Short Biography of George Washington: Fast Overview of his Life
Facts and Info: George Washington was the first president of America. He helped to establish the federal government and aspired to create a free, democratic and united country. For additional info refer to 20 Facts about George Washington.
Short Biography of George Washington: His Parents, Date of Birth and Place of Birth
Facts and Info: He was born on February 22nd 1732 in Westmoreland County, Virginia and was the eldest son of Augustine and Mary Ball Washington who were prosperous Virginia gentry of English descent. George Washington died on Saturday December 14th 1799 at his Mount Vernon estate in Virginia.
Short Biography of George Washington: His Education and Career
Facts and Info: The career of George Washington included the roles of a Surveyor, Farmer, Soldier, Politician and Statesman. He was the Commander in Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. He became the 1st president of America in 1789 and served for 8 years until 1797.
Short Biography of George Washington: His Family, Wife and Kids
Facts and Info: George Washington married Martha Dandridge Custis in 1759. She was a wealthy widow with two children whose names were Jackie & Patsy. George and Martha never had any children together.
Short Biography of George Washington: His Presidency
Facts and Info: George Washington was Independent but had strong sympathies with the Federalist Political Party. He was 57 years old when he was inaugurated as the first American president. John Adams stood as the Vice president. He was the only president who was unanimously elected and ran unopposed for both his terms of office. For additional facts refer to hisPresidential Cabinet members.
Short Biography of George Washington: What he was like!
Facts and Info: He was descended from English royalty and became one of the richest men in America owning a considerable number of slaves. He was an imposing figure standing at 6 feet 1.5 inches. He was also a brave commander and fought in the wars against the French and Indians. In recognition of his lifetime achievements George Washington has appeared on the twenty-five cent piece since 1932.
Short Biography of George Washington: important Events in his Political life
Facts and Info: During his lifetime he played a key role in important events of the era. George Washington was instrumental in the American Revolution in which the American colonists won independence from British rule, the 1791 Bill of Rights and forming the Constitution of the USA. Other important events of his presidency included the establishment of the National Mint, the Census and the Post Office. The Whiskey Rebellion, the Formation of the Political Parties, the French Revolution, the Neutrality Proclamation of 1793, Jay's Treaty and Pinckney's Treaty.
Short Biography of George Washington: Illnesses
Facts and Info: During his life George Washington suffered from Malaria, Smallpox, Tuberculosis, Dysentery and Pneumonia. This was not unusual for this time period as medical knowledge was in its infancy. What is surprising is that he survived these illnesses and lived to the age of 67.
Short Biography of George Washington: His Death and Burial
Facts and Info: He died of pneumonia together with an infection of the larynx that resulted in suffocation on December 14, 1799 at his Mount Vernon estate. On the centenary of his death there was a move to have his body moved to a crypt in Washington but this idea was strongly resisted in the South and he was therefore placed in a new, bigger tomb at Mount Vernon. The key to the tomb was symbolically thrown into the Potomac River.
This article is about the first President of the United States. For other uses, see George Washington (disambiguation).
George Washington by Gilbert Stuart, 1797
|1st President of the United States|
April 30, 1789[a] – March 4, 1797
|Vice President||John Adams|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||John Adams|
|Senior Officer of the U.S. Army|
July 13, 1798 – December 14, 1799
|Appointed by||John Adams|
|Preceded by||James Wilkinson|
|Succeeded by||Alexander Hamilton|
|Commander-in-Chief of the|
June 15, 1775 – December 23, 1783
|Appointed by||Continental Congress|
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Henry Knox(Senior Officer of the Army)|
|Delegate to the Second Continental Congress from Virginia|
May 10, 1775 – June 15, 1775
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Thomas Jefferson|
|Delegate to the First Continental Congress|
September 5, 1774 – October 26, 1774
|Preceded by||Position established|
|Succeeded by||Position abolished|
|Born||(1732-02-22)February 22, 1732|
Bridges Creek, Colony of Virginia, British America
|Died||December 14, 1799(1799-12-14) (aged 67)|
Mount Vernon, Virginia, United States
|Cause of death||Epiglottitis and hypovolemic shock|
|Resting place||Washington Family Tomb, Mount Vernon, Virginia, U.S.|
|Spouse(s)||Martha Dandridge (m. 1759)|
|Awards||Congressional Gold Medal|
Thanks of Congress
|Allegiance||Kingdom of Great Britain|
United States of America
United States Army
|Years of service||1752–58 (British Militia)|
1775–83 (Continental Army)
1798–99 (U.S. Army)
|Rank||Colonel (British Army)|
General and Commander-in-Chief (Continental Army)
Lieutenant General (United States Army)
General of the Armies (promoted posthumously: 1976, by an Act of Congress)
|Commands||Virginia Colony's regiment|
United States Army
George Washington (February 22, 1732[b][c] – December 14, 1799) was an American statesman and soldier who served as the first President of the United States from 1789 to 1797 and was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. He served as Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolutionary War, and later presided over the 1787 convention that drafted the United States Constitution. He is popularly considered the driving force behind the nation's establishment and came to be known as the "father of the country," both during his lifetime and to this day.
