A Constitutional Army
Officially Creates the U.S. Military
29, 1789 - In its very first session, the United
States Congress has a lot of decisions to make. One important
topic the first representatives and senators need to address
is establishing the U.S. military. There already is a colonial
army--the Continental Army--that has fought the British in the
American Revolution and won under General George Washington.
But this army is not the official army of the United States.
Finally, on September 29, 1789, the last day of its
first session, the U.S. Congress passes an act to establish
the United States military. However, this happens only after
President Washington reminds them, twice!
writes a letter on August 7, 1789, to remind the Senate and
the House of Representatives to create provisions for the U.S.
military. He tells them he doesn't need to argue for an issue
on which the "honor, safety and well being of our Country so
evidently and essentially depend: But it may not be amiss to
observe that I am particularly anxious it should receive an
early attention as circumstances will admit." The Secretary of
War, Henry Knox, read this aloud to the members of Congress,
but they do not immediately act upon it.
later, on August 10, Washington again urges Congress to
address the issue. Finally, on September 29, the House of
Representatives and the Senate pass the bill that establishes
the armed forces of the United States of America. This
probably means very little change to the men already serving,
but it means a lot to George Washington. Over time, the United
States Navy, Marines, and Air Force will join the ground
troops. What do you know about the development of the
different military branches since then?