George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron [von] Steuben, 14 July 1780

Fishkill July 14 1780

Dear General

I am just returned from West Point where I have been making some necessary arrangments towards preparing for an Offensive Campaign. I have represented to Genl Howe the absolute necessity of exempting the Recruits from fatigue Duties that they may be renderd as serviceable as the short time we have for this business will allow.

We have in the 8 Brigades in this Department about 3000 old soldiers, allowing 500 for Guard Piquet &c. & 500 for makeing fascines & other necessary preparations, we shall have two thirds of our old Soldiers and all the Recruits to exercise Daily.

As your Excellency expressed a desire of having the Light Corps formed as quick as possible I have consulted the Generals & Feild Officers & agreed with them on the annexed Plan—provided it meets your Excellencys approbation.

The New York Line are not certain of receiving Recruits, tho they expect some, they have however agreed that in case they do not receive Recruits enough to enable them to furnish their Light Companies, they will give one of their Batallions as their proportion of Light Infantry.

Your Excellency will see by the enclosed Extract the other arrange[ments] I have made which I hope will meet your Approbation. I am with the greatest esteem & respect Your Excellencys most Obedt Servant


DLC: Papers of George Washington.


Extract of a Letter to Colo. Sprout

14 July 1780

The First object, & which I wish to be undertaken immediately is the forming a Company of Light Infantry, & levelling each Regiment; for which purpose twenty five, old soldiers are to be immediately chosen from each Regiment to serve as a foundation for the Light Company; the Eight Batallion Companies are then to be levelled; and as Recruits come in, they are to be divided to the Eight Companies till the whole are of the same strength with the Light Company; after which the Recruits are to be equally divided among the nine Companies.

If the number of Recruits who join, should not be sufficient to bring the Companies to forty Rank & file: it is nevertheless my intention that the Light Company should have that strength & in that Case the deficency of that number, must be drafted from the Batallion Companies: by this means the Light Company, tho’ it should consist of Fifty Rank & file will have at least one half old soldiers, & the Batn Companies will have an equal of old soldiers in each.

To render the Recruits anywise servicable, it is absolutely necessary they should be exersised as much as possible: for this purpose I have agreed with Genl Howe that none of them are to be employed either on Guard or Fatigues and I wish the Inspectors to pay particular attention to their Instruction; that they are exersised every day twice, one hour and a half each time, in the Morning at Reveillie beating: & in the Evening, an hour & a half before sunsett—the first six days, they are to be exercised without Arms & wholly employed in learning to carry themselves well, to March & to Dress.

At this Exercise the Commanding officers of Regiments are themselves to attend & they must be answerable for the attendance of all their Officers, & that no Recruit is on any Account exercised by a Noncommissioned Officer.

By an agreement with Genl Howe, for the future, not more than one third of the old Troops are to be on Duty at once, this will afford an opportunity of Exercising them, for this purpose the Colonels must divide their Officers, giving to some the Instruction of the Old Troops and to the others, the Recruits.

In their Exercises, the most pointed attention, must be paid to the Mode prescribed in the Regulations.

With respect to the arms—each Colo. is to give immediately a Return, on honor of the Arms & Accoutrements in the possession of the Regiment, with these he will be immediately charged, in an Account Kept by the Inspector for that purpose, and he on his part is to charge the Captains, and take receipts for those in possession of their Companies—when more Arms are wanted the Return must be signed by the Colonels and Countersigned by the Inspectors, and a Receipt taken by the Inspector for the Arms & delivered in the Return and charged to the Regiment—when a Regiment has arms to return in, they are to return them to the Conductor & take his receipt for them, which receipt they are to Change with the Inspector for his Receipt.

Another object I wish to call your attention to is the number of men absent and improperly employed, out of the Regiment all those on furlough must be recalled immediately, and as many of those as possible who come under the latter description must be called in and exercised.

Notwithstanding the many orders to Contrary: standing Guards are still in practice. these must be undoubtedly relieved, and it is my wish as much as possible to change all Waggoners, waiters & others who are old soldiers for recruits.


c.14 July 1780

Plan for the Formation of the Light Infantry

Each Regiment to furnish

1 Captain

1 Lieutt

3 sergeants

1 Drum

1 Fife

42 Rank and file

The Colonels to be Answerable that there are in each Company 25 old Soldiers who have been well Exercised, the other 17 to be chosen from amongst the most robust and active Recruits.

As soon as a Regiment is augmented to 290 Effective Rank & File, the Light Compy to be augmented to 50.

Four Companies of Light Infantry to form a Battaln to be commanded by a Lt Colonel or a Major Appointed by the Commr in Chief.

Two Battals. of Light Infantry to form a Regt to be Commandd by a Colonel appointed by the Commander in Chief.

Four or Six Battals. to form a Brigade Commanded by a Brigadier.

The Whole to form a Division Commanded by a Major General.

Each Regiment will be Obliged to keep its Lt Compy Compleat during the Campaign.

Each Brigade in the Line who furnishes a Battalion of Light Infantry, are besides those belonging to the Companies are to furnish two Subs. One as [Adjutt] the Other as Qtr and Pay Master—One sergt for Sergt Major the other as Quartr Mastr sergeant.

Each Regt of Light Infantry to be provided with a Surgeon and Each Battaln with a Mate.

Light Infantry to be Furnished in the following Manner.

First Brigade

1st Pennsylva Brigd. to furnish 4 Compys which form 1 Battl. 200 R. & f.
2d 4 1 200
Jersey wth Spencers Regt 4 1 200
New York Brigade 4 1 200

Second Brigade

1 Brigade of Connect. 4 1 200
2 4 1 200
1 Massachuts Brigade 4 1 200
2 do do 4 1 200

Third Brigade

3d Massachuts 4 1 200
4th do 3 Compys & the whole line 1 cy 4 1 200
New Hampshire 3 1 200
Rhode Island Regt 1 do do
Stark 2 1 200
Hand 2 do do
Total 48 Companies 12 Battls 2400 Rank & File

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