Photo of Revolutionary War vetern Fisley
The Militia Declaration
NJ paper money signed by John Hart
Transportation of supplies in the 18th Century
Corn bread receipe
Private Fisley, one of the last surviving Revolutionary War Veterans. That is one big hat!
Outwater's Militia has taken a leading role in having the militia used as militia. Here is a multi-unit declaration published so that the reenacting community knows what we are about.
Militia were established by Provincial and State Laws, and existed before, during and after the American Revolution. Although Militia laws varied, essentially every free male between the ages of 16 and 60 were required to serve in the militia they were the citizen soldiers of this conflict. In their appearance, arms, accoutrements, and training, these militias represented the diversity of the 13 separate and independent colonies from which they were raised.
At the outset of the Revolution, all American troops were militia. As the war progressed, the importance of the Continental Army grew, but the militias were never disbanded. They continued to play an important role throughout the conflict, supporting the cause of freedom. And, at the end of the war when the Army was disbanded, the Militias remained.
We the undersigned are members of recreated Militia and Continental Line units that served during the Revolution. We are from New England, New York, and the mid-Atlantic region. Our units belong to the Brigade of the American Revolution, the Continental Line, and the Burning of the Valleys Military Association.
In our portrayal of Militia and Continental troops, we:
Strive to meet the highest standards in appearance, arms, and accoutrements for the recreated units we represent. We expect all who would serve with us to meet the same high standards.
Strive to develop competency in the manual of arms and field evolutions necessary to safely deploy in Revolutionary War battle scenarios.
As we recognize and acknowledge the contributions and integrity
of those units recreating the Continental Army, we also recognize
the contributions and integrity of the Militia units with which
we serve. We:
Expect militia to be brigaded with militia, at a unit structure commensurate with their numbers, be it platoon, company, or battalion;
Expect that the militia will serve under competent militia officers drawn from their number; and
Expect militia to be used as militia, and not assigned as file fillers to complete the ranks of Continental units. When militia serves in support functions, it should do so as a unit of militia.
We believe it important that the separate roles of the Continental Line and Militia in the American War for Independence remain distinct from each other and not be lost, by misusing these troops in re-enactments.
John Osinski, 2nd Regt., Albany Cty Militia (1775) , BVMA,
Glenn Valis Outwater's Militia, BAR, Continental Line
Ben Carlos 1st Regt., Ulster Cty Militia, BVMA, Continental Line, BAR
Al Soucey Rehoboth Minutemen Coy/13 th Continental Regt., Continental Line,BVMA
Ken Miller Heard's Brigade Continental Line, BAR
Wayne Milward 2nd Regt., Albany Cty Militia (1775) , BVMA, Continental Line
Kevin Richard-Morrow 2nd Regt., Albany Cty Militia (1775) , BVMA, Continental Line
Dean Barnes 1st Regt., Ulster Cty Militia, BVMA, Continental Line, BAR
Transporting Supplies-foraging in the 18th Century
In 1804 the Duke of Wellington said," the success of
military operations depends upon supplies; there is no difficulty
in fighting, and in finding the means of beating your enemy either
with or without losses; but to gain your object you must feed."
His opponent, Napoleon, a few years later is quoted to have said,"
an army travels on its stomach." Feeding and supplying
an army takes effort, and must be understood to realize why a
multitude of things happened during the American Revolution. In
every war, it is the necessity of bringing supplies to the combatants
that takes the most effort and time, even today.
Historian Keegan said:"Indeed, most war making on land, until the most recent times, was a short term and short-distance activity.
" For that there is the simplest explanation. When a body of men join together to perform a day's task, they will need at the very least to eat once between sunrise and sunset. If the task protracts beyond a single day, and the men move from the place where they keep their food, they will have to carry their meals with them. Since all but the most primitive operations of war entail protraction and movement, warriors necessarily burden themselves with rations as well as weapons. Experience, however, borne out by modern field trials, has established that the soldier's load cannot on average be made to exceed seventy pounds' weight of which clothes, equipment, arms and necessities will form at least half; as a daily intake of solid food by a man doing heavy work weighs at least three pounds, it follows that a marching soldier cannot carry supplies for more than ten or eleven days, and of course the burden is only worth the effort if the food is provided in imperishable form."
