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ANSWERED on Fri 8 Feb 2008 - 5:23 am UTC by David Sarokin

Question: US Military Manpower, 1784-1800

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 8 Feb 2008 02:08 UTCFri 8 Feb 2008 - 2:08 am UTC 

I am looking for the average size by year of the American regular army and militia for the period from 1784 to 1800. Data on the number of troops actually raised is preferable to the number authorized by Congress.

For example, if I had asked for 1801 to 1805 the answer would be would be 4051, 2873, 2486, 2734, and 2729. (Gartner, Scott Sigmund , Military personnel on active duty, by branch of service and sex: 1789ヨ1995 .Table Ed26-47 in Historical Statistics of the United States, Earliest Times to the Present: Millennial Edition, edited by Susan B. Carter, Scott Sigmund Gartner, Michael R. Haines, Alan L. Olmstead, Richard Sutch, and Gavin Wright. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2006.)




 8 Feb 2008 03:06 UTCFri 8 Feb 2008 - 3:06 am UTC 

I've compiled the following information from
Jacobs, James R. The Beginnings of the U.S. Army, 1783–1812. If you find the historical unit sizes it should be helpful.

1/3/1784 - 700 (84)
?/?/1784 - 80 (84)
6/3/1784 - Authorized 700 militia for one year. Pennsylvania raised 260, New Jersey raised one company, and Connecticut raised 165 but not until spring of 1785 (16-18).
4/12/1785 - Militia authorization extended for three mor eyears (23)
10/2/1785 - Authorize 1340 more militia for three years (34)
6/?/1787 - Only 518 in service. I'm not sure if this is in addition to 700 from 1784 or a total. (34)
?/?/? - Total military dipped to 595 while Knox was Secretary of War
10/3/1787 - 840 men authorized (43)
9/29/1787 - only 672 of 840 in service (43)
4/3/1790 - Troops increased from 700 to 1,246 (50)
1/?/1791 - about 820 in service (68)
3/13/1791 - add 912 troops
?/?/1791 - total force of regulars and militia intended to be around 3,000 (71)
8/?/1791 General St. Clair's force 2,3000 excluding militia
3/5/1792 - Regular army expanded from one artillery battalion and two infantry regiments to include for three years three more infantry regiments and four troops of light dragoons (125). this is "the legion" and i think this may make 5,120 total troops (131)
5/9/1794 - add 764 artillery and engineers, bringing their total to 1048 (167)
3/3/1795 - reauthorize 5/9/1794 force (167)
5/30/1796 - "the legion" abolished. army now 4 regiments, two companies, and existing artillery/engineers (192)
4/27/1798 - add artillery/engineer regiment. 10,000 temporary army authorized but never raised. (207)
6/10/1798 - regiment size increased by 213. more temporary troops authorized but never raised. (207)
3/2/1799 - president authorized to raise 28 regiments and 2 battalions. never did. (226)
3/3/1799 - size of infantry and calvary regiments set at 1065. artillery set at 1134. (226).
1/2/1800 - 3,399 men have been recruited for the 12 new regiments. (what 12 new regiments?). recruiting is stopped. (236)
6/15/1800 - the 3,399 were discharged
1800 - army size is 3,429 (236)


David Sarokin 


 8 Feb 2008 05:23 UTCFri 8 Feb 2008 - 5:23 am UTC 


I can get you part way there.

The Department of War was established in 1789.  Prior to that time, there are no official records of military strength, and even after 1789, records are spotty until 1801.

You can see the official list of historical active military personnel at this Dept of Defense site:


Data are provided for 1794 and 1795, but other years prior to 1801 are absent.  After that time, however, the data match the numbers you provided in your question.

Prior to 1801, one of the best sources of detailed information is here:

American Military History

The text presents a good deal of historical data, but isn't always perfectly clear as to what year the data applies to, or whether the numbers represent the full standing army.

As you are already aware, the 'federal' army was rather ill-defined in the early years of the nation, and often mixed in with state militia and less-than-regular federal musters. 

