ELEMENTS OF OUR AMERICAN PROSPERITY by Professor Steven H. Carpenter 1876

Professor Stephen H Carpenter

Professor Stephen H Carpenter

ELEMENTS OF OUR [American] PROSPERITY An Oration By Steven H. Carpenter, LLD., Professor In The University Of Wisconsin. Delivered At Madison, Wisconsin, July 4th, 1876.

Fellow-citizens—We are met to day to celebrate the demonstration of a great truth; the truth that Liberty is not the baseless dream of visionary enthusiasts; that a government by the People may be stable and lasting. Tried by the vicissitudes of a century, this Republic has withstood every shock, and has passed from a dimly-seen hope to a magnificent reality. It has gathered under its protection men of every language, and proved that Freedom is the Right of man by uniting them into one People, by the firm bond of loyalty to the same great truth.

Youth has no Past. Its active energy sees only the Present. Age has a past, to which it fondly looks, when its waning strength seeks solace in recalling the prowess of its early years, and boasts of deeds no longer possible to its lessened vigor. We have no musty records to search, no far-reaching history to recall. Our heroic age has hardly passed. Our golden youth has not yet stiffened into the harshness of an iron present. The memory of those still living holds the fresh records of our progress. Men whose natural force has not yet abated have seen our weakness grow to power, have seen the wilderness transformed into a blooming garden, and stately cities rise as by the enchanter’s wand from the untamed soil. But shall not youth glory in his strength? Shall a just pride not lay hold of present achievement as well as past glory? Behind us are gathered the materials for our heroic history. Age is hastening after us, and to-day we turn the first century of our national existence.

There is a power in Antiquity—in the feeling that behind us is a long line of noble ancestors, a solid inheritance in the glories of the Past. It curbs the wayward strength of youth, and adds dignity to the compacted vigor of manhood. This advantage is rapidly coming to us. We have a common inheritance in the heroism of the Revolution.

On an occasion like this when we stand at the summit of a century of unbroken success, our minds alternately follow the lead of Memory casting her proud glance backward over the brilliant past, and Hope casting her confident gaze into a future full of greater promise. “We look backward over the slow receding years of the century just closed, and we see a little band of heroes, jealous of their God given rights, seeing not the weakness of their numbers, but only the strength of their cause, with a sublime confidence in the ultimate victory of right, resolutely facing the foremost power of the world. Looking out into the deepening darkness that shrouded the coming years of almost hopeless struggle, they boldly, almost defiantly proclaimed not merely their own right to liberty, but the right of man to self-government. They struck a blow for humanity.

That contest was not the mere shock of contending armies; it was the fiercer shock of contending ideas. It was not the maneuvering of legions on the field of battle; it was the marshaling of principles in a struggle that should determine whether the world should go forward, and offer a new field for the enlarging powers of man, or whether it should stagnate on the dead level of old ideas, stupidly satisfied with the good it had gained.

At last, after eight years of struggle, of alternate victory and defeat, Freedom was secured, but their allotted work was not yet done. A nation was to be formed out of the discordant elements which the pressure of necessity had forced into a temporary union. Statesmanship was to complete the work of generalship, and unite into a compact whole the fragments thus far held together by a loose cohesion. Our revolutionary fathers proved equal to the task, and by this victory over passion, by succeeding where all other men had failed, they placed the world under everlasting obligation. Other patriots had fought as bravely, had endured as heroically; but no other patriots so conquered self, so vanquished prejudice, so laid the foundations of a nation in mutual concession for the general good.

God is a prompt paymaster. The reward was not long deferred. The period of unexampled prosperity followed. All the world claimed the privilege of sharing the benefit of our sacrifices. They swarmed in upon us from every nation of Europe, attracted by a fertile soil, a healthy climate, and the more alluring promise of a free government. At the close of the Revolution the entire population of the United States numbered but three millions. They were mostly confined to the narrow strip between the Allegheny Mountains and the sea. Here and there adventurous bands had crossed, over into the fertile plains beyond, only to find their advance stubbornly contested by the Indians who refused to leave, without a struggle, the hunting-grounds of their fathers. The valleys of the Ohio and Mississippi were still an unbroken wilderness, except where French traders or Missionaries had established their posts to seek the goods or the good of the red man, or where sturdy pioneers had made their precarious settlements. The great Lakes were almost unexplored, and the districts adjoining were still more unknown. Marquette, Allouez and La Salle, had pushed their daring discoveries into this remote region, but theirs was the genius of discovery, not of settlement. The French could discover and subdue, but they could not organize.

