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A Constitutional Army
Congress Officially Creates the U.S. Military

History powered by Prof. WalterSeptember 29, 1789 - In its very first session, the United States Congress has a lot of decisions to make. One important topic the first representatives and senators need to address is establishing the U.S. military. There already is a colonial army--the Continental Army--that has fought the British in the American Revolution and won under General George Washington. But this army is not the official army of the United States.

Finally, on September 29, 1789, the last day of its first session, the U.S. Congress passes an act to establish the United States military. However, this happens only after President Washington reminds them, twice!

Washington writes a letter on August 7, 1789, to remind the Senate and the House of Representatives to create provisions for the U.S. military. He tells them he doesn't need to argue for an issue on which the "honor, safety and well being of our Country so evidently and essentially depend: But it may not be amiss to observe that I am particularly anxious it should receive an early attention as circumstances will admit." The Secretary of War, Henry Knox, read this aloud to the members of Congress, but they do not immediately act upon it.

Three days later, on August 10, Washington again urges Congress to address the issue. Finally, on September 29, the House of Representatives and the Senate pass the bill that establishes the armed forces of the United States of America. This probably means very little change to the men already serving, but it means a lot to George Washington. Over time, the United States Navy, Marines, and Air Force will join the ground troops. What do you know about the development of the different military branches since then?

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