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THE COVER

The cover illustration by Frederick C. Yohn depicts activity typically performed by the Corps of Engi- neers and the companies ofsappers and miners dur- ing the Revolutionary War. "Col. William

Prescott at the Battle of Bunker Hill," Historical Paintings Collection, The Con- tinental Insurance Companies

Engineers of Independence

A Documentary History of the Army Engineers

in the American Revolution

1775-1783

by

Paul K . Walker

Office of History Headquarters U .S. Army Corps of Engineers

For sale by the Superintendent of Documents, U .S. Government Printing Office Washington, DC 20402

The Library of Congress has cataloged the first printing of this title as follows :

Walker, Paul K . Engineers of independence : a documentary history of the

Revolution, 1775-1783 / by

Army Engineers in the American

Paul K . Walker . - [Washington, D .C .] : Historical Division, Office of Administrative Services, Office of the Chief of En- gineers : For sale by the Supt . of Docs ., U .S . G .P .O ., [1981]

xiv, 403 p. : ill. ; 23 cm . - (EP ; 870-1-6) "October 1981"-P. 4 of cover. Includes index. Bibliography : p. 383-388. S/N 008-022-00166-2 Item 338-B

1. United States. Continental Army-History . 2. United States-History- Revolution, 1775-1783-Campaigns and battles. 1. United States.Army .Corps of Engineers . Historical Division . II. Title . III. Title:A Documentary history of the Army Engineers in the American Revolution, 1775-1783 . IV. Series : EP (Washington, D .C .) ; 870-1-6 .

UG23 .W34

Library of Congress

81-603908

358' .22'0973-dc 19 AACR 2 MARC

[r85]rev3

Reprinted--1992

EP 870-1-6

Foreword

The U .S. Army Corps of Engineers traces its origins to the earliest moments of our existence as a nation . Soon after assuming command of the Continental Army in July 1775, General George Washington acknowledged

the critical shortage of officers with technical skills and made the first of several appeals for more engineers . He never obtained a sufficient number . But Army Engineers, their ranks filled largely with Frenchmen, erected for- tifications from Boston to Charleston, mapped terrain for their com- manders, laid out encampments, and cleared the way for the Army on the march . They experienced their finest hour at the siege of Yorktown in 1781 . The Revolution clearly demonstrated the necessity for a trained corps of native American officers. That need was finally fulfilled with the establish- ment of the military academy at West Point more than twenty years later .

In Engineers of Independence Dr . Walker weaves together

a colorful,

concise narrative with original documents to tell the story of the beginnings of the Army Engineers . Many of the documents are reproduced here for the first time . The resulting account will appeal to general readers and scholars alike.

J. K . Bratton Lieutenant General, USA Chief of Engineers

The Author

Paul K . Walker obtained his Ph .D . degree in American history from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill . He is the author of The Corps Responds : A History of the Susquehanna Engineer District and Tropical Storm Agnes (1976) and "Business and Commerce in Baltimore on the Eve of Independence," Maryland Historical Magazine (1976) . Before joining the staff of the Historical Division, Office of the Chief of Engineers, as a historian, Dr . Walker taught American history at several colleges in the Baltimore area .

I am grateful to Don Higginbotham and Robert K . Wright, Jr ., for their insights and constructive suggestions. Billie Walker meticulously edited the manuscript and offered support and helpful criticism throughout the research and writing stages. As author, I am solely responsible for interpretations and conclusions and for any errors of omission or commission .

Washington, D .C .

Paul K . Walker

Preface

This collection of documents, including many previously unpublished, details the role of the Army engineers in the American Revolution . Lacking trained military engineers, the Americans relied heavily on foreign officers, mostly from France, for sorely needed technical assistance . Native Americans joined the foreign engineer officers to plan and carry out offen-

sive and defensive operations, direct the erection of fortifications, map vital terrain, and lay out encampments . During the war Congress created the Corps of Engineers with three companies of engineer troops as well as a separate geographer's department to assist the engineers with mapping . Both General George Washington and Maj . Gen . Louis Lebcgue Dupor- tail, his third and longest-serving Chief Engineer, recognized the disadvan- tages of relying on foreign powers to fill the Army's crucial need for

engineers . America, they contended, must train its own

future . Accordingly, at the war's end, they suggested maintaining a peacetime engineering establishment and creating a military academy . However, Congress rejected the proposals, and the Corps of Engineers and its companies of sappers and miners mustered out of service . Eleven years passed before Congress authorized a new establishment, the Corps of Ar- tillerists and Engineers . In editing these documents I have retained the original spelling, gram- mar, and punctuation, with the following exceptions : I occasionally inserted

