Lesson Plan

Building an Army

Grade Level:
Fourth Grade-Fifth Grade
Colonial History, Mathematics, Military and Wartime History, Revolutionary War, Social Studies
30 minutes
Group Size:
Up to 24
National/State Standards:
NYS Content:
Gr. 4: Colonial/Rev Per., The Rev War in NYS
Gr. 5: History of the US
NYSED Standards:
1, 2, 5
US Standards:
Gr. 4: 3 D,E
Gr. 5: Era 2 St. 1 B; Era 3 St. 1 C, St. 2 A,C
Revolutionary War, military history, history, social studies, mathematics


Armies during the American Revolution were more structured and organized than we often give them credit for.  Far from being unruly mobs or scattered groups of disorganized and poorly trained farmers with rifles and pitchforks, the United States did have well trained and disciplined soldiers.  These men, Continental soldiers, were generally as skilled as their British opponents, more so in some cases.


 Students will be able to:

  1. name three basic organizational levels of an army during the American Revolution
  2. calculate the number of soldiers one may have seen in a Revolutionary War army
  3. begin developing an appreciation for the vast numbers of soldiers needed to help secure American independence


In talking about the American Revolution, we very quickly need to start talking about armies.  While it's common and certainly not incorrect to talk about them in singular terms, both the American and British sides each had several armies that were in different areas of the country at any given time. In the British invasion of New York in 1777, the British had three separate armies operating in New York State (or from their perspective, the Colony of New York!).
As mentioned earlier, even on the American side there was quite a bit of military structure in place; by 1777, the United States had a well developed Continental (regular) Army.  At Saratoga, many of the Continental soldiers had more experience than did their British counterparts.

How to get a better understanding of the structure of an army in the American Revolution?  Some basic vocabulary and diagrams will go a long way! Therein starts the activity


 Downloadable PDF documents:

"Building an Army" student worksheet

Teacher's answer key


Read through the activity ahead of time for familiarity with the vocabulary terms and the basic group sizes involved.

Introduce the concept of an army by asking for students' ideas of what an army is.  Student generated ideas will probably include things like uniforms, firearms, giving orders, marching, sleeping in tents, etc.

Read through the worksheet with the class, going over vocabulary with them.  A simple parallel for the structure of "company - regiment - army" can be likened to the makeup of the school: "class - grade - school".

The students will be acting as "assistants" for the American general in command at the Battles of Saratoga, Horatio Gates.  General Gates needs help reorganizing some of the troops before the first battle, and the students will be helping with that task.


 Downloadable PDF answer key available.

Park Connections

While the activity does not speak directly to the Battles of Saratoga, aside from mentioning the name of the American general in charge, it provides a valuable background understanding of the armies that fought here.

Useful tool to use as pre-visit activity before touring Saratoga NHP, or even as part of a virtual tour experience.

Additional Resources

Downloadable PDF document:
Student Research Packet


Vocab words included in the downloadable lesson documents