George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski, 29 December 1777

From Brigadier General Casimir Pulaski

Decemr 29th 1777


As I have nothing more in view, in giving the following Sistem, then the fullfilling my duty to introduce & maintain good order & render Capable of service the Corps I command, I hope my frequent representations will not frustrate those whose Zeal for the good of these States is known.

My Own Knowledge dictates the following Articles, which tho’ they may not be perfect yet I am assured they are essentially for the better regulating our Cavalry.1

Firstly, I begin by adopting regulations for the Service, Such as is practised in the King of Prussia’s army these may easily be printed in english & distributed in the different corps for the instruction of the officers & men & that the Same be Strictly observed & executed.

Secondly, During the time necessary to discipline our Cavalry It will be expedient to mount a Number of the militia for the purpose of disciplining the cavalry. I ask but Two months provided the whole are Kept in a body.

Thirdly, It will be necessary to appoint a master of exercise who Shall have the rank of Colonel, he will inspect into the exercise & instruct the officers in their Several dutys, a Corps of Volunteers may be formed under this officer, who may Serve as aids to the officers that may be detatched on Separate Commands, this is a method to instruct the youth.

Fourthly The Strength of the Cavalry is not equal to the Service required of it, It must be augmented. I think that each Troop Should Consiste of at least one Captn Two Lieuts. one Cornet, Two Sergts eight Corporals, & Sixty four Dragoons, this would make an augmentation in each regiment of Twelve Lieuts. Forty eight Corporals & one hundred & eighty privates. I wish also to raise a Squadron of Lancemen which I will command in person having Under me one Captn Two Lieuts. one Cornet, four Sergts eight Corporals & one hundred & Twenty eight privates with those means I will undertake to perform every Service necessary & Continue the Campaign through the winter.

Fifthly, A place Should be assigned as a depository for the Cavalry, this place Should be Kept by an officer of the Invalids who Should maintain good order & have Charge of the magazines & Stores with orders to recruit.

Sixthly, We are defficient in officers Skilled in the Service of the Cavalry we have Some Vacancys already & if the plan of augmentation takes place there will be more, I am acquainted with Some good officers who have Served in the Cavalry & who at present have no employ. Shall do myself the Honor to recommend them in time & place.

Seventhly, It is absolutely necessary that we be provided with every article requisite, not only for the Number in Service, but that their be a Surplus of every Article deposited in Store to replace the losses we may meet with during the Campaign by this precaution the Service of the cavalry, may without interuption be performed & a perfect order maintained.

Eighthly, If the Honorable Congress will be at the expence of Cloathing & arming the Cavalry; I am acquainted with a Gentelman who will undertake to purchase them both, at the price they Cost the King of France—Freight excepted.

Ninthly, If the Qr Mr General Should be Charged with the equipment of the Cavalry I flatter myself the means I Shall propose will not be rejected by him.

C. Pulaski Gnl of Cavalry

LS, DLC:GW. Robert Hanson Harrison’s docket includes the notation “Return of deficiencies in Blands,” presumably referring to “A Return of Men, Horses, Arms, Accutraments &Ca belonging to several Detachts from Colo. Theok Blands Regiment L. Dragoons,” dated 28 Dec., in DLC:GW. This one-page return, apparently incomplete, indicates that a large proportion of the horses and equipment in Col. Theodorick Bland’s regiment were in poor condition.

A similar letter to this one, undated, signed by Pulaski and addressed to GW, is in DLC:GW: “I make no doubt but your Excellency is acquainted with the present ineffective State of the Cavalry. In this Situation it cannot be appropriated to any other Service then that of orderlys or reconnoitering the enemys Lines, which your Exellency must be persuaded is not the only Service expected from a Corps, when on a proper footing is so very formidable—Although it is the opinion of many that from the construction of the Country, the cavalry cannot act to advantage, Your Excellency must be too well acquainted with the many instances, wherein the Cavalry have been decisively Servicable, to be of this opinion, & not Acknowledge that this Corps has more then once compleated Victorys.

“To this end I would wish to discipline the Cavalry & flatter myself by next Campaign to render It essentially Servicable.

“what has greatly Contributed to the present weak State of the Cavalry was the frequent detatchments order’d to the Suite of General & other officers, while a Colo. commanded, which were appropriated to every use, & the Horses drove at the discretion of the Dragoons.

“The Confidence with which the Congress and your Excellency, have honored me are sure guarantees to the Zeal I shall ever act with in the Service of the United States, but notwithstanding my great desire of rendering the cavalry So useful as its first institution intended, I find it impracticable Seeing that it is deficient in its principal requisitions, my reflections on which I have Judged necessary to communicate to your Excellency, as a proof of my atatchment to the good of the Service & desire of executing your Excellency’s designs, hoping for an Opportunity of deserving the favour Conferred on me by your Excellency.

“Article first It is absolutely necessary that the Cavalry have a master of exercise who Should instruct the commissioned & non Commissioned officers in the rules of Service, as having the Command am obliged to act with precaution—but this officer actuated by different motives would remove the bad habits & correct the deffects of the Superiour officers—There is an officer now in this Country whose name is Kolach. I Know him to have Served with reputation in the Prussian Service & assure your Excellency that he is every way equal to this Undertaken.

“Second That Twenty four Dragoons be drafted from the different regiments to form a separate corps, Who shall be taught the use of the Pike or Lance of which Two or Three days will render them masters, for this purpose I must have chosen men.

“third A Quarter Master General to the Cavalry is essentially necessary to procure Winter Quarters Stables & Provender, also to provide arms, accoutrements, & Cloathing, an intelligent officer, acquainted with the Cavalry Should be Chosen for this purpose; I would recommend to your Excellency Major Blackden of Colo. Sheldens regiment a Gentleman Who has displayed his Knowledge in the equipment of Said regt & whom I think Sufficiently qualified to merit this Trust.

“Fourth It is full time the Quarter Master General was Sent to the place assigned for winter Quarters, in order to provide Magazines that the Cavalry may be Kept embodied & conveniently exercised & disciplined—The Horse Service has ever been respected; one third of the Cavalry is generally on duty & often the whole, when it returns to Camp It Should draw provision & Cook it, agreable to orders but their full allowance is Seldom granted, this I Know by experience being the worst Served of any Genl in the Service, to prevent this evil a Commissary Should be appointed to the Cavalry—The Cavalry in an Army Generally forms a Separate division & has greater privileges then the Infantry, which the Honor of the Service exacts, but here I find it is the contrary, not that I aim at a Superiority over the rest of the army, but am desirous of having Justice done the Corps I Command. It is my duty, for my own part wish to be Subject to your Excellencys orders only—agreable to my request upon entering the Service, which is the limit of my ambition.” For more of Pulaski’s ideas on the cavalry, see his letter to GW of 19 Dec. 1777.

1Pulaski may have sent this letter in response to a query from GW to his general officers on the future regulation of the army (see Jedediah Huntington to GW, 1 Jan. 1778, n.1). For GW’s response to some of Pulaski’s ideas and his suggestions to Congress on the reformation of the cavalry, see GW to Pulaski, 31 Dec. 1777, and to a Continental Congress Camp Committee, 29 Jan. 1778.

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