiments, in effect depriving the parent regiments of their smartest, toughest men. Though the quality of the men might sometimes be lacking, the British Army overcame that obstacle by instituting a rigid system of discipline, which included not only a rigid system of discipline, which included rules not only for marching and the firing of the musket, but also for the cleaning of uniforms. Corporal punishment was the lot of any soldier who did not comply with the regulations. Even so, the British trained their men into automatons that would have made Frederick the Great of Prussia proud, for their discipline kept them together through the most withering of fires. The administration of the infantry arm of the service was virtually identical to that of a cavalry, artillery, and engineering arms, with the exception that commissions for the artillery and the engineers were not for sale for two reasons: merit was needed, and slow promotion made for small demand (Lancaster, 87-89). Despite its apparent deficiencies, though, the British Army was a well-oiled machine of precision and discipline, which, when pitted against American units in formal European-style engagements, caused ample death and destruction among American forces. To counter this military machine, the Americans would need to invent new tactics and new styles of warfare.

     One of the first tactics American generals used was to form special provisional units, often made up of rangers or riflemen. The rifle was a special weapon, because it gave more depth to American firepower. The rifle had a range of about 300 yards, compared to a range of 90 yards for the musket, and it was wonderfully accurate. One drawback of the rifle, however, was that it took four times as long to load and was not capable of being fitted with a bayonet. Therefore, when rifle companies were included in the regular regimental line of battle, the riflemen would be able to fire one shot, two at the most, before the British were among them with the bayonet. To take full advantage of the rifle’s capabilities, the rifleman needed to be employed in a different fashion. A new provisional group that did so was the Connecticut Rangers of Lieutenant Colonel Thomas Knowlton. This group, although capable of serving in a formal-style engagement or skirmish, (which they did quite ably, fending off the famous Black Watch at Harlem Heights,) was more of an irregular style formation (Wright, 90). They excelled in scouting, stealthy movement, reconnaissance, and skirmishing, and some officers delved into the realm of military intelligence and espionage. Ranger Captain Nathan Hale gave his life collecting intelligence about the British in New York and Ranger Lieutenant Benjamin Tallmadge would later develop into the Major Tallmadge, of the 2d Continental Dragoons, who would expose Benedict Arnold’s plot to turn West Point over to the British (Lancaster, 222-5, 395-6). Another American who developed rifle tactics was Brigadier General Daniel Morgan of Virginia. Morgan commanded a Provisional Rifle Corps formed in June of 1777 at the command of General Washington. The Corps included men handpicked for their accuracy with the rifle and for their skills in woodcraft. The Corps was used mainly for scouting and skirmishing and, when deployed against Burgoyne’s Indians during the events leading up to Saratoga, was able to stifle British efforts to gather intelligence (Wright, 118-9). The Rifle Corps was instrumental in winning the Battle of Saratoga, where Morgan’s riflemen fired from forest cover into a clearing, striking the first blow against Burgoyne’s picket line. Morgan used a turkey call to signal orders to fire, rally, and retreat; this signal was not only an effective way to communicate, but it was psychologically damaging to the British. The rifle’s longer range and astounding accuracy allowed the Americans to select targets based on their priority. For instance when targeting the skirmish line, the British officers were all killed in the first volley, and sergeants and corporals (noncommissioned officers) were next on the list. Having their officers and NCOs struck down not only psychologically affected the remaining British soldiers, but it reduced their effectiveness since they were reliant upon their leaders to give orders relating to maneuvers and volleying. Once the Americans faced Burgoyne’s main force, which included artillery, gunnery officers, crews, and even horse teams became priority, so the British guns sat silent and were easily captured by the Americans at the end of hostilities (Lancaster, 307-8). By this point, musket men had already been brought forward to support their rifle brethren and, thus, the riflemen were presented with an almost perfect situation: as long as they stayed in the cover of the woods, they could easily direct their fire on the British troops in the exposed clearing without having to worry about return volleys. The threat of a British bayonet charge was reduced due to the protection of the musket men and since a bayonet charge was only good when massed formations opposed each other, the woods protected the Americans by allowing them to spread out and by breaking down British unit cohesion. Saratoga was a stunning victory for the Americans with many important facets: one of four British armies was removed from the continent, American morale improved greatly, and the success proved to be a deciding factor in France’s decision to support America with her troops and navy. The last facet of the Saratoga victory, which might be easily overlooked but was the most important to the evolution of the army, is that it represented the first time that the rifle was employed correctly, and to devastating effect.

