J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Tuesday, June 14, 2011

“Some resolutions which they had come into”

While folks in New England were discussing whether to occupy the Charlestown and Dorchester heights, here’s what the Continental Congress was up to in Philadelphia:
The Congress met and agreeable to the order of the day, resolved itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration &c.
As a committee of the whole, the Congress didn’t have to keep notes on its deliberations. In fact, it had been working as a committee of the whole for so long the secretary didn’t even bother to write out what they were considering.
After some time spent thereon, the president resumed the chair, and Mr [Samuel] Ward [of Rhode Island] reported, that not having yet come to a conclusion they desired him to move for leave to sit again. At the same time they desired him to report some resolutions which they had come into.

The resolutions being read, were adopted as follows:

Resolved, That six companies of expert rifflemen, be immediately raised in Pensylvania, two in Maryland, and two in Virginia; that each company consist of a captain, three lieutenants, four serjeants, four corporals, a drummer or trumpeter, and sixty-eight privates.

That each company, as soon as compleated, shall march and join the army near Boston, to be there employed as light infantry, under the command of the chief Officer in that army.

That the pay of the Officers and privates be as follows, viz. a captain @ 20 dollars per month; a lieutenant @ 13 1/3 dollars; a serjeant @ 8 dollars; a corporal @ 7 1/3 dollars; drummer or [trumpeter] @ 7 1/3 doll.; privates @ 6 2/3 dollars; to find their own arms and cloaths.

That the form of the enlistment be in the following words:
I have, this day, voluntarily enlisted myself, as a soldier, in the American continental army, for one year, unless sooner discharged: And I do bind myself to conform, in all instances, to such rules and regulations, as are, or shall be, established for the government of the said Army.
Upon motion, Resolved, That Mr. [George] Washington, Mr. [Philip] Schuyler, Mr. [Silas] Deane, Mr. [Thomas] Cushing, and Mr. [Joseph] Hewes be a committee to bring in a dra’t of Rules and regulations for the government of the army. . . .

Resolved, That the Congress will, to Morrow, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to take into consideration the ways and means of raising money, and the state of America. This to be a standing order, until the business is compleated.

Adjourned till to Morrow at 9 o’Clock.
The record doesn’t really say what was significant about those resolutions. The Congress was accepting control of the army outside Boston, as the Massachusetts delegation had requested weeks before. In other words, it was legally turning the New England colonies’ combined army into the Continental Army. Furthermore, the Congress was going to pay for regiments from three other colonies to head to Cambridge and join the soldiers there.

Of the five men put on the committee to draw up rules for the army, the first two—Washington and Schuyler—would shortly be made commander-in-chief and major-general of that army. (That’s Schuyler up above.)

As a result, 14 June is usually treated as the anniversary of the founding of the U.S. Army, as well as (by coincidence) the anniversary of the establishment of the U.S. flag in 1777. But which was more significant?

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