Having themselves been subjects of British colonial rule, the framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to disperse military power, giving Congress the power to declare war and making the president the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. As a result, two forces have continuously shaped U.S. military establishment: the need to build and maintain a professional army countered by an equally strong push to keep the military under civilian control.
1774 The First Continental Congress urges the people to arm and form their own militias.
1775 The Second Continental Congress resolves to raise six companies of riflemen, appoints a committee to establish rules for the army, and elects George Washington to be conmmander in chief.
1783 The Confederation Congress discharges the troops in the Continental Army, and George Washington resigns his commission.
1784 The Confederation Congress authorizes a small force that is the nucleus of the institution maintained by government under the Constitution (1789).
1789. Congress's power to "raise and support armies" is established in the Constitution. The War Department is established, with Henry Knox named its first secretary.
1791 The Second Amendment accepts the idea of compulsory military service that is the legacy of the individual colonial militias.
1791-1898 Even though a small standing army of "regulars" is maintained, the United States primarily draws on volunteers and state militias throughout this period. Volunteer militias provide the primary source of manpower in the Indian wars, the Mexican War, and the Spanish-American War. They are the basis of both the Union and the Confederate armies.
1798 The Navy Department is established, with Benjamin Stoddert named its first secretary.
The U.S. Marine Corps is established under control of the secretary of the navy. Marines have participated in all U.S. wars, and their specialized training has made them experts not only in amphibious landings but in counterinsurgency and guerrilla warfare. Today they are self-sufficient units, with their own tanks, armor, artillery, and air forces.
1802 The United States Military Academy at West Point, New York, is founded to train professional army officers.
1845 The United States Naval Academy is founded at Annapolis, Maryland, to train professional naval officers. (31)