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The American Revolution
Creating a Continental Army
Commander Washington's General Orders, July 7, 1775

Trying to create order and discipline in his new "army" was among Washington's most important priorities. In the following excerpt from Washington's General Orders, what issues does Washington discuss? What notions of order and discipline are in evidence?

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Head Quarters, Cambridge, July 7, 1775.

Parole Dorchester. Countersign Exeter.

It is with inexpressible Concern that the General upon his first Arrival in the army, should find an Officer sentenced by a General Court-Martial to be cashier'd for Cowardice. A Crime of all others, the most infamous in a Soldier, the most injurious to an Army, and the last to be forgiven; inasmuch as it may, and often does happen, that the Cowardice of a single Officer may prove the Distruction of the whole Army: The General therefore (tho'with great Concern, and more especially, as the Transaction happened before he had the Command of the Troops) thinks himself obliged for the good of the service, to approve the Judgment of the Court-Martial with respect to Capt. John Callender, who is hereby sentenced to be cashiered. Capt. John Callender is accordingly cashiered and dismiss'd from all farther service in the Continental Army as an Officer.

The General having made all due inquiries, and maturely consider'd this matter is to led to the above determination not only from the particular Guilt of Capt. Callender, but the fatal Consequences of such Conduct to the army and to the cause of America.

He now therefore most earnestly exhorts Officers of all Ranks to shew an example of Bravery and Courage to their men; assuring them that such as do their duty in the day of Battle, as brave and good Officers, shall be honor'd with every mark of distinction and regard; their names and merits made known to the General Congress and all America: while on the other hand, he positively declares that every Officer, be his rank what it may, who shall betray his Country, dishonour the Army and his General, by basely keeping back and shrinking from his duty in any engagment; shall be held up as an infamous Coward and punish'd as such, with the utmost martial severity; and no Connections, Interest or Intercessions in his behalf will avail to prevent the strict execution of justice. . . .

No Soldier, belonging to these Post's or elsewhere, to be suffered to straggle at a distance from their respective parade, on any pretence, without leave from his Officers: As an unguarded Hour, may prove fatal to the whole army, and to the noble Cause in which we are engaged. The Importance of which, to every man of common understanding must inspire every good Officer and Soldier, with the noblest Ardour and strictest attention, least he should prove the fatal Instrument of our ruin. . . .

Complaints having been made with respect to the Bread, as being sour and unwholesome; the Quarter Master General is hereby directed to enquire into the matter and report upon it: At the same time to inform the Bakers that if any Complaints are made, and they shall be found just, they will be most severely punished.

The Guards on the Roads leading to Bunker's Hill, are ordered not to suffer any person to pass them, unless an Officer is sent down from the Lines to order it, or they will be severely punished.

The General has great Reason; and is highly displeased, with the Negligence and Inattention of those Officers, who have placed as Centries at the out-posts, Men with whose Character they are not acquainted. He therefore orders, that for the future, no Man shall be appointed to those important Stations, who is not a Native of this Country, or has a Wife, or Family in it, to whom he is known to be attached. This Order is to be consider'd as a standing one and the Officers are to pay obedience to it at their peril.

A Complaint of the most extraordinary kind, having been made to the General, that Soldiers inlisted in one Regiment, have been seduced to reinlist into others, by Agents employed for that purpose under the specious promises of money, or leave of absence from the Army, a procedure so subversive of all order, discipline, and of the very Existance of the army, cannot be forgiven, the strictest Orders are therefore given against such practices, and the General most earnestly declares, that if any Agent or Soldier, shall hereafter be found so offending, he will punish them with the utmost severity.
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