The First American Regiment, the Beginning of the US Army

The First American Regiment, the Beginning of the US Army

The Beginning of a New Army

After the end of the Revolutionary War, the United States of America had come to be from 13 squabbling colonies, bound together by the fiery test of War.  The years directly after the Revolution were uncertain times for this new Nation.  Unrest on the Frontier, the threat of rebellion and foreign invasion were always tapping on the shoulder of this new Republic.  To combat these threats, the Congress had very little to defend the nation, in fact there were many in Congress who did not want a Federalized military.  A common view was that the Militia could defend the United States, and that there was no need a Regular Army.  At the end of 1784 Congress disbanded the Remaining troops in the Continental Army, at this time numbering around 700 men, with the exception of a small 80 man force.  This Small group of soldiers were the only federal troops in the United States by the middle of 1784.

The haste to disarm had stricken the US of a Navy (The last inactive frigate was sold in 1785) and had left the Nation unprepared for even the smallest of wars.  Congress only slightly acted in the Second half of 1784, by passing a resolution to raise 700 men.  This new Force would consist of eight companies of Infantry and two of Artillery and would be responsible for the defense of the frontier.  The 700 men were assembled into the “First American Regiment”.  These men were armed with French Charleville Muskets, clothed in Uniform Stockpiles left over from the Revolution, and provided a kit and clothing for a year’s service.  The Regiment was then spread out along the frontier.  In 1785 Congress voted to raise troops for three years at a time, but the Strength of the Army was kept at 700.

Things started to deteriorate for the USA in 1786.  Frontier unrest was much more than the small Army could handle.  In August a Rebellion rose against the government in Massachusetts.  Under the leadership of Daniel Shays, the situation quickly spiraled out of control.  Congress approved an augmentation to the existing Army to raise it from 700 men to around 2,000.  In February of 1787, Shays men attempted to storm the Springfield Armory, it was met by 1200 militia under General William Shepard, who had armed his men (without permission from Congress), with the weapons of the arsenal.  Shepard fired a couple of rounds from two cannon, and the rebels routed.  Shays Rebellion died out soon after, as men sat down to begin work on the US Constitution.  The plans to expand the Army did not fully materialize and by early 1787, only two new companies of Artillery had been raised.  The four Artillery companies in existence were combined into an Artillery battalion, all these troops were absorbed into the First American Regiment under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Josiah Harmar.

In 1789, the newly formed constitutional government recognized the military establishment that had been formed prior to the finalizing of the constitution, firmly establishing government support for the US Army.  The following year in 1790, an expedition was launched against northwestern Indian Tribes.  This expedition consisted of 1100 militia and half the First American Regiment, about 350 men, Colonel Harmar personally led this expedition.  On October 21, 1790, the Indians inflicted a bloody defeat killing 129 men, 50 of them from the regular US Army.

The US Congress took this matter seriously and finally raised a Second Regiment, Bringing its total to two regiments of Infantry and a battalion of Artillery.  The Army was now more than just a single infantry regiment, it was truly the United States Army.  The Government now turned its attention to finish the business with the Indians in the Northwest.


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About The Author

Zach Dunn

Zach Dunn is one of the owners of 1776TV and serves as Senior Editor. He is a passionate Constitutionalist. He enjoys the Outdoors, Firearms, and History. He is a passionate follower of Jesus Christ. Zach is married to Amy and they have a son and three daughters. He currently resides in the Mountains of North Carolina.

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