George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Major General Steuben, 23 October 1780

From Major General Steuben

Philadelphia Oct. 23d 1780

Dear General

It is with the Greatest satisfaction I Acquaint You that the Plan of Arrangement for the Army, which Your Excellency sent to Congress has been Agreed to Yesterday without any Alteration.

The granting half pay for life to the Reduced Officers has met with some Opposition, but the Proposition has not only passed; but it was Resolved immidiately after, to extend these Advantages to all the Officers in the Service.1

In the Minutes which Col. Hamilton has delivered me by Your Excellencys Orders2 I find that the four Regiments of Cavalry, or rather Legions were thus fixed: 4 Troops mounted dragoons 60 men each—240[;] 4 Compys dismounted or Chasseurs 60 each—240[;] Total 480. Gen. Sullivan & Col. Bland have told me that this is Altered in Your Excellencys Letter & that there are to be 4 Troops mounted dragoons 60 men each—240[;] 2 Compys Chasseurs 60 men each—120[; Total] 360.3

Your Excellency will allow me to make here a short Observation on the Sub division of this Caval⟨ry⟩ without altering the Totality of the foot or Horsemen.

Cavalry especially when two deep is not very terrible in their Attacks in front and least so when Against Infantry, The Attacks of the Cavalry when they Intend to break a line, are generally made by Troops, or squadrons, either in Column, or in Echiquier4 The deeper they are the Surer they are to break th⟨rough⟩.

If then a Regiment was divided into Six Troops instead of four the Object would be better Answered.

There is another reason which has determined the King of Prussia to divide his Light Horse, or Hussars, into six Companys, forming three Squadrons: the Cavalry after an Attack is generally in disorder, they must then be rallied by the sound of the Trumpet. When they are divided into three squadrons, the right, left, & Centre, only Show how the men are to rally, which is not so Easy when they are divided into four Troops, When three squadrons are in Order of Battle the Signals show whether the Right, left, or Centre squadron is to Charge, which still meets with difficulty when the Cavalry is divided into four squadrons, or Troops, & this is the Reason why in Several European Services, an odd number has been adopted for the Manrevres of the Light Horse.

Besides our Regiments of Cavalry will have I believe, as those of Infantry, three Field Officers Each of them will then Command a squadron, which will Consist of two Companies, wherefore I propose that Each Regiment of Cavalry may be divided into three squadrons Each squadron into Two Companys of 40 men each, which will then make 80 men for a Squadron, The Companys of Chasseurs ought likewise to Consist of 50 men Rank & file, & be three in Number and Attach’d in all Cases to the 1st 2d & 3d Squadrons of the Regiment And as it Often happens that the squadrons are seperated from One another, Each Company of Chasseurs ought to be Always attach’d to its squadron, as well to Support it in its Manrevres, as to Guard it in its Quarters.

As by this subdivision the Totality of will not suffer a great Alteration I beleive it will not Alter the General Plan, I will therefore mention it to no One but Your Excellency, And it is in Your Power to Order this Subdivision if You think proper.

I am not very happy in the Arrangement of my department, the Plan relative thereto which Your Excellency delivered to the Committee which were in Camp, After having been a little Altered, by them was sent to Congress, they Refered it to the Board of War, who after having Altered it sent it back to Congress, who thought Proper to refer it to a Committee of three, who made new Alterations. Now it has been so much Altered it does not in the least resemble itself.

No Intimation was Officially given me of it & very Accidentally I saw a printed Copy, I have the Honor to transmit one to Your Excelleny.5

The Monthly Addition of, from 5. to 8 dollars to the Pay of Officers of such Merit as those whom Your Excellency has Chosen for the Inspectorship, Appears to me so very mean, that I will not take it upon myself to make them such a Proposition, The Ancient Majors of Brigade who in the first Institution were taken from the line of Lieutenants, or Ensigns, had an Addition to their pay of 24 dollrs ⅌ mo., how then Can Eight dollars be proposed to a Colonel for discharging so Important & So Painfull a Function, I am Endeavouring to find how much the Mustering department has cost the States, I am sure the Addition I ask for the Officers of the Inspectorship will not Amount to an 8th part of it.6

Several Resolutions in this Arrangement are Contradictory to One another, & others are not sufficiently clear, I am therefore determined to Present a Memorial to Congress, to have the Inspectors Department Established on the footing proposed by Your Excellency, without any Alteration. If Congress desire that I should Continue in this Office, I flatter myself they will have a regard to my representation.7

I have the Honor to Congratulate Your Excellency on the News from the Southward.8 And Am With the Greatest Respect Your Excellencys Most Obdt Hbl. Serv.

steuben Maj: Generl

LS, DLC:GW; Df, NHi: Steuben Papers; ADf, in French, NHi: Steuben Papers.

2This document has not been identified.

4The draft adds “(checkerwise)” after this word.

5Two printed copies of resolutions adopted on 25 Sept. titled “Plan for Conducting the Inspector’s Department of the United States” are in DLC:GW (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 , 18:854–61; Steuben to GW, May 1780, and GW to Huntington, 14 July, and n.2 to that document).

6For the dissolution of the mustering department, see Huntington to GW, 14 Jan. 1780, n.1.

7Steuben wrote Samuel Huntington, president of Congress, from Philadelphia on 28 Oct. to press his views and state that GW “wishes that I may succeed in a final arrangement” (DNA:PCC, item 164; see also GW to Steuben, 22 Oct.). Congress read Steuben’s letter on 30 Oct. and referred it to the Board of War (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 , 18:993).

8This sentence is not in the draft versions. For the Battle of Kings Mountain, see General Orders, 27 Oct., n.2.

In his reply to Steuben on 10 Dec., GW noted his appeal to Congress about the inspector general’s department (DLC:GW). GW also acknowledged Steuben’s letter to him from Philadelphia on 24 Oct., which reads: “Mr de Pontiere, a French Gentleman of merit, arrived with me in this Country. Congress appointed him a Captain of Horse at York Town in February 1778. About that same Time the late Ct Pulawski raised his Legion, & at my recommendation Capt. Pontiere was one of the first Officers employed in it. All the accounts I have had of this Officer ever since he has been in the Service, have concurred to represent him as brave, careful & attentive to all his Duties. He never was needlessly absent from his Corps & distinguished himself in Several Occasions. His Legion having been utterly destroyed, he is now absolutely unemployed, tho’ he has a great desire to continue in the service. I cannot help recommending him strongly to Your Excellency. The new arrangement of our Cavalry, to which will be joined Companies of Chasseurs, will perhaps offer an Opportunity of employing him. If not, I believe he is one of those foreign Officers whom Congress wish to See employed in Col. Hazen’s Regiment. I beg you will please to grant your protection to this Officer. He certainly deserves it, & his Conduct entitles him not to be forgot in the new Arrangement” (LS, DLC:GW; 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 , 10:180). Captain Pontiere later served as Steuben’s aide-de-camp (see 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 , 22:41).

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