"Historically, most armies have either lacked money, sought to pay by promissory notes, or, if operating in enemy territory, simply taken what they wanted. It is not a policy that works long. Even if food can be found where it has been hidden, the army must disperse to squirrel it out, thus diluting its fighting power, and in any case soon eats out its area of operations; cavalry armies, except on extensive grasslands ( where human food lacks, a complicating difficulty), will graze out an area even more quickly." (1)
Armies march at an average of 20 miles a day, and have since Roman times. They cannot arrive in new areas ahead of the word reaching the inhabitants, who take steps to prevent their food supplies from being found, when possible. Moreover, the low populations of the country during the Revolution did not allow an area to support the large numbers of men in an army. Before the advent of agricultural machinery, one farmer could feed no more than a few people, including his family, so a county having 10'000 could not feed an army of 8000 for very long: farms simply did not produce enough excess. Foraging for food becomes harder and the parties have to travel farther, each day an army is in one place.
Some have suggested that hunting might have relieved food shortages. If an army of 8000 men tried to hunt to supply itself, it would need 8000 acres just to give each man one acre. This is over 12 square miles. Assuming that few men would take the opportunity to desert, a frequent occurrence, they would soon exhaust the meager resources of that acre, would be dispersed beyond military organization, and would then need to spread even farther, disappearing like smoke.
Therefore, supplying an army required, for a campaign of more than a few days, transporting supplies, plus the equipment needed. Food for man and animals in the 18th Century was the bulk of this material, since tools, tentage, bridging material, ammunition, etc, was minimal- at least in comparison to today's military. 70 rounds of musket ammunition weigh about 4 pounds-one pound of powder and three of ball, so that amount of ammunition for 10,000 men would be 40,000 pounds or 20 tons. At 2 pounds per day of food per man, (the American standard basic issue being a pound each of meat and flour, supposedly supplemented with various additional 'sauce'), which is 20,000 pounds or 10 tons per day, plus animal fodder, food is by far the largest amount of material required. Only enough additional ammunition to fight a battle or two is required, but many days food must always be on hand, when ever possible.
According to Lefkowitz in his book " The Long Retreat" about the 1776 retreat of the American forces across New Jersey, the British "with a long supply line that extended 3000 miles to England, the general (Howe) required 37 tons of food and 38 tons of forage each day to feed 35,000 men and 4,000 horses." That breaks down into over 2.1 pounds per man, and 19 pounds per horse per day.
Oxen or bullocks, were the preferred draft animals in most of the world. They were stronger and more durable than horses, and had the benefit of being edible at need- though they were too valuable to be considered food except in extremity. America had few oxen; here the horse was used. Both animals can carry a total load of fodder of 8 days worth , if they carry nothing else. Obviously, this limits what else they can carry and how far an army can travel without adding forage as it travels by land. In other words, in a trip of 4 days, carrying all its own supplies, half the load carried would be fodder for the animals. Some of the rest would be food for the teamsters. "A 1000 pound horse that works three or four hours a day needs about 14 pounds of hay. Working horses eat from 4 to 12 pounds of oats...every day." Most 18th Century horses were smaller than this, but also worked more than 4 hours while in use. This is a severe restriction on overland transportation. Wagon usage increases the load a draft animal can handle- a pair of horses can pull 2 thousands pounds loaded on a wagon, but carry only 500 to 600 pounds. Very rough roads, hills, and other hard going required a team of four.
Wagons were another source of problems. The average farmer did not have a wagon, so they were not easy to acquire, required maintenance, and if one of the horse fell lame or sick, stopped the wagon.
These figures explain the preferred use of boats and shipping, and the reliance on waterways. Even small craft can carry more than a horse, and do not need to be fed. Adding to this problem is the need to securely package the food material from damage. Typical packaging for most food stuffs and other material to be transported or stored were barrels, as they were reasonably waterproof and sturdy. These added space and weight. Spoilage was common, also there was an unavoidable wastage and spillage during transfers and issues.
