(???? - 1799 AD) Pre-19th Century Battles
home  USA
Posts: 953
Joined: 2021
Washington complains about militia.
9/30/2022 6:48:32 AM
In a letter to his nephew, Lund Washington, plantation manager of Mount Vernon, General George Washington writes on September 30, 1776, of his displeasure with the undisciplined conduct and poor battlefield performance of the American militia. Washington blamed the Patriot reliance on the militia as the chief root of his problems in the devastating loss of Long Island and Manhattan to the British.

In his letter, Washington wrote, “I am wearied to death all day with a variety of perplexing circumstances, disturbed at the conduct of the militia, whose behavior and want of discipline has done great injury to the other troops, who never had officers, except in a few instances, worth the bread they eat.” Washington added, “In confidence I tell you that I never was in such an unhappy, divided state since I was born.”

Just as the British had discovered the difficulties of waging war with obstreperous Yankees for soldiers during the Seven Years’ War, Washington, the Virginia planter-cum-soldier, was unimpressed upon meeting his supposed army outside Boston upon his appointment as commander in chief of Continental forces in 1775. Just as the British had, he saw “stupidity” among the enlisted men, who were used to the easy familiarity of being commanded by neighbors in local militias with elected officers. Washington promptly insisted that the officers behave with decorum and the enlisted men with deference. Although he enjoyed some success with this original army, the New Englanders went home to their farms at the end of 1775, and Washington had to start fresh with new recruits in 1776.​

Washington fought an uphill battle for military order until Friedrich, Freiherr von Steuben arrived at General Washington’s encampment at Valley Forgeon February 23, 1778. The Prussian military officer commenced training soldiers in close-order drill, instilling new confidence and discipline in the demoralized Continental Army. Before von Steuben’s arrival, colonial American soldiers were notorious for their slovenly camp conditions. Von Steuben insisted on reorganization to establish basic hygiene, ordering that kitchens and latrines be put on opposite sides of the camp, with latrines facing a downhill slope. Just having latrines was a novelty to the Continental troops, who were accustomed to living in their own filth.

On the merit of his efforts at Valley Forge, Washington recommended that von Steuben be named inspector general of the Continental Army; Congress complied. In this capacity, von Steuben propagated his methods throughout the Patriot forces by circulating his “Blue Book,” entitled “Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States.”

American militia has proved to be unreliable. The reason we won our Independence was because we had a well trained army to fight the British Army.
Santa Rosa CA USA
Posts: 1441
Joined: 2005
Washington complains about militia.
10/3/2022 3:23:55 PM
Had it not been for militia's, the American Revolution was dead before it could even begin. As militias dated back to nearly the beginning of Colonial American times, I always viewed militias as a reactionary-defensive mechanism that was community based. With the revolution, militias were the initial catalyst for an understanding that a colonial army was needed and that militias would not win independence outright.

Authors/articles clearly state the benefit of militias providing manpower requirements for colonial units but, that was in the future of the American Revolution. Militias were no doubt inconsistent or unreliable, they all are throughout history, until they are organized into a unit organized for war such as a colonial army, which American militias were not.

The irregular nature (unreliable is really a poor term descriptor) of militias had a positive aspect, that is of irregularity. The unknown entity of militias was a factor the British had to if not plan for, have some idea of militia locations, strengths, and capabilities. It was the militias that Brits dealt initially with and while they were able to push them around and defeat from battlefields, the Brits knew the militias were taxing on logistical and communication lines, or at least could be and they did have a psychological impact on Brit troops and supporters of.

No doubt, America was never going to become independent through the use of militias as a singular military force, which again they largely were not. Yet, American militias were a critical component for American independence. Had they not been, it is highly unlikely that a colonial military force would ever be established, let alone independence achieved.


"American parachutists-devils in baggy pants..." German officer, Italy 1944. “If your experiment needs statistics, you ought to have done a better experiment.” Lord Ernest Rutherford

© 2023 - LLC