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History of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The forming of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began on June 14, 1775, more than a year before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. The Second Continental Congress established a regular army, naming George Washington the Commander-in-Chief. One of Washington’s first acts was to ask Congress to authorize a Chief Engineer and two assistants for the new Continental Army.

On June 16, 1775, a day now recognized as the founding date of the U.S. Army’s Corps of Engineers, Congress agreed and Washington appointed ex-British Colonel Richard Gridley as the first Chief of Engineers.

By midnight, Gridley and his men were at work, and a well designed earthwork fortification was built by dawn of the next day to protect American Minutemen in the historic Battle of Bunker Hill. The engineers were instrumental in some of the hard fought battles of the Revolutionary War including Saratoga and the final victory at Yorktown.

Since then the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has responded to changing defense requirements and played an integral part in the development of the country. Throughout the 19th century, the Corps built coastal fortifications, surveyed roads and canals, eliminated navigational hazards, explored and mapped the Western frontier, and constructed buildings and monuments in the Nation’s capital.

The History of Mobile District

Born in the shadow of the Revolutionary War, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has served our country since 1775.

During the early 19th century, Congress and presidents assigned military engineers to such duties as surveying, mapping, locating routes for superintending the construction of roads, canals, and coastal defensive works. Thus it was early in the history of the Corps that the dual role of military and civil works was established. This dual role – which the Corps maintains today – is totally unique to this organization.

 As the nation grew and its public works function expanded, the Chief of Engineers established division and district offices across the nation to perform the work. Thus in 1888, the Mobile District was formally established.

Through the years, Mobile District has responded in peace and war to meet the needs of our growing nation. In 1957 the space race began with the Russian launch of Sputnik I. The United States responded by creating the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, and Mobile began an engineering-construction partnership with the agency that exist today.

While our two primary missions have remained the same over the past 100 plus years – military construction and civil works – the district is quick to embrace the needs of the nation, and today, we play a key environmental role from protecting wetlands to clean-up programs. Environmental sustainment is our creed -- that is –balancing the nation’s environmental needs with economic well being.

Mobile District has more than 1,100 civilian and 15 military personnel. Diversity and professional abilities best describe our workforce. From health care workers to engineers – lock masters to rangers – architects to hydrologist – secretaries to surveyors – Mobile District is a unique blend of some of the nation’s best professionals.

Civil Works Mission

Mobile District’s civil works mission covers 96,00 square miles in Alabama, Florida, Georgian and Mississippi. It includes all river, harbor and flood control works within the drainage basins of six major river systems. Our civil works missions includes navigation with four major inland waterways and the intracoastal canal providing over 2,200 miles of navigation, seven deep-water harbors and 21 shallow draft ports; flood control with over 67 projects that have prevented in excess of $200 million in flood damages over the last ten years; eight hydropower facilities generating 2.4 billion kilowatts of electricity and returning $25 million of the U.S. Treasury; one of the largest recreation programs in the Federal government with 27 lakes and 464 recreation and nature areas averaging more that 33 million visitors last year and water supply for municipalities, industry and irrigation.

Military Mission

Mobile District’s military mission covers over 252,000 square miles, stretching 3,800 miles north to south. The District supports the Army, Air Force, NASA and other federal agencies in Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, and Central and South America. This work includes design and construction management for a multitude of different types of facilities such as medical centers, dormitories, aircraft facilities, sewage treatment plants, office complexes and family housing. We also provide engineering studies and other technical assistance such as master planning, environmental management and real estate support.

Mobile District is the engineer support organization for the Combatant Commander, U.S. Southern Command providing a multitude of services to further the nations international objectives. Working with other federal agencies and national governments, the district also provides engineering, environmental and humanitarian support to various nations and organizations throughout Central and South America.

In our support for others role, we are proud to provide engineering and construction support to various other agencies such as the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Environmental Protection Agency to name a few.

Mobile District has also been designated the Tactical Support Center for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers providing emergency response to all natural and man-made disasters. The District’s preparation to respond to natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and tornados, has allowed us the opportunity to develop an exceptional team of experts and support equipment needed to respond to any emergency.

All of these multiple capabilities and the finest team of professionals available put Mobile District in the spotlight once again during Operation Enduring Freedom, Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the Overseas Contingency Operation. From direct in-country support to tele-engineering, Mobile District has been a critical force multiplier in these efforts.

Bridging the Past to the Future

Mobile District has evolved for the past 140 years from coastal fortifications to providing first quality engineering services to support the nation’s security, economy, environment and international objectives. We meet the mission through our vision of being recognized by our customers as setting the standard for excellence.