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The Army to Free a Nation essay

In the years prior to America’s freedom from British Tyranny the colonists had been forced to put up with numerous acts of intolerable conduct from the British Parliament. Fed up with the second-class treatment from those who were supposedly equals the colonists began to fight back, subtle at first, and then with outright defiance. When the British pushed back and began their conquest to remain in control of their ‘sister’ state the colonies formed what would be known throughout the world as one of the most renowned armies of all time. This ragged mass of men who wanted nothing more then the freedom to govern themselves as they saw fit managed a feat that too this day is considered extraordinary. This essay is an examination of that army and what made it exceptional for it’s time.

Before the formation of the army nearly every colony had a ready militia. These men were a tattered group of volunteering individuals assigned to the protection of the colony. Almost none had any experience in an organized military force and were generally unorganized in their methods of protection. Practically all the militiamen were skilled with their rifle due to the numerous encounters with Indians throughout the years. These proficiencies with the rifle and the tactics used to defeat the Indians would later be the factor that helped turn the tide of the war.

The Continental Army developed from the militia groups common among the colonies. When war began in the Massachusetts Bay colony in April of 1775, the colonists who gathered to face the British regulars were only militiamen. Four days of the battles of Lexington and Concord the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, voted to raise an army of the 30,000 men and requested the other New England colonies to join in this effort.

The New England colonies then began forming from their various militias a volunteer army enlisted for the rest of the year. In June the Continental Congress took over the New England army surrounding Boston and reinforced it with companies from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, the first soldiers drawn from outside New England. Congress thereby created the Continental Army.
The men comprising this army had never held a rank higher then colonel. The majority of their tactics were based off those perfected by the British regulars, and thus were ineffective in major confrontations. The major advantages that the Continental Army had over the British was fighting on their home soil and the ability to use their own tactics. Guerilla warfare was nothing new to the colonists as they fought the Indians on numerous occasions, and rarely was it in an open field. The opportunity to use these conveniently unknown methods against the British was a key tactic in the success of the Continental Army and the eventually victory of the war.

In every war psychology is a prime factor in determining the fate of the men. Morale is the term used when discussing the psychological readiness of men to participate. For the soldiers of the Continental Army there was little to excite the men into fighting a battle. Lack of food and clothes, no pay, and drab weather was taking its toll and the war officials new it. Something was required that all the men would recognize and all would look up too.

On July 29th, 1775 the Continental Congress officially established the position of Chaplain in the Continental Army. Only four chaplains were initially appointed, three of whom fought alongside their soldiers. The Chaplains in the Revolutionary war represented the denominational stance of the nation and aided in reminding the soldier what they were fighting for; the freedom of theirs nation.
Chaplains were only able to go so far though in keeping the morale of the troops high. The winter of 1777 had General George Washington and his troops forced from Philadelphia into Valley Forge for the winter months. An excellent choice for defense, with only one route to and from the valley Washington and his men seemed secure. Only, the men were tired, hungry, and poorly clothed. Broken supply chains had caused lack of proper and much needed supplies and equipment. Men were forced to live in inadequate makeshift houses with poor ventilation and insulation. The freezing temperatures gave many of the soldiers frostbite and amputations of limbs were not an uncommon site.

By this time the soldiers were unorganized and rowdy. Lack of discipline was prevalent as the men were selling arms, gambling, and walking on and off of camp grounds. Washington was in dire need of some assistance in re-building his army. In early spring the general found his way to re-train his men in the art of war, and take back what was rightfully theirs.

Friedrich Wilhelm Ludolf Gerhard Augustin Stuebe, otherwise known as Baron von Steuben had been applying for positions in the Continental Army after serving in the Prussian. With the aid of Benjamin Franklin and Silas Deane the Baron was able to get an appointment with Congress. Applying for the job of Inspector General of the Army, von Steuben came highly recommended and impressed the members of Congress. Being coached on what to say and when, he was able to secure a position among the finalists to be presenting to the Congress. After agreeing to take the position with no salary but expenses paid for, he was brought on.

Steuben has been called history’s only popular drillmaster. The men loved his curt manner, his cursing in shoddy English and his hands-on-style of demonstrating every move personally. He created his own method of arms and drill to fit the American situation. Simplicity was the essence. There were other factors coming together to boost morale and send sagging spirits soaring. Most important, France entered the war as an ally of the new nation. Within weeks, everyone could see a new aptitude and pride among the formerly dispirited and un-disciplined men.

During the time in Valley Forge the there were some who wanted to replace Washington as general. These individuals were basing their opinions on Washington’s success, or lack of. Other then his minor triumph at Trenton and Princeton Washington had lost every battle with the British. Compared to General Horatio Gates whom was much more victorious and illustrious, Washington seemed a poor choice to lead the armies. Congress thought differently though as they viewed how he commanded the men and how they revered him.

The Continental Army, 30,000 men fighting to defend their fledgling nation. History was made that day, April 19th when at Lexington the first shots of the Revolutionary War rang through the world. The men who laid their lives down for our country will be remembered for the rest of our days. This nation would not be what it is today without the sacrifice and struggle made by those who wanted a better place for their future generations. Those very men were what made up the Continental Army. That army is what defeated the British. That victory is what helped define a nation. These extraordinary feats and victories under impossible odds are what make the Continental Army exceptional.

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