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To the Members of the Convention of Virginia



Williamsburgh, July 29, 1775.

GENTLEMEN: I am a man who has spent some part of my life between the barracks and camp, therefore have contracted a natural, love for military parade. To indulge my foible, I went the other day to see one of your independent companies go through the Prussian exercise, as they called it; when, behold, all that I saw was their forming six deep, by the rear half files facing to the right about, and marching eighteen paces to the rear. This, with rest, order, open your files to the right and left, with the slow parade motions of prime and load, was (as I understood) to constitute the whole; and you may call it Prussian exercise, if you please, but if I have any judgment, it is mere burlesque on all exercise. Upon inquiry why the regular Prussian discipline was not adopted, I was told by the man that was to teach them, that he could not tell off a Battalion; that is, he could not put them through their firings. If this be the case, as I have great reason to believe it is, (not only so with that company, but many others in the Colony,) that many who pretend to teach the Prussian exercise never saw a Battalion told off in their lives, according to the Prussian method of firing, and if they did, their low stations in the ranks rendered it impossible for them ever to know any thing but what belonged to their own sub or grand division. If so, what must those companies propose to themselves by the mode of exercise they have adopted, in case of emergency? Each company might be formed into a battalion, and to lead a body of brave men, with such counterfeit discipline, to face a disciplined enemy, would, in my opinion, be downright murder. Let us not plume ourselves with this conceit, that we shall always have the bush to fight behind; for, in the different services of war in this Country, there will be passes to be guarded or forced; bridges to be crossed or defended; trenches to be guarded or formed; streets to be cleared; and sometimes squares to be formed: in all which cases, bushing it would be of little or no use; and to send undisciplined Troops on such service would be absurd indeed. The native courage of the Americans, and their knowledge of the woods, with an early use of fire-arms, has rendered them superiour in the woods to any Troops in Europe, and, if under regular discipline, might be as famous in the field. But it may be observed and said, we want men of knowledge in such cases to instruct us. First, clear yourselves of those caterpillars that poison the military blossoms of your first endeavours, and leave only a smoky webful of excrements behind. Next, advise those bookish theorists to lay by their Christ-Cross-Row; for he who learns the trade of war by book, will find himself to seek when on actual service. Then give proper encouragement to men of abilities, (for such there are amongst ye,) who may lay a foundation for ye that may make ye one day or other become as great in arms as Rome of old. Knowing I must rise or fall with this Country in the general struggle for liberty, were I to lie dormant on the occasion, I should count myself highly culpable, for the gracious acceptance of the poor widow' s offering emboldens me to cast in my mite. My station, when in the Army in Europe last war, rendered it necessary for me to be thoroughly acquainted with all parts of the Prussian infantry and artillery exercise; I therefore freely offer my poor service to the publick. Those gentlemen who choose to employ me, may hear of me by directing a line to the care of Mr˙ Edmund Day, of Southampton, or Mr˙ Elisha Copeland, of Nansemond County for the publick' s humble servant,