Provisional Army of the United States

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Provisional Army of the United States
FoundedMay 1798
DisbandedJune 1800
Country United States
Size12 regiments of infantry

6 troops of cavalry

Note: only 7 officers actually commissioned

The Provisional Army of the United States was a rump military force maintained by the United States of America between May 1798 and June 1800.


The Provisional Army of the United States was created as a second, standing army to exist simultaneously with the United States Army, due to political concerns about increasing the size of the latter force.[1][2] Raised following the outbreak of war between the United States and France, unlike the United States Army the term of enlistment of personnel to the Provisional Army was only for the duration of the "existing differences between the United States and the French Republic".[1][3] Further, despite being a federal force, the soldiers of the Provisional Army were not permitted to serve outside the states in which they were recruited, in that respect making it similar to the state militias.[4]

George Washington was the commanding general of the Provisional Army of the United States.

The 5th United States Congress authorized President of the United States John Adams to raise the Provisional Army between its 1798 summer recess and its reassembly the following winter.[5] However, Adams only commissioned seven officers before his authority to recruit personnel to the Provisional Army expired.[5] Due to the fact no meaningful recruiting had occurred, new legislation was thereafter enacted creating yet another army, the Eventual Army of the United States, to which all of the Provisional Army's empty regiments were transferred.[5][a]

The Provisional Army of the United States was officially dissolved on June 15, 1800.[2]


The commanding officer of the Provisional Army was George Washington who was commissioned at the rank of Lieutenant General and to the post of "Commander in Chief of all the Armies of the United States", giving him titular authority over both the Provisional Army of the United States and the United States Army.[7] The aging Washington accepted the appointment conditioned on his ability to remain in secluded retirement at Mount Vernon until actually needed.[1] The Provisional Army's other officers included Major General Alexander Hamilton (Inspector General), Brigadier General William North (Adjutant General), and Dr. James Craik (Physician General).[2]

On paper, the Provisional Army was organized into one cavalry regiment and twelve infantry regiments.[2]

See also


  1. ^ The Eventual Army of the United States itself existed simultaneously with the Additional Army of the United States which, unlike the Provisional Army and the Eventual Army, was not separate from the United States Army but consisted of an expansion of the regular forces with personnel recruited for limited duration. The confusing proliferation of "armies" resulted in their frequent misidentification, even – on some occasions – by Hamilton himself.[1][6]


  1. ^ a b c d Murphy, William (June 1979). "John Adams: The Politics of the Additional Army, 1798–1800". The New England Quarterly. 52 (2): 234–249. doi:10.2307/364841. JSTOR 364841.
  2. ^ a b c d Godfrey, Carlos (1914). "Organization of the Provisional Army of the United States in the Anticipated War with France, 1798–1800". Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. 38 (2): 129–132. JSTOR 20086163.
  3. ^ "The Formative Years: 1783–1812". US Army Center for Military History. United States Army. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  4. ^ Maass, John (2013). Defending a New Nation 1783–1811 (PDF). Washington, D.C.: U.S. Army Center of Military History. p. 36.
  5. ^ a b c "Introductory Note: To James Gunn, [22 December 1798]". Founders Online. National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved November 5, 2018.
  6. ^ McDonald, Forrest (1977). "The Papers of Alexander Hamilton. Volume XXII: July 1798 – March 1799; Volume XXIII: April 1799 – October 1799". Journal of Southern History. 43 (3): 448–450. JSTOR 2207665.
  7. ^ McCullough, David (2008). John Adams. Simon and Schuster. p. 507. ISBN 978-1416575887.
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