Henry Knox. Letter
copy: to George Washington, 1783
April 17. 4 p. + doc.
different hand: K. report to W]
first principle of the security of the United States must rest and consist in a
hardy militia, in whom the <loss> as of freedom and a generous love of
their country shall be inherent. Those
upon every invasion will form the advanced guard of defence and if the war
should continue, a sufficient number must be selected, under the discipline of a
regular army to oppose the invaders. It
ought to be the care of the respective legislatures as soon as possible, to form
the militia upon the best principles consistent with the good of of society, and
Congress should recommend one system for the militia to pervade the United
States. The general principles of
this system should consist in a similarity in the formation of battalions, &
in the manner of being armed and a certain number, perhaps one third, of the
train bands annually be drawn out and encamped in large bodies, with the
officers, for a term not less than twelve nor more than twenty days, in which
all the general principles of war should be industriously practiced.
The tents straw rations and camp kettles to be furnished at the
expence of the State and the troops paid for the time actually encamped.
method should be devised to make the profession of arms honorable, for which
reason it would be necessary for the first men of the community to attend these
annual exhibitions of war, either as officers, soldiers or spectators.
To an enlightened people arguments are unnecessary to enforce a truth so
obvious. This is the moment to form
habits which shall give a lustre to the American character.
people universally should be furnished with arms and know how to use them.
Besides; each State ought for its own dignity to have an arsenal of a
certain number of arms, a sufficient quantity of ammunition and camp-equipage,
with a train of field ordnance [strike-out]
local situation of some of the States will require a small force for garrisons,
to protect their harbours from insults and their frontiers from the depredations
of the savages. This  matter
will be regulated by Congress and the States.
besides the forces necessary to be kept up by the respective States, it appears
to be indispensably necessary that the United States should have some troops for
the security of their extensive boundary westward, as well as for the
preservation of West Point, the key to America. If troops are not stationed on the frontiers, the extensive
Country which is ceded by the peace to the United States will not avail them
much whereas, on the contrary, the security of those parts will render the
Country immediately so valuable as to enable Congress to form funds to defray
much of the expence arising from the war. Perhaps
this number ought not to be less, including artillery in the post of Detroit,
and others which it may be necessary to establish, for the trade with the the
natives, as well as to give a confidence to the settlers of the country.
West Point has been so pre-eminently advantageous in the defence of the
United States, and is still so important in that view, as well as of
preserving the Union, that it cannot be presumed it will be abandoned,
unless other reasons, more important than the defence and union of America can
be found out and urged for the measure. The
Stores at West Point are great in quantity and generally well deposited. But it would be necessary to have a dry stone magazine built
for the powder, and an arsenal for the arms and to cover the carriages of the
artillery. [strike-out] The number of
troops might be three companies of artillery, one of suppers and miners, and one
or two infantry battalions of four companies, all upon the present
United States being sensible of their own rising importance in the commerce and
power of the world will omit nothing that shall conduce to extend their duration
and greatness. Causes of war will
happen, and we shall not long retain our existence, without being possessed of
the means to exert ourselves to the greatest effect.
A perfect knowledge of the principles of war by land and sea is
absolutely incumbent on a people, circumstanced as we are and determined to be
free and independent.  From these considerations arise an indispensable
necessity of forming and adopting a complete system of military education.
This system should embrace the whole theory of the art of war as
practiced by the most enlightened nations, and accompanied by such professors as
would form the pupils for the state or the field, as their inclinations or
circumstances should dictate.
education for the Sea and land officers, being different in their natures, will
require different institutions.
will be necessary and consistent with conomy to fix the military academies in
the same places with the arsenals of the United States. The same troops will serve as guards and in the works of the
artificers. It is uncertain how
many arsenals may be determined upon, but the situation of the Country seems to
require at least three general deposits one for the southern, one for the
middle, and one for the eastern States including N. York.
In each of these there ought to be deposited arms ammunition
field artillery and camp equipage for thirty thousand men
and also one hundred heavy cannon and mortar with all the apparatus of
a siege and a sufficiency of ammunition.
each of the military academies and arsenals there should be four or five hundred
soldiers, enlisted to serve seven years. These
should be formed into three companies of artillery, one of suppers and miners,
and the remainder into a corps of infantry, fifty of whom occasionally should
act as cavalry. There should also
be one company of artificers, to consist of fifty men [inserted:
of different trades]. The soldiers
in all cases to assist the artificers, for which they should be allowed some
small addition of pay. At this
place should be a manufacturory of arms, pistols, swords, and every implement
used in the infantry and cavalry the necessary furnaces to cast [inserted:
iron] cannon of all dimensions, and all sizes of shot and shells a brass
foundery to cast cannon and all other brass apparatus which should be wanted
and a complete laboratory for the preparation of ordnance and military stores of
 artillery [struck: artificers] [inserted:
officers] and engineers should be the same persons, but in the first instance,
they should have different masters.
should be professors of the different sciences and fine arts, whose
establishments should be such as to induce men of ability to accept of the
each academy there might be admitted forty pupils annually, who should study for
three years. All the scholars
should be obliged to study the science of artillery and engineering and go
through the necessary studies for that purpose.
The students to pay a certain price annually for their education, and be
furnished with a certain quantity of clothing, subsisted with rations and
accommodated with convenient apartments, by the public.
arsenal and academy to be under the direction of one person and a code of
military laws, conformable to their circumstances be made the rule of conduct.
should authorize the Secretary of War and such other persons as they might think
proper to inspect annually into the state and improvements of the academies and
conditions of the stores and to report to Congress.
are my general ideas upon the establishments necessary to take place.
Particular systems cannot be formed until the general principles shall be
determined by Congress.
Major General, Com-
manding the Artillery
17th April 1783.
To His Excellency
An opinion upon the New
establishments delivered to his
Excellency General Washington
17 April 1783