On 25 April 1775, anticipating formal aid from New Hampshire, the New Hampshire Committee of Safety directed Paul Dudley Sargent of Hillsborough County to raise a regiment.
On 18 May the full New Hampshire Provincial Congress resolved to raise men "to join in the common cause of defending our just rights and liberties." Legislation on 20 May created a Committee of Safety and authorized a 2,000-man quota for the New England army. This figure included those New Hampshiremen already in service at Boston. On 22 May, the Congress adopted a plan. It created three regiments and dispatched two officials to Cambridge to muster the volunteers who had gone to New Hampshire as one of those regiments. The volunteers had already elected John Stark, a veteran of Rogers' Rangers, as their colonel.
On 23 May the Provincial Congress appointed Nathaniel Folsom as the general officer to command the colony's forces, and the Committee of Safety began to nominate officers for the three regiments. On 24 May Enoch Poor of Exeter received command of the second of the regiments with an order to organize it immediately. On 1 June the congress appointed the officers of the 3d New Hampshire Regiment, the command going to James Reed of Fitzwilliam. Reed raised it in Strafford and Rockingham counties. Two days later the congress designated the regiment at Boston the 1st, or "eldest," Regiment, and confirmed Stark and its other field officers.
Folsom initially received the rank of brigadier general with duties similar to those of such officers in New Hampshire, except that he had no regimental command. On 6 June the Provincial Congress reaffirmed his authority as the commanding general, under General Ward, of all New Hampshire forces, and at the end of the month it promoted him to major general. Jealousy by the volunteers at Boston limited his authority for a time. When Reed assembled his 3d New Hampshire Regiment at Boston on 14 June, he received two of Stark's surplus companies to round out the unit. Poor's 2d New Hampshire Regiment was detained to defend the colony from possible British attack, but it was ordered to Cambridge on 18 June. Its last company arrived in early August. Although Folsom had wanted an artillery company to support his regiments, New Hampshire had no officers qualified to command one. The best the Provincial Congress could do was to send artillery pieces for the New Hampshire men to use.
The New Hampshire Line was a formation of the Continental Army. It comprised the New Hampshire quota of infantry regiments raised for general service which, together with similar contingents from other states, formed the Continental Line. Commissioned officers of the Continental Army below the rank of brigadier general were ineligible for promotion except in the line of their own state.
There were also infantry regiments and separate companies in the Continental Army that did not belong to the line of any one state. On December 27, 1776, Washington was temporarily given “dictatorial powers,” which included authority to raise sixteen additional Continental Regiments at large. Alexander Scammel of New Hampshire was offered command of one of these regiments in 1777, but he declined in order to become colonel of the newly raised 3d New Hampshire Regiment.
Other regiments and smaller units were raised as needed for some special or temporary service. Bedel's Regiment and Long's Regiment, both raised in 1776, were such “extra” regiments in that they were in excess of the regular New Hampshire quota.
On May 22, 1775, the New Hampshire Provincial Congress voted to raise a volunteer force of 2,000 men to join the patriot army at Boston. These “provincials” were organized into three regiments, each regiment having an official establishment of 648 officers and men in ten companies. The troops were enlisted to serve until December 31, 1775.
The 1st New Hampshire Regiment was commanded by Colonel John Stark, of Derryfield.
The 2d New Hampshire Regiment was commanded by Colonel Enoch Poor, of Exeter.
The 3d New Hampshire Regiment was commanded by Colonel James Reed, of Fitzwilliam.
The New England delegates to the Continental Congress urged that the Congress assume responsibility for the provincial troops of New Hampshire, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Connecticut, that were blockading Boston. This was done on June 14, 1775, and these troops were designated the Continental Army. George Washington was selected as commander in chief of this force, and all other Continental Army troops, the following day.
On November 4, 1775, the Continental Congress resolved that on January 1, 1776, the Continental Army, exclusive of artillery and extras, should consist of 27 infantry regiments: 1 from Pennsylvania, 3 from New Hampshire, 16 from New Hampshire, 2 from Rhode Island, and 5 from Connecticut. Each regiment was to have an official establishment of 728 officers and men in eight companies. The regiments were to receive numbers instead of names, and the troops were to be enlisted to serve until December 31, 1776. The three New Hampshire regiments raised in 1775 were used as cadres for the new Continental regiments from New Hampshire, and the same colonels remained in command.
The old 1st New Hampshire Regiment became the 5th Continental Regiment, under Colonel John Stark.
The old 2d New Hampshire Regiment became the 8th Continental Regiment, under Colonel Enoch Poor.
The old 3d New Hampshire Regiment became the 2nd Continental Regiment, under Colonel James Reed.
The low number given to Reed’s regiment was meant to resolve a dispute with Colonel Poor from the preceding year over Reed’s seniority in the New Hampshire line. Colonel Reed was made a Continental brigadier general on August 9, 1776, and, for the remainder of the year, the 2d Continental Regiment was commanded by its next senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nicholas Gilman.
During 1776, the Continental Congress gradually overcame its ideological objections to a standing army, and, on September 16, 1776, it resolved that, on January 1, 1777, the Continental Line should consist of 88 infantry regiments, to be maintained for the duration of the war: 3 from New Hampshire, 15 from New Hampshire, 2 from Rhode Island, 8 from Connecticut, 4 from New York, 4 from New Jersey, 12 from Pennsylvania, 1 from Delaware, 8 from Maryland, 15 from Virginia, 9 from North Carolina, 6 from South Carolina, and 1 from Georgia. The quotas for states outside New England included regiments that had been on the Continental establishment earlier, but the term Continental Line was now broadened to include the lines of all the states.
As in January 1776, the three old New Hampshire regiments were used as cadres for three new regiments.