It is but eighty years since this vast region, stretching from the Allegheny Mountains to the Pacific Ocean, was opened to settlement. Men now living have seen the western line of civilization creep timidly from the boundaries of New York and Pennsylvania, push steadily westward through the forests of Ohio, cross the fertile prairies of Indiana and Illinois, sweep with hardly a perceptible check beyond the Mississippi, strike boldly across the vast plains of the West, climb the heights of the mountains, descend the further slope of the Sierras, to meet a resistless barrier only on the distant shores of the Pacific Ocean. Men now living have seen this waste wilderness converted into a blooming garden, covered with fruitful harvests, and dotted with the peaceful homes of more than ten millions of people. The Indian has retreated before his fate; barbarism has yielded to civilization. The niggardly gifts of Nature have been replaced by the wealth that plenty pours with a full hand into the lap of industry. Labor here reigns king, unvexed by any rival. The air hums with the busy whirr of machinery. The engine flashes by, weaving, like a gigantic shuttle, the bonds that bind distant States in one community of interest.

Let us not stand mute in stupid admiration of our present greatness, but let us in the spirit of true philosophy seek to discover the basis upon which our prosperity rests, and the laws and controlling forces by which our success has been wrought out. A true civilization rests upon a moral basis. The civilization of the old world had made physical well-being its highest ideal, but it did not prove capable of indefinite expansion: it could not rise; it could not advance. Here civilization laid hold of moral forces, and pressed forward with a power well-nigh resistless. Physical good soon reaches its limit. Even that art that aims only at material beauty soon attains its highest ideal, and falls back upon itself to minister to passion and to hasten the ruin of the glittering culture which it has created, that conception of the true nature of man that considers him as a moral force, and not a mere intelligent machine, that looks at nature from its spiritual side, that fixes the ideal of civilization not on the low level of mere physical improvement, but on the higher plane of intellectual and moral culture, that aims at perfect manhood, and rates birth or wealth below character, affords the only ground for a safe and steady advance. This great truth was emphasized on every battle-field of our late war. The idea of freedom won. That conception of human society that graded men according to physical accidents yielded to the superior power of that idea which, ignoring all physical differences, upon the broad basis of human equality, organized society according to the theory of equal rights and equal and exact justice to all.

Three steps led to our present unexampled prosperity.

Declaration of Independence

The first was the Declaration of Independence which first distinctly enunciated to the world the doctrine of Equal Rights. It was a decided step in advance to ignore all accidental differences, and to unify all mankind on the single principle of absolute equality. The Declaration was a defiant challenge of the old theory of government; it called in question principles quietly acquiesced in for centuries. To assert the rights of the people was a great step, but it was a step that might lead downwards to anarchy, and through anarchy to despotism, as in France, as well as upward to Liberty and free government. The other half of the truth must be told in the equally definite assertion of the absolute and inherent need of government—thus accurately adjusting the political relations of the citizen. Man demands government no less imperatively than liberty; he demands government, because only through it can he secure liberty.

The presence of a common enemy, and the manifest need of union held the States together until the close of the revolutionary war. When the compulsion of this necessity was no longer felt, the need of a closer bond—one originating from within, and knit from well-defined principles, securing a union by the recognition of ends yet to be gained in common, beyond the mere acquisition of liberty—soon became evident. Liberty is only a condition of good government rendering it possible; it is not a cause compelling it. The yoke of foreign domination had been thrown off; the yoke of self-government must yet be put on. The need for something more than had yet been gained was shown by a loss of public respect for the general government, disordered finance, depreciated currency, with all the evils incident, mutual jealousies, conflict of jurisdiction between the States themselves; between States and the general government, threats of armed collision; the most alarming systems of anarchy threatened the public weal, until all that had been gained by eight years of war seemed on the point of being lost for want of a far-sighted statesmanship to resolutely grapple with and solve the problem now presented. There was but one way out of these difficulties—to go forward, to assert as clearly the right of the nation to protection against anarchy as the Declaration had asserted the right of man to protection against tyranny; to build upon the foundation that had been so heroically laid in times of war and trial; to sow the vacant field with ideas that promised a fruitful harvest, and no longer leave it to grow up to thorns that promised only increasing irritation. Happily for us, the men of that day were not wanting in the great crisis. Upon the firm basis of Equal Rights as laid down in the Declaration of Independence, they built the solid superstructure of Constitutional government. From scattered, discordant fragments, they compacted a new nation.

Stock Photo of the Consitution of the United States and Feather QuillThe second step towards the prosperity of this people was taken in the adoption of the Constitution in 1787. This was not simply an alliance between States. That had already been secured by the Articles of Confederation, the utter inadequacy of which could no longer be concealed. This was a union of the people—the birth of a nation—an assertion of the right of man to government, as the Declaration of Independence was an assertion of his right to liberty.

