Connecticut Regiments, 1776


Organization. The regiments called out in 1775, although adopted as Continental, constituded a provisional force. Raised by their respective colonies to meet an emergency their service was limited to short terms. Nearly all were to disband in December, when it was expected, as had usually been the case in the French and Indian war, that military operations would cease for the winter. As it was imperative, however, to continue to hem in the enemy at Boston and hold the ground gained in the Northern Department, as well as prepare generally for a determined struggle, Congress at an early date moved to organize a new force for 1776. On Sept. 26, 1775, President Hancock writing to Washington invited his attention to the following points: "The continuation of the army now under your command in the service of the Continent, after the terms of its enlistment shall have been completed; the reducing of the several corps of Provincials, which at present compose your army, into one body of Continental Forces; what number will be necessary for the winter campaign; what rations shall be allowed the men, and what further regulations may be necessary for the government of those Forces. Upton these heads the Congress wish to be favored with the result of your deliberations as soon as possible." On receipt of these instructions the Commander-in-Chief called a council of the General Officers, Oct. 8th, to consider plans for "the continuance and new-modelling" of the army, when it was advised that a new force of about twenty hundred men be raised to maintain the position before Boston, and that it be enlisted for one year from Jan. 1, 1776. Congress furthermore appointed a Committee of three -- Dr. Franklin, Mr. Lynch, and Col. Harrison -- to repair to Headquarters at Cambridge, and consult in the matter in person with Washington and delegates from the New England Colonies. This Conference met on Oct. 18th -- the Connecticut delegates being Deputy-Governor Griswold and Mr. Nathaniel Wales -- and after deliberating four days accepted the conclusions of the General officers. It was agreed that, exclusive of riflemen and artillery, twenty-sex regiments consisting each of seven hundred and twenty-eight men and officers, divided into eight companies, should be raised under Continental directions, to serve until Jan. 1, 1777. Connecticut's quota remained the same as before -- five regiments. Her delegates expressed the opinion at the Conference that "eight thousand men may be raised in ther Province to serve the next Campaign on the same terms as the present, viz.: forty shillings bounty."

On Nov. 4th, Congress adopted the report of the Conference, and Washington took steps to organize the new force. He called upon and urged the soldiers alreadyin the field for '75 to re-enlisted for another year, and new lists of field and line officers were made out under whom they were to serve. The Connecticut regiments of '75 were "remodelled" on this plan. Gen. Putnam's was given to Benedict Arnold, Gen. Spencer's continued under Col. Wyllys, and Cols. Parsons, C. Webb, and Huntington remained in command of their own as before. In the arrangement of the twenty-six regiments for '76 (afterwards increased to twenty-seven), Parsons' was numbered the 10th Continental Foot, Huntington's the 17th, C. Webb's the 19th, Arnold's the 20th, and Wyllys's the 22d. They were known as such for that year only. Many changes were made among the company officers by the promotion of deserving subalterns and non-commissioned officers, to the advantage of the commands. With few exceptions all had been in service in '75. In the absence or loss of many of the rolls for '76, it is uncertain how far the soldiers of '75 re-enlisted for '76, but references indicate that a considerable number returned, who, with recruits, filled the new regiments to a respectable strength before spring. The Connecticut Assembly, at its December session, had resolved that those soldiers "who had or should enlist into the Continental army for the ensuing campaign, should be exempt from the poll tax on the list of 1776; and also that their bodies should be exempt from arrests for debts during their tour of service."

On Jan. 1, 1776, when the re-organized army began its new term, Washington issued the following order from Headquarters at Cambridge:

"(Parole, The Congress.) (Countersign, America.)

This day giving Commencement to thenew Army, which, in every point of view, is entirely Continental, the General flatters that the importance of the great cause we are engaged in, will be deeply impressed on every man's mind; and wishes it to be considered, that an army without order, regularity, and discipline, is no better than a commissioned mob. Let us therefore, when every thing dear and valuable to freemen is at stake, when our unnatural parent is threatening us with destruction from every quarter, endeavour, by all the skill and discipline in our power, to acquire that knowledge and conduct which is necessary in war. Our men are brave and good; men wo, with pleasure it is observed, are addicted to fewer vices than are commonly found in armies. But, it is subordination and discipline (the life and soul of an army) which, next under Providence, is to make us formidable to our enemies, honourable in ourselves, and respected in the world."

In the Northern Department no similiar reorganization for '76 was effected. The Conference at Cambridge decided that "so much depended upon events and particularly upon the success of the present expedition against Canada (under Montgomery and Arnold) that no probable calculation" could be made as to the number of troops necessary in that quarter. The three Connecticut regiments -- Wooster's, Hinman's, and Waterbury's, which, for various causes, had been greatly reduced in numbers, returned home in December. As events developed in Canada, however, -- the "expedition" being defeated -- Congress, late in '75 and early in '76, authorized the enlistment of two regiments from Connecticut to serve in that department for one year. They were commanded by Cols. Charles Burrall and Samuel Elmore. In May, '76, still another regiment was called for, under Col. Andrew Ward, which joined Washington in the summer. This completed Connecticut's quota of Continental troops for '76, the same number as in '75 -- eight regiments.

Service. -- The five regiments in the army before Boston remained there until the enemy evacuated the place in March. In April, they marched under Washington to New York, the next field of operations, and assisted in fortifying the city and vicinity. Col. Ward's joined them in August. Four of them were on the Brooklyn side at the time of the Battle of Long Island, Aug. 27, '76, and three more or less engaged. Huntington's lost heavily in prisoners. Two of three were caught in the panic of the troops on abandoning New York, Sept. 15th. All were with the army at White Plains, Oct. 28th, and one of them, Col. Webb's closely engaged. Portions of three were at Trenton and Princeton. In the Northern Department, under Gen. Schuyler, Col. Burrall's regiment reinforced the troops before Quebec and afterwards took post at Ticonderoga. Col. Elmore's was stationed at old Fort Stanwix on the Mohawk, and vicinity.

Knowlton's Rangers and Bigelow's Art. Co. -- These commands are noticed at the end of the regiments for 1776.

Reinforcements of State and Militia troops in 1776. -- These are noticed with rosters under their proper heads after the Continentals. Three militia regiments were ordered to Boston in January. Two began fortifying New York in February-March, before the arrival of the Continental troops. In June-July, Gen. Wadsworth's brigade of seven regiments (six months' men) arrived and performed considerable service. In August-September, twelve militia regiments under Gen. Oliver Wolcott served several weeks, as well as nine more from the eastern counties of the State, under Gen. Saltonstall. A few "troops of horse" were also on the ground for brief terms. The militia, and the same proved true of those coming from other Colonies, while temporarily swelling Washington's army, failed to add much to its efficiency -- the men being generally poorly armed and undisciplined. Later, during the war, their service was more effective; on some occasions highly important.

The following rosters for '76 are arranged from original records in the State Library, Hartford, Department of State and Pension Bureau, Washington, D. C., the Trumbull papers, Massachusetts Historical Society, Boston, and from manuscripts in private hands, supplemented with the American Archives.

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