The Birth of the U.S. Army

On September 29, 1789, the First Congress of the United States passed an act that allowed for the establishment of the United States Army. Though the Continental Army had fought during the revolution and was officially established under the Articles of Confederation, it wasn’t until 1789 that the Army of the United States of America as we know it existed.

During the course of the Revolutionary War, it is estimated that approximately 230,000 men served as members of the Continental Army. Once the war ended, the Framers of the Constitution thought it important that the U.S. have a standing army to protect it from any number of outside threats. When these men wrote the Constitution, they said, “The Congress shall have Power . . . To raise and support Armies.” This would be checked by the executive branch as the president would be the Commander in Chief of that army.

By September 29, 1789, the last day of their first session, the First Congress had still not written any legislation regarding the army. President George Washington was insistent that they do so. He wrote a letter to Congress saying, “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.” Congress passed the act that day, writing: “An act to recognize and adapt to the Constitution of the United States, the establishment of the troops raised under the resolves of the United States in Congress assembled.”

At the time that the U.S. Army was established in 1789, it is estimated they had about 800 members. Now it is estimated that the U.S. Army has approximately 450,000 personnel. The U.S. Army also has the highest amount of military spending in the world: approximately 800 billion U.S. dollars each year.  

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