The Engineer Song Essayons Castle

United States Army Corps of Engineers

A Brief History

Having tossed together a brief history of the Seabees, I thought it would be proper to do the same for the Army Corps of Engineers.  After all, I did feature them in the article .

Way back in 1779, on March 11, Congress established the United States Army Corps of Engineers (ACoE) to help plan, design and prepare environmental and structural facilities for the U.S. Army.  However, the history of ACoE can be further traced back to June 16, 1775, when the Continental Congress organized an army with a chief engineer and two assistants.

The motto of the ACoE is "Essayons," which is French for "Let us try."

At the time of its establishment, the ACoE was made up of civilian workers, members of the Continental Army and French officers.  After the conclusion of the Revolutionary War, the Corps was mustered out of service. 

In the early 1790s, Congress started taking measures to reconstitute the American Army.  In 1794, Congress created a Corps of Artillerists and Engineers to serve the same purpose as the ACoE under the new federal government. It was soon after that it was noted that that the duties and functions of the artillery and engineers, while connected, were distinct – and so the two were to be parted into two branches.  The Army Corps of Engineers itself was reestablished as an enduring division in 1802.

The chief task of the ACoE is creating and maintaining military fortifications.  The 11-pointed fort (Fort Wood) that now serves as the base of the Statue of Liberty was one of those projects.

In the early 1800’s, after the War of 1812, the ACoE evolved from providing services for the military to helping map out the uncharted territories that would become the western United States. Beginning in 1824, the Corps also took responsibility for navigation and flood control of the nation's river systems.

  Other peacetime responsibilities included coastal fortifications and lighthouses.

At the beginning of the American Civil War, Congress added three additional companies of engineers and the ACoE was formed into a battalion of engineers.  Prior to the United States getting involved in World War I, the Army and the Corps underwent expansion and reorganization – and after entering the war, additional engineer regiments appeared.

The role of the ACoE to natural disasters has evolved, but began with direct federal participation in disaster relief – the first formal disaster relief mission was during the Mississippi Flood of 1882.  The ACoE played a critical role in responding to the Johnstown, Pennsylvania, flood of 1889 and the San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

As with the Seebees, the members of the ACoE are both builders and fighters.  During World War II, Engineer troops prepared and developed beaches for assault landings, both in Europe and the Pacific.  General Service and Combat Regiments built every conceivable structure or facility in the various theaters of operation. Combat regiments and battalions supported the maneuver forces with roads, bridges, and mine warfare. Stateside, the ACoE supervised the $15.2 billion defense construction program, which included the $2 billion Manhattan Project which ushered in the era of atomic warfare.

The ACoE was involved in the Korean War & Vietnam wars as well.  In both of these conflicts, engineers not only fought alongside maneuver arms but also constructed countless support facilities - combat engineers demolished, rebuilt, and destroyed the same bridges as the tide of war moved across the Korean landscape, and in Vietnam built fire bases, airfields, heliports, harbor facilities, and major highways - ACoE troops constructed 900 miles of modern, paved highways connecting the major population centers of the Republic of Vietnam and monitored the construction by private American contractors of an additional 550 miles.  And all the while, the civil works side of the ACoE continued with navigation, flood control, hydroelectric, and military construction projects in the United States.

The AcoE was in action for the contingency operations in Granada, Panama, and Kuwait.

 And humanitarian efforts such as Provide Comfort and Restore Hope constituted yet another mission for the Corps. Rebuilding Kuwait, providing for relief of displaced refugees, and supporting United Nations efforts in Somalia called for both combat and construction skills.

