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Old 03-11-2018, 07:34 AM
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Arrow Continental Congress establishes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, March 11, 1779

Continental Congress establishes U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, March 11, 1779
By ANDREW GLASS 03/11/2018 07:09 AM EDT

During the Revolutionary War on this day in 1779, the Continental Congress formed the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps’ initial primary mission, which continues to this day, was to help plan, design and prepare environmental and structural facilities for the fighting forces. Made up of civilian workers, members of the American Continental Army and French officers, the Corps played a key role in battles that were fought at Bunker Hill, Saratoga and Yorktown.

At the war’s end, the Corps was temporarily disbanded. However, in 1794, Congress created a Corps of Artillerists and Engineers under the newly formed federal government. The Corps of Engineers, as it is known today, came into existence on March 16, 1802, when President Thomas Jefferson signed the Military Peace Establishment Act.

Upon its re-establishment, the Corps resumed its chief task of creating and maintaining military fortifications. Its responsibilities increased in urgency in the years before 1812, as the nation prepared for a second war with Britain.

Planning the defense of the New York Harbor proved to be the Corps’ greatest contribution during this period. The fortifications that it built there persuaded British naval commanders to stay away from the city during the ensuing war. The Corps' work at the time also subsequently served as the foundational base for the Statue of Liberty.

In subsequent years, the Corps evolved from solely providing services for the military to helping map the vast and then uncharted territories that progressed into the Western United States. In 1824, the Corps also took responsibility for navigation and flood control of the nation’s river systems. In the decades before Washington, D.C., came under an elected mayoral government, the Corps undertook major responsibilities for the governance of the nation’s capital.

From its founding until 1866, the superintendent of the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, New York, was always a Corps of Engineers officer.

The General Survey Act of 1824 authorized the use of Army engineers to survey road and canal routes. That same year, Congress passed an “Act to Improve the Navigation of the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers” and to remove sand bars on the Ohio and “planters, sawyers, or snags” (trees fixed in the riverbed) on the Mississippi. This was also a task for the Corps of Engineers.

Nowadays, more than two-thirds of the goods consumed by Americans and more than half of the nation’s oil imports are processed through deep-water ports maintained by the Corps of Engineers. It sustains more than 12,000 miles of commercially navigable channels across the United States. It controls 609 dams, maintains or operates 257 navigation locks, and runs 75 hydroelectric facilities that generate a quarter of the nation's electric hydropower.

Today, the Corps is composed of about 37,000 civilian, enlisted personnel and officers who deliver their services throughout the United States and more than 90 countries.

O Almighty Lord God, who neither slumberest nor sleepest; Protect and assist, we beseech thee, all those who at home or abroad, by land, by sea, or in the air, are serving this country, that they, being armed with thy defence, may be preserved evermore in all perils; and being filled with wisdom and girded with strength, may do their duty to thy honour and glory; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

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