A Most Intricate Department: The Commissary General of Military Stores Under Benjamin Flower and Samuel Hodgdon, 1777-1782
Barna, Frank Carl
Olson, Alison G.
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This thesis makes use of the little studied records of the Military Stores or Ordnance, Department during the American Revolution to examine the commonly held assumption that the Continental Army was inadequately supplied with the materials necessary for waging war. The evidence suggests that contrary to this assumption, the Ordnance Department, following the reforms of 1778, kept the army well supplied with military stores. This study will examine three phases which illustrate the evolution of the Ordnance Department and the Army as a whole. The first phase, 1775-1777, illustrates the extemporized approach to war waged by Congressional committees lacking in military knowledge and experience. From 1777 to 1779, we witness the maturation and professionalism that evolved following the failure of the old colonial, citizenmilitia approach to war. The final phase, 1779-1783, provides the evidence that the professionalization worked. Under the guidance of General Henry Knox and the leadership of its two wartime administrators, Benjamin Flower and samuel Hodgdon, the Ordnance Department, like the army it supported, evolved into a complex and sophisticated organization. Under Knox and Hodgdon, the Department grew from a divided and unresponsive system under political controls imposed by Congress into an efficient organization responsive to the army's needs. In many ways, the Department became superior to the British system upon which it was initially based and, except for spot shortages arising from poor fiscal or political planning and transportation problems, the Department kept the army well supplied with the weaponry and military stores needed for victory.