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55 Army of the United States

militia, regular, military, nation, british, troops, colonies, soldiers and fight

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55. ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES. The army of the United States was the legiti mate descendant of the old militia organizations maintained in the various colonies prior to the Revolution. The nucleus of the regular army of the nation was the small force of riflemen authorized by the Colonial 'Congress on 14 June 1775 to serve the United Colonies. Be ginning then and continuing to the present the military forces of the United States consist of a regular army maintained by the Federal government and a system of State troops called for a long time the Militia and later the Na tional Guard. When these forces were found insufficient, volunteers have been called for or armies have been raised by draft. The coun try has never authorized compulsory universal military service and in peace times it has always been difficult to win away from civilian pur suits enough men to maintain either the regu lar army or the State forces. The country has always shown a just pride in the small regular army, but service in its ranks has never been popular. The splendid opportunities offered to healthy young manhood by the rapid develop ment of the economic life of the new country left few youths seeking long term enlistment in regular regiments. The nation has never been enthusiastic in its attitude toward the army and such military enthusiasm as existed naturally found a congenial opportunity in the militia.

Thus the dual services intended to co-operate and supply whatever military needs might arise gradually became competitors, not of course in efficiency but in the quest for men to serve.

Washington, the most popular commander the army ever had, complained constantly that men preferred service in the less efficient mili tia to that of the continental line regiments. In every war where the regular troops have re quired the co-operation of the militia the early antagonism.has found fresh expression and the problem of the regular army has been less that of learning how to fight a foreign foe than to discover some means of getting rid of the mili tia incubus. It is undeniable that the nation has never supported a regular army comparable its ts population or its wealth. 'Safeguarded by its political isolation for a century no dis aster resulted and it suited the popular preju dice to assume that the militia would be ready when wanted.

The establishment of a national army school in 1802 at West Point under the title of The United States Military Academy led to the development of the only military caste in the nation. The small groups of boys educated there to become officers in the regular army passed out of its graduating classes and disap peared into remote little army posts. As pro fessional soldiers they knew the danger of the situation, but they always lacked numbers or influence to persuade the nation that the militia might prove a dangerously weak element in the scheme of national defense if a great danger should suddenly arise. For more than a hun

dred years no great external danger ever did arise and government and people smiled com placently upon the militia and turned a deaf car to the warnings or complaints of the regu lar. As a matter of fact the history of our wars proves that we have been always the win ners, even when our fighting has been most in ferior and our military measures totally inade quate. Fate made the country a nation of optimists, confident that we could win wars al most without soldiers. The history of the mili tia in the early days of the colonies laid the foundation for this public obsession. In those times the settlers either combined for local de fense or co-operated in larger groups when nec essary to defend the frontiers of their colony.

When larger dangers threatened, as more particularly in the time of the French and In dian wars, several colonies contributed detach ments of some strength which joined the regu lar British troops and served under their com manders. It is well worth while to remember that the history of those early campaigns against the Indians, and later against the French and Indians, showed a marked superi ority on the part of the colonial militia over the professional soldiers trained in European schools of war. Neither lacked courage or hardihood, but the militia knew how to fight the Indian and the regular soldier did not. The militia were fighting to hold back a foe who threatened soon to be ravaging the whole coun try, and so brought their whole-hearted devo tion to the cause. When the struggle against England began in the first days of the Revolu tion the militia rallied at a moment's notice and fought British regulars, retreating from Concord, with as great skill and courage as they had displayed a generation earlier when covering the retreat of British regulars after the disastrous defeat of Braddock at Fort Du quesne. The minute men who inflicted heavy casualties upon the British column trying to fight their way back to Boston on 19 April 1775, gave every evidence of being worthy descend ants of those other militiamen who had shown such splendid capacity for hard fighting against odds in the attacks upon the powerful fortifica tions at Louisburg in 1745, and again in 1758. Two months after the affair at Concord and Lexington we find the militia of the New Eng land provinces gathered in intrenched positions on Bunker Hill. Here their 1,500 hastily organ ized unprofessional soldiers fought the famous battle against veteran regular troops who out numbered them two to one. The British troops, all regulars, at Bunker Hill fought an American force composed entirely of militia men. The British losses (89 officers and 965 men) were nearly 50 per cent greater than in any later action in the seven years' war. The losses of the American militia were 449 in all, and occurred mostly when, with ammunition ex hausted, they were compelled to retreat across exposed ground.

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