Timeline of US Military History

The USA is known as the most powerful military force in the world today, however, this wasn’t always the case and the nation had a very humble military beginning. Here we trace the timeline of US military history.

Pre-Independence Armed Forces

The start of the story of America’s military might has humble beginnings in civilian frontier settlements which were armed for survival in the wild. These local militias were organised to battle skirmishes against Native Americans and to defend against possible battles with neighbouring colonies. These forces evolved into the Minutemen militias which were used extensively in the Revolutionary War

Revolutionary War

The American Revolutionary War – or American War of Independence – took place between 1775 and 1783 was sparked when the British placed the province of Massachusetts under martial law in retaliation for protests against taxes.

Militiamen contained the British and, after this event, George Washington was appointed as the commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. It was Washington’s prowess as a military leader which proved to be crucial in the success.

American Civil War

Just under 100 years after the War of Independence, America fell into a state of civil war in 1861-1865 due to rising tensions about the practice of slavery between northern states and southern states. When Abraham Lincoln was elected as the 16th President of the United States in 1860, many southern states split off to make a confederacy which sparked the conflict. This was is sometimes discussed as the first modern war, as civilian bases were attacked and the use of rifles and railroads became more common.

Wars Against Communist Forces

After the two world wars, America was a bonafide superpower and found a new adversary in the east against its former ally the Soviet Union.

As well as a number of espionage operations, this cold war also involved proxy wars against similar communist countries. It could be argued that both the Korean War and the Vietnam War were intensified by and products of the cold war.

The War on Terrorism

America has been embroiled in a War on Terrorism since the September 11 attacks on the World Trade Centre. Operating primarily in Afghanistan and Iraq, the war has attempted to rid the world of terrorism and has spread across a number of countries.

Forces War Records: Uncovering The Military History of Your Ancestors

Here at Forces War Records, we are a leading British military community with over a million members. Our researchers study Britain’s military history and have published a number of books and articles on the subject. We can help you in your quest to discover your family’s military history with our archive of exclusive military records.


To find out more, please feel free to contact us today and search now to discover your military ancestry. You can email us at customercare@forces-war-records.co.uk.