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This Week in History:

June 17-23, 1775:
Founding of the Continental Army

June 2012

Washington Crossing the Delaware by Emanuel Gottlieb Leutze, 1851.

June 14 is rightly regarded as the "birthday" of the United States Army. On that date in 1775, the Continental Congress took two decisive steps in the battle to free the Americans from the British Empire and to establish our Republic: (1) It adopted the New England army as part of the Continental Army, and, (2) it directed the raising of the first military forces from outside of the New England theatre, which were ten rifle companies from the mid-Atlantic colonies. These were the first forces to be directly enlisted in Continental service. On the following day, June 15, Congress appointed a southerner, George Washington, as Commander-in-Chief, and also designated four major generals and eight brigadiers to serve under Washington; and it adopted Articles of War to govern the new military establishment. Washington took command of the new Continental Army on July 3, 1775.

After Lexington and Concord (April 19), the alarm had spread throughout the colonies, and the Second Continental Congress, meeting on May 10 in Philadelphia, had begun to take responsibility for organizing, directing, and supplying military resistance to the British. While this was underway, the newly-organized New England forces fought the battle on Bunker and Breed's Hill, the bloodiest single engagement of the entire war, on June 17.

Meanwhile, in its June 14 resolution, the Continental Congress had specifically directed the raising of ten companies of expert riflemen: six from the frontier counties of Pennsylvania, two from western Maryland (Frederick County), and two from western Virginia (from the Winchester and Shepherdstown areas in the Shenandoah Valley). They were ordered to march to Boston to join those patriots confronting the British in and around Boston. First to arrive, on July 18, and thereinafter known as "the First Defenders of the Revolution," was Captain Nagle's company from Reading, Pa. The Virginia rifle companies, headed by Daniel Morgan and Hugh Stephenson, became famous for their "beeline" march to Cambridge.

Most of the patriots from these first rifle companies remained in the Continental Army as it was expanded and reorganized in 1776. The new "Maryland and Virginia Rifle Regiment" drew its cadres from the first rifle companies. The six, then nine, Pennsylvania companies were quickly designated the Pennsylvania Rifle Regiment, and in recognition of their being the first Continentals, they were designated the "1st Continental Regiment" in the Spring of 1776. The same frontier areas gave rise to two "German Regiments," those of Virginia and Maryland-Pennsylvania.


The original article was published in the EIR Online’s Electronic Intelligence Weekly, as part of an ongoing series on history, with a special emphasis on American history. We are reprinting and updating these articles now to assist our readers in understanding of the American System of Economy.

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