George Washington Papers
Note: this document has content that may require expanded/print view for best results (icons above right)

To George Washington from Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron [von] Steuben, 23 October 1780

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.

In the Minutes which Col. Hamilton has delivered me by Your Excellencys Orders 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 m. 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

Your Excellency will allow me to make him a short Observation on the Sub. division of this Cavalry 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 Echiquier. The deeper they are the Surer they are to break th[ru].

If then a Regiment was divided into Six Troops instead of four the object would be better assured. There is another reason which has determined The King of Prussia to divide his Light Horse, or Hussars, into six Companys, forming these 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 their squadrons 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 often 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 Manœvres 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 Manœuvres, as to guard it in its Quarters.

As by this subdivision the Totality will not suffer a great alteration I believe 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 Sudivision 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 Excellency.

The monthly Addition of, from 5, to 8 dollars to the Pay of Officers of such Merit as those whom Your Excellency has Chosan 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, as Ensigns, had an Addition to their pay of 24 dollrs pr 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 departments 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.

Several Resolutions in this Arrangement are Contradictory to One another, & others 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 Alterations. If Congress desire that I should continue in the Office, I flatter myself they will have a regard for my Representation.

I have the Honor to Congratulate Your Excellency on the News from the Southern. And am with the Greatest Respect Your Excellencies Most Obdt Hbe Serv.

Steuben Maj. General

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

Index Entries