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103rd Engineer Battalion

The 103rd Engineer Battalion, "The Dandy First", is the only Pennsylvania unit authorized to carry the lineage of a Continental Army unit.

When Benjamin Franklin issued his appeal for citizens of Philadelphia to "associate" for the common defense in 1747, he looked to the skilled carpenters and craftsmen in the city's booming shipyards who were familiar with naval guns to form a battery of artillery. The resulting units, the Artillery Companies of the Associated Regiment of Foot of Philadelphia, the progenitors of today's 103rd Engineer Battalion, are among the oldest and most decorated military organizations in the Commonwealth. Armed with cannon, some purchased with the proceeds of a city-wide lottery and others "borrowed" from New York, the artillerists mounted the first major defenses of the Delaware River.

The cannoneers saw their first combat action during the French and Indian War, when elements of the artillery were mustered into Crown service and dispatched to Pittsburgh and Erie. A generation later, at the onset of the American Revolution in 1776, the men were reorganized as the Philadelphia Artillery Battalion.

One company, under the command of Capt. Thomas Proctor, was designated as the Pennsylvania Artillery Company and later expanded and placed in the Continental Army as Proctor's 4th Continental Artillery. The unit participated in numerous Revolutionary battles, including Trenton, Princeton, Monmouth, Brandywine, Germantown and Yorktown.

At the end of the Revolutionary War, the Proctor's Artillery Battalion and the Philadelphia Artillery Battalions were consolidated to become the Regiment of Artillery. The unit was called up for service in the War of 1812, during which six companies saw service. In 1822, the unit was reorganized as the Artillery Battalion, 1st Brigade, 1st Division, Pennsylvania Militia and later the 1st Artillery Regiment, Pennsylvania Militia.

The unit, also known as the 1st Regiment Gray Reserves, was called into federal service for the Civil War in April 1861 and redesignated the 17th Regiment, Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. In 1862, the regiment was reorganized into two new regiments -- the 118th "Corn Exchange Regiment" and the 119th Gray Reserves -- both in the Army of the Potomac. The Philadelphians, now infantry rather than artillery, won fame and glory in such places as Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Gettysburg.

By the time America went to war with Spain in 1898, the unit was called the 1st Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry, and it served under that designation when it was sent to Texas to help chase Pancho Villa back into Mexico during the 1916 Mexican expedition.

When the U.S. entered the Great War in Europe in 1917, the unit was drafted into federal service and consolidated with the 13th Infantry, Pennsylvania National Guard, to form the 109th Infantry, an element of the newly formed 28th Infantry Division. The Keystone soldiers fought the best -- and the worst -- Germany had to throw at them in such places as Champagne-Marne, Aisne-Marne, Oise-Aisne, Meuse-Argonne and Lorraine. They endured horrific trench warfare, constant bombardment and the debilitating effects of mustard gas in bringing the Kaiser's troops to heel.

Shortly after World War I, the Philadelphians were redesignated as the 103rd Engineer Regiment. They used the vast resources of the city's many universities to recruit engineers; their armory is now located in the midst of the academic communities of Drexel and the University of Pennsylvania.

On the eve of World War II, the regiment was broken up into the 103rd Engineer Battalion (Combat) and the 180th Engineer Heavy Pontoon Bridge Battalion. The 103rd, serving as part of the 28th Division, participated in the Normandy campaign and in Northern France, Rhineland, Ardennes-Alsace and Central Europe. Their contributions were particularly noteworthy during the Battle of the Bulge, when they helped stop the German advance into Belgium.

After the war, the two units were consolidated into the 103rd Engineer Battalion (its current designation). The 103rd, like the rest of the 28th Division, was mobilized for the Korean War and served in occupied Germany until 1953.

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