No country can truly be secure without an army, and the Thirteen Colonies (now the United States) was no different. After the beginning of the Revolutionary War, John Adams began to see the value of an army, so on June 10, 1775, he proposed to Congress, at a meeting in Philadelphia, that the men laying siege to Boston should be considered a Continental Army led by a general. The men who were mostly from New England, had armed themselves and rushed to surround British forces in Boston following the Battle of Lexington and Concord. Adams, who was representing Massachusetts, realized that the military effort would only succeed if the British thought the colonies were united. To achieve his united feel, Adams suggested than they appoint George Washington of Virginia, to command the Continental forces, despite the fact that New Englanders were used to fighting in local militias under officers elected from among their own ranks.
Five days later, on June 15th, Adams formally nominated George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army. Washington accepted the post on June 16th, and on June 17th, with no rest for the troops, the newly named army fought the Battle of Bunker Hill. John Adam’s wife, Abigail, and son, John Quincy Adams, watched the battle from their hometown of Braintree.
Just as the British had discovered the difficulties of waging war with rowdy and uncontrollable Yankees for soldiers during the Seven Years’ War, Washington was equally unimpressed when he met his supposed army. Just as the British had, he saw “stupidity” among the enlisted men, who were used to the easy familiarity of being commanded by neighbors. Upon arrival outside Boston, General George Washington organized this body of more than 22,000 men, known as the Main Army, into three divisions of two brigades each, promptly insisting that the officers behave with decorum and the enlisted men with respect. Washington had some success with this first Continental Army, but when the New Englanders went home to their farms at the end of 1775, General Washington had to start fresh with new recruits in 1776. In retrospect, I’m sure Washington had better control over the second Continental Army, because they didn’t know any other leadership style. George Washington remained the commander of the Continental Army until the end of the Revolutionary War.
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