July 3rd: On This Day in 1775

VIDEO: From HBO Miniseries “John Adams” — George Washington is nominated as Commander of the Continental Army.


On this day in 1775, General George Washington first took formal command of the Continental Army as its Commander in Chief. Washington was officially chosen by the Second Continental Congress on June 15th of that year, but did not assume official command until a few weeks later.

Congress chose George Washington for the leader of the largest military body that the colonies could muster despite Washington’s admission that he doubted himself in the role he had been asked to fill. He was a prominent Virginian (who could draw the New England troops and those from the remainder of the colonies closer together) and a military man, but nearly all of his military experience was drawn from the years of the French & Indian War, in which he commanded a brigade of diverse troops from multiple colonies and conducted largely frontier warfare. Handling such a large group of new men seemed to him to be a daunting task in the face of the disciplined, experienced British military.

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However, George Washington displayed many other character traits that would prove him to be the most sensible choice for a respected leader of the colonial army. He had not only military experience, but general leadership experience as well — managing his plantation estate at Mount Vernon was a formidable task, one which Washington handled with skill. His personality traits were also on his side, as his determination and honesty along with his steadfast devotion to the cause of American independence made him virtually a beacon of hope to the Patriots whom he hoped to lead. His sense of honor and duty was indefatigable, but he also displayed an acute awareness of his personal defects and a willingness to yield to anyone who could teach him more than he already knew.

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On July 3rd of 1775, General George Washington gathered his new troops at Cambridge Common in Massachusetts and drew his sword with authority to bring together the largely undisciplined and raucous group of men. Washington set about to discipline his troops in the manner of the British troops he had observed in the years before, writing that:

“Discipline is the soul of an army. It makes small numbers formidable; procures success to the weak and esteem to all.”

George Washington would soon overcome the challenge of training and disciplining his rabble of colonists into a military force that proved to be adept at warfare upon the British largely based on harassment. His Continental soldiers, compared to the British, usually held the home-ground advantage with familiarity of the land and the ability to perform maneuvers that allowed more hit-and-run tactics, a frustrating prospect for the British army.  Washington’s natural hand at leadership and command of respect helped enormously to carry the American cause to victory.

“After the war, the victorious general retired to his estate at Mount Vernon, but, in 1787, he heeded his nation’s call and agreed to preside over the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The drafters created the office of president with him in mind, and, in February 1789, Washington was unanimously elected the first president of the United States. As president, Washington sought to unite the nation and protect the interests of the new republic at home and abroad. Of his presidency, he said, “I walk on untrodden ground. There is scarcely any part of my conduct which may not hereafter be drawn in precedent.” He successfully implemented executive authority, making good use of brilliant politicians such as Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson in his cabinet, and quieted fears of presidential tyranny. In 1792, he was unanimously reelected but, four years later, refused a third term. He died in 1799.”This Day in History

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(Images courtesy of Google).

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