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A New Kind of Soldier, Armed With a Hammer
Fortifications Built During the Siege of Boston

History powered by Prof. WalterJune 16, 1775 - On June 16, 1775, during the Siege of Boston, the Second Continental Congress authorizes the building of fortifications. Fortifications are raised by building mounds of dirt and fences, and they are reinforced with vegetation and brush. Colonists are able to fire at the British from behind these fortifications. The engineers responsible for building them prove so valuable to the Revolutionary forces that, four years later, Congress forms the "corps of engineers." The engineers enjoy the same rights, honors, and privileges as other troops but are in charge of all kinds of construction projects, and they still are. What else do you suppose they have built?

The Army Corps of Engineers helps to build some of Washington's earliest public buildings. They later direct the construction of the Washington Monument, Lincoln Memorial, Arlington National Cemetery, and the Library of Congress, among other sites. Along with the Work Projects Administration (WPA) during the Great Depression, the Corps planned, construct, and maintain a vast flood control network along the Mississippi River. The engineers create dams and locks that make the Mississippi even more navigable by ships. And there's more.

In World War II, the Corps of Engineers work in Europe and the Asian-Pacific Islands as well as at home. In 1942, they create the Alaska Highway, originally a military supply route. On D-Day, when Allied forces invade France, the Corps clears a path and lays a road on Omaha Beach for the attack. Today, the Corps provides one of the nation's largest supplies of hydroelectric power, cleans up hazardous waste products, and continues construction of buildings and other public projects around the world.

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