Archiver > AMERICAN-REVOLUTION > 2000-03 > 0953183191

From: "Ed St.Germain" <>
Subject: [A-REV] Re: Continental Line/Militia/State Troops
Date: Wed, 15 Mar 2000 21:06:31 -0800

This is probably in the list archives, but here goes again:

>From Berg's Encyclopedia:

Continental Line:

After about 1777 one usually finds the infantry regiments of the
Continental Army referred to as the Continental
Line, thus implying these regiments would form a line of battle in
defense of the thirteen rebel colonies of the continent. This is what is

normally meant by the term Continental Line. The states' con tingents of
infantry which would compose this line were often referred
to individually as the Massachusetts Line or the North Carolina Line,
etc. Promotions were determined by seniority within one's state
contingent rather than within the Continental Line as a whole.

This term "Continental Line" was rather loosely used, however, for in
some correspondence, not just infantry, but cavalry and artillery
of a state's contingent are also referred to as part of the Continental
Line or one of its segments. Also the term "State Line" was also
used to describe the state's contingent to the Continental Line.
Unfortunately the term "State Line" was also used to distinguish state
troops (which see) from Continentals so it is not always clear what is
meant when one runs across designations like "Pennsylvania
State Line" or "Line of this state" in old records.


Almost all able bodied males in the thirteen colonies were required by
law to be enrolled in the militia of their colony. Each
militiamen was required to have either a musket or a rifle, ammunition,
and either a bayonet, sword, or tomahawk. Some colonies
specified other items as well and militia officers and cavalry were of
course required to have appropriate equipment.

American militia were supposed to serve without pay, for short periods
of time only, and only within their own state. They were to
have inspection and drill periodically. The militia were generally
organized into county or multicounty regiments and parish or town
companies in the English tradition. In urban areas elite volunteer
militia units existed in 1775, notably the Massachusetts Cadets, the
Honorable Artillery Company of Boston, the Connecticut Governor's Foot
Guard, the Rhode Island Train of Artillery, New York
dragoon, infantry, and artillery units, and several corps in
Philadelphia. These volunteer companies, although most never saw active
service, furnished basic training to several notable Continental

Generally, however, the American militia system varied from theory.
Drill and inspection, except possibly in Virginia, were seldom
held. The militiamen rarely mobilized in accord with their old county
regiment system. Usually they were paid (at least in theory) by
either Congress or their state for service and sometimes they were
called out for long term service and service in other states.

The American militia was fairly effective, however. From out of the mass
of common militia, minuteman or alarm companies who had
their full equipment and were ready to use it on short notice were
formed. Other militia men volunteered to fight and formed
volunteer tactical organizations for field service when danger
threatened or sometimes when the bounty was high for doing so. Some
militia performed valiantly in the field and the riflemen from the
frontiers of Virginia and the Carolinas were fierce opponents to the
British, once driven to espouse the rebel cause.

On the whole, American militia were well armed. Almost everyone
reporting for field service had a gun of some sort and this made
the militia potent if well led and commanded. The Continental Army was a
major factor in the winning of independence, but so were
the numbers of militia which the rebel states' governments controlled.

State Troops

State troops may be defined as those troops who: 1) were raised at state
initiative to defend that state or colony primarily
2) were paid and equipped by that state 3) were intended for full time
service over a long period of time 4) looked to the state
government for their orders. Unfortunately for the historian, very few
so-called state troops comply with all four parts of this
definition. Some state troops were sent out of their state for prolonged
periods. Some were never paid by anyone. Some were not
full-time troops. Some even served under Continental officers. There
were, nevertheless, some troops who simply were not Continental
troops and were not considered as militia either. A few words about
these state troops seems in order as they often cooperated with
the Continentals and are sometimes confused with them by writers. The
brief state by state survey which follows is not intended as the
last word on the state forces, but it is hoped it will be of value to
the reader.

CONNECTICUT Bradley's Battalion of Connecticut State Troops.
May-December, 1776.

GEORGIA In June, 1781 Jackson's Georgia Legion was raised to serve one
year. It was to consist of 1 lieutenant colonel
commandant, 1 major, 6 captains, 8 lieutenants, 1 sergeant major, 1
quartermaster sergeant, 1 saddler, 100 horsemen in three
companies of dragoons, and 100 infantry in two companies. Each company
was to have 3 noncommissioned officers and 1 musician.
In January, 1782 the cavalry was cut to one troop of 40 privates.
Disbanded August, 1782.

MARYLAND In January, 1776 Smallwood's Regiment (which see), 7
independent infantry companies of 100 men each, 2 mattross
companies, and 1 marine company were raised by the state. Smallwood's
Regiment entered the Continental service that summer, the
infantry companies that December. The mattrosses were reorganized as 3
companies during the autumn with men enlisted for the war.
In June, 1777 it was provided that Continental companies could be
organized from the men of the state mattrosses and in October,
1777 many of the mattrosses entered the Continental service under
Captains Brown and Dorsey. In July, 1779 the remaining state
mattrosses were sent to join the Main Army. In October, 1780 a 27 man
cavalry troop and a 33 man infantry company were to be
raised in Somerset and Worcester Counties by the state.

