© Don Troiani
Private, Massachusetts Minuteman, 1775
A Brief Profile of the Continental Army
© 1999 -- 2021 - John K. Robertson and Bob McDonald
THE ARMY OF 1775
© Don Troiani
Private, Pittsfield Massachusetts Minute Company, 1775
As was noted previously, the force awaiting General Washington upon his arrival at Cambridge on July 2 had been expanding since the 19th of April while having been under the overall command of Massachusetts General Artemas Ward. The latter’s appointment by the Congress as the army’s senior major general in mid-June was clearly appropriate in that the force awaiting the commander-in-chief was, by great predominance, a Massachusetts army. The first strength report of the American forces developed following Washington’s assumption of command specifies twenty-seven regiments of Massachusetts infantry, and three regiments from each of New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Connecticut. Within the first three weeks of on-site command, Washington initially defined the army’s structure by specifying three divisions, each consisting of two brigades, each brigade generally containing six regiments. Inclusive of line and staff officers, non-coms, and the core body of the rank and file, the aggregate strength present for duty approached 22,000 men.
Following the traditional approach of the British army, each of the regiments composing the American army of 1775 was almost always referred to by the surname of its colonel or commandant rather than by a commonly recognized numbering system. A given colony’s regiments were numbered based on the seniority of the respective colonels but, as noted, the use of commandant names to refer to the units was, by far, the more common practice.
Concurrent with Washington’s main army surrounding Boston, Congress initiated an invasion of Canada under the management of Major General Philip Schuyler, commander of the Northern Department. Schuyler’s force, however, numbered less than ten regiments, composed primarily of New York and Connecticut Continentals. To support the main invasion force led by Brigadier General Richard Montgomery advancing to seize Montreal, Washington dispatched a relatively small ad hoc force under the command of Brigadier General Benedict Arnold nearly due north through the wilderness of present-day western Maine, its goal being a linkup with Montgomery at Quebec. Although the two forces did meet, their joint attack attempt on Quebec came to total defeat on the last day of 1775.
STRUCTURE & COMPONENTS
THE SUCCESSIVE "ESTABLISHMENTS"
THE ARMY OF 1775 [This page]
THE ARMY OF 1776
THE ARMY OF 1777 THROUGH 1780
THE ARMY OF 1781 THROUGH 1782
THE ARMIES OF 1783 AND 1784
THE NEWBURGH CONSPIRACY