George Washington Papers

To George Washington from Rufus Putnam, 25 April 1783

Massachusetts Hutt April 25th 1783

Dear General

Inclosed are Some propositions for the establishment of a Continental Militia—I am aware their are many objection lying against the Scheme, but I See none but what I think may be fairly [   ]—but if I am mistaken and their is in Such an Establishment, as I have hinted any thing which the Citizens of America ought to feare as Tending To Undermine their libertyes—your Excellencys, candor will not Inpute to the badness of my Heart—and the Same Candor will excuse the [   ] encorrectness of my Pen in this as well as [   ] other performance—I am Sir with all posable respet your Excellency Most obedient Humble Servant

R. Putnam

Thoughts on a Peace Establishment For The United States of America.

America is by no means to place her principle Security, in walled Towns & the multitude of her Fortresses, nor is She in time of Peace to be at the expence of a reguler Army; Sufficient for the defence of every part of her Territorys, Should they be invaided—yet unless her harbours (at least the principle ones) are Secured by Fortifications and Small Garisons, her Sea Ports are liable to be Surprized, plundered and burnt or laid under contributions by a few Ships of War; and if Aided by Land Forces an Enimy might in Some of them, So establish him Self, in a very Short time as to render it very defiquelt to drive him out.

Her Frontiers Should also be So Secured by Forts and Garisons in such manner as at least might retard, the opperations of an Enemy till the Truce of the Country may be collected to oppose him.

Among the Sea Ports New york claims the first attention. no Spot on the Continant, the possession of which is of So much Consequence to the United States as that, and with a very little expences compained with the object, may be rendered perfectly Secure against any Surprise or Insult whatever.

Falmouth in the provence of Main is the next Harbour eastward that ought to claim the attention of Congress. it is in the very Neighbourhood of Halifax the Country but thinly Setteled the Harbour is deep and Spacious, the Town on a peninsula, and Should an enemy establish him Self there the whole eastern Country would be in Danger of being lost.

Penobscot or Major Bagadure is still further east has also a Spacious Harbour and is the Source, I am told, from whence the eastern States are to expect the most of their Masts [Sparr] and lumber, there are also in the Back Country Several Tribes of Indians.

From [New] York Southward Charles Town and Savanna are the first I Suppose Intiteled to the Notice of Congress, they have the Spaniards on their Right and Savages in the rear, are properly the Frontier, on that quarter and I am told the Country is but thinly peopeled.

their are other Harbours and Seaports of very great consequence but I think they will be perfectly saif in the hands of the States to which they belong and Should Congress Interfear in the matter it might give very grate Jealousy at least to Some of them.

In point of Importence next to the City & Harbour of New york, the North Rivers & the Commun[ity] between New york and Canada ought to Claim the first attention, for whoever attempts the Conquest of America will in my opinion, if he acts right endev[or] to Establish him Self on the Hudson and by a chain of posts in that quarters to Seperate the eastern from the midle and Southern States, on this Communica[tion] then Congress Should always keep an eye and never Suffer an enimy, Foreign or Domistic, to fix himself on any part of it.

West Point is prehaps as well Sittuated for the Grand Arsanal of America as any place what[ever] and by dismanteling Most of the out Works, a much Smaller Garison will be regained then in its present State, this Garison Should consist Cheifly of artillery men and Include alson one Company of Artificers—here Should all the Carage and apperates for the Artillery be made, here Should the Art of Gunnery and Fortification be taught, and from hence Should the Artillery Companys detached to other Posts be releved at least once in three year.

Besides West Point there will undoubtedly be other Arsanals established both east and west that will require Small Guards.

I consider Stoney point as an appendage to West Point whither the former remain in its present State or a reguler Fortification be built there; which is a Subject worth consideration.

