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The War Department is charged with the responsibility of organizing, training, and maintaining the Army at all times in accordance with conditions defined by Congress, and with certain nonmilitary activities.

2. History

Prior to the Revolutionary War governmental policies in America were determined by the mother country. Hence, although every community had to be ever ready to defend itself against local attack by Indians, and each colony developed a militia which at times was employed on campaigns for considerable periods, nevertheless the problem of national organization for common defense did not arise. The British army was their bulwark against a common foe. The military establishment was organized and administered by edict of the king.

Friction with England forced the colonies to unite and organize for common protection. The problem of common defense suddenly became paramount. Yet there was no common assembly to consider it and no plans nor means for securing concerted action.

In 1774 the First Continental Congress, consisting of representatives from colonial assemblies, met in Philadelphia, drew up a declaration of rights and grievances to be sent to the king, and adjourned until the following year. No steps looking toward military action were taken in the hope that armed conflict might be avoided.

When the Second Continental Congress convened the following year all hopes for conciliation were gone. The battle of Lexington had been fought three weeks before. The immediate and pressing problem now was how to raise, equip, and maintain an army for the common defense. There were many difficulties to be overcome. The delegates had no authority to act for the colonies which they represented; each delegate was jealous of the power of the others; there was no executive head to Congress; there was no organization for setting up and carrying on a central government; and there was a deep-seated aversion on the part of the people toward standing armies, an aversion dating back to the struggle of the common people of England against the Stuart kings of the seventeenth century, when armies had been used to abuse the people, not to defend them. The English Puritans and the cavaliers of the colonies had always been stubborn in protesting that no army should be quartered upon them, except by the consent of their own Legislatures.

Notwithstanding these and many other difficulties, Congress was compelled to assume the functions of a civil government and to organize to carry on the war for defense. It appointed committees for war, but it refused to give them any power; it constantly changed the membership of the committees; and it jealously rendered their work ineffectual by passing frequent "resolves" which covered all the business of war.

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