On June 14, 1775, the Continental Congress adopted a resolution creating the Continental Army. This was a significant move in the formation of the United States, as it sought to unify the military forces of the 13 colonies under one command – General George Washington – in its fight against the British.
Before this, since the battles of Lexington and Concord on April 19, the Revolution had relied almost entirely on the efforts of local militia, groups of men who fought for their freedom with their own guns and their own resources. While these men were not part of the Continental Army, they were an effective force, and continued to be a vital part of the Revolution, even after the formation of the Army. But now, with a central command, there was the beginnings of a national armed force.
Later, after the Revolution was won, and the Constitution established, Congress sought to make right an oversight. It adopted the first set of ten amendments, known collectively as the Bill of Rights. One of those, the Second Amendment, recognized the part the militias played in the Revolution, when it said that the militia was “necessary to the security of a free state,” and it enumerated the “right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.”
So, how did we get to the “well regulated militia = National Guard” idea? This misunderstanding rises from the fact that most people don’t use the word “regulated” the way our founding fathers did. They used it in the same way we use it when speaking with a gunsmith about a double barreled shotgun or a double rifle. In that sense, to regulate these guns means to adjust them so that both barrels shoot to hit the same target point. A well regulated militia is then a group of citizens who are proficient in arms, and can all shoot well enough to hit the same targets.
Today’s “well regulated militia” means that we citizens, men and women, must be prepared to protect our homeland, the same way the militia did in 1775. We need to practice so we can all hit the same target point if the time comes. While fewer of us may come to shooting from a military background, this doesn’t excuse us from that responsibility, nor preclude us from that right.
Interestingly, exactly two years after the establishment of the Continental Army in 1775, the Congress adopted the familiar Stars and Stripes as the national flag of the United States.
While you celebrate Flag Day today, remember our army as well, and the well regulated militia that stands behind them.