War of Independence (detail of Boston massacre print)

Continental Forces

George Washington

Just weeks after the outbreak of fighting at Lexington and Concord, delegates from every colony gathered in Philadelphia. They resolved to establish a unified colonial military “for the Defense of American Liberty.” In June 1775, they established a Continental Army and selected George Washington as its commander in chief. They authorized a Continental Navy in October and a contingent of marines in November. Most colonists harbored a deep distrust of a standing army, but the establishment of such a force proved a necessary step toward creating a nation.

Delegates to Congress were impressed by Washington's commanding presence, military experience, and political skill. “He has so much martial dignity in his deportment that you would distinguish him to be a general and a soldier from among ten thousand people,” wrote Benjamin Rush, a physician and signer of the Declaration of Independence, in a letter to Thomas Rushton, October 29, 1775. “There is not a king in Europe that would not look like a valet de chambre by his side.”


George Washington’s commission

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