Washington was born into the provincial gentry of Colonial Virginia to a family of wealthy planters who owned tobacco plantations and slaves, which he inherited. In his youth, he became a senior officer in the colonial militia during the first stages of the French and Indian War. In 1775, the Second Continental Congress commissioned him as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in the American Revolution. In that command, Washington forced the British out of Boston in 1776 but was defeated and nearly captured later that year when he lost New York City. After crossing the Delaware River in the middle of winter, he defeated the British in two battles (Trenton and Princeton), retook New Jersey, and restored momentum to the Patriot cause. His strategy enabled Continental forces to capture two major British armies at Saratoga in 1777 and Yorktown in 1781. Historians laud Washington for the selection and supervision of his generals, preservation and command of the army, coordination with the Congress, state governors, and their militia, and attention to supplies, logistics, and training. In battle, however, Washington was sometimes outmaneuvered by British generals with larger armies, yet was always able to avoid significant defeats which would have resulted in the surrender of his army and the loss of the American Revolution.
After victory had been finalized in 1783, Washington resigned as commander-in-chief rather than seize power, proving his commitment to American republicanism. Washington presided over the Constitutional Convention in 1787, which devised a new form of federal government for the United States. Washington was widely admired for his strong leadership qualities and was unanimously elected president by the Electoral College in the first two national elections. Following his election as president in 1789, he worked to unify rival factions in the fledgling nation. He supported Alexander Hamilton's programs to satisfy all debts, federal and state, established a permanent seat of government, implemented an effective tax system, and created a national bank.
In avoiding war with Great Britain, he guaranteed a decade of peace and profitable trade by securing the Jay Treaty in 1795, despite intense opposition from the Jeffersonians. He oversaw the creation of a strong, well-financed national government that maintained neutrality in the French Revolutionary Wars, suppressed the Whiskey Rebellion, and won wide acceptance amongst Americans. Washington's incumbency established many precedents still in use today, such as the cabinet system, the inaugural address, and the title Mr. President. His retirement from office after two terms established a tradition that lasted until 1940 and was later made law by the 22nd Amendment. He remained non-partisan, never joining the Federalist Party, although he largely supported its policies. Washington's Farewell Address was an influential primer on civic virtue, warning against partisanship, sectionalism, and involvement in foreign wars.
He retired from the presidency in 1797, returning to his home and plantation at Mount Vernon. Upon his death, Washington was eulogized as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen" by Representative Henry Lee III of Virginia. He was revered in life and in death; scholarly and public polling consistently ranks him among the top three presidents in American history. He has been depicted and remembered in monuments, public works, currency, and other dedications to the present day.
Early life (1732–1753)
Further information: Ancestry of George Washington
George Washington was the first child of Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball Washington, born on their Pope's Creek Estate near Colonial Beach in Westmoreland County, Virginia. He was born on February 11, 1731, according to the Julian calendar and Annunciation Style of enumerating years then in use in the British Empire. The Gregorian calendar was adopted within the British Empire in 1752, and it renders a birth date of February 22, 1732.[c]
Washington was of primarily English gentry descent, especially from Sulgrave, England. His great-grandfather John Washington immigrated to Virginia in 1656 and began accumulating land and slaves, as did his son Lawrence and his grandson, George's father Augustine. Augustine was a tobacco planter who also tried his hand at iron manufacturing. In George's youth, the Washingtons were moderately prosperous members of the Virginia gentry, of "middling rank" rather than one of the leading planter families.