The greatest victories of those days that “tried men’s souls” were not won on the field of battle, where man meets man in the rude shock of brute force, but in the senate chamber, where mind meets mind in the conflict of principles, where inveterate prejudice gives way to the calm pressure of reason, where narrow selfishness yields to the demands of enlarged patriotism. The adoption of the Constitution was such a triumph. To have been the first to take this step in advance is glory enough for any nation. Speaking of the Constitution, Lord Brougham says: “The regulation of such a union upon pre-established principles, the formation of a system of government and legislation in which the different subjects shall not be individuals, but States, the application of legislative principles to such a body of States, and the devising means for keeping its integrity as a [Con]Federacy, while the rights and powers of the individual States are maintained entire, is the very greatest refinement in social policy to which any state of circumstances has ever given rise, or to which any age has ever given birth.” Says De Tocqueville: This theory was wholly novel, and may be considered as a great discovery in modern political science. It was not only because she had championed the Rights of Man that America placed the world under lasting obligation; it was also because she established Freedom upon rational principles, had harmonized Liberty and Law, and thus made a durable democracy possible, that the world looks to her example to learn the way to lasting liberty.

Ordinance_of_1787The last, and no less important step, was taken when the Ordinance of 1787 was adopted for the government of the North-west territory.. The adoption of this Ordinance antedates the adoption of the Constitution, but its influence in national affairs was subsequent to the immediate influence of that instrument. This document shows an enlarged and advanced view of the powers and duties of government. It enunciates several principles which were also incorporated into the Constitution of the United States. It laid down the broad and then quite novel principle of absolute religious toleration; it asserted the inviolability of contracts, thus placing the authority of integrity above that of legislatures; it first clearly uttered the sentiment now so familiar that “Religion, Morality and Knowledge, being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged;” it insisted upon keeping good faith with all men, and demanded justice even for the Indians, who had for ten years been waging a cruel and bloody war against the settlers in this very territory; it at once and forever prohibited slavery, and thus led the way to its final eradication from this country.

We need trace our history no further. Here we find the grand secret of this unexampled prosperity and the conditions of our future success. In this triple recognition of the rights of man, the just limits of government, and the paramount claims of Religion, Morality and Education, we find an ample explanation. Upon the foundation of Equal Rights, as laid in the Declaration of Independence, a Constitutional government was erected upon the immovable pillars of Religion, Morality and Knowledge, based not on arbitrary enactment and secured by force, but resting still more firmly in the conscientious regard of the people. We have no religion defined by the State and enforced by law; we have what is better, Religion voluntarily practiced by the people. We do not have an education thrust upon the people by compulsion; we have what is better, a people who do not need the coarse stimulus of this coercion. In the recognition of these moral forces as determining the condition of mankind, we may find the reason why we have succeeded in securing at the same time liberty for the people and stability for the government. Until taught by our example, the world believed that liberty was but another name for license and lawless anarchy; that stability was the prerogative of despotism. But the tottering thrones and fleeing kings of the Old World have proved that the arm of Force is not strong enough to hold a kingdom stable, and that the government is most firmly seated that rests upon conceded rights, and guards the rights of the people with a sleepless jealousy.

The nations of the world are met in the City of Peace to offer us their heartfelt congratulations, bringing the accumulated treasures of art and industry to grace this glad occasion. Fit place for such a gathering, fit occasion for such a celebration! It is the Festival of Peace, as well as the birthday of Freedom. Industry bends its tireless energies to lighten the pressure of wearisome labor. Art, hand in hand with Toil, brings her treasures to grace our holiday. Even grim-visaged War puts on the garb of Peace, and with an awkward smile displays his death-dealing enginery in bloodless repose. The sword-girt, mail-clad warrior is no longer the world’s hero. The conqueror is no longer the ideal man. The hero of to-day is the Inventor who elevates mind by freeing muscle, who bends his blest endeavors to lift the yoke of labor from the bowed necks of the toiling millions.

The nations are all here, and this friendly gathering utters anew the greeting of Heaven, “Peace on Earth, goodwill to Men.” We do not celebrate this day alone. Others share in our joy. Every nation on the globe above the lowest level of barbarism gives us a hearty God-speed, for there is not a people that does not feel the beneficent impulse which our example has given the world. Liberty has a new meaning since man has proved that a king is not a necessary evil; that the majesty of right is above the majesty of man; that the sway of justice is more enduring than the rule of force. This grand truth, first proclaimed by the heroes of the elder days, first demonstrated by our convincing example, has been wrought into the convictions of men by the steady pressure of our advancing prosperity. Well may the world join us in celebrating this peaceful triumph, for all men have part in our glory and share our gain. Our Declaration of Independence gave a voice to the half-formed thoughts of humanity, and brought to man a-knowledge of his inalienable rights. Our Constitution has made true liberty possible not only for this nation, but for all mankind.

