Summary: Martin and Lender convincingly demonstrate, without demeaning the militia, that it was the Continental soldier who carried the main burden of the war. The authors' title--A Respectable Army--was the term Washington used when he pled with Congress at the end of 1776 for a regular army that would enlist for three years or for the duration. Although there is some disagreement among military historians as to the precise contributions of various militia units, there is no ...show more disagreement on the importance of the Continental army in winning the war.
After the initial enthusiastic response, the average citizen showed no inclination to enlist in the Continental army. Without economic incentives--bounties, promises of free land, and the meager soldier's pay that attracted the unemployed--the Continental army would have ceased to exist. No one was more aware of this than Washington. Increasingly, the army was made up of the economically deprived. Also as Washington noted, long-term enlistments permitted stricter discipline, and by 1778 the Continental army was beginning to resemble a professional--if not a standing--army. Many citizen-soldiers, in the meantime, hired substitutes to do the fighting. As the war dragged on, the citizenry in general, often enmeshed in private pursuits, not only failed to support the army adequately but looked down on the Continental soldier....This slender volume is a splendid addition to the literature of the War of Independence. ...show less