Part 1: Chronology of Contractors in American History–The Revolutionary War

Too few realize or willingly accept the need of US defense contractors. They have been criticized and chastised by media, politicians, military leaders, and the public for too long and its time the madness stops. Some people mistakenly believe that even our founding fathers despised the contractual force and refused to incorporate them into the overall strategic picture. These people could never be so wrong.

During the American Revolution, contractors were vital assets to the Continental Army. According to James Dunnigan who wrote Contractors Are Here to Stay, And Always Have Been, during the American Revolution, contractors comprised of 18% of the Continental Army’s fighting force.

Ever since the American Revolution, contractors served in vital capacities safeguarding our national security. Some call these warriors mercenaries, guns for hire, contractors, etc. Either way, the United States has a history of incorporating contractors into the overall national security picture. Without them, an argument can be made that the United States would not exist as we know it.

Numerous historians have written about the criticality of a contractual force immediately prior to and during the American Revolution. Charles Patrick Neimeyer, John Resch, Ronald Hoffman, and Peter J. Albert are just a small handful of historians who documented the incorporation of contractors used to gain US independence.

Interestingly, these authors did not necessarily highlight the British incorporation of a contractual force such as the use of Hessians. They capitalized in articulating the utilization of American patriots willing to fight against the British and Hessians.

These patriots I speak of comprised of Native American Indians, women, children, farmers, frontiers, etc. The Continental Army even incorporated foreign mercenaries who had combat experience in other locations throughout the world which included foreign legions—not to be confused with the French or Spanish Foreign Legions of today.

The roles of the American Revolutionary contractor ranged from cooks, medics, wagoneers, scouts, trackers, and intelligence. Some of the more combat seasoned contractors were even used to help train the Continental Army. Many of these contractors received some of the highest awards and decorations during this period for their service.

Even General George Washington knew a contractual force was necessary. In fact, America’s first “spy master,” Washington, utilized contractors to create America’s first spy ring. This ring was known as the Culper Ring. Few of the clandestine operatives within the Culper Ring were actual government employees. The majority were civilian patriots willingly risking everything to spy on the British. While they were organized and led by military officer Benjamin Tallmadge, virtually every clandestine operator within the ring was a civilian contractor.

Washington had issues with many of his military officers and some of our founding fathers took note of Washington’s concerns. According to historian Andrew McFarland Davis,  John Adams was once documented as describing some of the Continental Army’s officers as, “Scrambling for rank and pay like apes for nuts.”

These concerns, while still valid today when it comes to many US military officers, pushed American leaders to sway further into the utilization of a contractual force. Our founding fathers didn’t need to win the hearts and minds of the local civilian to sacrifice everything for what would soon become the United States. The British, based off their tactics and treatment against civilians, did the work for them.

American history has been utterly twisted lacking many facts and realities. Our own military history has also been skewed neglecting some vital parts for each and every one of us to embrace and understand. The incorporation of a contractual force has been neglected from history books even though an argument can easily be made that without them, America would not be the nation as we know today.

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