RevWarVetMarkerThe Dead too are here:—not dead, but living in the deeds which they wrought and in the affectionate remembrance of their fellowmen. Their immortal spirits see the fruits of their labors, and today they rejoice with us. From Concord, Lexington, Bunker Hill; from the stubborn contest with cold and hunger at Valley Forge; from Cowpens, King’s Mountain; from Saratoga and Yorktown; from every nameless battle-field of the Revolution; from the fresher graves of our last and sternest war, their jubilant spirits throng in upon us to-day, and join in the gladness of the grand chorus of praise that swells up before the throne of the God of Nations. The sea, too, gives up its dead. From every ocean grave, from the quiet depths of Erie and Champlain, those who sunk to their peaceful rest amidst the noise and tumult of battle rise to join us in the celebration of this day which their valor and devotion bequeathed to us. They are all here: I need not speak their names. Time would fail me to mention the surrounding cloud of exulting witnesses. The Golden Gates stand wide open to-day, and well may Heaven join Earth in celebrating a day like this. We do not exult over the blood-stained triumphs of War; we rejoice in the victories of Peace. We boast not of conquest; we glory in Freedom. We count not the struggle; we see the gain.

Then let us celebrate this day with glad rejoicing, for it is a day fit to be remembered through all time. Through a frail infancy, through a wayward youth, Freedom has passed forward to the full strength and the maturer powers of a vigorous manhood. The nation has attained its majority. Let all the World join in our rejoicing. Let all Nature, from the heights of Summer, crowned with her most gorgeous beauty, with every inarticulate symbol, voice the universal joy, as she joins man in his jubilant chorus of praise to the Giver of all good.

See also: 
The Consequence of Bad Legal Precedent in American Legislation
THE SOURCE AND SECURITY OF AMERICAN FREEDOM AND PROGRESS by Courtlandt Parker 1876
AMERICAN FREE INSTITUTIONS; THE JOY AND GLORY OF MANKIND by Dr. J. Sellman 1876
BENEFITS OF THE REPUBLICAN EXPERIMENT IN AMERICA by Thomas G. Alvord 1810- 1897
THE HAND OF GOD IN AMERICAN HISTORY by Rev Morgan Dix July 4th 1876 NYC
THE MEANING OF THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE by Col Robert G Ingersoll
Wide Spread And Growing Corruption In The Public Service Of The States And Nation
WHAT HISTORY TEACHES US ABOUT AMERICAN DIPLOMACY Addressed in 1876
AMERICA OUR SUCCESS OUR FUTURE! by John P. Gulliver July 4th 1876 NYC
RISE OF CONSTITUTIONAL LIBERTY by Dr. Richard Salter Storrs July 4 1876
The Betrayal Of �We The American People’ Our Nation! Our Birthright!
Public Servants Who Fasten Themselves on the Public Treasury Like Leeches
OUR REPUBLIC! By Jeremiah Taylor at Providence, R. I., July 4th 1876
THE PERPETUITY OF THE REPUBLIC by Joseph Kidder July 4th 1876
OUR NOBLE HERITAGE by Hon. George W. Curtis (1824 –1892)
THE GENIUS OF AMERICA by Hon. Dr. Felix R. Brunot July 4, 1876
THE COST OF POPULAR LIBERTY by Brooks Adams July 4th 1876
DANIEL WEBSTER AND OUR AMERICAN FLAG
4th Cont. Lt. Dragoons

The Pennsylvania Line 4th Continental Dragoons

4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment

Authorized 5 January 1777 in the Continental Army as the 4th Continental Light Dragoon Regiment and assigned to the Main Army. Organized in spring 1777 at Philadelphia and Baltimore to consist of six troops from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and New Jersey.
Relieved 19 November 1778 from the Main Army and assigned to the Middle Department. Relieved 28 June 1779 from the Middle Department and assigned to the Highlands Department. Reorganized in early 1780 to consist of four mounted and two dismounted troops. Relieved 10 June 1780 from the Highlands Department and assigned to the Main Army. Relieved in December 1780 from the Main Army and assigned to the Middle Department.

Re-designated 1 January 1781 as the 4th Legionary Corps. Relieved in March 1781 from the Middle Department and assigned to the Southern Department. Reorganized 1 January 1781 to consist of one mounted troop and one dismounted troop. Furloughed 11 June 1783 at Philadelphia. Disbanded 15 November 1783.

The Continental Army had four regiments of cavalry, formally designated as “light dragoons.” They were used for scouting, patrolling, and covering missions and for courier service. Except for surprise encounters with enemy patrols, they were intended to fight on foot. As originally conceived, and as prescribed on March 14, 1777, a Dragoon regiment was to have six troops, each consisting of a captain, a Lieutenant, a cornet (the cavalry equivalent of infantry ensign or artillery second lieutenant), and forty-one enlisted men. With the field-grade officers and regimental staff, the regiment would total 280 personnel. The reorganization of May 27, l 778, retained the six-troop structure, but added a lieutenant and twenty-three enlisted men to each troop, bringing the theoretical total to 416 officers and enlisted men. January l, l 781, bought still another reorganization, this one reflecting a conceptual change imposed by necessity. Six more privates were added to each troop and minor changes were made to the staff, bringing the regimental total of 455 officers and men; but only four of the troops were mounted, the attaining two consisting of infantry. This new type of unit was called a ‘legionary corps, “‘ and provided a more versatile organization, roughly equivalent in an embryonic way to a regimental combat team.

