During the conflict, the Continental Congress took measures to maintain control of the Continental Army, which hampered Washington’s ability to plan and execute military strategy. Although recruiting problems, training challenges, and complications with the command structure limited Washington’s ability to form strategy and employ the Continental Army, by 1778, Washington and his subordinate commanders successfully developed a professional force that was capable of fighting against the British Army. Despite the militia’s lack of discipline, inconsistent regulations and limited training, over time, Washington cleverly used the militia in specific roles to enhance his strategy. Once Washington understood how diplomatic, social, and economic factors restricted his strategy, he combined the military capabilities of the Continental Army in a complimentary manner with the strengths of the militia which enabled the rebellious Americans, with the support of European allies, to defeat the British.
The American Revolution, the Bicentennial of which we are celebrating in 1975 and 1976, was an event of utmost significance in the history of both this country and the world. It brought into being a nation, dedicated to the ideals of liberty and justice, that was destined to become, in less than two centuries, the leader of the western world. And it marked the beginning of vast changes that would sweep that western world in the century following, thrusting aside old monarchical institutions in favor of representative government and free economic institutions. Albeit fought on the battlefields much like other eighteenth century wars, it also carried within it the seeds of change in the military sphere that were to sprout and grow in the French Revolution less than two decades later. It was, in this sense, a war of transition between the epoch of limited wars fought by professional armies and people’s wars fought by the “nation in arms.”
Our first national army, the Continental Army, was created to fight the Revolution. As the forebear of the United States Army of today, the Continental Army established many of the traditions and practices still honored in our service. The War of the American Revolution was, until Vietnam at least, the Army’s longest war. It is altogether fitting and proper then that the United States Army should pay particular attention to the study of its origins during the bicentennial years and commemorate the events of the Revolution in which the Continental Army and its adjunct, the militia, participated.
The purpose of this small volume is to provide a ready reference for such study and observance. The American Revolution has been intensively studied and written about in the two hundred years that have elapsed since 1775. There is much good scholarship as well as popular writing, both old and new, covering all aspects of the conflict and the political and social changes that accompanied it.
Resourceful and courageous, Greene combined common sense, a keen intellect, fine organizational skills, and a remarkable aptitude for using topographical and geographical information. Indeed, he became Washington's most trusted adviser and eventually ranked second in the command structure of the Continental Army. After distinguishing himself in the northern campaign and providing invaluable service as quartermaster general, Greene became commander of the Southern Department with orders to rebuild its forces following devastating losses in South Carolina in 1780. With Georgia and South Carolina under British control and North Carolina and Virginia threatened by invasion, the situation seemed hopeless. Greene, however, combined regulars, militia, and guerrillas into a force that used rapid movement and continuous pressure against the British, outmaneuvering and outguessing them. By 1782, British forces were restricted to just two Southern seaports. With his understanding of unconventional warfare, Greene thus played a significant role in undoing Great Britain's power in North America during the War for Independence.
Washington knew the sting of defeat?at Brandywine, at Germantown?yet this unwavering leadership and his vision for a new and independent nation emboldened an army prepared to fight barefoot if necessary to win that independence. Wrote an officer after the Battle of Princeton: "I saw him brave all the dangers of the field and his important life hanging as it were by a single hair with a thousand deaths flying around him."
Among America's pantheon of Founding Fathers, one man?to this day?stands out. Author Paul Vickery tracks the unlikely rise of Washington, a man whose stature in command of a young army became prelude to a presidency. As Vickery writes, "He learned to become the father of our country by first being the father of our military."
The organizational structure created to manage the supply effort was, Horgan reveals, in constant flux, characterized by the abandoning of one failed experiment in favor of another that would soon be exposed as equally unsuccessful. The two major weapons of the period, the big guns of Army artillery and navel ordnance and Navy ships, are examined within this framework. Horgan explores how the Congress managed their acquisition, including procedures related to the manufacture of artillery in private sector founders and government facilities, as well as the construction projects for Navy ships. She demonstrates how policy decisions made during these early years relate to the present policy environment for the acquisition of major weapon systems.