Abatis - A mechanism of defense to create obstacles out of tree limbs. It could block troop movement and was employed often due to many wooded areas. However, it could be easily burned down and would eventually be replaced by metal wiring.
Adjutant-general - A high ranking officer; only one served the entire army. The most notable officer to hold this position in the American Revolution was Horatio Gates.
Artillery - Associated with larger weapons projected into the air, such as missiles. During the American Revolution, this would mainly consist of canons, as well as mortars and howitzers.
Battalion - A unit of soldiers normally made up of somewhere between 300 to 800 troops. Often equated with regiment at the time. A battalion would consist of several companies.
Battery - Army unit that is about the same size as a company, or about 100 to 300 soldiers, but oversees artillery; can also refer to a group of artillery weapons.
Barricade - General term for any type of fortification to block troop movement.
Bayonet - Additional blade attached to the open end of a rifle. This makes the muskets or rifles like spears used by infantry, especially for close-up fighting.
Brigade - Unit in army that consists of a couple thousand soldiers. Made up of several battalions and significantly larger than a regiment.
Brigade general - Military leader, who is in charge a brigade; Congress appointed eight of them, including Nathanael Greene and John Sullivan.
Cabal - Represents the plots of a particular group involved in some sort of conspiracy; secret political group. This is most notable in the Conway Cabal.
Campaign - Collective group of military actions to achieve a single goal. For instance, the Philadelphia Campaign represents all of the operations involved in the British attempt to seize the city of Philadelphia.
Canon - Mobile artillery used in the war; different kinds had different purposes. Some were employed to rip through infantry lines, while others destroyed fortifications and buildings.
Captain - Military leader in charge of a company of soldiers equivalent to several hundred troops.
Cavalry - Members of army on horseback. Washington had the Continental Army form a group of a couple thousand of these that would be called the Corps of Continental Light Dragoons. These included cavalry scouts, who would try to observe and conjecture enemy troop movement.
Chasseur - A member of infantry or light cavalry that was able to swiftly maneuver and attack. Associated with regiments of French soldiers.
Colonel - Army officer between position of lieutenant colonel and brigadier general. Typically head of an entire regiment.
Commander-in-chief - Head of the entire American army, the highest position in the military. Congress elected George Washington to this position.
Company - Military unit subdivided into several platoons, typically consisting of about 100 to 300 soldiers.
Continental Army - Name for the army of the Thirteen Colonies that were fighting for independence against the British.
Corp - General term for any group or division of an army, unit of the army.
Corporal - Lower ranking officer between sergeant and private.
Detachment - Division of troops that are sent on a particular mission.
Dragoon - Any member of the army, often infantry, also acquainted with riding horses; notable dragoons in the American Revolution were the 1st Continental Light Dragoons. Fewer in army than infantry, but better trained.
Embrasure - Openings in buildings through which shots could be fired, such as canon or bullets; found in military forts.
Entrenchment - Natural fortification of digging up ground as a defense.
Field officer - Officer remaining in camp to make sure that no baggage was left behind and the camp was secure.
Flank - One particular side, left or right, of a group of soldiers.
Flanking maneuver - Military tactic in which troops are repositioned around the flank of enemy forces. These repositioned troops would then be in a more advantageous position. Often used by General William Howe.
General - A very high ranking officer in the army. During the War, the Continental Congress would appoint them. At the time, they only consisted of brigadier and major generals, except for George Washington.
Grenadier - Particularly well-trained soldiers within the infantry. Trained for direct attacks with grenades and assailed the enemy after sieges.
Hessians - Soldiers hired by the British Army from the German region of Hesse-Kassel. The British government most likely hired soldiers in this fashion because it was easier to borrow money to pay for soldiers than to hire and recruit their own men.
Howitzer - A larger weapon intended to send out projectiles; artillery combination of cannon and mortar.
Infantry - Soldiers who marched on foot, as opposed to cavalry. Most common type of soldier in the armies.
Jägers - Name for German foot soldier, who were skilled in carrying out quick skirmishes. In German, the word can be translated as “hunter.”
Light infantry - Group of soldiers that carried fewer supplies and armory, such as canons, for quick attacks and skirmishes. The Continental Army often would send men from the normal regiments to work in these groups. In the German army, these were known as Jägers.
Lieutenant - Officer of lower rank in the military, who would sometimes lead a group of soldiers if other officers of higher rank were not present.
Loyalist - Name for those American Colonists who did not endorse the ideals of independence for the colonies, but rather supported Britain. These colonists were often of great aid to the British army, some even working as spies. After the war, the Loyalists faced persecution and many fled.
Major general - Higher rank officer in charge of several thousand troops, who was normally higher than a brigadier general; only four in the Continental Army.
Mercenary - Soldiers who would fight in foreign lands. These troops would not be citizens of the countries fighting, but were often there for the purposes of gaining money. The British employed German troops, known as Hessians, in this way.
Militia - Less-trained part of armies that consists of civilians who are quickly called upon in case of an emergency. The American forces consisted primarily of these types of troops. Earlier, such troops had been employed against Native American raids. `
Mortar - Artillery that exploded at a very high angle and would often explode in the air. Different kinds were used on land and sea. These always had a fixed elevation angle, but used the charge to determine where to fire at a particular target.
Musket - Weapon held from the shoulder that was used frequently during this time. The bullet would be placed at the end of the muzzle, the part where propellant leaves the firearm.
Musketeers - Soldiers who were skilled in using muskets as firearms.
Outpost - Groups of soldiers sent away from the main forces in order to prepare for any sudden assault.
Patriots - Colonists during the American Revolution who supported independence of the colonies from Britain. The other main faction during the time included the Loyalists.
Picket - Group of soldiers sent out for the purpose of observing enemy movement.
Pontoon - Substance that can float and serve as a temporary bridge. Troops with heavy artillery would have used this to cross the several creeks in the region surrounding the Battle of Whitemarsh.
Private - Lowest rank in the military that a soldier can obtain; did not carry any insignia or ribbon that higher ranking officers would normally wear.
Quartermaster general - Person in army in charge of providing lodging and equipment for soldiers.
Ranger - Type of soldier that would move between different locations where main troops were positioned.
Rank - General term for different levels of leadership in the army, ranging from Private to General or Commander-in-Chief.
Rearguard - Those forces positioned at the tail of the army to defend the army when retreating.
Reconnoiter - Trying to figure out the position or movement of enemy troops. This was vital for the armies as troops were constantly moving into new tactical positions
Redoubt - A temporary fortification or structure for the purpose of defense.
Regiment - A unit of soldiers consisting of about 500 troops; often equated with brigade.
Regular - Any soldier who was part of the standard and well-trained army as opposed to volunteer troops such as in the militia.
Rifle - Weapon similar to muskets. Rifles would eventually replace muskets because they were lighter and had better aim.
Round(s) - Collective number of bullets needed to fire one shot among a unit of soldiers.
Scout - Responsible for exploring the region, would reconnoiter.
Sergeant - Lower ranking officer in the army, above a private and corporal officer.
Skirmish - Fighting that does not last long and involves smaller units of soldiers, unlike a full-scale battle with large masses of troops.
Squadron - Smaller unit of cavalry, similarly in size to company of soldiers.
Staff officer - Officer in army who assists in arranging military activities.
Subaltern - Unit officer name derived from British Army that was between Captain and Lieutenant; signified through green badges on their hats.
Tory - Another name for a Loyalist.
Vanguard - Troops that are at the head of the army; as opposed to rearguard.
Volley - Firing of several missile weapons all at once.
(N.B., please find sources and footnotes in digitized copy on Home Page.)