George Washington Papers

From George Washington to Major General Steuben, 11 March 1779

To Major General Steuben

Head Quarters [Middlebrook] 11th March—79


I have received your favor of the 5th and now return you the Sequel of your work accompanied by a few notes.1 It gives me great pleasure to learn that the foregoing part is in such forwardness for the press—With respect to the Title I think “Regulations for the Infantry of the United States” will be sufficient—In a Letter to Congress I have signified my approbation of the work2—it remains for them to give it a final Sanction and preface it with such order as they judge proper.3

As the fine Season is advancing, you will I flatter myself shortly have the satisfaction, so rarely enjoy⟨ed⟩ by Authors, of seeing your precep⟨ts⟩ reduced to practice—and I hop⟨e⟩ your Success will be equal to the merit of your work. I am with great respect and esteem Sir Your most obed. ser.

Df, in John Laurens’s writing, DLC:GW; Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

1The draft of the enclosed remarks, GW’s second set of comments on the manuscript of Steuben’s military instructions, is in DLC:GW. Docketed 11 March and in the writing of John Laurens, these remarks begin with GW’s additional observations on chapter 10, article 4 of the first half of Steuben’s manuscript, which deals with infantry tactics against cavalry: “The manœuvre against Cavalry in the first part of this work—was represented as an open Column—halted in order of march—with the front platoon standing fast—the Rear platoon faced to the Rear—and the intermediate ones faced from the Center outwards—which occasioned my substituting the hollow Square—Capt. Walker afterwards explained that it was an error of the Copyist—and that the design was to have the Column previously closed—this I prefer to the hollow Square—as it unites simplicity and promptness of execution with a more solid defence against the efforts of Cavalry—the defective part of this order (vizt the Angles—) is likewise diminished by its solidity.

“The orbicular battalion proposed by some to obviate this inconvenience—I believe has not been sufficiently perfected by Tacticians—to be brought into use” (for GW’s previous remarks on this subject and other parts of the first half of Steuben’s manuscript, see GW to Steuben, 26 Feb., and n.1).

The remainder of GW’s enclosed remarks of this date consist of notes numbered 1 to 25 concerning the second half of Steuben’s manuscript, which GW returned with this letter:

“No. 1—This is one of the functions of our Camp Colour men.

“2—As this will make the duty of the Q.M. G[enera]l too minutious—it is proposed that he or his deputies should divide the ground to the brigade Quarter Masters—and they to the Regimental Q. Ms.

“3. It is probable that necessity will decide on the question of bell-tents for the ensuing Campaign—but as these Regulations are intended to be permanent—the advantages and disadvantages of this method of disposing Arms—ought to be fully considered—before another is substituted.

“4. The introduction of Fannions or painted Flags marked with the names of Regiments—would greatly facilitate the preserving the order of March of the baggage.

“5. As many abuses result from permitting the sick to mix wi⟨th⟩ the baggage—Instead of what is proposed here, it may be orde⟨red⟩ that each regiment furnish a Non Commissioned Officer to ta⟨ke⟩ care of its sick—and that ⟨a⟩ Surgeon be appointed from ⟨each⟩ brigade to accompany the ⟨sick⟩ of the brigade—All the sick of the Army to parade at a rendez⟨vous⟩ convenient to the point whic⟨h⟩ they are to occupy in the line of march—the latter to be determi⟨ned⟩ by circumstances—A certain number of waggons a⟨re⟩ to be provided for the reception of their Knapsacks—and in case of necessity their arms.

“6 & 7. A Disagreement between the Manuscript and Plan—As in future the Grade of Colonel will not exist—an order of Incampment to be made in consequence.

“8. The interval between the Kitchens and Officers Tents, appears too Small—on account of the Smoke.

“9. Utensils of each Tent—the articles here enumerated would be too great an incumbrance—and consequently liable to be lost—The Pick Axe, Spade and large Cantine to be omitted—If each Camp Colour man, were to carry an Axe slung—this wd allow a sufficient number for ordinary purposes.

“10. Will not one Officer of police be sufficient?

“11. The Duty required here of the Adjutant, is in the province of the Quarter Master.

“12. The Same observation to be made here—The Quarter Master General has a general superintendence over whatever relates to the cleanliness of the Camp—and removal of nuisances.

“13. The authorising a N[on] Comm[issione]d Officer to order an alarm to be beat—might expose us to false-alerts.


“15. Every Saturday for the Inspection of Necessaries.

“16. As there is not a certainty of furnishing even these articles—and the mention of them may have a bad effect by raising expectations which cannot be gratified—perhaps it will be better to substitute a general direction to exclude superfluous articles.

“17. The time of Duty for advanced guards to be extended according to distance and other circumstances.

“18. This Rule to be confined to pickets and advanced posts—for the interior guards—the hour to be appointed according to circumstances.

“19 Notice of the change of Countersign to be given to the General of the Day—who is to communicate it to the other Guards and the Adjutant General.

“20. Notice to be given to the nearest General Officer.

“21. Drummer in the Rear.

“22. The Rate of Stoppages to be fixed.

“23. The Brigade Conductor to have the superintendence of the Armourers.

“24 ‘Materials for making as many more’ The Cartridges are usually made in the laboratories.

“25. Brigade Q. Master instead of Brigade Major—in the foregoing part of the paragraph.”

Laurens wrote “Begin here” at the top left corner of the manuscript’s first page. Most of GW’s suggestions were incorporated in the published version of Steuben’s regulations. The English version of Steuben’s manuscript that GW read has not been identified. Camp color-men were soldiers who assisted in marking the lines of encampments and marching positions with small flags or colors. For Congress’s resolution of 27 May 1778 that no more infantry colonels were to be appointed in the future, see General Orders, 7 June 1778 (see also JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 11:543).

3Congress accepted Steuben’s work on 29 March and ordered that it be published under the title Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States (JCC description begins Worthington Chauncey Ford et al., eds. Journals of the Continental Congress, 1774-1789. 34 vols. Washington, D.C., 1904–37. description ends , 13:384–85).

Index Entries