In order to prevent a Surprize from Canada by way of Lake Champlain, if the Situation will admit a Fort Should be built at Windmill Point or Point. au Feir, or Some where near the Forty fifth Degree of Lattitude, and the River or Lake So Obstructed as forever to shut the British out of it—this matter I concieve to be worth attention and examination, for if practicable then in case of a War with Great Briton it will prevent their makeing themselves masters of the Lakes and at the Same time it will give great Security to the that part of the Country called the Hamshire Grants and other Setlers near the Lake and will also aide us in Introducing an army into Cannada when ever that Should be Thought proper—in the mean time it will be a means of checking any Illicit trade in that quarter, interrupt the wicked Correipondence, and be a good means to prevent the revolt of the Virmonteres Should they have it in Contemplation.

But if no place can be found Sutable for a Fortification further Northward then Crown Point then, that Should be fixed on, the Lake is Narrow here its pasage esily obstructed, and the Sittuation elligable for an Independent Strong Work of any Size you please.

The Necessity of a Fortress Somewhere on Lake Champlain to prevent any Sudden Eruption from Cannada into the provence of Newyork I think is obvious and if one is established there, Some Intermediate Posts will be necessary between that and Albany for the Lodgment and Security of the Stoars that may be Sent Northward Viz. one at Fort George and another at the landing at the further end of Lake George but a Block House or even a Stockade with a very few Troops as a Guard will be Sufficient.

Albany will no doubt require Some Troops as it will be the place for Lodging at least for time the Stores designed for the Northern and West[ern] Frontear.

To keep the Western Savages in Awe to protect and regulate our Trade with them and prevent any insidious practices of our British and Spanish Neighbours, as far as posable, Some Fortresses and Small regular Establishment is absolutely necessary.

The British used to Send their Supplys to Niagara & Detroit From Canada, of Course [   ] under the Necessity of keeping a Post at Oswego, but in our present Sittuation I conceive that all our Supplys for the Country on the Lakes must pass that way, and besides in order to protect the Frence Settlement above Detroit, Encourage their emigration from Cannada and Secure the post in that Quarter from Surprize, our Force Should be much greater even in time of peace then what the British Used to keep—they had only the Savages to guarde against we have them and the Savages Both to look too.

if we wish to secure the people of Illinois from the Surprize of the Spaniards our force There Should always be equil to theirs.

To Secure the Communication between Fort Pitt and Illinoise to give Protection to the Inhabitents Setled on the Warters of the Ohio to awe the Southern Indians and check any attempt that may be made up that River. I beleve Several Small Post on or near the Ohio will be found necessary—perhaps the place where Fort Massac Stood, 26 miles from the mouth of the Ohio, may be found a proper spot for one of those Intermediate posts.

In time of War a Navel Superiority on the Western Lakes may be more likely to fall to the Share of the British then to us, or at least the Superioriety is unsertain. I wish therefore to suggest the propriety of opening Some other Communication with Lake Erie, then that through Lake Ontario, by which Niagara Detroit &c. &c. may recive Supplys. in case of Necessity, for besides the Idea of the British haveing a Navel Superiorety in Lake ontario Should Niagara by any misfortune be taken; with it we must loose the whole Western World, unless Some other Communication is opened with it than at present.

This Communication may be made from Fort Pitt to Presque Isle, but I think the most Elligable is From Fort Pitt by Big Bever Creek Kishkuske and Cayahoga or Down the Rivers from: Fort Pitt to yallow Creek from thence by Tuscarawas to Cayahoga and Lake Erie.

But I wish to propose for Consideration a much more extensive plan, attended with very little additional expence and when considered in an extensive point of Vew I concive to be of very great consequence, Viz. to fix a post at the Mouth of the Cayahoga River; a 2d at the one mile portage between the Heads of the Cayahoga and Muskingum Rivers; a 3d at Tuscarawas; a 4th at the Forks of Muskingum; or Delleware Town; a 5th Near Wills Town; a Sixth near the Mouth of Muskingum; a 7th near the Hockhocking; an 8th on the great [Kanhawa]—Some Such Chain of Posts in that Quarter I conceive would give Such Encouragement not only to those who have lands on this Side the Ohio but also to Such as may obtain grants on the other Side; as would Induce Such Emigrations to that Quarter, that with in a few years the Country West of the Allegheny Mountains would not only be able to feed all our Garisons in the Western World, but render that Frontear perfectly Secure—The Savages about the Waters of the Mohawk Susquehannah Oswego and Ohio—when they See them Selves encompassed with forts and garisons would Undoubtedly behave very submissive or move further afeild.

