Here’s another striking entry from Col. Henry Knox’s earliest regimental orders, preserved in the Gershom Foster orderly book at Anderson House in Washington, D.C. These words come from a long entry on 11 Feb 1776:
Whereas there have been some misapprehentions how far an officer of Artillery is under the command of an officer of Superiour Rank in any other Regt. while on duty in In the beginning of a war disputes of this kind may arise owing to a very Obvious reason, (viz) the want of experience but then a good Officer will endiver immeadiatly to be better informd and never assert [?] a dispute where a little honour is to be Obtained and which will always expose his want of knowledge.Knox’s strict order indicates that he had learned about artillery officers defying nearby colonels and other superiors, insisting that they answered only to their own colonel. He didn’t want to hear any more complaints of that sort.
In the nature of military discipline there cannot be two separate commanders in one Army every Order must be implissitly Obeyd from the Commander in Chief down to the Lowest Sentinal. All parts must perform their proper officers [sic] like a Grand machine when good regulation depends on a A number of nice wheals the Least of which being wrong disorders the whole. So in an army if the orders issued by the commander in Chief are interrupted by ignorance wrong instructions Casuality [?] from being communicated to the parts intended the whole must suffer in a vary total manner.
That the Regt. of Artillery may not Lay under the imputation of not properly understanding their connection with the Army, The Colo. desires them to attend to the following directions.
That no officer of artillery on duty presume to dispute the command of any other officer of Superiour Rank excepting in case of notorious cowardice in said officer.
That in a post all guards are under the immeadiate direction of the officer who commands in that post It is not to be supposed that an officer so commanding will take upon himself the direction on pointing the cannon—this is none of his business It is the perticular duty of the Artillery the Purpose for which they were selected Although he has the undoubted right to Order when they shall begin or when they shall seace to fire
The above is to be understood only when on duty the Oeconomy and discipline of the Regt. are under the special direction of the commander of the Artillery.
This passage also shows how Knox viewed the ideal army: as “a Grand machine” with “A number of nice wheals” working in sync. I don’t think of Knox as the best engineer or field-artillery commander in the Continental Army, but he proved to be an excellent military administrator who could keep that machine running.
To my knowledge, Knox’s regimental orders on taking over the Continental artillery have never been published. The Gershom Foster orderly book, just one item of the Society of the Cincinnati’s collection of Revolutionary War military documents, is a vital resource for anyone studying that transition.