George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Edward Hand, April 1783

April 1783

As the Militia of the United States if well regulated & under good government will at all times be able to repel, or at least check the progress of any sudden invasion it will be altogether unnecessary to keep up a standing Army in time of peace for that purpose, but there are other purposes for which I think it will be absolutely necessary to retain a few regular troops in constant service. I mean for the protection of Public Magazines & garrisoning frontier posts.

A Grand Magazine of Warlike stores, should always be kept at Westpoint, and another high up on Chesapeak Bay, from which supplies might be speedily furnished to the extreme parts of the United States—perhaps subordinate Magazines at convenient distances might also be necessary.

For the protection of Trade, and encouragement of Setlers when the Country shall be open’d to them—As well as to ballance the force which the neighbouring powers will probably keep on foot on their frontiers—A post should be established at the mouth of the St Croix river or Penobscot, one at the head of Connecticut river

one on Lake Champlain

one at Swegatchi, or Oswego

one at Niagara

one at Detroit

one at Mitchillimakinac, or St Marys

one above Fort Charters on the Missisipi river to detach into the Country eastward

one at the mouth of the Ohio.

one between the old Arkansas & Maget River opposite Lake Mitchigamias

one on the Kazoo river near the Spanish boundary

one at the head of St Marys river and

one at the mouth of the same—To Garrison the whole of these posts presuming that the Indians will be our friends I demand no more than 1200 Infantry rank & file—201 Artillerists including Noncommissioned and 86 Artificers in the whole 1487 Vizt.

Infantry Artillerist Artificers
For Westpoint 150 50 12
Chesapeak 50 25 8
St Croix or Penobscot 100 12 5
Head of Connectt river 50 6 5
Lake Champlain 50 12 5
Swegatchi or Oswego 50 6 5
Niagara 100 15 5
Detroit 100 15 5
Michillimakinac 50 6 5
Upper post on the
Missisipi with its
Detachment 150 18 6
Mouth of the Ohio 50 6 5
Arkansas 50 6 5
Kazoo 100 6 5
Head of St Marys 50 6 5
Mouth of—do 100 12 5
1200 201. 26

The Infantry I would form into two regiments of 500 rank & file each, and one battalion of 200 the battalion to garrison the two Grand Magazines, one regiment the posts from St Croix to Michillimakinac inclusive, the other from the upper post on the Missisipi to the mouth of St Mary inclusive—The whole to rece[ive] their orders from a Genl officer.

Victualing the frontier posts will be the greatest expence and often attended with difficulty & sometimes disappointment if the flour be transported from the interior Country—to lessen the [expence] & remove every other difficulty—I would recomend the laying off a tract of land adjacent to each proportioned to the strength of the Garrison, which the soldiers should be obliged to cultivate, the produce to be delivered to the Contractor or Public Magazine and its value, at a moderate estimate, paid to the soldiers in necessaries—or money where necessaries are not wanted—of which the Commanding officer should judge—by this means Bread for the Garrison and every kind of usefull Vegitable would after the first year be furnished on the spot, on easy terms, the soldiers kept in constant repair by their own industry & those who had families enabled to support them without putting the United States to the expence of rations. The officer’s proportion of the farm would furnish them with vegitables, poultry, butter & milk for their tables, and forage for their Cattle & horses.

The Cattle and tools of Husbandry necessary for working the Garrison farm once furnished by the United States might be kept up at the expence of the Garrison—the same may be said of Seed grain.

It appears to me that after the men now engaged are discharged a very considerable reform may be made in the soldiers pay & Cloathing—4 Dollars per month to the soldiers, 6 to the Drumers, fifers & Corporals and 8 to the serjeant would be ample pay—the pay of the Noncommissioned officers may be thought extraveg[ant] but their number will be small—and is necessary to make them feel the importance of their station—If the soldier received yearly a good ful coat, vest & breeches of good cloath, & shirts, one black Stock, 2 pr stockings, 2 pr of shoes & an hat, all good in their kind—his pay would put it in his power to buy all other necessaries especially on the plan I formerly proposed of paying the Army.

Blankets are not made an Article of the soldiers Clothing, as in time of peace the Barracks are supposed to be supplied with Bedding.

In time of peace forage for riding horses or baggage Teams should be allowed on a march only. Tho the number of troops kept on foot will be small, for regularity sake it will be necessary to keep up the principal staff Departments As the persons holding those offices will not be wholly taken up by them—I presume their pensions need not be extravigant.

Baron Steuben having treated very fully on military schools I shall be silent on that head.

The Militia to make them really formidable should be governed by the same rules, and be on the same establishment throughout the United States—they should be compleatly armed and Accoutred as directed by the regulations for the order and Dicipline of the Army—the Arms & Accoutrements should be of the same size & quality—and those of every regiment numbered & Branded to prevent impositions, the whole of a regiment should appear with their Arms, Accoutriments, Amunition, Knapsacks, Havresacks, and Canteens for Inspection on the same day—or send them to the parade if unable to attend themselves—once in six months the Governor of each state should have an exact state of the Militia of the state, a Duplicate which should be sent to the War office for the information of Congress. It would be of singular advantage if the officers & Noncommissioned officers who have acquired a competent knowledge of the regular service were introduced into the Militia when it could be done without giving jealousy.

The Militia should be instructed generally in the cerimony of mounting Guards, the duties of officers and soldiers on Guard, the [man]ner of incamping—priming, loading, & [firing] by word of command—indeed as far as practicable they should be made acquainted with the Manoeuvres and Evolutions usually practiced by Armies in the field.

When assembled under Arms, strict subordination should be observed & every species of irregularity made punishable on the spot—each state should always have in readiness a proportion of Camp equipage, intrenching tools, Baggage & Amunition waggons—unless these articles were always to be had with convenience from the Continental Magazines.

The Inlistment of soldiers for Magazine Guards & frontier posts should be for three years or longer, but not all from the same period, that a magazine or post of consequence might not at any time be entrusted to an entire set of recruits unacquainted with duty. Once in every year the discipline and oeconomy of each Garrison, the state of the stores, Buildings and fortifications should be inspected by a person of experience & judgement & report made to Congress Duplicates of which should be transmitted to the officer having the Genl command.

The quantity of Fuel & Candles to be allowed to officers & soldiers should be regulated by the season and Climate—the value of the proportion of fu[el] allowed might be paid to such persons as supplied themselves.

Rum should not be considered as constituting part of the ration of provision—the ration might consist of seven pounds of good flour or Nine pounds of Bread eight lbs. fresh Beef or Mutton, or six lbs. of fresh pork per man for Seven days—when salt Beef or pork was issued Seven lbs. of the former or five and one fourth lbs. of the latter—Vinegar in a considerable proportion should be allowed particularly in summer—each British soldier is allowed a Gill of salt for every seven rations of fresh meat a Quart of small, malt, molasses, or spruce Beer should be daily allowed each soldier when to be procured—If [pulse] or vegetables of any kind could be furnished the quantities of Bread & Meat above proposed might be proportionately diminished—and when small Beer was not to be procured some other usefull Article should be substituted—As at most of the frontier post it will be very practicable to procure large quantities of Fish, A Compleat fishing apperatus should be provided at such places, as it may be servisable—Magazines of fish laid in & issued to the troops in certain proportions in lieu of flesh.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

Index Entries