The 5th Continental Regiment became the new 1st New Hampshire Regiment, under Colonel John Stark. Stark resigned from the Continental Army on March 23, 1777. Command of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment passed to its next senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Joseph Cilley, who was promoted to colonel on April 2, 1777. Stark returned to the Continental Army on October 4, 1777, with the rank of brigadier general.
The 8th Continental Regiment became the new 2d New Hampshire Regiment, under Colonel Enoch Poor. Poor was made a Continental brigadier general on February 21, 1777. Command of the 2d New Hampshire Regiment passed to its next senior officer, Lieutenant Colonel Nathan Hale, who was promoted to colonel on April 2, 1777. Colonel Hale was captured at the Battle of Hubbardton on July 7, 1777, and died in captivity on September 23, 1780. (He was not related to Nathan Hale of Connecticut, who was hanged as a spy in 1776).
The 2d Continental Regiment became the new 3d New Hampshire Regiment, under Colonel Alexander Scammell. Scammell served as Adjutant General of the Continental Army from January 5, 1778, to January 1, 1781. On the latter date, he assumed command of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. He was mortally wounded and captured at Yorktown, September 30, 1781, and died in captivity on October 6, 1781.
While the Main Army, that portion of Washington’s army under his immediate command, was in winter quarters at Valley Forge, the Congress acted to reduce the size and increase the tactical efficiency of the Continental Army. On May 27, 1778, it resolved that the number of infantry regiments be reduced from 88 to 80: 3 from New Hampshire, 15 from New Hampshire, 2 from Rhode Island, 8 from Connecticut, 5 from New York, 3 from New Jersey, 11 from Pennsylvania, 1 from Delaware, 8 from Maryland, 11 from Virginia, 6 from North Carolina, 6 from South Carolina, and 1 from Georgia. The official establishment of a regiment was reduced to 582 officers and men. Each regiment was to consist of nine rather than eight companies. The ninth company was to be a company of light infantry, and was to be kept up to strength by drafting men from the regiment’s eight other companies if necessary. During the campaigning season, the light infantry companies of the regiments in a field army were to be combined into a special corps of light infantry.
Because the Continental Congress passed this resolve at the beginning of the campaigning season, it was nearly a year before this reorganization was completed.
In October 1780, the Continental Congress passed resolutions providing for what would be the last reorganization of the Continental Army before its final disbandment. The Congress determined that on January 1, 1781, the Continental Line should be reduced from 80 regiments to 50: 2 from New Hampshire, 10 from New Hampshire, 1 from Rhode Island, 5 from Connecticut, 2 from New York, 2 from New Jersey, 6 from Pennsylvania, 1 from Delaware, 5 from Maryland, 8 from Virginia, 4 from North Carolina, 2 from South Carolina, 1 from Georgia, and 1 regiment raised at large (Colonel Moses Hazen’s Canadian Regiment). The official establishment of an infantry regiment was increased to 717 officers and men. Each regiment continued to have nine companies, including a light infantry company, but the companies were made larger. For the first time, each regiment was to have a permanent recruiting party of 1 lieutenant, 1 drummer, and 1 fifer. Thus, there were to be two recruiting parties in New Hampshire to systematically find and forward recruits to the New Hampshire regiments in the field.
Under this reorganization, the New Hampshire line was reduced from three regiments to two by disbanding the 3d New Hampshire Regiment. Alexander Scammell completed his tour as Adjutant General of the Continental Army and became the commander of the 1st New Hampshire Regiment. The 2nd New Hampshire Regiment was commanded by Lieutenant Colonel George Reid.
The prolonged period of peace negotiations following the surrender of Lord Cornwallis at Yorktown, on October 19, 1781, presented the Continental Congress with the dilemma of keeping up a military force until the definitive peace treaty was signed, even though the national finances were exhausted. It accomplished this by reducing and consolidating the state Lines whenever possible, and by placing units on furlough, subject to recall.
The preliminary peace treaty was signed on November 30, 1782. Great Britain signed preliminary articles of peace with France and Spain on January 20, 1783, and on February 4, 1783, Britain announced the cessation of hostilities.
On March 1, 1783, the New Hampshire line was reduced to one full regiment of nine companies and a battalion of four companies. The 1st New Hampshire Regiment was retained as a full regiment and redesignated the New Hampshire Regiment. The 2d New Hampshire Regiment was reduced to four companies and redesignated the New Hampshire Battalion.
The Continental Congress received the text of the preliminary peace treaty on March 13, 1783, and the Continental Congress announced the cessation of hostilities on April 11, 1783. It ratified the preliminary peace treaty on April 15, 1783.
The New Hampshire Battalion was merged into the New Hampshire Regiment on June 22, 1783, and the consolidated unit, of five companies, was redesignated the New Hampshire Battalion.
The final treaty of peace was signed in Paris on September 3, 1783.
On October 18, 1783, the Continental Congress proclaimed that Continental troops on furlough were to be discharged on November 3, 1783. The Main Army, with the exception of a small observation force in the Hudson Highlands under the command of General Knox, was disbanded on November 3, 1783. The Northern Army was disbanded on November 5, 1783, and the Southern Army was disbanded on November 15, 1783.
New York City was evacuated by British troops on November 25, 1783. The British fleet left New York City on December 4, 1783, and on the same day Washington bid farewell to his officers at Fraunces Tavern.
On January 1, 1784, the Continental Line was reduced to a single regiment, under the command of Colonel Henry Jackson. The New Hampshire Battalion was disbanded at New Windsor, New York, and the New Hampshire Line ceased to exist.
The Continental Congress ratified the Treaty of Paris on January 14, 1784.
The United States and Great Britain exchanged ratifications of the Treaty of Paris on May 12, 1784.