In response to the fighting between British troops and colonists at Lexington and Concord, on April 19, 1775, the Second Continental Congress placed the Massachusetts volunteers in their own service and selected George Washington to command them. This action gave birth to the Continental Army.
Congress also authorized the raising of ten companies of riflemen, for one year's service as additional manpower. Pennsylvania was expected to provide six companies of these troops but the commonwealth provided nine. These companies became known as Colonel Thompson's Battalion of Riflemen.
York County, which at that time included what is now Adams County, was represented by Captain Michael Doudel's Company. It was, "... enlisted principally at Samuel Getty's Tavern..." This company provided at least forty (probably much more) men to the total of 849 men listed for the battalion. Included in this company was Lt. Henry Miller of Fairfield (then Millerstown) and Private John Dother, of Marsh Creek. Doudel's men (Company C) left York on July 1 and arrived at Cambridge, Massachusetts on July 25.
Upon their arrival they made a favorable impression to the local populous. An army surgeon noted, "They are remarkably stout and hardy men; many of them exceeding six feet in height." As to their prowess as marksmen he commented, "... their shot have frequently proved fatal to British officers and soldiers, who expose themselves to view, even at more than double the distance of common musket shot."
Within four days the company skirmished at Charlestown Neck and lost one man to capture. The rigors of the march and combat may have contributed to Captain Doudel becoming ill. It was so severe that he resigned and as a result, Henry Miller was promoted to captain.
The men of Company C fought well but they received a reputation of being insubordinate and undisciplined. When two companies were needed to leave Cambridge and join an expedition to invade Canada, Lieutenant Colonel Hand reported, "The General [presumably Washington] refused peremptorily to take the York company."
In spite of this imperfection, their fighting and shooting skills keep them in good stead. Company C and the entire battalion continued to do good service around Boston. They exhibited tenacious fighting at Ploughed Hill and Lechmere's Point. Their military proficiency did not go unnoticed by General Washington.
On January 1, 1776, the army was reorganized and the battalion became the first regiment of the Continental Army complete with its own flag which bared the motto, "domari nolo" (I will not be subjugated). The strength of the regiment was 693 officers and men.
Frustrated with a stalemate in Boston, the British troops departed the area. Washington received information that their destination was New York City. As a consequence, on March 14, under orders from General Washington, the regiment and five others left Massachusetts and marched to New York City. The journey for the regiment took two weeks.
Washington recognized the rifle regiment's value and recommended to Congress the men be offered a two year term of reenlistment because their term would soon expire on June 30. The offer was made and most of the men reenlisted.
July 1, 1776 marked the formation of the First Regiment of the Pennsylvania Line in Continental service. John Dother remained a private and Henry Miller had been promoted to major.