Disaster assistance for victims of hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes continues to be a peacetime challenge for the ACoE – such as the reconstruction of the city of New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Army Corps of Engineers Military Occupation Specialties (MOS) are:


12A- Engineer Senior Sergeant

12B - Combat Engineer

12C - Bridge Crewmember

12D - Diver

12G - Quarrying Specialist

12H - Construction Engineering Supervisor

12K - Plumber

12M - Firefighter

12N - Horizontal Construction Engineer

12P - Prime Power Production Specialist

12Q -Power Line Distribution Specialist

12R - lnterior Electrician

12T - Technical Engineer

12V - Construction and Asphalt Equipment Operator

12W - Carpentry and Masonry Specialist

12X - General Engineering Supervisor

12Y - Geospatial Engineer

12Z - Combat Engineering Senior Sergeant

Warrant Officer

120A - Construction Engineer Technician

125D - Geospatial Information Technician


12A - Engineer Officer

12 B - Combat Engineer

12D - Facilities/Contract Construction Management Engineer (FCCME)

A more in-depth history of the ACoE is available at their website The U. S. Army Corps of Engineers:  A Brief History.

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Branch Song "Essayons"

 Essayons, sound out the battle cry

Essayons, we'll win or we'll die

Essayons, there's nothing we won't try

We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Pin the castle on my collar

I've done my training for the team

You can call me an engineer soldier

The warrior spirit has been my dream

We are builders, we are fighters

We are destroyers just as well

There've been doubters who met with the sappers

1 - We know our sappers will never fail


2 - And then we blew them all straight to hell

Our brothers fighting on the battlefield

Look to us to point the way

We get there first and then we take the risks

To build the roads and the air strips

And bridge the mighty river streams

We don't care who gets the glory

We're sure of one thing, this we know

Somewhere out there an engineer soldier

Designed the plan for the whole darn show

Essayons whether in war or peace

We will bear our red and our white

Essayons we serve America

And the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Essayons! Essayons!

Lyrics and Music by Jo Johnston
Synthesized by Malcolm Dale

"Essayons" - [Toast]

Here's a health to the Army and here's a health to our corps.
Here's to the flag flying up on the hill and the bird flying over our door.
Stand by with your glasses, all brimming. Here's health and here's how and here's luck
and here's to the castles of gold we wear and the eagle that looks like a duck.

The engineer's toast was first raised in the fall of 1898 after the Spanish American War by a young Engineer officer at the officers' mess at Fort Totten, (now known as Willets Point), on Long Island, New York. The toast mentions the flag which is the American Flag flown at the Post Headquarters. The "bird flying over the door" and the "eagle that looks like a duck" refer to the relief carving of the crest taken from the seal of the Corps of Engineers. This crest consisted of an eagle, mounted above a banner inscribed with the Engineer Motto "ESSAYONS". Surrounding the eagle and banner was a wreath of oak and laurel branches, oak symbolizing strength and laurel symbolizing accomplishment. Today, this wooden carving resides in the Engineer Museum's Regimental Room, Fort Leonard Wood, Missouri.

Thanks to: Captain Christopher J. Doniec, United States Army Corps of Engineers

"Essayons" - [Battle Call]

Essayons, sound out the battle cry
Essayons, we'll win or we'll die
Essayons, there's nothing we won't try
We're the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

"Essayons" - [March]

[Verse 1]

Pin the castle on my collar
I've done my training for the team
You can call me an engineer soldier
The warrior spirit has been my dream (Chorus)


We are our brothers fighting on the battle field.
Look to us to point the way.
We get there first and then take the risks
to build the roads and air strips
and bridge the mighty river streams.

We don't care who gets the glory.
We're sure of one thing, this we know,
Somewhere out there an engineer soldier
designed the plan for the whole darn show.

Essayons, whether in war or peace,
We will bear our red and our white.
Essayons, we serve America
and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Essayons! Essayons!

[Verse 2]

We are builders, we are fighters.
We are destroyers just as well.
There've been doubters who met with the sappers.
We know our sappers will never fail.


And then we blew them all straight to hell.

Although the history of American military engineering goes back more than three hundred and fifty years, the heritage of military engineering reaches back to the earliest beginnings of organized armies. On the battlefields of ancient Mesopotamia, India, Egypt, Persia, Greece, and Rome, skilled Military Engineers laid the groundwork for the role of their modern descendants. During the middle ages of Europe, the French coined the term "genie" to represent the Engineers.