Thus, in any overland expedition of an army, a large portion of the material moved is fodder for the draft animals, and food and equipment for the teamsters and other animal handlers. Grazing the animals helps the supply situation, but time must be spent allowing them the opportunity, grassland must be available, and they must be guarded.
Additionally, firewood is a needed commodity. A house would use 10 to 30 cords of wood a year, equal to 1 to 3 acres of woods . Soldiers use less, but still a significant amount. Rapidly an area would be deforested. America had fewer trees in settled areas then than it does today. Trees near houses were uncommon- shade encourages mold on wood shingles, and the trees were too valuable for firewood. In the presence of an army, as in New York City and Staten Island, wood lots were soon depleted, and wood had to be transported in. Loyalist wood cutters went so far as to build blockhouses in Bergen County, NJ, to secure their operations.
Just as important, transportation is the reason that 18th Century armies typically stopped campaigning for the winter. Not only were supplies extremely difficult to transport in bad weather, but because of the lack of grazing, even more fodder was required. . When snow was present, sleds were used instead of wagons- until a thaw would mire them in the dirt The Americans usually dispersed most of their horses for the winter, making them immobile except for short marches. Campaigns did not start until well into spring because first the grass had to be given a growing start before gathering the large number of horses needed for pulling cannon, wagons, and mounting officers.
The transportation problem explains the constant orders to lighten the baggage- restricting officers luggage, requiring the men to carry their own kettles and sometimes tent poles, etc.
The British, restricted to their bases, imported food for men and beasts- some winters, horses starved to death for lack of fodder. The British, who did have money, bought eagerly form the American farmers for hard cash, and the Americans tried hard throughout the war to stop, or at least limit, the trade from the country.
Every year the British went on foraging raids to gather food, fodder, hay and wood. To prevent their success the Americans would sweep through the neutral ground around New York and gather all the cattle, sheep, horses, and excess forage they could. Both resulted in encouraging area residents to engage in the illegal "London trading", since it made sense to sell for hard cash if you were likely to lose the material anyway to raids.
Needing to feed both the soldiers and the transport animals resulted in all armies foraging as they moved. Every bit of forage gathered on the march increased the distance an army could travel, reduced shipping costs, and added fresh food to a usually poor diet. Garrison's typically grew gardens, and supply officers tried to purchase fresh food when ever available. Scurvy was understood to result from a lack of fresh food, although regulations on rations had not been advanced to prevent it yet.
The American government, starting out without any bureaucracy or experience in logistics, struggled throughout the war trying to move the material it collected to where it was needed. Many of the supply problems it faced were caused not by a lack of available food or clothing, but an inability to get it from the states to the army. Congress changed the methods the quartermaster corps operated several times during the war, most notably just before Valley Forge. These changes always started out by creating more difficulties than they solved, before the supply corps adjusted.
The British army at least had an established, functioning methodology to supply its troops. Their system, by modern standards, was wasteful and/or corrupt, but they were able to spend money to solve their problems.
While the army starved at Valley Forge, wagons of food were abandoned along the roads, or stored in barns, or never moved, while the Congress and its bureaucrats tried to decide who was responsible for what. The American effort suffered greatly due to a lack of money to pay shipping costs, which plagued them throughout the war.
During the winter of 1779-80, the American army at Morristown suffered severely, partly due to the roads being closed due to bad weather and heavy snow, and the lack of grazing due to that snow.
All roads were then unpaved, except for some city streets. Most small waterways were forded-high water could block the road. Rains created impassible mires. Muddy roads could be so rutted or "cut" by wheeled vehicles as to make them almost un-walkable, another reason to have the main body of troops march in front of the wagons.
Supplying the army, for both sides, was a major problem. Solving that problem, particularly transporting supplies, occupied great amounts of time and energy, and was the root cause of many of the actions of the war.
1) A History of Warfare by John Keegan, Knopf Press, 1994, page 304
Corn Bread -hoe cakes, Indian bread or bannock, corn dodgers
One quart of meal, two great spoons of molasses or sugar, two teaspoons salt, a bit of shorting half as big as a hen's egg, stirred together, make it pretty moist with scalding water, put into a well greased pan, smooth over the surface with a spoon, and bake before a fire or in a Dutch oven.
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© copyright, Outwater's Militia, 2003