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoon 1778-81

But cavalry was an expensive branch of the service. Mounts had to be purchased, and, due to hard usage and perennial shortages, required frequent replacement. Saddles and other “horse furniture” had to be procured. Weapons suitable for mounted men were also in short supply sabers could be manufactured, but pistols and carbines had to be reported. Due to this combination of limiting factors, no Continental cavalry regiment ever had much more than three hundred men, and only bout half of these could be mounted. More often, the regiments mustered no more than 150 men.

The 4th Continental Light Dragoon regiment was authorized by Congress on January 1, 1777 and on January 5, Stephen Moylan was appointed its colonel. He had previously been the Continental Army’s Quartermaster General (in grade of colonel), and at the time of his appointment to the new regiment, was serving as an aide on Washington’s staff. He continued, as commander of the regiment until it was disbanded.’

Of the key officers (captain through colonel) of the original regiment, only Moylan himself and one captain were from Pennsylvania. One Captain was from Maryland, and the rest of the captains, the lieutenant

Colonel, and the major were Virginians. 5 The enlisted men, however, were largely from Pennsylvania, chiefly from Philadelphia and its vicinity.

For more than two years after its formation, the 4th Dragoons had no held-grade officer except for Colonel Moylan. Not until December 10, 1779, was Lt. Col. Benjamin Temple, of the 1st Continental Light Dragoons (a Virginian), transferred to fill the vacancy. He continued with the 4th Light Dragoons during the rest of the regiment’s existence. Similarly, the 4th Dragoons had no major until another Virginian, Moore Fauntleroy, was promoted from captain on August 1, 1779. He remained on the regiment’s roster from that time on, although on February 10, 1783, Maj. Gen. Arthur St. Clair complained that Fauntleroy had been absent from duty for many months.

4th Cont. Lt. Dragoons

The 4th Dragoon regiment was authorized six troops, and actually had that number on July 3, 1781,” but the names of only five original captains have been found. The troops and their commanders appear to have been as follows:

[Troop A], commanded by Capt. Moore Fauntleroy. After serving in 1776 as an ensign and second lieutenant in the 5th Virginia (infantry) Regiment, he was appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons on January 21, 1777. He was taken prisoner at the Battle of Germantown, on October 4, 1777. The date of his escape or exchange is not known; but as noted above, he was promoted to major on August 1, 1779 Records do not indicate the promotion or appointment of any officer to fill the captaincy he vacated. The regiment’s first appointment to captain after Fauntleroy’s promotion was that of Larkin Smith, but that did not take place until April 1,1780, eight months later. Smith, still another Virginian, had been commissioned a cornet in the 4th Dragoons on August 1, 1777, promoted to lieutenant on September 4, 1778, and after becoming a captain continued with the regiment as long as it remained in existence.

[Troop B], commanded by Capt. David Hopkins, of Virginia. He had been a volunteer with Benedict Arnold’s Quebec expedition in 1775, and was appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Dragoons on January 21, 1777. At an unknown date in 1780, he was promoted to major of the 1st Continental Dragoons.” It is possible that his replacement was Capt. Henry Willis, of Pennsylvania, concerning whom the records are contradictory. He was appointed a cornet in the 4th Dragoons in June, 1777, and according to one version was promoted to second lieutenant on June 25, 1781, and to captain on an unspecified subsequent date, serving to the end of the war. Another version, however, says that he was promoted to Captain on December 22, 1780, and resigned his commission on April 24, 1781, at which time he was replaced by Capt. Thomas Overton, a Virginian, who had been a lieutenant in the 9th Virginia (infantry) Regiment until July 1, 1779, when he had been appointed a first lieutenant in the 4th Dragoons. He served with that regiment through the rest of the war.

· [Troop C], commanded by Capt. Thomas Dorsey, of Pennsylvania. He began his service as a captain of infantry, initially in the 1st Pennsylvania Battalion and then in its successor unit, the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment. He became a captain in the 4th Dragoons on January 10, 1777, but is listed as “omitted” in August of the same year. No promotion occurred which can be associated with the departure from service (whatever the circumstances may have been) of Captain Dorsey. The first such promotion after he left the regiment, which took place on February 8, 1778, was that of John Heard, of New Jersey. After having been a second lieutenant of New Jersey artillery in 1776, Heard had become a first lieutenant of the 4th Dragoons on January 20, 1777. He served as a captain in that regiment from the date of his promotion to the end of the war.

