On March 11, 1776, George Washington and his advisors commissioned a sort of prototype Secret service that history remembers as the Life Guard. The detail was a well trained and elite cavalry force and a group of baggage handlers. His aids stated his wishes:
“His Excellency depends upon the Colonels for good Men, such as they can recommend for their sobriety, honesty, and good behaviour; he wishes them to be from five feet, eight Inches high, to five feet, ten Inches; handsomely and well made, and as there is nothing in his eyes more desirable, than Cleanliness in a Soldier, he desires that particular attention may be made, in the choice of such men, as are neat, and spruce.”
There’s something about a man in a uniform.
The Life Guards were a group comprised of handpicked soldiers from each colony, chosen out of standing units. They included cannoneers, infantry, cavalry, horse handlers and six drummers, six fifers, and a drum major. The Life Guards grew from a 100 men to 250 men.
Apparently George Washington weighed in heavily on the Life Guard’s uniform: The overcoat was to be blue with white facings, and it would feature a white waistcoat and breeches, black half gaiters, and a hat with a blue and white feather worn cocked at an angle.
Captain Caleb Gibbs of Rhode Island carried the title of ‘Captain Commandante.’ Gibbs was a captain in the 14thMassachusetts from Marblehead. He was a smart and able commander and she shared command with Washington’s nephew. He decided to keep copious records of the Life Guard’s activities. The Life Guard did suffer a few spies who were recruited by the British. Two were caught and one was hanged in front of 20,000 members of the Continental Army.
Source: “The Commander-in-Chief’s Guard” by: Carlos F. Godfrey, Ph.D.
Originally published: 1904 – publisher: Genealogical Publishing Company, 1972 (DNM Lib.)
“TheContinental Army” by: Robert K. Wright, Ph.D.
Publisher: Center of Military History – United States Army – 1983 (DNM Lib.)