Six of George's siblings reached maturity, including older half-brothers Lawrence and Augustine (from his father's first marriage to Jane Butler Washington), and full siblings Samuel, Elizabeth (Betty), John Augustine, and Charles. Three siblings died before adulthood; his sister Mildred died when she was about one, his half-brother Butler died in infancy, and his half-sister Jane died at age 12, when George was about two. His father died of a sudden illness in April 1743 when George was 11 years old, and his half-brother Lawrence became a surrogate father and role model. William Fairfax was Lawrence's father-in-law and the cousin of Virginia's largest landowner Thomas, Lord Fairfax, and he was also a formative influence. William Fairfax's son George William Fairfax was a close friend and associate of Washington. His wife Sally was also a friend of Washington and an early romantic interest, and Washington wrote her love letters even after she had married.
Washington's father was the Justice of the Westmoreland County Court. George spent much of his boyhood at Ferry Farm in Stafford County near Fredericksburg. Lawrence Washington inherited another family property from his father, a plantation on the Potomac River at Little Hunting Creek which he named Mount Vernon in honor of his commanding officer Vice Admiral Edward Vernon. George inherited Ferry Farm upon his father's death and eventually acquired Mount Vernon after Lawrence's death.
The death of his father prevented Washington from an education at England's Appleby School such as his older brothers had received. He achieved the equivalent of an elementary school education from a variety of tutors, as well as from a school run by an Anglican clergyman in or near Fredericksburg. There was talk of securing an appointment for him in the Royal Navy when he was 15, but it was dropped when his widowed mother objected.
In 1751, Washington traveled to Barbados (his only trip abroad) with Lawrence in the hope that the climate would be beneficial to Lawrence's health, as he was suffering from tuberculosis. Washington contracted smallpox during the trip, which left his face slightly scarred but immunized him against future exposures to the disease. Lawrence's health failed to improve, and he returned to Mount Vernon where he died in the summer of 1752. Lawrence's position as Adjutant General (militia leader) of Virginia was divided into four district offices after his death. Washington was appointed by Governor Dinwiddie as one of the four district adjutants in February 1753, with the rank of major in the Virginia militia. During this period, Washington became a freemason while in Fredericksburg, although his involvement was minimal.
Washington's introduction to surveying began at an early age through school exercises that taught him the basics of the profession, followed by practical experience in the field. His first experiences at surveying occurred in the territory surrounding Mount Vernon. His first opportunity as a surveyor occurred in 1748 when he was invited to join a survey party organized by his neighbor and friend George Fairfax of Belvoir. Fairfax organized a professional surveying party to lay out large tracts of land along the border of western Virginia, where the young Washington gained invaluable experience in the field.
Washington began his career as a professional surveyor in 1749 at the age of 17. He subsequently received a commission and surveyor's license from the College of William & Mary[d] and became the official surveyor for the newly formed Culpeper County. He was appointed to this well-paid official position thanks to his brother Lawrence's connection to the prominent Fairfax family. He completed his first survey in less than two days, plotting a 400-acre parcel of land, and was well on his way to a promising career. He was subsequently able to purchase land in the Shenandoah Valley, the first of his many land acquisitions in western Virginia.
For the next four years, Washington worked surveying land in Western Virginia for the Ohio Company, a land investment company funded by Virginia investors. He came to the notice of the new lieutenant governor of Virginia Robert Dinwiddie, thanks to Lawrence's position as commander of the Virginia militia. He was hard to miss; at over six feet,[e] he was taller than most of his contemporaries. In October 1750, Washington resigned his position as an official surveyor, though he continued to work diligently over the next three years at his new profession. He continued to survey professionally for two more years, mostly in Frederick County, before receiving a military appointment as adjutant for southern Virginia. By 1752, Washington completed close to 200 surveys on numerous properties totaling more than 60,000 acres. He continued to survey at different times throughout his life and as late as 1799.
French and Indian War
Main articles: George Washington in the French and Indian War and Military career of George Washington
Washington began his military service in the French and Indian War[f] as a major in the militia of the British Province of Virginia. In 1753, he was sent as an ambassador from the British crown to the French officials and Indians as far north as present-day Erie, Pennsylvania. The Ohio Company was an important vehicle through which British investors planned to expand into the Ohio Valley, opening new settlements and trading posts for the Indian trade.
In 1753 the French began expanding their military control into the Ohio Country, a territory already claimed by the British colonies of Virginia and Pennsylvania. These competing claims led to a war in the colonies called the French and Indian War (1754–62) and contributed to the start of the global Seven Years' War (1756–63). By chance, Washington became involved in its beginning.
