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Council of War



At a Council of War held at Head-Quarters, October 8, 1775, present: His Excellency General Washington; Major-Generals Ward, Lee, Putnam; Brigadier-Generals Thomas, Spencer, Heath, Sullivan, Greene, Gates.

His Excellency having, on the 5th instant, proposed sundry questions, in writing, to each of the Members of the Council, now requested their opinion on the several matters referred to their consideration.

1st. What number of men are sufficient for a winter' s campaign?

Unanimously agreed, that the Army ought not to consist of less than twenty thousand three hundred and seventy-two men, and that it will be proper to form it into twenty-six Regiments, exclusive of Riflemen and Artillery; that each Regiment consist of seven hundred and twenty-eight men, officers included. Each Company to be officered with one Captain, two Lieutenants, and one Ensign, and to contain four Sergeants, four Corporals, two Drums or Fifes, and seventy-six Privates; which Army is deemed sufficient both for offensive and defensive measures. That the Adjutant and Quartermaster of each Regiment have also a subaltern commission.


2d. Can the pay of the Privates be reduced? How much?

Unanimously agreed, that the pay cannot be reduced at present.

3d. What rations should be allowed the men? and for such small articles as the Commissary at times cannot furnish, shall they be compensated in money or provisions?

Unanimously agreed, that the present allowance of provisions ought to stand. And agreed by a majority, that the compensation be made in money.

4th. What regulations are further necessary for the government of the Forces?

This question being so general, the Members of the Council were not prepared to give their sentiments. Whereupon his Excellency desired they would particularly attend to the Articles and Regulations of the Continental Army, and suggest such alterations and improvements as they should deem necessary.

5th. For how long a time ought the men in the present Army (should we set about enlisting them) be engaged?

Unanimously agreed, to the 1st December, 1776; but to be sooner discharged if necessary.

6th. What method would you recommend as most eligible to clothe the new-raised Army with a degree of decency and regularity? Would you advise it to be done by the Continent? In that case, would you lower the men' s wages, and make no deduction for clothing, or let it stand, and make stoppages? and how much per month?

Agreed, that each General Officer clothe a person according to his own fancy and judgment, and then the best dress to be selected as a model. That the clothing be provided by the Continent, and paid for by stoppages of ten Shillings per month.

7th. As there appears great irregularity in the manner of paying the men, and much discontent has prevailed on that account, in what manner and at what fixed periods would you advise it to be done, under a new enlistment?

The Members of the Council, upon this question, were equally divided, viz:

For payment per month — Greene, Sullivan, Heath, Lee, Washington.

For payment per three months — Gates, Spencer, Thomas, Putnam, Ward.

8th. What sized Regiments would you recommend under this establishment; that is, how many men to a Company, how many Companies to a Regiment, and how officered?

This question answered under the first.

9th. Is there any method by which the best of the present officers in the Army can be chosen, without impeding the enlistment of the men by such choice and preference? Under any complete establishment, even if all the privates in the Army were engaged again, many of the present officers must be discharged, as there is an over proportion; of course, we ought to retain the best.

This question being of a very difficult and delicate nature, the several Members requested further time to consider it.

10th. Whether it will be advisable to enlist any negroes in the new Army? or whether there be a distinction between such as are slaves and those who are free?

Agreed, unanimously, to reject all slaves, and, by a great majority, to reject negroes altogether.



* Battalion men, eighteen thousand nine hundred and twenty-eight; Rifle and Artillery men, one thousand four hundred and forty-four — twenty thousand three hundred and seventy-five men.