History of the United States Army


Conflicts Other Events Inclusive Date(s) Explanation

First American unit formed
1747
Known as "His Majesty’s first Independent Company of American Rangers." Though it served England, the Rangers were American soldiers.
French & Indian War
1758
It began on American soil and was brought to Europe, that war was part of what the French and British called the "Seven Years War."
War of Independence
1775-1783
Using small unit ambush techniques, the colonists proved successful against one of the world's finest armies, even while being outnumbered.
Lexington Green
April 19, 1775
An unordered "shot heard around the world" quickly started the War of Independence in which eight Americans were killed and 10 wounded.

Establishment of the Continental Army
June 14, 1775
Congress approved the raising of 10 companies of riflemen to enlist in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia until the end of the Revolutionary War.

George Washington selected to lead the Continental Army
June 15, 1775
Washington, named general and commander in chief, successfully fought against soldiers in large formations using small ambush tactics.

Board of War and Ordinance established
1776-1881
Established to adminster the army, the board was later abolished in 1781. Its duties were reassigned to the newly-created secretary of war.

Congress establishes the U.S. War Department
1789 through late 1790s
At a reduced strength of 800 men, the army protected settlers and fought wars with Indians in the Northwest Territory.
Indian Wars
1790-1891
The army fought American Indians on the plains, southeast, southwest, and Pacific Northwest, driving them from their native lands onto reservations.
Miami tribe campaign (present-day Ohio and Indiana)
1790-1795
Beaten two separate times, General Arthur St. Clair built a road and forts along their northern route. Major Indian stand was at Fallen Timbers.
1800s
Creek War (Georgia and Alabama)
1813-1814 & 1836-1837
Originally part of the War of 1812, the Upper Creeks sided with British. During 1836-37, army rounds up remaining Creeks from the Southeast.

First U.S. military academy established
1802
Congress establishes the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, NY.
War of 1812
1812-1815
The war sealed America's independence. Failing to capture Canada, the army prevented the British from taking Baltimore and New Orleans.


1812-1815
Most army battles occurred along the Canadian border, Chesapeake Bay region and the Gulf of Mexico. Artillery units made a large contribution.
Indian Wars - Continued
1817-1863
The 19th century was the era of the great chiefs: Tecumseh, Geronimo, Cochise, Black Kettle, Red Cloud, Sitting Bill, Big Foot, and others.
Seminole Wars (Georgia and Florida)
1817-1818 & 1842-1858
Began with a nearby Georgia army post massacre and ended with the hanging of chief Captain Jack. The remainder was removed to the Indian Territory.
Black Hawk War (Northern Illinois and Southwestern Wisconsin)
1832
Seventy settlers and soldiers, and hundreds of Black Hawk's band, died. It signaled the end of that area's conflict between settlers and Native Americans.
Mexican War
1846-1848
Soldiers fought for the first time far beyond their frontiers. First time the army administered a military government over a conquered area.
Navajo Conflicts (Arizona and New Mexico)
1846-1863
Navajo lands came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. after the Mexican War. The attack on Ft. Defiance brought a "total war" against the Navajo.
Civil War
1861-1865
The many important generals included: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee. Later, black soldiers were quickly incorporated.
Fort Sumter
1861
One of only two Federal forts not already taken, Abraham Lincoln ordered its restocking, ushering in the "War Between the States."
First Battle of Bull Run (Manassas Junction)
1861
After the first major battle, both sides were optimistic the war would end soon.
Shiloh (Pittsburg Landing)
1862
With heavy losses of 10,000 casualties on each side, some Northerners were appalled by the carnage. Grant came to believe "total war" was necessary.
Antietam (Sharpsburg)
1862
One of the bloodiest battles of the war, it put the Confederate Army increasingly on the defensive.

First conscription acts passed
1862 and 1863
Once the initial war fever had dissipated, the South instituted the draft in 1862 while the North waited until 1863.
Battle of Gettysburg
July 1-4, 1863
Considered a turning point in the war, Confederate troops were forced to retreat after an unsuccessful, massive frontal attack.

Gettysburg Address
November 1863
Lincoln's famous short talk was delivered on the Gettysburg battlefield where a national cemetery was declared.

Ulysses S. Grant
March 1864
Grant becomes the first man to hold the rank of General of the Army.

War casualties
1861-1865
With death tolls up to nearly 700,000, those casualties exceeded America's losses from the Revolution through Vietnam.
Indian Wars-Continued
1868
Negotiations between Red Cloud and 125 chiefs at Ft. Laramie and the U.S. government resulted in a return of the Bozeman Trail to the natives.
Modocs (Northern California and Southern Oregon)
1872-1873
Captain Jack and followers fled from their hardscrabble reservation to the lava beds of Tule Lake, where they held out against soldiers for six months. He was hanged.
Battle of the Little Big Horn (Southern Montana)
1876
George A. Custer and 250 soldiers under his immediate command confronted Sioux warriors on the Little Bighorn River and were wiped out in the ensuing fight.
Nez PercÚ War (Oregon, Idaho and Montana)
1877
After fighting to keep their home in Wallowa Valley, Chief Joseph led his people on a 1,700-mile retreat to Canada. They surrendered near the border, to Nelson Miles' soldiers.
The Wounded Knee Massacre (Pine Ridge, South Dakota)
1890
Following the killing of Sitting Bull, Big Foot took command of the final band of fighting Lakota (Sioux). They were trapped at Wounded Knee Creek and destroyed by the U.S. Army.
Spanish-American War
April-December 1898
Making its mark as an army of great force by war's end, it helped establish governmental powers over the Philippines.
1900s

Army reorganization begins
Early 1900s
General Samuel Young became the army's first Chief of Staff and the first aeronautical division was set up within its signal corps.
World War I
1917-1918
President Woodrow Wilson sent the American Expeditionary Force to the Western front under General John Pershing's command.