     Daniel Morgan had another stunning victory in the South at the Battle of Cowpens, where he was the American commander. The events leading up to Cowpens were rather fortuitous for the Americans, but they were due to careful planning and calculated risk-taking. Major General Nathanael Greene was the new commander of the Southern Department and when he arrived at his new post, he found a poorly equipped and under-strength American army. Greene decided that if this army of about 1500 Americans was to face a much larger British force, it first had to be strengthened, and the time to strengthen it could be bought by fighting a war of attrition against the British. To this end, he divided his force, keeping part for himself and placing the rest under the command of Morgan.  This tactic of dividing went against all conventional military wisdom, but it accomplished a number of objectives. The American army would be better able to feed and supply itself if it was divided and it would have greater mobility. Greene’s decision also forced Cornwallis into a very difficult situation. On a grand scale, he could not move north to help corner Washington until he had completed his mission of conquering the southern colonies, which required defeating Greene’s army. On a smaller scale, he had a gamut of problems, which General Greene summed up best when he said:

I am well satisfied with the movement.... It makes the most of my inferior force, for it compels my adversary to divide his, and holds him in doubt as to his own line of conduct. He cannot leave Morgan behind him to come at me, or his posts at Ninety-Six and Augusta would be exposed. And he cannot chase Morgan far, or prosecute his views upon Virginia, while I am here with the whole country open before me. I am as near to Charleston as he is, and as near Hillsborough as I was at Charlotte; so that I am in no danger of being cut off from my reinforcements (Coakley, 91).
If Cornwallis chased Morgan, Greene could capture the port of Charlestown and cut off Cornwallis’ base of supply. If Cornwallis sought battle with Greene, Morgan was free to harass British outposts and communication routes. Cornwallis was forced into making what proved to be a fatal decision: he took Greene’s bait and divided his force into three parts. A force was sent to contain Greene at Camden, a mobile force of 1100 infantry and cavalry under the command of the brutal Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton was sent on a search-and-destroy mission with Morgan as the target, while Cornwallis proceeded with the rest of his force plus all of his Charleston supplies towards North Carolina. Tarleton found Morgan at Cowpens. Morgan deployed his troops in a manner that gave his defense depth, which turned out to be critical. First, he had a skirmishing line of riflemen, then a second line of militia, and then, on a hill, a line with Continentals in the center and militia on the sides. The skirmish line was to pull back when threatened, whereas the militia was to wait until the British were in effective range, give two volleys, and retire to the left flank of the main American line, reform behind the hill, and wait to be recommitted. Morgan had a small force of cavalry and mounted infantry in reserve, which he would use to counter Tarleton’s Dragoons. Cowpens was ground more suited to European style warfare; in fact, it was terrible defensive ground for the Americans. Morgan probably was well aware of this fact and chose the ground with his temperamental militia in mind (three quarters of his force), knowing that taking away their option of retreating would force them to stand and fight. In fact, psychology played a key role in the Battle of Cowpens and was a tactic that the Americans often took advantage of. It was first used in 1777 when Benedict Arnold used a madman to convince the British’s Indian allies to desert them. Consequently, the British were forced to abandon the siege of Fort Stanwix (Coakley, 78). Morgan used two psychological tactics. The first was demonstrated in his deployment of the militia and the second would be demonstrated when he made rounds of the camp the night before the battle to make sure every soldier knew his duty. Morgan was sure that once the British saw the militia begin to retreat, they would assume the battle was as good as won and charge foolhardily into the fire of his Continentals. Tarleton obliged Morgan by being hasty in planning his attack and committing his troops in a rather arrogant manner. Once the American militia had delivered its two volleys and started to pull back, protected by American cavalry, the British thought their retreat a full-fledged rout, and pressed on into the withering fire of the main Continental line. Meanwhile, American cavalry and militia had reformed and they struck the British left and right flanks, respectively. The British force was almost completely destroyed, with the exception of Tarleton and some of his cavalry. Cowpens was a stunning victory for the Americans, it was a classic double envelopment, and it tipped the odds in favor of the Americans. Cornwallis was now deprived of cavalry and his supplies were being exhausted at an alarming rate. The American army recombined, and chose to make a stand against Cornwallis at Guilford Court House in North Carolina. Greene also chose to employ a defense with depth and although the British won the field, they suffered twenty-five percent casualties. Cornwallis then moved towards Virginia, where he expected to meet up with reinforcements. Greene, in the meanwhile, mopped up the last vestiges of the British in the South; the stage was set for Yorktown (Coakley, 92-3).

