This entry is excerpted from Chronology of The American Revolution, military and Political Actioons Day by Day, By Bud Hannings. Jefferson, North Carolina and London: McFarland & Company, Inc. Publishers. 2008
August 6 1775–In Virginia: Patrick Henry is appointed commander of the Virginia !st Regiment (militia) by the Virginia Convention, although he has no military experience. Toward the latter part of the month, he is also appointed commander-in-chief of Virginia’s regular troops. He resigns February 28 the following year.
The Virginia Convention had met in July !775, during the period when the south was preparing to raise forces to support the Continental Army in the north under General Washington against the British at Boston. The debates continued into August and ended on the 21st. At first the Convention decided to raise four thousand troops. After reconsideration, the number was reduced to about three thousand troops divided into three regiments, but final approval had not been gained. Afterwards compromise divided the colony into sixteen regional districts stretched between the Chesapeake Bay and the Atlantic Ocean.
At this time, although the southern colonies are under British control, the south, except for Florida, is not overseen by large numbers of British troops or garrisons, presenting the southerners room to expand their forces and evict the royal governors and governments. Each of the districts raises one company of full time troops (enlistment of one year) and it is also agreed upon to form a ten-company battalion of minutemen to provide the area with a well trained defense force in place of the local militia (volunteer companies) which had been established beginning in 1774.
The Eastern Shore district does not raise a regular company; however, it is authorized by the Convention to establish a larger than usual contingent of Minute Men. Subsequent to getting organized, the various companies move to Williamsburg, where they are organized on 21 October. Also, the convention’s compromise also created additional troops to defend the frontier. Five independent companies are to be formed to garrison frontier outposts, with headquarters being at Fort Pitt (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania) commanded by Captain John Neville.
Four of the five companies are oversized, with each containing one captain, three lieutenants, one ensign, four sergeants, 2 drummers, 2 fifers and 100 rank and file (enlisted men). The fifth company is to be composed of a single lieutenant and 25 enlisted men. Two companies will be posted at Fort Pitt, both of which had been formed by men of the West Augusta District. The smaller company, also of the West Augusta District, will be deployed at Fort Fincastle at the mouth of the Wheeling River. Meanwhile, one company formed by men of Botetourt County deploys at Point Pleasant, while the final one formed by men of Fincastle County deploy in their home county.
The musicians (drummers and fifes) at this time are primarily used to send signals. Initially, these troops also assist with the wounded and they are also used as guards and for other tasks. Later, during 1777, they also begin to carry arms. By 1776, the regimental staffs receive fife and drum majors. These men, in addition to performing for the regiments, are also delegated to instructing the drummers and fifers. This practice is followed by the entry of bands, composed of about eight men, which add the music of horns and woodwinds to the repertoire.
The respective bands in the Continental Army belong only to the respective regiment. Even the commander-in-chief, General Washington, must request permission for the use of a band at an official army affair or even a non-official gathering such as a dance. In contrast, the Europeans often contracted civilians for their bands.