Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Divisions, all good Generals want lots of divisions...

  My reading of Washington's Crossing by David Hackett Fisher, brought a lot of information and thoughts to my mind. About how important leadership is in time of troubles, steady, calm and courageous leadership. And of course some more Continental Soldiers that would stick around and soldier properly.

  One new piece of information was reading how General Washington bemoaned the backcountrymen that didn't know a thing about rifles. I think he was probably correct, how many times have I met shooters with the most excellent equipment; rifles, sighting systems and slings, ammunition, and they barely qualify because they aren't shooting well, they think the shot done when they jerk the trigger...

   And one would have to just look at the evidence that trained Continental Soldiers that fought about the same as the Redcoated Regulars had a lot to do with General Washington's final successes.  He just couldn't get them to replace the fallen, sick and wounded, or just tired fast enough to build more divisions. When he got down off his high horse, and sat and discussed operations with his staff and generals of his divisions, he started accepting some reality after crossing the Delaware after the retreat across New Jersey. He was going to go to war and win with what was available, he would work harder to get more divisions, lengthen the enlistments, and train the Continental units better in the best European traditions, but he had missions for the backwoods boys under Morgan, and the militias could work with his Continental Divisions just don't expect too many miracles from them, they weren't Saints and calling them Hosts was a real stretch. Some seemed more a social club, the richer Associators actually bought their horses, horse pistols, sabers and carbines and then even some light cannon.  They would assist General Washington by crossing the Delaware when he called it off for weather, and alerting the Hessians that militia were troublesome before the General would get it right and cross to make his famous attack.  But they weren't the only militia crossing the Delaware and assisting the General or just making life miserable for the Hessians and the other scattered British troops trying to forage and winter down in New Jersey.

   Fascinating reading, will have to get back to it when my print copy shows up with better map views than my kindle give me.  But the author calls attention to the fact that Tidewater Noble as George Washington was, with his type of society and polish, thrown in with the rabble and riftraff of a rebel people becoming a flexible and even more polished in his leadership skills and his definite handling of his subordinate leaders - often sent far from headquarters to perform impossible missions.  He aided them with what he could, encouraged them, but kept his eye on the prize.
   He could only defeat the British Empire and gain independence by, keeping an army in the field, not getting captured, nor defeated into surrender. And once in awhile he had to win, which often meant fooling the enemy, doing things unexpected and allowing your subordinates enough rope to make a victory possible. The whole battle for Princeton is great to read about, not that I would have liked to be one of the many soldiers marching that night and running into the enemy on the road, surprise!

   If the mililtia hadn't existed it would have had to been invented, General Washington needed local forces and friends to make up for missing maps, to provide early warning and information on roaming British units, to cut off some of the Regulars' rations (they never had time to put in crops).  A lot of supply ships would fall to privateers, which made those goods available for the Continentals. Those little independent minded but all for the cause of Liberty, militia units and leaders would be evidence that the Crown would not rest well in the thirteen colonies, soon to be thought of as states.

   To my mind, even gentleman George Washington, could have learned how to herd cats with enough time. Read about his lack of love of Congress and you will see it.


  1. The militia were the saving grace. Especially in the hinterlands. They were the shooters who knew their weapons, and used them to garner food every day. They knew how to make shots count, and made them count when needed!

    1. Most important thing about the militia, they were community involved, volunteers, and committed to saving their community, family and future. It works everywhere, but nobles, elite, and kings don't like independent armed citizens. They just can't beat them.

    2. Excellent point Earl! And exactly right! THEIR homes were at risk, and they fought for them.


  2. I have just received my hardback copy of this fine History, and a tree hugging liberal with not stomach for real war must have had the book last, since the bookmark in it was about planting a tree and being happy for life, and it was too early in the book to have finished really studying the whole thing. It also could have been that the book talks about responsibility and courage and commitment or that the book doesn't present the History as his junior high American History book did... thank the fool for me, the maps are very nice and its easier to read notes and citations in the printed book than trying to flip my kindle back and forth.