The expence of Building these Post will be very Small, a good Stocade with proper Flankers will be abundantly sufficient in all instances except the one at the Mouth of the Cayahoga, which will require more attention, nor will it require any Considirable, if any, increase of Troops; as Fort Pitt and Some other Posts will require a less Number in this case then would be other wise necessery.

Haveing made these observations I will propose th[en] the following establishment for examination viz.

3 Regiments of Infentry

1 Regiment of Artillery

1 Company of Artificers

The Regiment of Artillery to consist of 12 Companys and in every other respect on their present establishment.

The Company of Artificers to be atached to the Artillery then establishment the same as at present.

In time of peace and especially when we are consulting Garison establishments, I See no Use for Light Companys if Light Troops are wanted on the Western—Frontear their Should be a pirticuler provision for it in the formation of the Corps designed for that Quarter—I have always ben of opinion that we have too many General Field & Staff officers on our presect establishment. Their numbers have ben Undoubtedly Increased through a kind of necessity Introduced by a repeated reduction of Regiments (but field officers have always ben too many) we have followed the British mode as to Numbers but it Seems have not only considered that a British Regt is Rarily commanded by its Colonel who are for the most part General officers and hold their Regts mearly as a Sinecure—for these reason among others I propose the following establishment for an American Regiment of Foot. One Regt of Foot to Consist of 1 Colonel, 2 Lieutent Colonels, 2 Majors, 16 Captains, 16 Lieutenants, 16 Ensignes, 1 Chaplin, 1 Adjutent, 1 Pay Master, 1 Qr Master, 1 Surgeon, 1 Mate, 1 Leut. Major, 1 Qr M. Serjeant, 1 Drum Major, 1 Fife Major, 80 Serjents, 16 Drumers, 16 Fifes, 1088 Rank & file.

This arrangement gives each company its present establishment of officers and men admits of 4 Battallions each Commanded by a Lieut. Colo. or Major and the whole commanded by a Colonel.—the following Schedule of Posts and Garrisons may further discover the propriety of Such arrangement Viz.

South Carolina & Georgia 4
Illinoue and Fort Massac 4
Fort Pitt 1
Mouth of Cayahoga 2
On the Waters of the Muskingum and Ohio 5
16 Companys 1 Regiment
Michilimacknac 4
Detroit 4
Niagara 4
Oswego 4
16 Company 1 Regiment
On Lake Champlain 4
Albany, Fort Stanwise, Lake George and the
Communacation in the Northn & Western Quarters 3
West Point and Dependencies 3
New York 2
Provence of Main 4
Total 48 companys, 3 Regt of [   ]

The following Disposition of the 12 artillery Companys may also Shew the propriety of their Establishment Viz.

At West Point 6 Companys
On Lake Champlain 1 Do
Provence of Main 1 Do
South Carolina & Georgia 1 Do
Oswego & Niagary 1 Do
Detroit & Michilemacknac 1 Do
Fort Pitt Cayahoga and
the Posts on that Frontier 1 Do
One Regiment 12 Do

The Company of Artificers may also be [considered] as fixed at West Point.

the Regimental Staff officer Viz. Adjutant Pay Master & Qr Master Should not belong to any of the Companys but in this respect their Establishment Should be the Same as at present.

The pay and Subsistence of the officers to be the Same as on the present establishment, except the Chaplin Surgeon and Mate which Should be lowered at least 25 p. Cent—Because I beleve it is Below the British or that of any other Nation when all their emoluments are taken into Consideration—because whoever engages as an officer on a Peace establishment, is Supposed to make Arms his Profession for life, and the present established pay and Subsistence is quite little enough to give Bread to a man agreably to the rank of life which an officer is Supposed to hold.

