The Continental Army

The Continental Army was a force created by the First Continental Congress of the American Independence Movement to combat British forces. The soldiers of the Continental Army were provided by the then 13 colonies and operated next to the respective militias of the individual colonies. The Continental Army was also the predecessor of today's US Army.


Background information:

1775 began to emerge that the American independence movement in North America is only military to solve. So the first Continental Congress decided on June 15, 1775, the establishment of a standing army next to the militia of the respective colonies.

The fear of the representatives of the colonies, a standing army could be abused later or later to exercise power, as has been done countless times in Europe, decisions were enforced, the operational capability, the formation and the command of the new army strong limit. So the following measures were taken:
- The service time in the Continental Army was limited to 1 year
- The size of the troop contingents of the individual colonies were determined by the colonies themselves

As with any new army, the Continental Army faced many problems, such as lack of adequate food and ammunition. The armament was not uniform but it had to be taken what was available. Heavy cannons were also in short supply.



The soldiers of the respective colonies formed their own regiments bearing a number and the name of the colony (for example, 3rd Massachusetts). In the regiments the units of infantry, artillery and cavalry were mixed.

For larger military operations, the regiments were also grouped into brigades.

Great problems were caused by the strict separation of the regiments among the respective colonies. Thus, mixed regiments were strictly rejected and orders from commanders from other colonies were not followed. There was also a high number of deserters. The Commander-in-Chief Washington once said: I need to capture half of the army to recover the other.


Integration of black soldiers:

At the time of the American War of Independence, slavery was still widespread and formed a staple in agriculture and plantations.

Nevertheless, black soldiers of the Continental Army, the motives here were the hoped subsequent freedom and more civil rights.

Black soldiers were also deployed in the British as well as the American side. Later even the Hessian mercenary army recruited black soldiers to compensate for their high losses. The treatment of the black soldiers, however, was inhumane despite military service. So they counted in the inventory as no soldiers, but were sometimes called together with the horses as an object. In addition, they were mainly used as drummers, Pfeiffer or messenger, as the ruling feared fears, after the war, trained black guns could rise against their white masters.


The fight in the Revolutionary War:

Shortly after the proclamation of a standing army and the beginning of the recruitment of the commander in chief George Washington was able to fall back in June 1775 to 16,000 men. The first mission of the Continental Army was the siege of the British forces that had settled in Boston. After their expulsion, the American army in 1776 at the Battle of Long Iceland suffered their first defeat and pull back to Valley Forge.

1778 strengthened the arrival of the Prussian officer Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben the Continental Army, by far-reaching reforms of discipline, training and appearance enforced and thus significantly increased the clout of the soldiers.

Through this restructuring of the army succeeded, with the support of the French, later to encircle the British forces in Yorktown and to capitulate, thus winning the Revolutionary War.



Various independent companies, adjustment around 1775


Light infantry, adjusted around 1782


Commander-in-Chief, Adjutant and Line Officers, adjusted around 1779




After the Revolutionary War:

George Washington resigned as Commander-in-Chief on December 23, 1783, and Congress negotiated the continuation of the Continental Army. Some representatives wanted a complete dissolution of the army and continued to rely on their armed citizens in the form of the militias. In the course of the negotiations, however, the decision was made to maintain at least a small army (the first regiment of the Regular Army) and move it to West Point (New York). From this unit later formed the still existing US Army.






You can find the right literature here:


The Continental Army: War of American Independence

The Continental Army: War of American Independence (the Revolutionary War) - Basic Reference on the Military History of the Revolution, from New England in Arms to Victory at Yorktown Paperback – October 22, 2017

This significant historical book on a previously unexplored aspect of the Revolutionary War was produced by the Center of Military History, providing an important basic reference on the military history of the Revolution. The Continental Army details the basic military organization used during the war and to the forming of the Army's traditions and first tactical doctrine. This book traces the birth of the Army and its gradual transformation into a competent group of professionals and emphasizes for the first time the major influences of eighteenth century military theorists on that transformation. The basic concepts of military organization within units and in the larger realm of command and staff determine an army's capabilities. These concepts, for example, can insure that an army will be unable to cope with irregular opponents in difficult terrain. An army's doctrine - a theory on employing force which is taught to the army and is based on carefully worked out principles - in turn reveals how well that army's leaders understand their own organization and the situation in which they intend to fight. This monograph treats the organization and doctrine used in the Continental Army during the War of American Independence.

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A Revolutionary People At War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783

A Revolutionary People At War: The Continental Army and American Character, 1775-1783 1st Edition

In this highly acclaimed book, Charles Royster explores the mental processes and emotional crises that Americans faced in their first national war. He ranges imaginatively outside the traditional techniques of analytical historical exposition to build his portrait of how individuals and a populace at large faced the Revolution and its implications. The book was originally published by UNC Press in 1980.

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Continental Infantryman of the American Revolution

Continental Infantryman of the American Revolution (Warrior) Paperback – July 25, 2004

America raised three distinct forces to win its revolution: untrained, short-service militiamen; state troops; and the regular Continentals. The latter were the backbone of the army, providing a disciplined and effective fighting force. Some infantrymen served with Arnold's Lake Champlain fleet as marines, while others fought conventionally in sieges and field battles. This book takes a close look at the Continental infantryman of the period examining all facets of their daily life including recruitment, training, service conditions and combat experiences. Many armies have saved their nation: the Continentals helped build theirs.

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The Contest for Liberty: Military Leadership in the Continental Army, 1775–1783

The Contest for Liberty: Military Leadership in the Continental Army, 1775–1783 Hardcover – May 30, 2019

How American colonial ideals shaped command, discipline, and honor in the U.S. Armed Forces
In the summer of 1775, a Virginia gentleman-planter was given command of a New England army laying siege to British-occupied Boston. With his appointment, the Continental Army was born. Yet the cultural differences between those serving in the army and their new commander-in-chief led to conflicts from the very beginning that threatened to end the Revolution before it could start. The key challenge for General George Washington was establishing the standards by which the soldiers would be led by their officers. What kind of man deserved to be an officer? Under what conditions would soldiers agree to serve? And how far could the army and its leaders go to discipline soldiers who violated those enlistment conditions? As historian Seanegan P. Sculley reveals in Contest for Liberty: Military Leadership in the Continental Army, 1775–1783, these questions could not be determined by Washington alone. His junior officers and soldiers believed that they too had a part to play in determining how and to what degree their superior officers exercised military authority and how the army would operate during the war. A cultural negotiation concerning the use of and limits to military authority was worked out between the officers and soldiers of the Continental Army; although an unknown concept at the time, it is what we call leadership today. How this army was led and how the interactions between officers and soldiers from the various states of the new nation changed their understandings of the proper exercise of military authority was finally codified in General Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben’s The Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, first published in 1779. The result was a form of military leadership that recognized the autonomy of the individual soldiers, a changing concept of honor, and a new American tradition of military service.

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