This is What Life was Like for Soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution
This is What Life was Like for Soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution

This is What Life was Like for Soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution

Larry Holzwarth - April 10, 2019

This is What Life was Like for Soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution
The soldiers of the Continental Army faced pay stoppages to replace lost or damaged equipment, which varied depending on their unit. Wikimedia

19. The Continental soldier was subject to fines despite infrequently being paid

By 1780 von Steuben’s regulations were in effect in all of the encampments of the Continental Army, though their efficiency was reliant on the ability of the officers imposing them. French supplied equipment, especially in the areas of arms and clothing, were becoming more readily available, at least to the main army under Washington, which was in encampments and fortifications around New York. The French maintained their main base in the United States at Newport, Rhode Island, and supplies passed between the armies both across Connecticut and along the coast line, protected by the French Navy and coastal forts.

The supplies issued to the troops were expected to be maintained properly, and marked with the initials of the owner as a deterrent to theft. Items which were missing at morning inspections were to be replaced, but the soldier who had lost the item was fined. Since the soldiers had no money to pay the fine because pay was irregularly distributed at best, the fine was entered into the books as a stoppage of pay for the amount of the fine. Losing a musket flint cost the soldier one twentieth of a dollar, loss of the musket itself resulted in a stoppage of fifteen dollars, over two months of a private’s pay. Losses of equipment due to lack of proper care on the part of the soldier responsible could also make him liable to military discipline.

This is What Life was Like for Soldiers of the Continental Army during the American Revolution
The Continental Army was vindicated at Yorktown, presenting a formidable fighting force supported by its French allies. Wikimedia

20. The Continental Army also provided written instructions individually to men of all ranks

By the time of the Franco-American victory at Yorktown, which effectively ended the hostilities of the Revolutionary War, the soldiers known as Continentals were members of a professionally officered army, with written instructions (by von Steuben) as to how they should comport themselves at all times. Since a significant portion of the Continental Army was unable to read, the instructions were read to them by an officer or non-commissioned officer. A soldier was instructed to “dress himself with a soldier like air”, and to “wash his linen and cook his provisions”. They were instructed to “acquaint himself with the usual beats and signals of the drum, and instantly obey them”.

The Continental Army began disbanding before the British evacuated New York, but enough regiments remained in place along the Hudson River for the Army to be led by the only commander it had throughout its existence, George Washington, into New York on November 25, 1783. Efforts by the troops to obtain their back pay and other promised inducements met varying levels of success. In 1818 Joseph Plumb Martin applied for a war pension for his service during the Revolutionary War and succeeding in obtaining a pension of $96 per year (about $1,800 in 2018). His service with the Continental Army had included the Battles of Long Island, Harlem Heights, Germantown, Monmouth Court House, and Yorktown, as well as others during the war. Only at Yorktown had he seen the Continental Army clearly prevail.

 

Where do we find this stuff? Here are our sources:

“The Gunpowder Shortage”. Jimmy Dick, Journal of the American Revolution. September 9, 2013″

“The Siege of Boston”. Donald Barr Chidsey. 1966

“The Continental Army”. Robert K. Wright, Center of Military History, U.S. Army. 1983. Online

“General George Washington: A Military Life”. Edward G. Lengel. 2005

“Supplying Washington’s Army”. Erna Risch, Center of Military History, U.S. Army. 1981. Online

“Rebels and Redcoats: The American Revolution Through the Eyes of Those who Fought and Lived it”. Edited by Hugh F. Rankin. 1987

“Washington takes command of Continental Army in 1775”. Article, Center of Military History, U.S. Army. June 5, 2014. Online

“Revolutionary Rangers: Daniel Morgan’s Riflemen and their Role on the Northern Frontier”. Richard B. LaCrosse Jr. 2002

“1776”. David McCullough. 2005

“A Narrative of a Revolutionary War Soldier: Some of the Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin”. Joseph Plumb Martin.

“Washington Inoculates an Army: The Continental Army Battles an Invisible Foe”. Article, American Battlefield Trust. Online

“Frequently Asked Questions: Morristown National Historical Park”. National Park Service. Online

“The Magnificent Fraud”. Thomas Fleming, American Heritage Magazine. February/March 2006

“Battle of Stony Point”. Michael J. F. Sheehan, George Washington’s Mount Vernon. Online

“The Southern Campaign of the American Revolution”. Cowpens National Battlefield. National Park Service. Online

“The Southern Theater of the American Revolution 1775-1783”. Article, American Battlefield Trust. Online

“Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States”. Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. 1794 edition.

“Outfitting an American Revolutionary Soldier”. J. Lloyd Durham, Tar Heel Junior Historian. Fall 1992

“Voice of the Common American Soldier: Joseph Plumb Martin”. Article, American Battlefield Trust. Online

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