engineers for the

or removed punctuation for easier reading, always capitalized the first letter after a period, and changed & to and and &c . to etc. Where feasible, when documents were available in both published and unpublished form, the original manuscripts were used. The glossary explains the many engineering terms used . Permission has been received to reproduce all material under copyright . Credit lines indicate the sources of documents and illustrations . Full citations are contained in the bibliography . The contributions of many persons have enhanced this volume . The staff of the Historical Division, Office of the Chief of Engineers, gave invaluable assistance throughout. Lenore Fine first suggested the project and along with Jesse A . Remington provided continued encouragement . John T . Greenwood and Frank N . Schubert read and commented upon the entire manuscript . Agnes Riedel assisted with research, typing, and proofreading . Dorothe M . Grande advised on editorial matters . Dale Floyd offered helpful

assisted by Margaret B . Combs, guided the

criticism . Alfred M .

Beck,

CONTENTS

I.

THE SEARCH FOR ENGINEER OFFICERS AND THE

 

FORMATION OF THE GEOGRAPHER'S DEPARTMENT .

 

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Charles Lee :

 

"It Was Indeed, Impossible for Them to Ex-

 
 

ist" .

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Silas Deane : "He Is a Plain, Modest, Active, Sensible Man, Perfectly Averse to Frippery and Parade

 

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Agreement

 

between Silas Deane

 

and

 

Tronson du

 
 

Coudray for Service in the Continental Army

 

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James Love]]: "There Is Singular Hardship in the Case of

 
 

These

Gentlemen

 

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13

 

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Louis

Duportail : "I Have Here Requested -Nothing But

 
 

What

Is Absolutely Necessary for Our Service

 

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6.

Louis Duportail : "The Chief Engineer Should Have a Respectable Rank in the Army

 

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Louis Duportail: "We Believed That the Congress Would

 
 

Be Sensible

 

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8.

Robert Erskine Outlines "What May Really Be Ac-

 
 

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Simeon DeWitt and Benjamin Lodge : "We Are Far from Wishing to Raise Fortunes by the Calamities of Our

 

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II .

THE FORMATION OF THE CORPS OF ENGINEERS AND THE RECRUITMENT OF ENGINEER TROOPS

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1. Rufus Putnam : "With Out a Core of Engeneers

 

the

 

Works Never will be properly Executed nor don in a

 

Reasonable

 

time"

 

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2. Rufus Putnam Details the First Plan for a Corps of

 

Engineers

 

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32

 

3. Louis Duportail Proposes "An Establishment Which Is

 

Absolutely Indispensable

 

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34

 

4. Resolution of Congress : "Their Business Shall Be to In-

 
 

struct the Fatigue Parties

 

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36

 

5. Resolution of Congress : "The Engineers

 

Shall Be

 

Formed into a Corps

 

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37

 

6. Regulations for the Corps of Engineers

 

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7. Louis Duportail : "It Would Be Very Advantageous to Pensilvania to Furnish a Number of These Soldiers

of Miners Was .

8 .

Joseph Plumb Martin : "This Corps Reckoned an Honorable One

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III. BUNKER HILL AND THE SIEGE OF BOSTON, 1775- 1776

1. Peter Brown : "Altho' We Were but Few

We Were

Preserved in a Most Wonderful Manner

2. William Howe : "The Success Is Too Dearly Bought"

3. George Washington : "We Are As Well Secured, As Could

. the King's Troops

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John Chester: "We Expected

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Would Have Advanced on Us, but They Durst Not

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5. Jeduthan Baldwin: The Patriots Entrench on Lechmere

Point

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63

6. Rufus Putnam Recalls the Decision to Fortify Dorchester

Heights

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7. Rufus Putnam : "The Enemy Cannot Take Possession of Dorchester Hill at Present

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8 James Thacher : "The Amount of Labor Performed Dur-

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ing the Night

Is Almost Incredible

9 Rev. William Gordon : "Every One Knew His Place and

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10 .

Business"

. Charles Stuart : Their Posts Were Than the Work of Human Beings

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11 .

Richard Gridley: "I Have Exerted Every Nerve to the

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. Richard Gridley's Account of Materials Supplied to the

Utmost"

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Boston Forts

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IV. THE WAR IN THE NORTH : TICONDEROGA TO SARA-

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TOGA,1775-1777

1 .

