This article contains fast facts and information about the Continental Army. What did the uniforms of the Continental Army look like? Definition of Continental Army: The Continental Army was the regular army of America established by the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775, with George Washington as Commander-in-Chief, that was initially formed in the Boston area after fighting against the British broke out at the Battle of Lexington and the Battle of Concord in 1775. The soldiers who made up the Continental Army came from the thirteen colonies that became the United States of America. There was no standing army at the outbreak of the Revolutionary war - each colony had relied upon the local militia who were made up of part time soldiers. The outbreak of the American Revolutionary war meant that the Continental Congress needed to organize an armed force of American soldiers as quickly as possible to fight in the conflict against the British.
The Continental Army v the British Army
The Continental Army was established by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. The Continental Army, under the command of George Washington, was created to coordinate the military efforts of the 13 Colonies in their rebellion against British rule. The soldiers who made up the Continental Army had no formal military experience, they had no uniforms, there were no established regiments and commanders and there were limited firearms. They were faced with fighting the British who had many advantages over the American Continental Army:
- The British had a well established standing army - the Continental Army did not
- The British had a well established navy - the Continental Army did not
- The British had ample quantities of powder, guns, and clothing - the Continental Army did not
- The British army of Redcoats was well disciplined and well trained - the Continental Army was not. America had not had the time to co-ordinate their Continental Army
- The British were well supported by German mercenaries, called Hessians, who provided an additional 30,000 troops and made up a quarter of the armed forces of Great Britain - the Continental Army had no such allies at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, they were supported by local forces of militia
The Continental Army, Continental Navy and the Continental Marines
The Continental Army were the obvious underdogs and faced difficult times. However, the Continental Army did have some advantages over the British army. Their soldiers knew the terrain and could make us of this knowledge using defensive tactics. The Continental Army also had many great Leaders and Military Commanders including George Washington, Nathanael Greene, John Stark, Benedict Arnold, Daniel Morgan and Anthony Wayne. On October 13, 1775 The Second Continental Congress established the Continental Navy. On November 10, 1775 the Continental Congress established the Continental Marines. The combined American forces fought the British in the many Revolutionary Battles.
Enlistment of Continental Army
The American soldiers of the Continental Army came from all walks of life. The Continental Congress raised the first 10 companies of Continental soldiers based on a basis of a one-year enlistment. Riflemen and Sharpshooters from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia were used as light infantry and later became the 1st Continental Regiment in 1776. The enlistment period of the soldiers in the Continental Army was later extended to three years. The troops who served in the Revolutionary Army were volunteers and although they were paid but the Americans were generally motivated by their strong sense of Patriotism.
How the Continental Army Evolved
The Continental Army evolved during the Revolutionary War.
The Continental Army of 1775, comprised of the initial New England Army was organized by George Washington into:
- 3 divisions
- 6 brigades
- 38 regiments
The Continental Army of 1776, was organized into:
The Continental Army of 1777 - 1780, was organized into:
- One-battalion regiments from each of the 13 colonies, the number of soldiers in proportion to the population
- George Washington was given authority by Congress to raise an additional 16 battalions
The Continental Army of 1781 - 1782 experienced difficulties replacing the troops whose 3 year enlistment period had expired but George Washington still managed to secure important strategic victories
- 40% - 45% of American colonists supported the revolution
- 15% - 20% of American colonists were loyalists
- The remaining colonists took a neutral stance
- The Continental Army of 1783 - 1784, was succeeded by the United States Army
The Uniforms worn by the Continental Army
When the Continental Army was established the soldiers had no uniforms. In 1775 the Continental Congress adopted brown as the official color for uniforms but there was a shortage of brown cloth, so some regiments used the colors of blue or gray. Congress did not adopt an official uniform until 1779 but the different regiments in Continental Army attempted to have consistency in their uniforms. The militia, including the Minutemen, had no uniform at all. Instead, they dressed in hunting shirts. Consequently the pictures and paintings of the uniforms worn in the Continental Army show a variety of colors and different styles.