Beginnings of War
Deputy governor of colonial VirginiaRobert Dinwiddie was ordered by the British government to guard the British territorial claims, including the Ohio River basin. In late 1753, Dinwiddie ordered Washington to deliver a letter asking the French to vacate the Ohio Valley; he was eager to prove himself as the new adjutant general of the militia, appointed by the Lieutenant Governor himself only a year before. During his trip, Washington met with Tanacharison (also called "Half-King") and other Iroquois chiefs allied with England at Logstown to secure their support in case of a military conflict with the French. He delivered the letter to local French commander Jacques Legardeur de Saint-Pierre, who politely refused to leave. Washington kept a diary during his expedition which was printed by William Hunter on Dinwiddie's order and which made Washington's name recognizable in Virginia. This increased popularity helped him to obtain a commission to raise a company of 100 men and start his military career.
Dinwiddie sent Washington back to the Ohio Country to safeguard an Ohio Company's construction of a fort at present-day Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Before he reached the area, a French force drove out colonial traders and began construction of Fort Duquesne. A small detachment of French troops led by Joseph Coulon de Jumonville was discovered by Tanacharison and a few warriors east of present-day Uniontown, Pennsylvania. On May 28, 1754, Washington and some of his militia unit, aided by their Mingo allies, ambushed the French in what has come to be called the Battle of Jumonville Glen. Exactly what happened during and after the battle is a matter of contention, but several primary accounts agree that the battle lasted about 15 minutes, that Jumonville was killed, and that most of his party were either killed or taken prisoner. It is not completely clear whether Jumonville died at the hands of Tanacharison in cold blood, or was somehow shot by an onlooker with a musket as he sat with Washington, or by another means. Following the battle, Washington was given the epithet Town Destroyer by Tanacharison.
The French responded by attacking and capturing Washington at Fort Necessity in July 1754. They allowed him to return with his troops to Virginia. Historian Joseph Ellis concludes that the episode demonstrated Washington's bravery, initiative, inexperience, and impetuosity. Upon his return to Virginia, Washington refused to accept a demotion to the rank of captain, and resigned his commission. Washington's expedition into the Ohio Country had international consequences; the French accused Washington of assassinating Jumonville, who they claimed was on a diplomatic mission. Both France and Great Britain were ready to fight for control of the region and both sent troops to North America in 1755; war was formally declared in 1756.
Braddock disaster (1755)
Main article: Braddock Expedition
In 1755, Washington became the senior American aide to British General Edward Braddock on the ill-fated Braddock expedition. This was the largest British expedition to the colonies, and was intended to expel the French from the Ohio Country; the first objective was the capture of Fort Duquesne. Washington initially sought an appointment as a major from Braddock, but he agreed to serve as a staff volunteer upon advice that no rank above captain could be given except by London. During the passage of the expedition, Washington fell ill with severe headaches and fever. He recommended to Braddock that the army be split into two divisions when the pace of the troops continued to slow: a primary and more lightly equipped "flying column" offensive which could move at a more rapid pace, to be followed by a more heavily armed reinforcing division. Braddock accepted the recommendation (likely made in a council of war including other officers) and took command of the lead division.
In the Battle of the Monongahela, the French and their Indian allies ambushed Braddock's reduced forces and the general was mortally wounded. After suffering devastating casualties, the British panicked and retreated in disarray. Washington rode back and forth across the battlefield, rallying the remnants of the British and Virginian forces into an organized retreat. In the process, he demonstrated bravery and stamina, despite his lingering illness. He had two horses shot from underneath him, while his hat and coat were pierced by several bullets. Two-thirds of the British force of 976 men were killed or wounded in the battle. Washington's conduct in the battle redeemed his reputation among many who had criticized his command in the Battle of Fort Necessity.
Washington was not included by the succeeding commander Col. Thomas Dunbar in planning subsequent force movements, whatever responsibility rested on him for the defeat as a result of his recommendation to Braddock.
Commander of Virginia Regiment
Lt. Governor Dinwiddie rewarded Washington in 1755 with a commission as "Colonel of the Virginia Regiment and Commander in Chief of all forces now raised in the defense of His Majesty's Colony" and gave him the task of defending Virginia's frontier. The Virginia Regiment was the first full-time American military unit in the colonies, as opposed to part-time militias and the British regular units. He was ordered to "act defensively or offensively" as he thought best. He happily accepted the commission, but the coveted red coat of officer rank (and the accompanying pay) continued to elude him. Dinwiddie as well pressed in vain for the British military to incorporate the Virginia Regiment into its ranks.
