George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin, Baron [von] Steuben, 21 April 1783

April 21, 1783


I have the honor to present Your Excellency with my thoughts on a peace Establishment for our interior defence; how far my plan is adapted to the circumstances of the United States & whether it will agree with the principles of our Goverment, I am not able to determine.

This I am Certain of that we have need of a regular force for the protection of our partners, that our Militia ought to be on a regular footing, & that the Establishment of military, schools & manufacturing will be the best means of providing for our security in future. and that a system of this nature will make us more respectable with the powers of Europe than if we should keep up an Army of fifty thousand men. with the greatest respect I have the honor to be Sir, Your Excellencies Most Obedient Servant


Maj. General

DLC: Papers of George Washington.


c.21 April 1783

Among the advantages which the United States have to hope from the present glorious peace, this certainly is the greatest that their situation will secure them from the insults of Ambitions European powers without their being obliged to Keep up an expensive Military establishment.

A Chain of small posts along the Frontiers as well for the protection of trade as to be check upon the Indians, a well organized militia, & the establishment of military schools & manufactories is all that will be necessary for our security. As long as our ambition is confined to promoting the happiness of our citizens within our limits, we can spare the enormous expence which a large land and Sea force would subject us to. As our Commerce increases we shall undoubtedly excite the jealousy of the maritime & trading powers of Europe, this jealousy may produce quarels: & we may probably be obliged to form & keep up an expensive navy for the protection of our Commercial rights; but as this is a matter which does not demand our immediate attention, neither in my sphere, I shall confine myself to trace the measures we have to take, & the arrangements necessary for our present & Future security.

They are reduced to three Objects.

1st The number & organization of troops necessary to guard the different posts to be mentained on the Continent.

2d The formation of our Militia on a uniform & well regulated footing.

3d The Establishments of Military schools & manufactories.

The first Object is for the present moment & demands a prompt decision. The greatest part of our Army is engaged for the War, their inlistments expire on the [publication] of Peace, & they wait with impatience the moment in which they shall return to the rank of Citizens.

The number of those who would engage on a peace establishment is, so inconsiderable that I shall not calculate upon them.

About 4000 men will remain who have [one] or two years to serve, it is with those that we must form our first Continental Peace establishment, it remains to be examined how many [of] those we shall retain, how form, & employ them for immediate service.

By the following plan for the defence of the United States, we shall not want less than 4982 NonCommissioned Officers & soldiers for the Infantry Artillery Cavalry &c.-&c. The 4000 who will remain after peace is declared will be [ suf]ficient for the foundation of this new Continental Line; I give it this appellation, not having any idea of a military establishment [in] the united States which is not federal.

These troops to be assembled at West Point, where they might be formed into Regiments, Battalions & Companies. Each Company to consist of

    One Captain
One Lieutenant
One Ensign
five Sergeants
three Corporals
two Drums & fifes
sixty privates

Then four Companies form a Battalion, & eight Companies a Regiment. That the light Infantry company be abolished in this establishment. That a Company of Artillery consist of

    One Captain
One Captain Lieutenant
One first Lieut.
One 2d Lieutenant
Six sergeants
Six Bombardiers
Six Gunners
One Drum
One fife
forty Matrosses

That one Company of sixty artificers of different kinds should be annexed to the Artillery to be Commanded by the Officers & non Commissioned Officers of that Corps, and that they be distributed as the good of the Service may require.

That the Northern army should furnish these regiments of Infantry, two Companies of artillery and two Compys of artificers to be formed on the above plan immediately. Five of those regiments with the necessary detachments of artillery & artificers to be destined to garrison the posts on the frontiers begining at Penobscot & forming a chain to the mouth of the Ohio; There the third Regiment remain at the General Rendezvous (West Point) until other arrangements shall take place.

That General Greene should be charged with forming Regiment from the Southern army exactly on the same footing, which should be destined to hold the posts along the Mississippi which are necessary, to the frontiers of Georgia; a Company of Artillery & one of Artificers to be also furnished from the So. Army to be employed in the same manner as the others.

This Decision intended for Garrison service is to consist of 4 Regt of Infantry

each to consist of 560 non Comd officers and soliders   2240
3 Companies of Artillery at 60 pr Compy 180
3 Companies of Artificers at 60 180

That the Officers of the division should be choosen by the Commander in Chief—and appointed by Congress. Their pay & emoluments must not be less than they have enjoyed during the war.

The pay of the Non Comd Officers & soldiers of this first formation must remain as it is untill the expiration of their inlistments, but the pay of those who engage again, & of the recruits after the war must be regulated for a peace establishment.

Each of those Regiments will occupy such posts as shall be assigned to them.

The Principal post which each Regiment [holds] in the chain, will be the residence of the Col[onel] and staff of the Regt. If it is possible to prevent it, duty should never be done by detachment[s] in those Regiments, where the posts require it one or two, Companies compleat ought to garrison them, where they are small a Company must be divided to two posts, nothing will accelerate the ruin of a Corps so much as doing duty by detachment. An ordinance for the service of troops in garrison must be annexed to our present regulations, which [will always] serve for the Basis of discipline for Continental Troops notwithstanding this military establishment is on a very small scale, it must be conducted with the greatest regularity, this will absolutely depend on the manner in which it is organized.