     The Battles of Cowpens and Guilford Court House represented regular-style engagements where the Americans employed superior tactics. A new tactic that was unique to the South was guerilla warfare. The goals of guerilla warfare differed fundamentally from the goals of formal warfare. Most simply put, the goals of formal warfare were to conquer territory by destroying enemy troops and then to hold the territory. The goals of a guerilla organization were to harass enemy troops and keep them occupied, but never to place themselves in a formal-style battle where they might face destruction. The first American guerilla was George Rogers Clark, who performed hit and run raids against sparsely manned outposts in Illinois and Indiana, eventually eradicating all British influence from the region (Ketchum, 32). General Greene, even though in command of a formal style army, understood the principals of guerilla warfare and integrated those thoughts into his command style so that he was not afraid to yield the battlefield, but only when he had inflicted a disproportional number of casualties on the British, as was the case at Guilford Court House. As Greene said, “The Enemy got the ground the other Day, But we the victory. They had the splendor, we the advantage (Middlekauff, 488).” Greene also had irregular forces upon which he could and did call upon to harass British outposts in a guerilla style. Colonel Francis Marion, Colonel Andrew Pickens, and Colonel Thomas Sumter, all of South Carolina, led the largest groups. These guerillas would harass British outposts, capture supply wagons, and intercept messengers. They used rivers to mask their movements, used swamps as hideouts and, recognizing the importance of mobility, often using boats and horses to mount hit-and-run raids. Guerilla forces may not have caused a great number of casualties, but they were harassed the British enough that Cornwallis was unable to declare the Rebellion in the South to be suppressed, and was forced to waste precious months in the Carolinas rather than joining the British forces fighting Washington in the North.

     The “learned services,” the Artillery and Engineering branches of the American Army, also evolved as the war went on. Henry Knox, the Boston bookseller-turned artilleryman who, before hostilities commenced, pumped British officers for information regarding artillery and field fortifications, was perhaps the first major figure in either of these branches. Another American who made contributions in the field of Engineering was Colonel Rufus Putnam of New England, who, when presented with the problem of fortifying Dorchester heights in one night, suggested the construction of field works not by digging into the ground, but by pre-constructing large frames, filling them with earth and hay, and then placing them upon the ground of the heights so as to create a reverse-trenching effect (Middlekauff, 309-10). Many officers in the Artillery or Engineers were foreign-born, such as the Polish Engineer Brigadier General Thaddeus Kosciusko, who was in charge of fortifying West Point, where he built batteries with overlapping fields of fire and developed a 60-ton chain to keep British ships from navigating the Hudson River. He was also instrumental in helping the American army fight a mobile war in the South, surveying and preparing river crossings for the troops (Kosciusko Foundation bio). Some of the main tasks of engineering officers were either designing fortifications, or breaching the enemy works. A splendid feat of engineering ingenuity, the Maham Tower, first appeared during the American siege of Fort Watson in South Carolina. Invented by Hezekiah Maham, the Maham Tower was tall enough to make use of the rifle’s superior range and accuracy to snipe at enemy defenders manning the walls of the fort (Middlekauff, 489).

Historical Significance

     The American Revolution was a success against all odds, and the world was truly “turned upside down.” The Continental Army and colonial militia had taken on one of the largest, best professional armies of the world and sent it home in defeat. This victory had lasting historical significance. The evolution of the American army from individualistic farmers to well-disciplined soldiers laid the basic framework of military training for the soldiers of the future and the new tactics of guerilla warfare forced change and growth in military doctrine. The formation of the Continental Army and its subsequent disbandment after the war spotlighted the fear many Americans had of a standing military force. This fear, combined with overconfidence in the legendary but exaggerated skill of the militiaman, would influence military planning and readiness to World War II and beyond, emphasizing a reliance on reserve forces or raw draftees to fight conflicts best suited to professional, well-trained soldiers. This policy had obvious flaws, and was detrimental to rapid response to immediate danger, but was safest for the continuation of democracy. The soldiers of the Continental Army, after training hard, fighting harder, and feeling the pride of having secured their freedom, gladly laid down their arms and dispersed to help maintain the government they had installed and to cherish the freedom they had won.


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Plumb, J. H., and Bruce Lancaster. The American Heritage Book of the Revolution. New York:
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Web Resources

Adams, Gretchen A. “ ‘Deeds of Desperate Valor’: The First Rhode Island Regiment.” H-Net, Humanities
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Grizzard, Frank E. Jr. “Supply Problems Plagued the Continental Army from the Start.” H-Net, Humanities
    and Social Sciences Online. Online. Internet. < > 4 March 2002.

“Thaddeus Kosciusko: A Polish Son of Liberty, A Hero of the American Revolution.” The Kosciusko Foundation.
     Online. Internet. < > 4 March 2002.

 Heathcote, Charles William. “General Henry Knox.” Troop 100. Online. Internet.
     < >   4 March 2002.

Coakley, Robert W. “Chapter 4: THE WINNING OF INDEPENDENCE, 1777-1783 Extracted from American
     Military History.” Office of the Chief of Military History, United States Army. Online.
     Internet. < > 4 March 2002.

Wright, Robert K. Jr. “The Continental Army.” Center of Military History, United States Army. Online.
     Internet. < > 4 March 2002.

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