U.S. Army

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Jim Bolinger
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The U.S. Army was founded on June 14, 1775, when the continental congress authorized enlistment of riflemen to serve the United Colonies, for one year.

The June 14 date is when Congress adopted “The American Continental Army” after reaching a consensus position in The Committee of the Whole. The record indicates only that Congress undertook to raise ten companies of riflemen, approved an enlistment form for them, and appointed a committee (including Washington and Schuyle) to draft rules and regulations for the government of the army. They believed the total was about 15,000 men, but on July 22, when solid information was on hand the numbers nearly doubled with 27,000 men.

On 15 June Congress unanimously chose George Washington as commander of all the continental forces. Washington had been active in the military planning committees of Congress and by late May had taken to wearing his old uniform. His colleagues believed that his modesty and competence qualified him to adjust to the “Temper & Genius” of the New England troops. Washington was given the rank of General and Commander in Chief. His instructions on 20 June were to proceed to Massachusetts, “take charge of the army of the United Colonies,” and capture or destroy all armed enemies.

Although sectional politics were involved in Washington’s selection, in strictly military terms he was in fact the best-qualified Native American. He had begun his military career in 1752 in the Virginia militia as one of four regional adjutants responsible for training. During the first phase of the French and Indian War, he served with gallantry as Edward Braddock’s volunteer aide at the battle of the Monongahela, and later as the commander of Virginia’s two Provincial regiments defending the colony’s frontiers. In 1758 he commanded a brigade composed of Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania units on John Forbes’ expedition against Fort Duquesne. Washington was the only American in that war to command such a large force.

On 16 June, the day after Washington’s appointment, Congress authorized a variety of other senior officers for its new army. Congress then took steps for issuing paper money to finance the army, and on 30 June it adopted the Articles of War. On 17 June Congress elected Artemas Ward and Charles Lee as the first and second major generals and Horatio Gates as the Adjutant General. The June 1775 decision of the Continental Congress to create the Continental Army seems remarkable free from political strife.

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