George Washington’s Life Guards.


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.)




4 thoughts on “George Washington’s Life Guards.”

  1. Interesting to see this happenend in the supposedly (more) egalitarian (proto)USA. All over europe at that time, there were Guards regiments, Leib Garde, Garde Suisse, and various other regiments either personnaly bound to the ruler or the reigning house (because they paifd for them), or intended to guard his/her person. I wonder if Washington did want this because it was customary in contemporary armies so he felt the need for one himself, or because somebody made a remark that he did not have such a force himself, or because he had other ideas for this force.

  2. I’m trying to get a Commander and Chief Guards of General George Washington.
    I’ve found my name on the roster and a story relating to an Ebanezer Coston and his illness at Mount Vernon, he was very tall for his age and in the American Revolution.

  3. carol Rutherford Willis

    William Henry Pace, spouse Mary Winegar are my ancesters, grandparents.My grandmother was Dora mae Winegar mother to my father Hubert S. Rutherford

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