Over a period of 25 years, Alexander Hamilton was heavily involved with the military, both by serving as a soldier and officer, and making lasting contributions as a stateman. Throughout that quarter century, he was known as many things: a soldier, Washington's aide-de-camp, a war hero, an administrator, a statesman, an advocate, a general - he fully participated in every aspect of warfare and the military. Learn more about his different roles with the trivia below.
As a Revolutionary War Soldier
- In the spring of 1775, Alexander Hamilton helped form a local militia (musket drill unit) called the Heart of Oak with other students from King's College (today's Columbia University).
- In March 1776, Alexander Hamilton was promoted to Captain and put in charge of forming the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Unit, nicknamed the Corsicans.
- Today, the 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery Unit is the oldest unit still existing in the US Army and the only one remaining from the Revolution.1
- Alexander Hamilton is present for the first public reading of the Declaration of Independence in New York on July 9, 1776.2
- Alexander Hamilton participated in the Battles of Harlem Heights, Brooklyn, White Plains, Trenton, Assunpink Creek, Princeton, Brandywine, Monmouth, Germantown, Yorktown, and many other lesser engagements.
- At the Battle of Trenton, Alexander Hamilton and his artillery unit crossed the Delaware and played a major role in causing the Hessian troops to retreat and eventually surrender.
- At the Battle of Princeton, Hamilton brought his unit's cannon to rear on British troops holed up in Nassau Hall (the original building of Princeton University). A popular story is that one canon shot into the hall and straight through a portrait of King George III, effectively decapitating him.
As George Washington's Aide-de-Camp
- Alexander Hamilton served as George Washington's aide-de-camp for four years.
- Hamilton's nickname as part of Washington's "family" was "the little Lion."3
- As aide-de-camp, Hamilton wrote more than 50% of Washington's correspondence with officers and Congress, acted as translator and spy master, and went on important missions on behalf of Washington.
- Hamilton was present for the discovery of Benedict Arnold's plot to betray West Point to the British. When Arnold escaped, Hamilton set off to try to capture him before he reached the British.
- Hamilton lost two horses during battle; one was shot out from under him during the Battle of Monmouth and another was shot when he was ambushed near Schuylkill River.
- During that ambush near Schuylkill River, Hamilton escaped by swimming across the river. When he returned to Washington's headquarters, Washington had already received a letter reporting that Hamilton had been killed.
As a Statesman and a General
- While sitting President, George Washington gathered more than 12,000 militia to march to western Pennsylvania to disperse the Whiskey Rebellion in 1794. After leading the troops part way, Washington turned them over to Alexander Hamilton (then Secretary of Treasury), putting him in charge of resolving the social unrest.
- When George Washington reentered into military service to prepare for a possible war with France (1798), he made an unprecedented request that Alexander Hamilton be named his second-in-command.
- After Washington's death, Hamilton served as Major General of the American Armed Forces until 1800.
- Hamilton established much of the US Navy and US Army in preparation for the Quasi-War.
- Hamilton created the Coast Guard (then called the Revenue Cutter Service) in 1790.
- Hamilton advocated for a military school to be established at West Point. His detailed plans included what classes should be taught and how many professors should be hired. His vision would be realized in 1802 with creation of the United States Military Academy.
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