Selective Service Act
1917
Drafted by Brigadier General Hugh Johnson, the Act was quickly passed by Congress. Approximately four million were ultimately drafted.
Western front battles
March-October 1917
Americans fought in France's Third Battle of the Aisne, the Marne, Le Hamel and Canal du Nord before launching its own offensives.

Black combat troops
1917-1918
Nearly 200,000 black soldiers served in Europe, but only 42,000 were classified as combat troops.

Army Air Corps established
1926
After the U.S. had withdrawn most military personnel from Europe, Congress changed the name of the Air Service to the Army Air Corps.

National Anthem
1931
"The Star Spangled Banner" officially became the National Anthem.
World War II
1941-1945
The greatest of U.S. generals — Dwight D. Eisenhower, Nelson Bradley and Douglas MacArthur — led the Allies to victory.
D-Day, The Battle of Normandy
June 6, 1944
In the largest, exclusively American field command, 1.3 million men stormed the beaches at Normandy in the greatest amphibious attack in history.
Pacific Theater: Island Hopping campaign
1942-1945
General MacArthur led a campaign that would eventually become an Allied victory over the Japanese, with massive support from the Army Air Corps.
Flying the "Hump"
1942-1945
Such campaigns put the Army Air Corps added a new dimension to warfare and put it at the top of the list in military importance.
Manhattan Project
1942-1945
U.S. Army engineers participated with civilian scientists to create two atomic bombs.

Army's Demobilization
1945-1948
With millions of soldiers to release from active duty, the army experienced massive problems demobilizing its forces.
Korean War
1950-1953
Led by General MacArthur, the war eventually became a stalemate that took the lives of 54,000 Americans and more than two million Koreans and Chinese.
Operation Ripper
March 14, 1951
Pushing communists back from Seoul, the army gained experience with guerrilla combat tactics and propaganda warfare.

Army and atomic testing
1953
During a test at Frenchman's Flat, Nevada, the first nuclear artillery shell was fired.

Code of Conduct
August 17, 1955
President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a code for U.S. soldiers to live by during times of war.

Anniversary of the U.S. Army
June 14, 1956
The U.S. army flag is dedicated during the army's 181st anniversary celebration.

Official U.S. Army song
December 12, 1957
U.S. Army announces that "The Army Goes Rolling Along" ("Caisson Song") was to be verified as their official song.

Operation Big Lift
1963
The army trained for the long-distance, limited wars of the Cold War by moving 15,000 troops to West Germany with its new airmobile division.
Vietnam War
1965-1973
Troops were more effectively delivered to precise locations by helicopter. William Westmoreland commanded their involvement.
Tet Offensive
January 31, 1968
The army was caught off guard by a series of scattered diversionary attacks, when the Vietcong successfully launched a major offensive.
My Lai Massacre
March 16, 1968
Considered the turning point of the war, Army troops massacred innocent villagers, unable to identify the Vietcong.

U.S. Embassy evacuation
April 28, 1975
Two days prior to Saigon's fall, 8,000 people were transported from the U.S. Embassy making it the largest helicopter evacuation in history.
Fall of Saigon
April 30, 1975
After pulling out of Saigon, the U.S. watched helplessly as the capital city fell to communist forces when it captured the presidential palace.
Operation Grenada
1983
The first combined-service campaign in years, its initial failure brought about extensive training, resulting in the flawless invasion of Panama in 1989.
Panama Invasion
1989-1990
It was so successful that troops were withdrawn in two weeks. Some remained to support reconstruction and installation of a new government.
First Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm)
1991
A coalition force of 34 nations, the United Nations effort was led by U.S. Army General H. Norman Schwarzkopf.
"Highway of Death"
February 26, 1991
Setting fire to Kuwaiti oil fields as they retreated, the Iraqi convoy was bombed extremely and thoroughly by the coalition forces.

Iraqi Ceasefire
February 27, 1991
About 100 hours after the ground campaign began, President George H.W. Bush declared a ceasefire and that Kuwait had been liberated.
2000s
Iraq War (Second Persian Gulf War)
March-April, 2003
After a massive air strike, coalition ground forces invaded Iraq. By mid-April, Saddam Hussein's army and government had collapsed.

Public opinion has not always favored a standing army. During the undeclared conflict with France in 1798, the size of the U.S. Army was raised from 3,500 to 12,000 men. Jeffersonian Republicans feared that the army would be used to enforce the Alien and Sedition Acts. Popular opinion was expressed in many resolutions against the increased army.

By 1799, the immediate threat of war had passed but the large standing army remained. Alexander Hamilton wrote to Harrison Gray Otis, a Federalist member of Congress from Massachusetts, arguing that the army could still be used productively by conquering lands then held by the French and Spanish in the West.

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