Today, the Army Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers when Congress officially set up the troops for the United States on September 29, 1789 – the last day of the first congressional session.
From the United States Statutes at Large:
An Act to recognize and adapt to the Constitution of the United States the establishment of the Troops raised under the Resolves of the United States in Congress assembled, and for other purposes therein mentioned.
In his book, Historical Register of the United States Army, From Its Organization, September 29, 1789, to September 29, 1889, published in 1890, Francis Bernard Heitman briefly described the troops prior to that act of Congress:
From the close of the Revolutionary War to September, 1789, there was practically no United States Army.
A regiment of infantry and a battalion of artillery, in all about 700 officers and men , were retained at the close of the war to guard public stores and property and to occupy posts vacated by the British on the northwest boundaries of the United States.
By act of Congress of June 3, 1784, it was resolved, ” As it appears absolutely necessary to have 700 non-commissioned officers and men properly officered, it is recommended to the following States as most convenient to the posts shortly to be vacated by the British to furnish from their militia: Connecticut, 165; New York, 165; New Jersey, 110; Pennsylvania, 260, to serve 12 months, unless sooner discharged.”
The troops thus provided for were formed into a regiment, consisting of eight companies of infantry and two companies of artillery, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Josiah Harmar.
By subsequent legislation slight changes were made in the number and organization of the troops, and the re-enlistment of the 700 men engaged under the resolution of April 12, 1785, was authorized by Congress October 3, 1787.
This force, then consisting of a battalion (four companies) of artillery and the regiment (eight companies) of infantry, was, by the act of September 29, 1789, “recognized to be the establishment for the troops in the service of the United States.”
No appointments or commissions had been issued by the General Government, the officers holding their appointments from the States which had furnished the quota.
The officers retained in service were all commissioned as of the United States Army from September 29, 1789.
In this work, therefore, service prior to September 29, 1789, is only referred to as in the Revolutionary or Continental army, and date of rank, etc., therein is not stated, as there are no complete records extant, so far as known, that could supply the data.
Having been an employee in the office of the Adjutant-General of the Army during the past 28 years, I became thoroughly familiar with all the records pertaining to appointments, commissions and the service of officers of the army, and obtained the permission in 1873 of General E. D. Townsend, then Adjutant-General of the Army, to engage in compiling this work. T
he privilege thus accorded me was courteously extended by his successor, General R. C. Drum, to whom I am deeply indebted for unlimited access to any and all records in his department.
Everything relating to the appointment of officers was destroyed by the burning of the War Department, November 9, 1800, and again partially by the British, in 1814.
It therefore became necessary, in order to supply the missing links, to search the Executive journals of the United States Senate, pay accounts in the Treasury Department, old manuscript registers in the possession of families or descendants of deceased officers, etc.
In brief, neither labor nor expense has been spared in securing the most reliable information possible, and a slight conception of the magnitude of the task may be gathered from the fact that I have diligently applied myself, when not engaged in official duties, for 17 years in the effort to produce this compilation, in the hope that it may be a standard and reliable work of reference.
F. B. Heitman
Washington, D.C., 1890
The Army Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows against an early recruitment poster.