On 23 April 1775, the Massachusetts Provincial Congress authorized the formation of 26 line infantry regiments in order to organize the impromptu army that formed around Boston to besiege the British after their defeat at the Battle of Concord. Connecticut, New York, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire quickly followed suit.
On 14 June, 1775, the Second Continental Congress authorized the recruiting, training, and equipping of ten companies of riflemen, to serve as light infantry, from Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, and New York, with a minimum age of 16, 15 with parental consent. In the tactics of the day, a single light infantry company was part of an infantry regiment made up of ten or so other line infantry companies. The line companies would form the battle line, while the light infantry company would move forward in an open formation, defeat the enemy’s light infantry then disrupt the enemy’s line by sniping their officers and forcing them to prematurely discharge their weapons before the line infantry engaged. Outside of battle the light infantry were the scouts and foragers of the regiment.
By authorizing the light infantry companies which were subsequently attached to various Massachusetts line regiments around Boston, the Second Continental Congress effectively “stealth nationalized” the colonies’ legislatively approved provincial armies. The colonies planned on that eventually, since Massachusetts in particular, wanted help paying for and equipping the army. (The provincial officers hated the new riflemen and complained they were the most I’ll-disciplined, rambunctious, and troublesome men in their formations. Later, in 1776, the original ten companies were reassigned from their colonial regiments to form the 1st Continental Regiment.) Furthermore, the Second Continental Congress specifically named four major generals and seven brigadier generals. The Congress conspicuously left off George Washington’s name, much to the irritation of his rivals, whom they announced as Lieutenant General and Commander of the Continental Army the next day.
This We’ll Defend.
Happy birthday, United States Army!