Colorado Springs Military Newspaper Group

Fort Carson Mountaineer

247 years of defending America

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Since its official establishment June 14, 1775, more than a year before the Declaration of Independence, the U.S. Army has played a vital role in the growth and development of the American nation. Drawing on both long-standing militia traditions and recently introduced professional standards, it won the new republic’s independence in an arduous eight-year struggle against Great Britain. At times, the Army provided the lone symbol of nationhood around which patriots rallied.

On March 25, 1774, in the wake of the Boston Tea Party, the British Parliament closed the port of Boston to ships with its passage of the Boston Port Act, which took effect June 1, 1774. It was the first of the coercive, or Intolerable Acts, five laws passed by the British Parliament to suppress resistance to its authority over the American colonies.

Tensions heightened when Lt. Gen. Thomas Gage, the commander in chief of British forces in North America and royal governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, invoked the new law in October 1774 and dissolved the provincial assembly. In response, colonists formed their own alternative government — the Massachusetts Provincial Congress, which controlled the entire colony outside of Boston — and prepared for a possible military confrontation with the forces that occupied the capital.

Upon learning that this extra-legal government was amassing stores of weapons in Concord, about 20 miles from Boston, Gage sent a military expedition April 18, 1775, to seize and destroy all the munitions his men could find. This led to an exchange of musketry between local militia and British troops at the village green in Lexington and at the Old North Bridge in Concord April 19, 1775, signaling the start of the Revolutionary War.

Militia units and other volunteers from Massachusetts and other New England colonies quickly converged on Cambridge. They formed what became known as the New England Army of Observation and put the British forces posted at Boston under siege. For the time being, the rebellion was a regional affair.

Now that the fighting had begun, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress looked to the Continental Congress, which convened on May 10 in Philadelphia, for assistance from the other 12 colonies of British America. After much discussion, the delegates resolved to create an army that would represent not just New England, but all the British colonies on the continent of North America.

The next step was to select a commander in chief. George Washington of Virginia was the favored choice because of his celebrated military record and the hope that a leader from Virginia could further unite the colonies. Congress unanimously voted on the measure, and the next day presented Washington his commission.

Thus, the Continental Congress commissioned George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army June 19, 1775.

When Congress declared independence, the Continental Army and the militia in the service of Congress became known collectively as the Army of the United States, instead of the Army of the United Colonies.

247 years of defending America
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