In honor of the United States Army’s Birthday, we dug into its history. Read on to learn how and when the Army was established and the ways in which it has evolved since. Happy Birthday U.S. Army!
Two months after the Shot Heard Around the World was fired and militiamen from four New England colonies began their open rebellion against Britain, a group commanded by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen captured British forts at Ticonderoga and Crown Point in New York.
It was at this time that the 2nd Continental Congress was finally all agreed that a large-scale fight for independence was all but inevitable. However, the colonial “Army” was more of a guerrilla group comprised of local men fighting for their beliefs than an official force. Congress was certain they needed additional support.
It was decided that the remaining nine colonies would join the fight for freedom from the British Crown. On June 14, 1775, George Washington was appointed commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies, better known as the Continental Army.
While the Army, as we know it today, was far from established at this point in time, June 14th remains the date celebrated as the official United States Army birthday as well as the birthday of the U.S. Military.
How old is the Army, then? This year the Army is a whopping 246 years old!
The Continental Army consisted of troops from all thirteen colonies, but it was established quickly and in response to crisis. At the time, no real structure or widespread organization existed. They fought with valor and passion, and of course eventually defeated their British adversaries, but the Continental Army left much to be desired.
After the U.S. emerged victorious and the Revolutionary War officially ended, the Army was disbanded, and irregular state militias became the norm. However, it was soon apparent that a trained, standing Army was necessary to maintain the independence for which America had fought so hard. In 1780 the Department of War was created, and four years later the first full regiment of regular Army Infantry was formed.
When the Army was established, they didn’t have much in the way of official government backing. Eventually, multiple departments were created to support their operations. Four corps would evolve into today’s Adjutant General’s Corps, the Army Corps of Engineers, the Finance Corps, and the Quartermasters Corps.
While our Nation’s first president also happened to be the Commander in Chief of our Nation’s first army, those two roles were not held concurrently, and subsequent presidents were not in charge of the Military.
It wasn’t until the ratification of the Constitution in 1787 that the President of the United States was officially appointed Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy. Later, in 1802, the Military Academy at West Point was established, and in the early 1900’s the Army Reserve came to be.
Although successful, The War of 1812 highlighted the fact that the Army required significant strengthening. The War Department was then reorganized into a system of bureaus which acted as advisors to the Secretary of War. Decades later, at the start of the Civil War in 1863, the Army we know today began to take form.
At the outset of the Civil War, regiments were recruited locally. Company officers were elected by the men within; Colonels were often local politicians appointed by state Governors, and Generals were appointed by the President.
To begin with, the Army was relatively small. Attempts to gain members of the all-volunteer Army were not as successful as initially expected; therefore, The Enrollment Act, also known as the Civil War Military Draft Act, was put in place. It wasn’t until 90 years later, by order of President Nixon in 1973, that the military again became an all-volunteer force.
Today the Army does much more than leading the charge during wartime. They tackle cybersecurity, intelligence gathering, covert operations, community building, and research in an effort to keep American citizens safe, and our Nation secure.
Happy Birthday Army and thank you to the service men and women who make the efforts of the Army possible!