In command of a thousand soldiers, Washington was a disciplinarian who emphasized training. He led his men in brutal campaigns against the Indians in the west; his regiment fought 20 battles in 10 months and lost a third of its men. Washington's strenuous efforts meant that Virginia's frontier population suffered less than that of other colonies; Ellis concludes that "it was his only unqualified success" in that war.
In 1758, Washington participated in the Forbes Expedition to capture Fort Duquesne. He was embarrassed by a friendly fire episode in which his unit and another British unit each thought that the other was the French enemy and opened fire, with 14 dead and 26 wounded in the mishap. Washington was not involved in any other major fighting on the expedition, and the British scored a major strategic victory, gaining control of the Ohio Valley when the French abandoned the fort. Following the expedition, he retired from his Virginia Regiment commission in December 1758. He did not return to military life until the outbreak of the revolution in 1775.
Washington never gained the commission in the British army that he yearned for, but in these years he gained valuable military, political, and leadership skills. He closely observed British military tactics, gaining a keen insight into their strengths and weaknesses that proved invaluable during the Revolution. Washington learned to organize, train, drill, and discipline his companies and regiments. He learned the basics of battlefield tactics from his observations, readings, and conversations with professional officers, as well as a good understanding of problems of organization and logistics. He gained an understanding of overall strategy, especially in locating strategic geographical points.
Washington demonstrated his resourcefulness and courage in the most difficult situations, including disasters and retreats. He developed a command presence, given his size, strength, stamina, and bravery in battle, which demonstrated to soldiers that he was a natural leader whom they could follow without question. Washington's fortitude in his early years was sometimes manifested in less constructive ways. Biographer John R. Alden contends that Washington offered "fulsome and insincere flattery to British generals in vain attempts to win great favor" and on occasion showed youthful arrogance, as well as jealousy and ingratitude in the midst of impatience.
Historian Ron Chernow is of the opinion that his frustrations in dealing with government officials during this conflict led him to advocate the advantages of a strong national government and a vigorous executive agency that could get results; other historians tend to ascribe Washington's position on government to his later American Revolutionary War service.[g] He developed a very negative idea of the value of militia, who seemed too unreliable, too undisciplined, and too short-term compared to regulars. On the other hand, his experience was limited to command of at most 1,000 men and came only in remote frontier conditions that were far removed from the urban situations that he faced during the Revolution at Boston, New York, Trenton, and Philadelphia.
Between the wars: Mount Vernon (1759–1774)
On January 6, 1759, Washington married wealthy widow Martha Dandridge Custis, then 28 years old. Surviving letters suggest that he may have been in love at the time with Sally Fairfax, the wife of a friend. Nevertheless, George and Martha made a compatible marriage, because Martha was intelligent, gracious, and experienced in managing a planter's estate.
Together they raised her children from her previous marriage, John Parke Custis and Martha Parke (Patsy) Custis. Later, they raised Martha's grandchildren Eleanor Parke Custis and George Washington Parke Custis. George and Martha never had any children together; his earlier bout with smallpox in 1751 may have made him sterile.[h] The newlywed couple moved to Mount Vernon, near Alexandria, where he took up the life of a planter and political figure.
Washington's marriage to Martha greatly increased his property holdings and social standing, and made him one of Virginia's wealthiest men. He acquired one-third of the 18,000-acre (73 km2) Custis estate upon his marriage, worth approximately $100,000, and managed the remainder on behalf of Martha's children, for whom he sincerely cared.
In 1754, Lieutenant Governor Dinwiddie had promised land bounties to the soldiers and officers who volunteered to serve during the French and Indian War. Washington prevailed upon Lord Botetourt, the new governor, and he finally fulfilled Dinwiddie's promise in 1769–1770, with Washington subsequently receiving title to 23,200 acres (94 km2) where the Kanawha River flows into the Ohio River, in what is now western West Virginia. He also frequently bought additional land in his own name. By 1775, Washington had doubled the size of Mount Vernon to 6,500 acres (26 km2), and had increased its slave population to over 100.
As a respected military hero and large landowner, he held local office and was elected to the Virginia provincial legislature, representing Frederick County in the House of Burgesses for seven years beginning in 1758. In the 1758 election, he plied the voters with 170 gallons of rice punch, beer, wine, hard cider, and brandy, though he was largely absent while serving on the Forbes Expedition. With the help of several local elites, Washington won election with roughly forty percent of the vote, defeating three other candidates for the seat. Early in his legislative career, Washington rarely spoke, but he became a prominent critic of Britain's taxation and mercantilist policies in the 1760s.