The pay of the Noncommissiond officers Should be the Same as at present, that of the privit Should not to exceed 5 dollors pr month or [1/6] of a dollar per Day. one third of the pay both of the Non commissioned officers and privits should be stoped to provide him with cloathing, the present Establishment of Cloathing will be necessery, for which he Shall pay a Stipulated price, and all avearages to be annually Setteled and paid.

The pay of officer and Soldier if posable to be made Weakly.

The officers, in the first Instence, to be taken in as near a proportion as posable from the Several States (not Rank but) age Merit abilities and constitution Should determin the Choice; but it ware to be wished that in future State lines may be totally laid aside, and in order to introduce Such a System, the pirticuler officers to Compleat the Established Regiments being fixed on; In the formation of those regiments, officers who Now Belong to different State lines; Should be Incorporated into the Same Coars as much as posable, this would be a means of removeing those Sevral prejudices among officrs which are too apt to prevail, and also would make the Distribution of the three years Men (now in service) among the Regiments thus formed; much more elligable—Such an arrangment of officers; Such an Incorporation of men; and Such a detaching them to the different parts of the Empire will I think be Some means of Uniteing and Sementing the whole.

Such an establishment as this (or Somthing like it) I [concive] may be Sufficient to guard against Surprize, prevent the progress of an enimy for a Time, especially on the first breaking onto a War, which is all that is to be expected from it, and all that in my opinion Congress ought to attempt by any establishment of Troops, to be always keept in pay.

To be ready to meet an enimy on the first Breaking out of a War with an Army of respectable Troops—their should be an Establishment of a regular Continantal Militia—A Scheme for which is next to be considered.

Propositions For the Establishment of A Continental Militia Submited to Consideration

First—All able bodied men between the age of 18 & 25 (or 20 & 25) years, other wise liable to bair Arms in the State Militia Trained Bands Shall be enrolled and liable to Serve in the Continental Militia.

2d The Field and Staff of each Regiment Shall Consist of 1 Colonel, 2 Lieut. Colonel, 2 Majors, 1 Adjutent, 1 Pay Master, 1 Qr Master, 1 Surgeon, 1 Mate, 1 Chaplin, 1 Leut. Majr, 1 Qr M. Sert 1 Drum Majr, 1 Fife Majr. 16 Compys be Divided into [   ] Battalls. Each company to consist of 1 Captain, 1 Lieutenent, 1 Ensigne, 5 Serjents, 3 Corporals, 1 Drumer, 1 Fifer, 65 Privets.

3d The Continantal Militia Shall Consist of 24 Such Regiments and will amount to 26,112 rank & file.

4th Congress Shall every Seven years make an asessment of this Body of Troops on the Several States on the same principels by which the Continantal Tax was laid the last year, preceeding Such [asessmt].

5th The Leglishlatures of each State Shall Divide their State in to as many Districts as they Shall have regiments assigned them. on Such principels as they Shall deam most equitable, the regimental Districts (by the Leglishlature, or by persons authorized by them for that purpos) Shall be Subdivided into that of Battallions, and these again into that of Companys districts; all which division Shall be made every Seven years: Viz. the next after that in which Congress Shall have made the assesment on the States.

6th the Company Districts being thus fixed the Captain or the commanding officer, shall annually between the 15th and 31st of December, make out a list, with the ages, of all the able Bodied men within his District Liable to Serve in the Continantal Militia, and haveing appointed his Serjent Coporals, Drumers & Fifers, he Shall Select Seventy of the youngest that remain on the aforesaid list (and return the names of the rest to the commanding officer of the State Militia Company with in whose district they respectively reside) Sixty five, of the Seventy taken as above, are to compose the privet of Such Company, for the ensuing year and the other five are to be considered as supenumerarys and liable to be called on duty (only) in case of Sickness Death or removel of any of the Fixed Company.

7th after the first Institution of the Company their will be no Necessity of Makeing an Intire New formation of it; the Commanding officer will have ocation, only to enroll Such as have arrived at the proper age (or being by age liable to Serve, within the preceeding year have become Inhabitent or residents within his District, which haveing Don the Disabled and next to them) those of the greatest age must be Discharged; till the Company is reduced to the Standerd and the same rule is to be pursued, for recruiting the Company both in peace and War.

