George Washington Papers

To George Washington from William Heath, 17 April 1783

Newburgh, April 17. 1783.

Dear General,

Your excellency having been pleased to call for my sentiments on the subject of such military institutions as may be requisite for the interior defence of these states on a peace establishment, permit me to submit the following:

As the future defence and peaceable enjoyment of those invaluable rights and liberties so dearly rescued from the jaws of tyrany, will under heaven, rest on the discipline of our armies, either of a permanent nature or a well regulated and disciplined militia, too much attention cannot possibly be paid to the object: but as the present genius of our country will not admit of any considerable permanent, establishments, although perhaps at some future period they may be thought eligible, I shall consider the matter in a point of view only, as appears indispensibly necessary for the purpose of securing some important posts and avenues of our country and guarding the public stores, and at the same time that such arrangements as appear absolutely necessary for the before mentioned purposes may be rendered as favorable and salutary to the advancement and establishment of discipline in the United states as possible. The most important posts both on the sea coast and inland frontiers are much better known to your excellency than they are to me: many such posts there are, and common prudence and policy dictate that they be guarded; otherwise an enemy at some future period may suddenly seize them or some of them, and thereby command an easy access into the bowels of our country. While these important objects are secured, improvements and advantage may be drawn from the arrangements, which will serve as a basis for, and may be considered as the bones and sinews of a future army; and this may be further facilitated by extending the plan to the encouragement of the study of the science of war, while we preserve the mechanical part of it. For the art of war undoubtedly is, what the chevalier Folard calls it, "a trade for the ignorant, a science for men of genius." The latter may be promoted by the establishment of military academies in such districts as may be thought proper—in which shall be taught the mathematics, gunnery, engineering and tactics, lectures delivered on the sublime parts of war, &c. The former preserved by retaining a relict of our present excellent discipline in the establishment of a few corps in the respective states, consisting of the different denominations of cavalry, artillery, infantry and artificers. These by being properly distributed will not only secure the several posts and stores, but in case an augmentation of force should at any time be necessary, afford instructors to drill and form the recruits with expedition; they will also serve as a pattern and model for the militia, who will be ambitious to imitate them. As the numerous militia of the country will be considered by the states as their principal defence, it is probable the several legislatures will aim to enact proper laws for their regulation and discipline it will be essential that a uniformity be observed in the great principles of discipline and manoeuvres, in arms and equipments—that if drawn together from different states they may be capable of acting together.

These are a few of my first thoughts in a general view, on a subject which is almost without brink or bottom—and I pray your excellency’s candor while I humbly submit them. I have the honor to be, With the highest respect Your Excellency’s Most obedient servant,

W. Heath

P.S. Annexed is a memorandum of the force which may be necessary for securing the posts, stores, &c.


Memorandum of the force probably necessary to secure the several posts and public stores in the United states, when peace takes place.


New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island to have one battalion.

Connecticut, New York and New Jersey—one battalion.

Pennsylvania and Delaware—one battalion.

Maryland and Virginia—one battalion.

North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia—one battalion.

In the whole

One regiment of artillery for the posts magazines laboratories, &c.

One or two troops of horse—and a corps of artificers.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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