The Hearts of Oak (originally “The Corsicans”) were a volunteer militia based in the British colonial Province of New York and formed circa 1775 in New York City. Its members included students at King’s College (now Columbia University) such as Nicholas Fish, Robert Troup and, perhaps most famously, Alexander Hamilton. The company drilled in the graveyard of nearby St. Paul’s Chapel before classes in uniforms they designed themselves, consisting of short green tight-fitting jackets, a round leather hat with a cockade and the phrase “Liberty or Death” on the band, and a badge of red tin hearts on their jackets with the words “God and Our Right” (the motto Dieu et mon droit and translated into English and adapted to make its possessive pronoun plural).
In August 1775 the Hearts of Oak participated in a successful raid, while under fire from the HMS Asia, to seize cannon from the Battery, thereby becoming an artillery unit thereafter.
In 1776 Hamilton was given a commission as a Captain by the revolutionary New York Provincial Congress with instructions to raise the New York Provincial Company of Artillery (today the Regular Army’s 1st Battalion, 5th Field Artillery) and the mission to protect Manhattan Island. The Hearts of Oak formed its core.