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U.S. Military History: Military Birthdays

Ross Dunfee

The thought of independence for the 13 English colonies was revolting to the mother country and the colonies knew that they had to band together to obtain their freedom, and they did. The First Continental Congress convened and concluded at Carpenters’ Hall in Philadelphia, Penn., Sept. 5 to Oct. 26, 1774. Their primary accomplishment was a compact to boycott British goods. Displeased with the unity of the colonies, Great Britain sent their army to the colonies resulting in conflict at Lexington and Concord, Mass., beginning the Revolutionary War.

The Second Continental Congress convened in Independence Hall, Philadelphia, Penn., May 10, 1775, in part to address the aggression of Great Britain. Congress declared their independence from England (July 4, 1776), managed the Revolutionary War (April 19, 1775, to Sept. 3, 1783), and set the groundwork for what would become the United States of America.

Managing the war required the Continental Congress to create an Army (June 14, 1775), Navy (Oct. 13, 1775), and Marine Corps (Nov. 10, 1775) with recruits to be supplied by each of the colonies. General George Washington pleaded throughout the war for the colonies to supply a greater number of recruits. The Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union, which coined the term “United States of America,” was adopted by the Continental Congress Nov. 15, 1777, and served as the first Constitution. This document was eventually ratified by the States on March 1, 1781. Its purpose was to form an alliance of independent states with a limited central government.

In accordance with the Articles of Confederation and Perpetual Union the Second Continental Congress concluded, sine die, on March 1, 1781 (in the midst of the Revolutionary War) and was immediately replaced with the Congress of the Confederation. The new Congress, a unicameral body now with both legislative and executive responsibilities, was composed of delegates appointed by the legislatures of the several states. Congress disbanded the Army, Navy, and Marines at the conclusion of the Revolutionary War in 1783. Recognizing the weakness of the now minimally operational government, Alexander Hamilton, a New York lawyer and politician, called for a Federal Convention.

Ultimately, 55 delegates showed up at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) on May 25, 1787, and the delegates dwindled to 41 by the close of the convention on Sept. 17, 1787. There was much wrangling and disagreement about the strength of a central government that was supported by George Washington, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton. On Sept. 17, a proposed constitution was drafted for consideration by the several states and signed by only 39 of the 55 delegates.

Nine of the 13 states were required to ratify the proposed constitution for it to become the law of the land. Delaware was the first state to ratify on Dec. 7, 1787, and number nine was New Hampshire on June 21, 1788, with the remaining states to ratify later. A new nation was born June 21, 1788! Yes, June 21, 1788, is the birthday of the United States of America. The first USA congress convened on March 4, 1789. Vice President Adams was sworn in on April 21, 1789, and President Washington was sworn in on April 30, 1789. The USA became fully functioning February 1, 1790, with the seating of the Supreme Court.

Of highest importance to Congress was protection of this new nation, so a military was required. Congress created the U.S. Army on Sept. 29, 1789, then the Revenue-Marine on Aug. 4, 1790, (changed to the U.S. Coast Guard in 1915), to protect shipping revenues. Finally, Congress created the U.S. Navy on April 30, 1798, and the U.S. Marines on July 11, 1798. So, why do the U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, and U.S. Marines celebrate their birthdays before creation of the USA? Beats me!

SOT-AZ (Support Our Troops-Arizona) honors our flag, nation, military, and patriots by placing 628 USA flags along the Robson Ranch boulevards 11 times each year and financially supports various local veterans’ organizations. Visit www.sotaz.org to learn more about Support Our Troops-Arizona.