John

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Trumbull : "The Ascent

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Was Difficult

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Laborious, but Not Impracticable

2. Jeduthan Baldwin : "I Have My Hands and Mind Con- stantly Employed Night and Day Except When I am Asleep and Then Sometimes I Dream

3. Anthony Wayne : "The General Is Confidant a Spirit of

Emulation Will Animate Each Brigade to Finish the Task

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Assign'd Them

Christopher Pelissier's Observations on the Jersey

Redoubt

5. Agreement between Jeduthan Baldwin and a Company of

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V .

6. Jeduthan Baldwin Reviews Ticonderoga's Needs for 1777

7.

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Jeduthan Baldwin

Ticonderoga

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Chronicles the Progress .

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8. Du Roi the Elder: "The Rebels Had Kept On Working Continuously with Unfailing Courage"

9. Court-Martial of Maj. Gen . Arthur St. Clair

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102

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107

A WAR OF POSTS : FROM LONG ISLAND TO TRENTON,

1776

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1.

Charles Lee : "New-York

 

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vantageous Field

of Battle

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Jeduthan Baldwin : The Rebels Fortify New York and Long Island

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3.

Robert Erskine Describes His Marine Chevaux-de-Frise

 

4.

The Chevalier de Kermorvan : "I Only Wish for Speed in

Operations"

 

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The Chevalier de Kermorvan : "The Crucial Point Is Bring the Camps on the Coastline Closer Together

 

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6.

Rufus Putnam Reconnoiters the Island of Manhattan

 

7.

George Washington : "I Have Never Spared the Spade

and Pick Ax"

 

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David Bushnell's General Principles and Construction of

a Submarine Vessel

 

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9.

10 .

Ezra Lee : "I Thought the Best Generalship Was

to

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Retreat As Fast As I Could

Rufus Putnam : "I Officer As Far As I Could"

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VI . A HEROIC DEFENSE : THE PHILADELPHIA CAMPAIGN,

1777-1778

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1. Tronson du Coudray's Observations on the Delaware

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147

148

151

3. Tronson du Coudray : "The Object the Least Pressing Is

the Defense of the Delaware

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153

4. Franjois Fleury: "We Must Have Men, Works, and Be

 

Enabled to Make

Vigorous Sallies

 

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Franjois

Fleury : "The

 

Greatest

 

Part

 

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Bombs

Occasion More Fear Than Damage

 

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Fran'cois Fleury: "Of What Avail Are Fortifications

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Undefended

by Men"

. Joseph Plumb Martin : "We Were, Like the Beaver, Obliged to Repair Our Dams in the Night

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159

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8 Franjois Fleury: "Our Ruins Will Serve Us As Breast Works, We Will Defend the Ground Inch by Inch

9 Joseph Plumb Martin : "If Ever Destruction Was Com-

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10 Louis Duportail : "There Is a Hundred Times More En- thusiasm for This Revolution in a Single Cafe in Paris Than in All the United Colonies

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cess Must Be Almost Certain

Duportail : "To Justify Such

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12 Louis Duportail : "Wilmington Answers the End

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of Mak-

ing the Subsistance Very Difficult to General Howe

13 Louis Duportail: "The Battle of German Town Ought to Be a Lesson to Us

14 Francis Hopkinson : "Battle

15 Frangois Fleury Describes His Plan for Fire Boats

16 Louis Duportail : "It Is

ly to Avoid Doing What Your Enemy Would Have You

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a Principle of War Cautious-

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Do"

Louis Duportail : "Here Is a Certain and Immense Advan-

tage"

The Marquis de Chastellux Reviews the Delaware River

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VII . WEST

POINT : THE

1775-1783

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KEY TO

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THE CONTINENT, .

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1 Lord Stirling: "Mr . Romans Has Displayed His Genius at a Very Great Expense, and to Very Little Public Advan-

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tape"

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2 Louis de Shaix La Radiere : "I Still Think Fort Clinton Is the Better"

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3 Louis Duportail Finds the Works "Perfectly Fulfil the Ob- ject Which Is Proposed"

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4 Louis Duportail : "I Do Not Think Myself Responsible in

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Any Manner for the Neglects

 

of That Fort

 

5 Rufus Putnam : "I Had Several Fair Observations As the

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Sun Passed through the Openings of the Clouds

 

6 Louis Duportail : "It Would Not Be Prudent to

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Risk the

Loss of a Great Number of Men, upon Hopes Not Well

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Founded"

7 . Louis Duportail : "Happily, the Time for Fear Is Passed" .

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8 The Marquis de Chastellux: "The Most Magnificent Pic-

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ture

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