Each Colonel must not only be responsible for the administration of his Regt but as he is the Commanding Officer of each post garrisoned by his regiment, he must require an exact monthly report from each the particular commander informing of the situation of the troops, magazines, ordnance, fortifications & administration of each post, and at certain appointed times he must [visit] each post himself as he will give an exact account of those objects above mentioned to the General Officer in whose department he shall be & from whom he will receive his orders & instructions. The number of troops proposed by this plan is certainly not so considerable, but that one General Officer would be sufficient to command them; but their extent will be too great to permit one person to conduct the direction with that exactness which the importance of the Object requires; therefore the military establishment of the Continent should be divided, if not into three, not into less than two departments or Generalities a Certain part of the chain of posts, & of the interior military establishment to be assigned to each General Officer, for which he must be accountable.

He will Receive the reports for the Colonels in his departments, communicate to them his orders & instructions, Visit at certain periods himself the different posts, & give an account to the Capt. General or minister of War, of the situation of each military branch in his department.

The pay of the different ranks of Officers with their other emoluments and advantages must be regularly furnished, the necessary assurances will be seen by Congress to this purpose.

The Officers who desire to be placed in the new military Line of the United States, might be desired to send their Names & dates of Commission to the adjutant General.

In time of War there are certain attracting objects which engage men of spirit & ambition to prefer a military life to any other; such as occasions of distinguishing themselves by heroic actions, &c. rapid & extraordinary promotion ceases in time of peace & the service is without variety, especially in Garrisons on the frontiers seperated from society & more or less from inhabitants; these disagreeablenesses will prevent officers of merit engaging in this establishment without these appointments & advantages are such as to counter ballance them.

The formation of our Militia is the second essential object for the security of the United States.

It is not of great consequence what scale they are formed on or what denomination the Corps are under, provided they are equal in their numbers & subdivisions, if this is the case the exercises and manoeuvres may be adapted to their formation which must not only be uniform in the militia, but exactly the same with the Continental Troops, thus when they are joined the same [exhibitions] & manoeuvres may serve alike for both.

The formation of a Regiment [without] a Light Infantry Company appears to me the most simple formation for a Regt of Militia, & with little alteration our regulations will serve for the basis of their discipline.

That each Regt should be formed in two Battalions, each Battln to form four Companies, each Company composed as follows—

Formation of a Compy of Militia

  One Captain
One Lieutenant
One Ensign
Five Serjeants
three Corporals
1 Drum
1 fife
60 privates

To simplify the formation two Battals should form a Regt, five Regts a Brigade, & two Brigades a division. To each division two troops of Cavalry should be annexed consisting of one Captain. One Lieutenant. One Cornel. 5 Serjeants. 3 Corporals. one trumpet or beagle horn. & 60 Dragoons each.

Those two troops to be Commanded by a major.

That to each division two Companies of artillery [be] annexed, each to consist of

  One Captain   6 sergeants
One Capt. Lt 16 Cannoneers
One 1st Lt 2 Drums & fifes &
One 2d Lt 40 Matrosses

The two Companies of Artillery & in the same [line] artificers to be commanded by a major.

That each Division should have four field pieces.

The Militia should not take the field in smaller bodies than the following.

Infantry in Battalions, Cavalry & Artillery in Companies.

When a County or district is not sufficient to form Battln then quota must be [formed] to another County or district until they have the number required, the Battln will then be properly arranged & forwarded to the general rendezvous. Whatever rules Congress are pleased to give for the formation of the militia, it will be of the greatest consequence that they are the same throughout the United States, not only the regulations for their service, but also the Militia Laws if possible ought to be the same.

All Volunteer Corps & independent companies ought to be abolished, they are absolutely the destruction of an army, & never of any service.

The Regulations for the formation & service of the Militia after having received the authority of Congress, ought to be printed & distributed to the different States.

The third Object for the safety of the United States & for rendering them respectable is the establishment of Military schools & manufactories, a plan for the erection of which I have presented to the Minister of War.

This is the moment in which we could choose among our officers those proper for such an establishment. This is the moment in [which] we might retain several excellent engineers & good artillery officers for the instruction of our young [vo]lunteers. This the moment in which we might engage a number of artificers & tradesmen for our Manufactories.

The Establishment such as I have proposed in my [propit], will require an augmentation of 1800 noncommissioned Officers & soldiers the 2600 calculated for the Garrisons on the frontiers, & the [Regt de] Reserve at West point as the general place of arms, added will make 4982 non commisd Officers and soldiers, this body could be immediately formed from those engaged for longer than the war.

The number necessary of Artificers and h[orse] men for the manufactories might be engaged on the conditions I have proposed, numbers of which could be found among the German prisoners, those men would be actually happy to be retained on such a footing, but if they are ever dispersed they will hardly be collected again.

As for the present West point is the place most proper for collecting the Stores of all kinds artillery &c. belonging to the United States, there must immediately be a number sufficient to arrange them. The Regiment [de] Reserve & all the others whose enlistments do not expire till after peace is declared may be instantly employed in those works which will be most for the advantage of the united States.

General Plan for the establishment of troops to be kept in the Service of the United States.

One Capt. in General or minister of War
  3 Generals
Officers of the Infantry
7 Colonels
7 Lt Colonels
10 Majors
56 Captains
63 Lieutenants
56 Ensigns
204 Serjeants
168 Corporals
126 Musick
3360 Privates
3948 non Commisd & privates
6 Captains
6 Lieutenants
6 Cornels
30 Serjeants
18 Corporals
240 Dragoons
Artillery, Sappers, Miners & Artificers
Officers of Artillery & engineers
6 Field Officers
12 Captains
12 Capt Lieutts
12 first Lieuts
12 second Lieuts
36 serjeants
36 Bombardiers
36 Cannoniers
6 Musick
244 Matrosses
18 Master Miners
18 Master Sappers
84 Pionniers
268 Artificers
Total 4982

How far this plan is adapted to the Circumstances of the United States, or the principles of their goverments Your Excellency will be able to determine.

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