Over the years, "genie" evolved into the old English word "enginator" meaning one who operates the engines of war, such as siege towers, battering rams, catapults and the like. With the support of professional French Military Engineers, our young Army Corps of Engineers was created during America's War for Independence. Today, that French heritage is still seen within our Engineer Corps. The language of the Engineer - "abatis," "gabions," "fascines" and "pontons" -- has its roots in 18th century France. Even the motto of the American Engineers, "ESSAYONS," is French for "Let us try."


The history of the Engineer is the history of the United States of America. From her colonial beginnings Engineers mapped, built, and fought their way across this great nation from shore to shore, eventually extending the might of America around the globe. This Engineer Punch is a rare and unique combination of spirits, each symbolizing the heritage, the achievement, and the glory of the Engineers.

CHERRY BRANDY, representing the enlisted soldiers will establish the base of our punch, just as the Engineers have formed as the base of many branches of our Army.

In order to truly understand the significance of the Engineers we must examine carefully the first charge, our FOUNDATION, The red color, reminiscent of the shared heritage of Engineers and Artillerists attests to the time when medieval "Enginators" designed, built, and operated the engines of war. From those early Engineers sprang the Artillery, later the Armored forces, even Aviation, and the Chemical Corps trace their origins to the early Engineers.

COGNAG____, representing the history of civilian support for the Corps, will continue the heritage of our forefathers.

Engineers of our revolution met at occasions such as we are doing here tonight, and on 11 March, 1779, by resolution of Congress, The Corps of Engineers was formed. In commemoration of the Engineers who first trained in the snows of Valley Forge, organized into a corps, and won our independence at Yorktown, we add the second charge, COGNAC, honoring the French who contributed to our first victory and from whom we adopted much of our unique heritage.

WHITE WINE____, representing the youthful zeal of the Engineers, will remind us of the invulnerability and hope inherent in the Engineer spirit.

Truth, innocence, vigilance, and devotion are the principles which guide Engineers in the performance of their duty. This un-blemished magnificence found in third charge, WHITE WINE, is also the color of the white piping found on the Engineer colors. This white, original color for Infantry, represents the secondary mission of the Engineer, that is to fight alongside the "Le-Enfantry", in French, the "children of battle".

CHAMPAGNE____, representing the Engineer senior leadership, will help us reflect on those who have given their last full measure of devotion, our fallen comrades.

In honor of the selfless sacrifice of the men and women, who for more than three centuries, have served this land, and have vowed to continue to carry on this tradition. Our final charge is CHAMPAGNE, the noblest produce of the vine, symbolizing the eternal mission of the Engineer and reminiscent of the effervescent spirit, the enthusiasm, and the indomitable courage with which Engineers have demonstrated their ability.

Today the mission of the Corps is as varied as the contents of this punch: Topographic Engineering, Combat Engineering, Facilities Engineering, and Civil Works, .... Mobility, Counter-Mobility, Survivability, and the underlying requirement to get the job done and get it done right. This is the Army Corps of Engineers. Accomplishing the mission, from the fortification of Breeds Hill to the Engineering of our environment, Engineers, now as always, clear the way.

If you look around you, from the establishment of the Corps in the 18th century to the exploration of the universe well into the 21st, you will see the tangible evidence of the Engineers and forever hear the Engineer motto ringing in your ears; ESSAYONS


Cherry brandy or Cordial 1/2 bottle
Fruit Punch 1 1/4 quart
Sparkling Water 1 1/4 quart
Cognac 1/2 bottle
White wine 2 bottles
Champagne 2 bottles

Copyright © 1996, Cavalry Outpost Publications ® and Trooper Wm. H. Boudreau, "F" Troop, 8th Cavalry Regiment (1946 - 1947). All rights to this body of work are reserved and are not in the public domain, or as noted in the bibliography. Reproduction, or transfer by electronic means, of the History of the 1st Cavalry Division, the subordinate units or any internal element, is not permitted without prior authorization. Readers are encouraged to link to any of the pages of this Web site, provided that proper acknowledgment attributing to the source of the data is made. The information or content of the material contained herein is subject to change without notice.

Revised 10 Apr '12 SpellChecked

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