This Day in History… September 29, 1789

U.S. #1565-68 honors the Continental Army and other Revolutionary War troops – the precursors to our modern military.

U.S. Army Established

On September 29, 1789, Congress created the U.S. Army after multiple requests from President George Washington.

After the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was largely disbanded, as the U.S. legislature believed that a standing army during peace time was dangerous and unnecessary. Some troops remained active to guard munitions and about 700 members of state militias were prepared to take on potential threats from Native Americans and the British.

U.S. #101 – As a former military man, President Washington saw the importance of creating an army and pressed the first Congress to establish one.

When the Constitution was ratified, Congress was given the power to raise and support armies. But they didn’t see this as a priority. During their first session, which began in March of 1789, they focused on creating the State, War and Treasury departments, a judicial system, and argued over where to establish the new capital.

However, President Washington saw the importance in creating an American army. On August 7, he wrote a letter to Congress urging them to make the creation of an army a priority. He said, “I am particularly anxious it should receive an early attention as circumstances will admit; because it is now in our power to avail ourselves of the military knowledge disseminated throughout the several States by means of the many well instructed Officers and soldiers of the late Army; a resource which is daily diminishing by deaths and other causes.” Even after Secretary of War Henry Knox read Washington’s letter aloud, no action was taken. Days later, Washington reminded them of his request.

U.S. #934 – Some 40 to 60 million Americans have served in the military since the creation of our nation’s first armies during the Revolutionary War.

It wasn’t until over a month later, on the last day of the session, that Congress addressed Washington’s request. They passed a bill that allowed the President “to call into service, from time to time, such part of the militia of the states, respectively, as he may judge necessary.” Thus, the U.S. Army was born. And unlike before, states couldn’t refuse to send their men for service.

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