Here is a summary, best as I can figure it, along with appropriate excerpts, from the report:

1783--600 soldiers
September 24, 1783, Washington disbands the standing army.  All that remains are "...only one infantry regiment and a battalion of artillery, 600 men in all"

June 1784--80 soldiers
June 1784...Congress disbands the small standing force "...except for eighty artillerymen retained to guard military stores at West Point and Fort Pitt."  

Congress also calls "for the immediate recruitment of a new force of 700 men, a regiment of eight infantry and two artillery companies...Four states were called upon to furnish troops: Pennsylvania (260), Connecticut (165), New York (165), and New Jersey (110)."

September 1784--at least 370 soldiers
"By the end of September 1784 only New Jersey and Pennsylvania had filled their quotas by enlisting volunteers from their militia..."
[It's not clear from the text if any soldiers were provided from other states...your figures show an addition 165 from CT in 1785]

October 1786 -- 1,340 soldiers authorized
"On October 20, 1786, Congress responded to the threat by calling on several states to raise a 1,340-man force to serve for three years. This time the New England states did not object to congressional action; but before any of the soldiers voted by Congress could reach the scene, local militiamen repulsed an attack on the Springfield Arsenal led by Daniel Shays in late January 1787"

April 1787 -- 550 soldiers
"Recruiting for the force authorized by Congress continued until the following April. By then about 550 men had been enlisted...and the question of expense was becoming bothersome. Congress therefore directed the states to stop recruiting and to discharge the troops already raised, except those in two artillery companies retained to guard West Point and the Springfield Arsenal..."
[NOTE:  The text indicates that most soldiering was fairly short term back them -- on the order of months rather than years -- so presumably the soldiers from 1784 are back in their civvies as the new force of 550 is raised]

August 1789 -- 800 soldiers
"In April 1789 Washington became the first President under the new Constitution; on August 7 Congress created the Department of War the existing miniscule Army was taken over intact by the new government. In August 1789 this force amounted to about 800 officers and men."

1790--1,283 soldiers authorized
In President Washington’s first annual message to Congress, [NOTE:1790]he called for the defense of the frontier against the Indians. Congress responded by raising the authorized strength of regulars to 1,283

1790--around 1,500
[1790]"Arthur St. Clair, Governor of the Northwest Territory called on Pennsylvania and Kentucky to send 1,500 militiamen to Harmar at Fort Washington, now Cincinnati...After struggling through the wilderness for more than two weeks with a force of 1,453 men, including 320 regulars, he reached the neighborhood of the principal Indian village near what is now Fort Wayne, Indiana"

1791--2,000 authorized
"...in 1791...Congress raised the size of the invasion force, adding a second infantry regiment to the Regular Army and authorizing the President to raise a corps of 2,000 men for a term of six months, either by calling for militia or by enlisting volunteers into the service of the United States."

1791--see text
"When St. Clair’s force finally marched out of Fort Washington, it consisted of about 600 regulars, almost all the actual infantry strength of the U.S. Army, in addition to about 800 enlisted "levies" and 600 militiamen."

1794--at least 3,000
"...in July 1794, Wayne led about 3,000 men to within a few miles of Fort Miami"


The DoD list of historical figures I mentioned earlier:


gives these data for 1794-95:

1794 -- 3,813

1795 --3,440


1797 -- about 3,000
"John Adams, in 1797...inherited a military establishment with an authorized strength of about 3,300 officers and men. In 1797 Congress dropped the Legion that had served well in the frontier fighting, and the Army returned to a regimental type of organization with four regiments of infantry, a Corps of Artillerists and Engineers, and two companies of light dragoons more appropriate to the duties of border defense."

1800-- about 4,100
"By the time the Provisional Army was disbanded in June 1800, around 4,100 men had been mobilized..."

Hope that helps.





 8 Feb 2008 06:21 UTCFri 8 Feb 2008 - 6:21 am UTC 

Thanks David. That wasn't much more information than I already had, but it was definitely $10 worth of work and helps confirm that no scholar has completely pieced these numbers together yet.


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