The Continental Army was the unified command structure of the thirteen colonies fighting Great Britain during the American Revolutionary War. The Army was created by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 15, 1775. Most of the Continental Army was disbanded on November 3, 1783 after the Treaty of Paris. A small residual force remained at West Point and some frontier outposts, until the Congress created the United States Army by their resolution of June 3, 1783.
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3 Major Battles
4 Additional reading
Creating the Army
In 1775 the Continental Congress felt that the union of the colonies was complete, notwithstanding Georgia was not yet represented in the congress. On June 7, in a resolution for a general fast, they had spoken, for the first time, of "the twelve United Colonies." To make the bond stronger, they now, on motion of John Adams, adopted the forces at Cambridge as a Continental Army, and proceeded to choose a commander-in-chief. At the suggestion of the New England delegation, Thomas Johnson of Maryland nominated George Washington, of Virginia, then a member of the Congress, for that important office, and he was elected by a unanimous vote. That was on the 15th of June. When, on the following morning, President John Hancock officially announced to Washington his appointment, that gentleman arose in his place, and formally accepted the office. In his speech on that occasion, after expressing doubts of his ability to perform the duties satisfactorily, he said: "As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that, as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept the arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire." Washington was then forty-three years of age. Four major-generals and eight brigadier-generals were appointed in the course of a few days. The former were Artemas Ward, Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam; the latter were Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgomery, David Wooster, William Heath, Joseph Spencer, John Thomas, John Sullivan, and Nathanael Greene.
At the beginning of June 1775 the army at Cambridge numbered about sixteen thousand men, all New Englanders. General Ward was the chief, and John Thomas was his lieutenant. Richard Gridley was commissioned to command an artillery corps and to be chief engineer, and was assisted by Henry Knox, who had commanded an artillery company in Boston. The British force in Boston was increasing by fresh arrivals. It numbered then about ten thousand men. Maj. Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne had arrived late in May, and heartily joined General Gage in forming and executing plans for dispersing the rebels. Feeling strong with these veteran officers and soldiers around him, and the presence of several ships-of-war under Admiral Graves, the governor issued a most insulting proclamation, declaring martial law, branding those citizens in arms, and their abettors, as "rebels" and "parricides of the Constitution," and offering pardon to all who should forthwith return to their allegiance, excepting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were reserved for condign punishment as traitors. This proclamation produced intense indignation throughout the province. Abigail Adams wrote to her husband, "All the records of timecannot produce a blacker page. Satan, when driven from the regions of bliss, exhibited not more malice. Surely the father of lies is superseded. Yet we think it the best proclamation he could have issued."
Main Articles: Departments of the Continental Army, Unit Organization in the Continental Army
The command and administration of the army was based on Departments, and the Continental Congress reserved the right to appoint Department Commanders.
The Departments were:
The basic field unit of the Continental Army was the Regiment. This term included not only the infantry (called Line units) but also the Engineers and Dragoons (or Cavelry units). Most units were identified by a number and the name of the state that sponsored them (for example, the 3rd Massachusetts). Regiments were grouped for operations into Brigades and/or Divisions, but this grouping was at the discretion of the Department or Force commander. The regiment was led by a Colonel. In 1777 the congress authorized the direct creation of sixteen additional regiments that were not orgznized by state. These were usually identified by the name of the colonel that commanded them (for example, Greyson's Additional Regiment).
The regiment was made up of companies, and typically contained six to ten companies. Company and regiment sizes varied throughout the war, but several attempts were made at establishing standards.