· [Troop D1], commanded by Capt. David Plunkett, of Maryland. His prior service had been as a second lieutenant in Smallwood’s Maryland Regiment. Appointed a captain in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons on January 10, 1777, he was taken prisoner on October 20 of that year (location and circumstances unknown, although possibly in conjunction with the defense of Fort Mercer, near Red Bank, New Jersey), and resigned from the army on March 13, 1779. Possibly to fill this vacancy, Peter Manifold was promoted to captain from first lieutenant on April 14, 1779. One of the comparatively few Pennsylvania officers, he had originally joined the regiment as a cornet, on April 14, 1778, being promoted barely two weeks later (on May 1) to lieutenant. He resigned on October 30, 1780. Apparently the vacancy remained unfilled for some time.

· [Troop E], commanded by Capt. Vashel D. Howard, of Virginia. He was commissioned a captain in the 4th Dragoons on January 24, 1777, but died on March 15, 1778.22 There was no promotion to captain in the regiment from that time until December 22, 1778, when John Craig, a Pennsylvanian, was promoted from first lieutenant. He had been a second lieutenant in the Ed Pennsylvania (infantry) Battalion and a first lieutenant in the Id Pennsylvania (infantry) Regiment before transferring to the 4th Dragoons on March 22, 1977. He stayed with the organization to the end of the wards

Other officers who at one time or another served as captains in the 4th Continental Light Dragoons were:

Capt. Zebulon Pike, of New Jersey. Appointed a cornet in the 4th Dragoons on March 1, 1777, he became the regimental adjutant on November 20, 1777, was promoted lieutenant on March 15, 1778, and captain on December 25, 1778. On June 1, 1780, he was appointed regimental paymaster, holding that position until the end of the war.

Capt. Erasmus Gill, of Virginia. He was appointed a captain in the 4th Dragoons in February 1779, but with a retroactive date of rank of December 25, 1778. He had prior service as a sergeant, ensign, and second lieutenant in the 2d Virginia (infantry) Regiment. (Father of the Brig. R. Gen. Zubulon Pike who discovered Pike’s Peak and who was killed at Toronto during the War of 1812) On October 3, 1779, he was taken prisoner at Savannah, Georgia, and after his exchange (on October 22, 1780), served to the end of the war.

Capt. Lawrence Frank, of Pennsylvania. Having been commissioned a first lieutenant, 4th Continental Light Dragoons on October 1, 1779, he was promoted to captain some time in 1782 and served in that grade throughout what remained of the war.

Whatever the regiment’s pattern of promotions or company strength may have been, it is clear that some time prior to its demobilization the 4th Dragoons had reached a total of six companies, commanded at the end by Captains Smith, Heard, Craig, Gill, Overton, and Frank.

The uniform originally adopted for the 4th Dragoons featured coats captured from the British. These were red, with blue facings. However, the first detachment of the regiment to join Washington at Morristown, New Jersey, in the spring of 1777, was mistaken for British soldiers, to the consternation of the American civilians the troops met along the way. On May 12, General Washington wrote to Colonel Moylan, directing him to change the color, “which may be done by dipping into what kind of dye that is most proper to put upon Red. I care not what it is, so that the present color be changed. Apparently, some of the men wore linen hunting shirts for a time, but before long the regiment was uniformed in green coats trimmed with red, green cloaks with red capes, red waistcoats, buckskin breeches, and leather caps trimmed with bear skin. 29 By the terms of the General Order of October 2,1779, however, all dragoon regiments were thenceforth to wear blue coats, faced and lined with white, with white buttons.

For recruiting, the 4th Dragoon Regiment had been assigned to the area between the North (Hudson) River and the Susquehanna, but, as noted above, it appears to have drawn the bulk of its men from the Philadelphia region. The original enlistment’s expired in the latter part of September 1780. The regiment had never been filled, and only eleven of the old members re-enlisted at that time for the duration of the war.’2 With new recruits, it totaled only eighty men (with fifteen officers!) by the spring of 1781.” The nearest thing to a complete roster, purportedly showing all the enlisted men who ever served with the regiment, lists only 213 namesake.

SUMMARY

In comparison with infantry and artillery organizations, the term “regiment” is misleading as applied to Continental cavalry units. The 4th Light Dragoon regiment, raised chiefly in and around Philadelphia, seems seldom to have exceeded a hundred troopers by very much, and frequently to have fallen to much lower manning levels. As numerical weakness limited the uses, which it could serve, iterated in small detachments or with men functioning independently as individuals.

Operations

OPERATIONS

Even more markedly shall was the case for artillery. American Continental cavalry was employed in small, widely dispersed detachments. It performed valuable services in observing and reporting enemy movements, screening its own infantry’s movements, covering exposed flanks, and providing messengers for dissemination of tactical orders. Except for brief skirmishes, however, it almost never saw extensive combat.