MASSACHUSETTS In mid-1776 the state raised two infantry regiments and a
train of artillery of seven companies to serve one year
(later raised to three years). Coastguards were also raised. In July,
1777 two more regiments were raised to serve in Rhode Island. On
February 29, 1779 the artillery was cut to three companies and in April,
1780 to one.

NEW HAMPSHIRE Information is fragmentary, but by the end of 1775 there
were two companies of artillery and in August, 1776
there is mention of Gilman's State Regiment. Also various assorted

NEW JERSEY On February 13, 1776 the East and West Artillery Companies
were created. They were absorbed into the Continental
service in 1777. In November, 1776 a brigade under Brigadier General
Williamson of four battalions was enlisted for five months. The
brigade is generally considered militia. On September 24, 1777 a new
state artillery company was raised. On December 26, 1780,
twelve companies of volunteer militia were called for one year to defend
the frontiers and a smaller number for the same period on
December 15, 1781.

NEW YORK Hamilton's Artillery Company (and perhaps others) was raised in
1776 as a state unit. Various ranger companies served
during the war.

NORTH CAROLINA At various times between 1776-1779 there existed a state
infantry regiment and a few troops of light horse. In
1781-82 there was a State Legionary Corps.

PENNSYLVANIA In the spring of 1776 Atlee's State Battalion of Musketry,
Miles' State Rifle Regiment of two battalions, and
Proctor's State Artillery Company were raised and served through the
year. In early 1777 there was a state artillery regiment and a
state infantry regiment. The two regiments were taken into Continental
service in July and November, 1777 respectively.

RHODE ISLAND August 15, 1775 a regiment of 500 men was raised to defend
the state for one year. Later a watch company was
added. By the end of February, 1776 the state troops had been increased
to two regiments, each of 750 men in twelve companies (one
regiment also had an artillery company), who were to serve one year.
During 1776 these two regiments were paid by Congress.
December 10, 1776 state troops were to be a brigade of two infantry
regiments, each of 750 men in eight companies, and one artillery
regiment of 300 men in five companies, all to serve fifteen months.
December 19, 1777 these men's service commitments were
extended another fifteen months. On June 16, 1779 an infantry battalion
of 930 men in nine companies, a light infantry battalion of
four companies, and an artillery regiment were enlisted for one year.
They mustered out in May, 1780.

SOUTH CAROLINA In April, 1781 two regiments of regular light horse were
to be raised by Colonel Henry Hampton and Colonel
Middleton respectively. During the spring of 1782 Mayham's Legion was
also a state unit.

VIRGINIA From the summer of 1775 there were regimental-size bodies of
state troops and minutemen. In 1776 various independent
state troops of horse and foot were raised. They were discharged at
year's end. Later state troops included the following corps. The 1
st thru 3rd State Infantry Regiments were created in 1777 although only
the 1st was fairly well organized, the 2nd and 3rd being
pooled to form one battalion in January, 1778. Captain Decrome de la
Porte and other officers of French descent were authorized to
raise an independent corps in April, 1777 by the state. This French
Company was in garrison at Williamsburg until August, 1778 when
it seems to have been incorporated into the State Infantry Regiments.
Marshall's State Artillery Regiment was raised in June, 1777
with a strength of ten companies. Marshall's Artillery Regiment served
until 1781. Muter's Garrison Regiment consisting of eight
companies was raised in June, 1778 to guard the harbor forts. Colonel
Francis Taylor's Convention Guard Regiment was created in
January, 1779 and actually raised in August of that year. This
Convention Guard Regiment was probably the same as the Albemarle
County Battalion (which see). Major John Nelson's State Cavalry Regiment
was raised in May, 1779. It consisted of four troops, one of
which was apparently detached to the Continental service in December
while acting as prison guards.

The Western Regiments consisted of George Rogers Clarke's seven-company
Illinois Regiment of 1779 and Crockett's Regiment of ten
companies that served from early 1780 until sometime in 1782. John
Rogers 35-man troop of Illinois Dragoons served alongside
Clarke's Regiment during 1779-82 while a corps of Indian fighters under
Major Slaughter was associated with Crockett's Regiment. In
1780 a detachment of the Garrison Regiment, Cavalry, and Artillery was
sent south under Colonel Porterfield where it was cut to
pieces at Camden. In 1781 the remnants of the 1st and 2nd State
Infantry, the Cavalry, Artillery, and Garrison Regiment were all
grouped under Lieutenant Colonel Charles Dabney.

On March 20, 1781 Alexander Spotswood was appointed brigadier general
over two units to be raised by the state, but mobilized only
in the case of invasion or threatened invasion of the state. The two
legions commanded by Lieutenant Colonels John Taylor and
Everhard Mead respectively, were each to consist of six infantry
companies and one cavalry troop, each company and troop having
100 men. During the turmoil of the year 1781, Spotswood's Legions were
never called out, but the remnants of the old regular state
regiments were present at Yorktown where they formed a provisional State
Regiment. In January, 1782 the remnants of the old State
Regiments were formed into Dabney's Virginia State Legion of three
infantry companies, two troops of cavalry, and one small
company of artillery. During 1782 Spotswood's Legions faded from
existence, having never been properly mobilized. Dabney's State
Legion of regulars continued to exist until it was disbanded by the
state on April 24, 1783 after which time one troop of these state
regulars was retained to guard the Virginia stores until late 1783 when
they too were dismissed.

Best regards,

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