The Continental Army of 1781

The final plan for the Continental Army in 1781 called for 61 regimental equivalents. States supporting the Southern Department furnished , on paper, 21 infantry regiments, 1 artillery regiment, 2 legionary corps, and 1 partisan corps. Washington expected the Main Army to have the services of 29 infantry regiments (including Hazen's oversized unit), 3 artillery regiments, 2 legionary corps, and 1 partisan corps, plus the companies of sappers and miners, the Marechaussee Corps, the Corps of Invalids, and his guard . The total of 61 also included the dispersed artificer regiment. Implementation of the reorganization took place officially on 1 January 1781.

State Infantry Regiments Artillery Regiments Legionary Corps Partisan Corps Artificer Regiments Total Regiments
New Hampshire 2 - - - - 2
Massachusetts 10 1 - - - 11
Rhode Island 1 - - - - 1
Connecticut 5 - 1 - - 6
New York 2 1 - - - 3
New Jersey 2 - - - - 2
Pennsylvania 6 1 1 - 1 9
Maryland 5 - - - - 5
Delaware 1 - - - - 1
Virginia 8 1 2 - - 11
North Carolina 4 - - - - 4
South Carolina 2 - - - - 2
Georgia 1 - - - - 1
Unallotted 1 - - 2 - 3
Total 50 4 4 2 1 61

The careful plans of October 1780 for sixty-one regimental equivalents divided into two major commands thus did not materialize. Washington's Main Army and subsidiary commands in the north lost the services of the 2d Partisan Corps as well as Pennsylvania's legionary corps, artillery regiment, and 6 infantry regiments when these units moved to the badly depleted Southern Department. The latter never obtained the 7 infantry regiments projected for Georgia and the Carolinas, and it had the services of only 1 of 8 Virginia and 2 of 6 Maryland and Delaware infantry regiments. None of the Pennsylvania troops, moreover, reached the area during the first part of 1781. When they did arrive, Greene's single artillery regiment amounted to crews for just a handful of fieldpieces; his two legionary corps operated as a small cavalry regiment; and of the two partisan corps, only Lee's remained fit for combat. On the other hand , the regiments serving in the Continental Army in 1781 contained very experienced cadres. The reorganization left only the most competent officers and produced units with very efficient organizations. During 1781 those troops would engage in the war's decisive campaigns.

INFANTRY - The congressional plan continued the basic regimental alignment of one light and eight line companies, all equal in size. It added three enlisted men to each company and left the number of officers unchanged . Washington, however, persuaded Congress to make substantial alterations. Each regiment's three field officers-colonel, lieutenant colonel, and major, or lieutenant-colonel commandant and two majors-now no longer served as company commanders. This change enlarged the pool of field -grade officers for special assignments and significantly increased the number of captains within each regiment. Every company could expect to have three officers present in combat. Two additional sergeants, one for the first time officially designated the first sergeant, and another corporal joined each company. The number of privates in a regiment [i.e., company] increased from fifty-three to sixty-four. Four extra lieutenants joined the staff to fill the permanent positions of paymaster, adjutant, quartermaster, and recruiter. The regimental recruiter remained in his home state with a drummer and a fifer and worked full time to secure replacements. Extra lieutenants were available because of the reduced number of regiments; they also filled positions left vacant by the shortage of ensigns. The rank and file strength of each company, the true measure of unit fighting power, had increased by slightly more than 20 percent, from 56 to 68 men. Officer and sergeant strength increases promised better control. A regiment engaging in combat at full strength could deploy 544 rank and file (120 percent of the 1778 figure), 40 sergeants, 24 company officers, and 3 field officers. Although the new regiment did not regain the power of the 1776 regimental arrangement, it was substantially better organized and more efficient than the typical British regiment.

ARTILLERY - The new artillery regiment gained eleven enlisted men, all matrosses, in each company but had fewer companies. The number of staff and company officers did not change. Congress initially planned to have 9 companies per regiment, but Washington convinced the delegates that 10 companies would simplify administration. Although the number of artillery companies in the Army dropped to 40 (in 4 regiments), the number of matrosses rose sharply from 1,344 to 1,560. Congress allotted the regiments to Virginia, New York, Massachusetts, and Pennsylvania, the states which had been their primary recruiting areas in the past. The 1st and 3d Continental Artillery Regiments converted to the new structure through attrition. Lamb's 2d , a very strong regiment, and Proctor's 4th , with only eight companies, presented more of a problem. Lamb had been engaged in a long-standing argument with Pennsylvania over controlling his men from that state. Washington consolidated the two companies of the 2d which had been raised in Pennsylvania with Gibbs Jones' separate company and Isaac Coren's company of laboratory technicians in the Regiment of Artillery Artificers. The two resulting companies transferred to the 4th , bringing both regiments to the ten-company limit.

MOUNTED UNITS - In the case of the four light dragoon regiments, Congress proposed only minor changes, adding five privates to each troop. Bearing in mind current forage problems and the success of experiments of the 2d and 4th regiments, Washington countered with a very different proposal. Under his plan each regiment would dismount two troops, thus turning the regiment into a European-style legionary corps. The infantry contingent gave each regiment the ability to defend its quarters. The savings from eliminating over one hundred horses plus specialized equipment per regiment also argued for the change. As in the case of the artillery regiments, these legionary corps were allocated to their original recruiting areas. Washington made one further recommendation with respect to mounted units. He stated , "Tho' in general I dislike independent Corps, I think a Partisan Corps with an Army useful in many respects. Its name and destination [mission] stimulate to enterprize." Congress approved the retention of one for the Main Army and one for the Southern Army, under Lt. Col. Henry Lee and Colonel Armand , respectively. Although similar in most respects to a legionary corps, the partisan corps had a troop organization that was quite different. Each troop had only 50 privates, and 3 of the 6 troops were dismounted . The latter variation made the corps more self-reliant, allowing it to operate at a greater distance from its army than a legionary corps.

Connecticut Line

Delaware Line

  • Kirkwood 's Delaware Battalion
    • Commanded by Captain Robert Kirkwood
    • ReOrganized on Sep 03 1780 into two companies under Captains Robert Kirkwood and Peter Jaquett
    • Furloughed Jan. 1783
    • Disbanded Nov. 1783

Georgia Line

Maryland Line

Massachusetts Line

New Jersey Line

New Hampshire Line

New York Line

North Carolina Line

Pennsylvania Line

Rhode Island Line

Virginia Line

  • The Virginia Battalion
    • Commanded by Lt. Col. Thomas Posey
    • Formed in Feb 1781 with personnel who had managed to escape capture at Charleston
  • 1st Virginia Regiment
    • Commanded by Col. ?; Established in May 1782 from the Virginia Battalion
  • 2d Virginina Regiment
    • Commanded by Col. ?; Established in May 1782

Additional Regiments

Artillery Units

  • 1st Continental Artillery Regiment
    • Commanded by Col. Harrison
    • Furloughed June 1783
    • Disbanded Jan. 1784
  • 2d Continental Artillery Regiment
    • Commanded by Col. ?
    • Furloughed June 1783
    • Disbanded Jan. 1784
  • 3d Continental Artillery Regiment
    • Commanded by Col. ?
  • 4th Continental Artillery Regiment
    • Commanded by Col. ?
    • Furloughed June 1783
    • Disbanded Jan. 1784

Mounted Units

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