Army-History in May

By Bluhm, Raymond K., Jr. | Soldiers Magazine, May 2004 | Go to article overview
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Army-History in May

Bluhm, Raymond K., Jr., Soldiers Magazine

Beyond its role in defense of the nation, the Army and its Soldiers have contributed to medicine, technology, exploration, engineering and science. The milestones listed in this monthly chronology offer only a small glimpse of that proud story of selfless service. It is also your story.

For more about Army history, go to and


1607--Colonists at Jamestown, Va., organize the first militia in North America and begin constructing a fort following a surprise attack on the settlement by Powhatan Indians, May 28.

1637--The first joint military campaign by American colonial militia troops takes place in New England, when units from Massachusetts Bay, Plymouth and Connecticut conduct a coordinated attack on May 26 against the Pequot Indians on the Mystic River.


1776--Patriot militias led by Ethan Allen and Benedict Arnold attack the British garrison at Fort Ticonderoga, N.Y., on May 10. The fort is captured without a shot being fired.

1778--On May 5 Congress commissions German Baron Frederick W. A. Von Steuben a major general and appoints him to be the Continental Army's inspector general. Yon Steuben has spent the winter as a volunteer leading the Army's first professional training in formal drill and tactics.

1781--American forces lead by Henry Lee, Francis Marion and Charles Sumter capture four Tory and British positions in South Carolina. At Fort Mott, flaming arrows are used to force the surrender.

1783--On May 3 GEN George Washington presents the first Army decorations. The heart-shaped Badge of Merit, made of purple cloth, goes to to SGTs Elijah Churchill and William Brown of the Continental Army for honorable Service. A third badge is later given to SGT Daniel Bissell. These are the only badges awarded, but they form the basis for the 1932 creation of the Purple Heart medal.


1804--On May 21 the Army's Corps of Discovery, under OPT Meriwether Lewis and LT William Clark, sets off up the Missouri River from St. Charles, Mo., beginning its two-year exploration of the Louisiana Territory.

1812--On May 14 Congress authorizes establishment of the Army Ordnance Department, making this the birthday of the Ordnance Corps.

1813--During the May 29 battle of Sackett's Harbor, N.Y., Army regulars and militiamen successfully fully turn back a British attempt to capture the critical American base at the harbor.

1824--The first Army professional school, the Artillery School of Practice, is established May 24 at Fortress Monroe, Va. New artillery officers who graduate from West Point are sent to the school before going on to their regiments.

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