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Chapter Twenty-Two. George Washington: America's First Soldier

Thomas A. Rider, II

Subject History » Military History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00024.x


On 31 March 1776 General George Washington, Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army, wrote to his brother John Augustine from his headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “I believe I may, with great truth affirm,” Washington declared, “that no Man perhaps since the first Institution of Armys ever commanded one under more difficult Circumstances than I have done – to enumerate the particulars would fill a volume” (PGW, Revolution , 3:569). When he penned these lines, Washington was venting the frustrations of his first nine months in command. Beginning in July 1775 when he arrived outside Boston, through the British evacuation of that city in March 1776, Washington had struggled to create “Order, Regularity & Discipline” in a conglomeration of men who formed an army in name only (PGW, Revolution , 1:138). If bringing the Continental Army to life was not challenging enough, Washington had to figure out how to feed, arm, and equip it while simultaneously building the bureaucracy that would make these tasks possible. Moreover, Washington saw to all of these problems, and countless others, while besieging the enemy. In December 1775, just as he began to make headway, the army dissolved before his eyes as the soldiers' terms of service expired. Washington had to start over with newly recruited formations. The Commander-in-Chief's frustrations continued beyond his first campaign. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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