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Chapter Twenty-One. Administrator in Chief

Cheryl R. Collins

Subject History » Military History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00023.x


Few big events of the American Revolution compared in magnitude with the everyday work necessary to manage the war effort. One of Washington's most important roles as Commander in Chief was day-to-day administration of the Continental army. This broad responsibility centered on the complex matters of army structure and recruitment, and the procurement and distribution of supplies for the forces. It also required effective navigation of the broader political institutional matrix composed of the Continental Congress, the Continental Army, state governments, state militias, and allied French forces. Not just big-picture policy questions, army composition, supply, and logistics presented nuts and bolts dilemmas in their implementation, occupied the bulk of Washington's focus, and generated extensive daily paperwork. Washington understood that without fulfilling this administrative function, he would have no army to command in battle. Over the eight years of war, Congress and the Commander in Chief experimented with a variety of administrative structures and processes, including boards of war, civilian agents, and executive departments to manage the Continental Army. But Washington remained the single individual accountable for its existence and function. Like virtually all his contemporaries, Washington was committed to civilian control of the military, but this was easier in theory ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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