As already noted, the first elements of the 4th Continental Light Dragoons arrived at Morristown on May 12, 1777. For the next two months they were carrying out patrolling activities in the vicinity of Middlebrook, New Jersey. A return dated July 16, 1777 indicates that three troops (under Captains Dorsey, Hopkins, and Plunkett) were in the field. They drew a total of 172 rations, but upwards of twenty of these appear to have been for the authorized regimental laundresses.

Four days later, at Elizabeth, New Jersey, nineteen men of Captain Craig’s troop, disgruntled because they had not been paid, left for Philadelphia in defiance of orders, to demand the money due them. Two troops of the 1st Dragoons brought them back, but the horses were too stiff to permit further movements until they could be rested. The deserters were tried by court martial in early August, by which time the regiment was at Neshaminy, in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. All nineteen were sentenced to be hanged, but General Washington commuted the sentence and, on August 19, transferred the men to infantry regiments.’

The 4th Dragoons took part with the rest of the army in the march through Philadelphia on August 24, moving on south toward Wilmington, Delaware. From there, the regiment formed part of the escort for General Washington when he reconnoitered toward the British army’s landing place at Head of Elk, Maryland, and helped drive off an enemy scouting force attempting a probe northward.

During the Battle of Brandywine, on September 11, the dragoons operated chiefly as scouts and couriers, under the over-all direction of Count Casimir Pulaski, soon to be named commander of all the Continental cavalry. Some of the 4th Dragoon regiment may have taken part in Pulaski’s successful attempt to block the British forces trying to cut off the American line of retreat to Chester, but no specific documentation to this effect has been found. On September 13, however, a detachment of the 4th Dragons was sent to retrieve military stores being held at French Creek, in Chester County, and the rest of the troopers were used to provide cover for the fords across the Schuylkill River.

As at Brandywine, the role of the regiment at the Battle of Germantown was to provide covering and scouting forces and messenger service. Presumably, some or all of the regiment may have been with Pulaski’s force delaying the British pursuit. It does not appear to have been heavily engaged, although it may have seen some action, for Captain Fauntleroy was captured during this battle.

Scouting and patrolling continued to occupy the 4th Dragoons. On November 9, 1777, Captain Craig and a detachment were officially commended for capturing a number of enemy soldiers. When Washington took up a defensive position at Whitemarsh, the regiment helped cover the left flank of the position, but was not engaged during the tentative British advance.

The 4th Dragoons moved with the rest of the army to Valley Forge on December 19, 1777. Although the bulk of the army’s cavalry was sent to Trenton in order to ease the demands on the Valley Forge locality for fodder, the 4th Dragoons appear to have stayed at Valley Forge until March 20,1778. On that date, Colonel Moylan was ordered to move his command to Trenton. Over the next several weeks, there was frequent patrolling, which gave rise to several skirmishes, but the lack of fit horses and suitable equipment limited the action which could be taken. Then, on May 28, Washington sent orders for all the cavalry regiments to join the army at Valley Forge. Before the troopers could arrive, however, the orders were countermanded and the cavalrymen were directed to keep close watch over British movements in the vicinity of Philadelphia.

When the British evacuated Philadelphia and started across New Jersey on June 18, the cavalry stayed close on their heels, keeping Washington informed of their direction of march. In fact, the 4th Dragoons clung so close that on June 27 they overran the camp followers marching in the rear of the British columns. On June 27, the day before the Battle of Monmouth, the regiment captured a number of prisoners and sent them back for interrogations

Like most Revolutionary War battles, Monmouth was an infantry and artillery fight, with cavalry playing its part chiefly before and after the actual clash. The 4th Dragoons seem to have had no part in the engagement itself, and there is no record that the regiment suffered any casualties on that day. On the other hand, Moylan’s men did follow up the British withdrawal on June 29, but they were too weak in numbers and the horses were too exhausted to do anything except maintain a watch over enemy movements.

After the Battle of Monmouth, the 4th Continental Light Dragoons remained in New Jersey through the summer. The regiment’s base was at Hackensack, but its assignment was to patrol the area toward the Hudson and to keep the British forces under observation.

By early October, the regiment had moved to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. From there it was ordered to Durham, Connecticut, for the winter of 1778-1779. It operated along the New York-Connecticut border during the summer of 1779. On July 11, it saw its next sizable action when it accompanied a militia force to try to prevent a British amphibious raid on the town of Norwalk. By the time the Americans arrived, the enemy troops had made their landing and had set the town on fire. Colonel Moylan led an attack, during which, he reported, “a vast deal of ammunition [was] wasted, to very little purpose, as in general our militia kept at awfull distance.” Although the raiding force, concealed by the smoke from the burning town, withdrew successfully to its ships, the cavalry took four prisoners.