8th by this scheme every able bodied man liable to bare arms, at 18 or 20 years of age becomes a Contin[ental] Soldier and it is posable that he may continue so for 5 or 7 years. but as the continantal Militia and the established regiments will not amount to more then 1/16 of the rateable polls and not more then 1/18 of those liable to Bair Arms. the pro[   ]bility is that no man will Serve more then three years at furthest.

9th the officrs Shall be appointed by the Govenors on executive athority of each State and commissioned by Congress in the Same [   ] Practiced at present in Continantal Army.

10th the officer shall take rank with the officers on the reguler continental establishment and their relative rank with them and one another Shall be ditermind on the Same principles.

11th the Regiments Shall be numbered (with out destintion of State) and take rank next after those on the reguler peace Establishment.

12 when ever these Troops are ordered out or to be [   ] by regiment or Battallions they Shall be under the same regulations and Subject to martial Law in the same maner as those on the Reegular Establishmt, and the Same Systim of disepline is also to govern them.

13th every Destrict of [forme] regiment Shall compose one grand division. within which Congress Shall appoint a Major General and the General Staff necessry.

14 All officers shall be Inhabitents of and residents within the district to which they are appointed, and a removal out of Such District Shall be deemed a resignation and Such officer Shall loose his rank or pretentions to rank Should he be after wards appointed to another District in the Same maner as if he had resigned.

15 In order to give life and Motion to this Complex Army, their must be one Commander in Cheif from whome all ordors respecting the Continantal Militia as well as the reguler Established Service Should Issue; the same in peace as in Time of War.

16th The Continantal Militia being thus formed they shall be liable in Companys or Squads, to Spend as many days in Military exersies and disepline as other Militia are liable to performe by Companys, and in Battallion, as many days as other State Militia are liable to perform by Regiments for which they shall recive no pay. and they shall always be provided with the Same arms accoutrements & as other Militia are by law liable too; in addition to which each man shall be provided with two white Hunting Shirts and two pair of White overhalls.

17th their Shall be one general place of randezvues and Deposet appointed for each Regiment where under the care of the Qr Master, Shall be lodged a Sufficient Quantity of arms acoutrements ammunition tents Camp equipage and one months provision for Such regiment furnished at the expense of the United States.

18th proper establishments Should be made for furnishing Teams when ever Necessary for the removel of these Stoars and transport of the Necessary Bagage of the Regiment and for makeing the Qr Master or Store keeper answerable for the due performance of the Trust reposed in him.

19th this Militia Shall anually take the field by divisions or Regiments Some time in the month of September, and Continue out thirty days dureing which period they shall perform all the Services and attend to the Minutia of Descipline the Same as an army ought to do in time of War.

20 When thus Imbodied they shall be furnished with public arms acoutrement &c.—receive the same rations and pay which is given to the regular Troops.

21 on the breaking out of the War (or when ever Congress Shall find it necessary to order it; they Shall take the field and March to any part of the Continent required, and every Noncommissoned and Soldier will be held to Service till he is 25 years of age unless Soon endischargd or released in the maner before provided.

22d In time of War or while these troops May be Called out in actual Service (except the 3 days before mentioned) they shall be Intiteled to all the pay Cloathing and other emoluments of the reguler regiment and the Noncommissioned officer and privets Shall beside these alotments receive as a Gratuity or Bounty annually five Dollars on the first day of January dureing their continuence in Service.

23d if a Man is allowed to provide a Substitute it Should not be for a Tearm less then that which he him Self is liable to Serve and in case of the removel or disertion of Such Substitute he must provide another orSserve in person.

24th the 24 Regiments in Noncommissend officers & privits will Consist of 28.066, the 3 regiments of regular Foot, 3654, this may be properly Stiled the peace [Establishmt] 31.720.

25 In time of War may be added to each Regt one Company of Light Infantry and 1 of [   ] 4050. Total of Foot in time of War—35770.

DLC: Papers of George Washington.

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