“This We’ll Defend”… since 1775

“Back in 1775, my Marine Corps came alive. First, there came the color red…”

Actually, first…there came the Army.

I love the Corps and I loved wearing the Eagle, Globe, and Anchor. But the Marines weren’t the first to fight in the Revolutionary War. That honor goes to the Army.

On June 14th, the United States Army will celebrate its 242nd birthday. This means they’re the oldest of our military branches. Here’s a brief history (taken from official Army archives) of how our modern Army started out:

  • Early in 1775, colonials were facing off against the British near Boston. The colonial troops weren’t well organized (compared to the British troops).
  • Recognizing the need for better organization, funding, and leadership of this ragtag group of rebels, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress appealed to the Second Continental Congress. They requested that the Continental Congress (then-located in Philadelphia) take control of the New England-based army. In layman’s terms, they asked for broad support in the way of arms and men from all the seaboard colonies.
army painting
  • It is said (this means that what comes next is a great story, but one that isn’t corroborated by cold, hard evidence) that John Adams (himself from Massachusetts, and a well-known member of the Continental Congress) encouraged the governing body to adopt the troops near Boston. Adams supposedly prompted Congress to adopt them on June 14th, 1775.
  • What actually happened on June 14th, 1775 (based on historical record) was that the Second Continental Congress decided to form a committee to write up the rules and regulations that would guide the direction of a continental army.
  • Congress also agreed to support the Boston garrison (and other troops near New York) with $2 million…not a small sum at that time.
  • Lastly, Congress authorized ten additional companies of ‘expert riflemen’ from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, and issued them orders to join their colonial brethren near Boston.

Now, these early ‘minutemen’ carried a number of different flags (the ‘minuteman’ has since become the symbol for the National Guard across the United States). But since many of the troops sent to Boston were essentially loaned from each colony, there was no service flag for the entire Colonial Army.

In fact, there wouldn’t be an official Army flag until halfway through the 20th Century!

With all the battles the Continental Army, and subsequently the U.S. Army, would be part of, you’d think they’d get around to creating a flag they could all rally around (other than Old Glory, that is).

When the Army celebrated its 181st birthday on June 14th, 1956, they did so in a very special way. At Independence Hall in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania (the birthplace of the Continental Army, and thus our modern Army), then-Vice President Richard Nixon unfurled the first official United States Army Flag.

The Army Flag turned out to be worth the wait. It includes some pretty epic images tying today’s Army to its Revolutionary ancestors. A Roman cuirass (body armor for the torso), a sword, a half-pike (a spear of sorts) called an esponton, a musket, a bayonet, a cannon, cannon balls, a mortar and mortar bombs…all these are meant to show the Army’s prowess with the tools of their trade. A Phrygian cap (often known as the cap of liberty) sits on top of the sword, and the whole arrangement is set to a backdrop of two flags signifying the Army’s efforts in the Revolutionary War.

US Army Flag

Combined with the motto, “This We’ll Defend,” and the year ‘1775’ all these elements display the Army’s long-standing readiness to protect the liberty of these United States.

It was fitting that the Army Flag first flew on the birthday of the United States Army. On this June 14th, I’ll raise my glass to celebrate the U.S. Army.

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