During the rest of that summer, the bulk of the regiment continued to operate in the same general area, serving as part of the force under Brig. Gen. John Glover. Some of the regiment appears to have gone to the Southern Theater about this time, as Captain Gill (who was mentioned by name as capturing the four prisoners at Norwalk on July 11) was himself taken prisoner at Savannah, Georgia, on October 3.

The regiment as a whole spent the winter of 1779-1780 in Connecticut. Quarters for men and horses were inadequate, and the 4th Dragoons had to be scattered over a distance of five miles, an impossible situation for any organization, which might be called upon to react quickly. Colonel Moylan claimed that “No Regiment could be more orderly than the 4th since they have come into this State,” but the troopers were unpopular with the local civilians. Shortages of supplies and equipment were acute. “We have an exceeding cold day,” Moylan noted on January 22, 1780, “and the Regiment so badly off for underclothes that they are much to be pitied. He reported on February 15 that there were 130 Pennsylvanians in the organization—probably the bulk of its enlisted strength—but a week later he stated that even this small number was not effective “for want of breeches, boots, shirts and stockings.”54 The shortages were still acute as late as April 14.

Apparently, spring brought more supplies, and the summer definitely brought more action. On July 21, 1780, the 4th Dragoon regiment was part of the force under Brig. Gen. Anthony Wayne, which attacked the Blockhouse at Bergen Heights, New Jersey. It carried out the only part of the operation, which was completely successful, driving off the considerable collection of Tory owned cattle and horses at Bergen Neck while Wayne’s infantry and artillery tried vainly to reduce the garrison which was holding the Blockhouse.

According to one authority, parts of the regiment were sent to the Southern theater during 1780, sustaining heavy losses at the Battle of Camden, South Carolina, on August 16, the survivors being absorbed into a composite dragoon unit commanded by Lt. Col. William Washington, originally of the 3d Continental Dragoons. This claim seems to be unlikely. No other reference to 4th Dragoon participation in that battle has been found. Moreover, it is clear that the greater part of the regiment spent the winter of 1780-1781 at Lancaster, and there was a detachment at West Point.

Because of these dispositions, the 4th Dragoons did not take part in the January 1 mutiny of the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown, New Jersey. Nevertheless, they staged a minor revolt of their own. On May 21, 1781, a number of the dragoons, with their weapons, marched on the Lancaster jail, determined to release one of the members of the regiment who was confined there. The jail was guarded by a militia sentry, who ordered the cavalry men to halt. One of the troopers continued to move forward, threatening the sentry with a cocked and loaded pistol. When he tried to wrest away the sentry’s musket, the sentry shot and killed him. As the dragoon fell, his pistol dropped out of his hand and fired when it hit the ground, with the result that a militiamen standing nearby was wounded in the thigh.

The regiment had become greatly reduced in effectiveness. As of April 6, Major General St. Clair reported that the 4th Dragoons had only eighty men, and only fifty of those were mounted, and there was no improvement by mid-July. Even so, by the end of June, part of the regiment had joined Wayne’s provisional brigade in Virginia.63 As of July 3, the regiment’s total enlisted strength is shown as being only 101 men. ‘[‘hey were organized in six troops, but were very unevenly distributed, the largest troop numbering forty-two men and the smallest only three.

By October 1, 1781, what was left of the 4th Dragoons (now officially the 4th Legionary Corps) was all assembled at Williamsburg, in Virginia. From there, it went on to the siege of Yorktown, where it was assigned to the “right division.” By November 1, still at Yorktown, it had fourteen officers and ninety-four enlisted men, and another forty men and four officers had already marched south to join Major General Greene. The mounts of the men in Virginia were in very poor condition, and Colonel Moylan predicted that they would not be capable of marching for at least four months.

The only part of the regiment which saw any further action during the war was the detachment in the south, which by the end of 1781 numbered approximately one hundred officers and men. This force was assigned to the command, which Anthony Wayne led into Georgia, leaving South Carolina on January 4, 1782. During the course of the campaign, which ended with the occupation of Savannah on July 12, 1782, what was left of the 4th Dragoons was absorbed into a mixed command (including elements of the 1st and 3rd Dragoon regiments) under Col. George Baylor, 3rd Continental Light Dragoons. * As for the elements of the regiment, which had not gone south from Virginia, by December 15, 1782, their strength had dropped to one mounted troop and one troop of foot soldiers. The foot troop was transferred to the Pennsylvania infantry (although the men continued to be paid at the higher rate prescribed for cavalry), and the mounted troop was mustered out.

 

*Griffin, p. 126. It seems likely that Berg’s statement that in 1780 remnants of the 4th Dragoons w ere absorbed into a mixed command under let. Col. Washington, 3d Dragoons, reflects a confusion with what actually happened in 1782.