Sunday, November 6, 2011

Intelligence in the Continental Army

General George Washington advocates the gathering and analysis of tactical and operational intelligence.

Intelligence analysis and estimates
On May 29, 1776, the Continental Congress received the first of many intelligence estimates prepared in response to questions it posed to military commanders. The report estimated the size of the enemy force to be encountered in an attack on New York, the number of Continental troops needed to meet it, and the kind of force needed to defend the other New England colonies.
An example of George Washington's interest in intelligence analysis and estimates can be found in instructions he wrote to General Putnam in August 1777:
"Deserters and people of that class always speak of number. . . indeed, scarce any person can form a judgement unless he sees the troops paraded and can count the divisions. But, if you can by any means obtain a list of the regiments left upon the island, we can compute the number of men within a few hundreds, over or under." On another occasion, in thanking James Lovell for a piece of intelligence, Washington wrote: "it is by comparing a variety of information, we are frequently enabled to investigate facts, which were so intricate or hidden, that no single clue could have led to the knowledge of them. . . intelligence becomes interesting which but from its connection and collateral circumstances, would not be important."
Colonel David Henley, Washington's intelligence chief for a short period in 1778, received these instructions when he wrote to Washington for guidance: "Besides communicating your information as it arises. . . you might make out a table or something in the way of columns, under which you might range, their magazines of forage, grain and the like, the different corps and regiments, the Works, where thrown up, their connexion, kind and extent, the officers commanding, with the numbers of guns &ca. &ca. This table should comprehend in one view all that can be learned from deserters, spies and persons who may come out from the enemy's boundaries." (It was common practice to interrogate travelers from such British strongholds as New York, Boston and Philadelphia.)

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