Washington lived an aristocratic lifestyle—fox hunting was a favorite leisure activity. He also enjoyed going to dances and parties, in addition to the theater, races, and cockfights. He also was known to play cards, backgammon, and billiards. Like most Virginia planters, he imported luxuries and other goods from England and paid for them by exporting his tobacco crop. By 1764, these luxuries, coupled with a poor tobacco market, left Washington ₤1,800 in debt. He began to pull himself out of debt in the mid-1760s by diversifying his previously tobacco-centric business interests into other ventures and paying more attention to his affairs, especially in the form of buying fewer imported luxuries.
In 1766, he started switching Mount Vernon's primary cash crop away from tobacco to wheat, a crop that could be processed and then sold in various forms in the colonies, and further diversified operations to include flour milling, fishing, horse breeding, hog production, spinning, and weaving, and (in the 1790s) he erected a distillery for whiskey production which yielded more than 1,000 gallons a month.
After a history of epileptic attacks, Patsy Custis died suddenly in Washington's arms in 1773. The day following Patsy's death, Washington wrote to Burwell Bassett: "It is an easier to conceive, than to describe, the distress of this Family, especially that of the unhappy Parent of our Dear Patcy Custis, when I inform you that yesterday re- moved the Sweet, Innocent Girl into a more happy & peaceful abode than any she has met with, the aflicted path she hitherto has trod." Washington cancelled all business activity and, for the next three months, was not away from Martha for a single night. Patsy's death enabled Washington to pay off his British creditors, since half of her inheritance passed to him.
Washington was a successful planter of tobacco and wheat, and also a leader in the social elite in Virginia. From 1768 to 1775, he invited some 2,000 guests to his Mount Vernon estate, mostly those whom he considered "people of rank". As for people not of high social status, his advice was to "treat them civilly" but "keep them at a proper distance, for they will grow upon familiarity, in proportion as you sink in authority". In 1769, he became more politically active, presenting the Virginia Assembly with legislation to ban the importation of goods from Great Britain.
American Revolution (1775–1783)
Main articles: George Washington in the American Revolution and Military career of George Washington
Washington played a leading military and political role in the American Revolution. His involvement began in 1767, when he first took political stands against the various acts of the British Parliament. He opposed the 1765 Stamp Act, the first direct tax on the colonies imposed by the British Parliament, which included no representatives from the colonies; he began taking a leading role in the growing colonial resistance when protests became widespread against the Townshend Acts (enacted in 1767). In May 1769, he introduced a proposal, drafted by his friend George Mason and calling for Virginia to boycott English goods until the Acts were repealed.
Parliament repealed the Townshend Acts in 1770. Washington regarded the passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774 as "an Invasion of our Rights and Privileges". He told friend Bryan Fairfax, "I think the Parliament of Great Britain has no more right to put their hands in my pocket without my consent than I have to put my hands into yours for money." He also said that Americans must not submit to acts of tyranny "till custom and use shall make us as tame and abject slaves, as the blacks we rule over with such arbitrary sway."
In July 1774, he chaired the meeting at which the "Fairfax Resolves" were adopted, which called for the convening of a Continental Congress, among other things. In August, Washington attended the First Virginia Convention, where he was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress.
Commander in Chief
The colonies went to war after the Battles of Lexington and Concord near Boston in April 1775. Washington appeared at the Second Continental Congress in a military uniform, signaling that he was prepared for war. He had the prestige, military experience, charisma, and military bearing of a military leader and was known as a strong patriot. Virginia was the largest colony and deserved recognition, and New England—where the fighting began—realized that it needed Southern support. Washington did not explicitly seek the office of commander and said that he was not equal to it, but there was no serious competition. Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775. Washington was nominated by John Adams of Massachusetts, then appointed as a full General and Commander-in-chief of the Continental Army. Washington's refusal to accept a salary earned him a reputation as a "noble and disinterested" commanding officer.
The British then articulated the peril of Washington and his army; on August 23, 1775, Britain issued a Royal proclamation labeling American Patriots as traitors. If they resorted to force, they faced confiscation of their property, and their leaders were subject to execution upon the scaffold.
General Washington essentially assumed three roles during the war. First, he provided leadership of troops against the main British forces in 1775–77 and again in 1781. He lost many of his battles, but he never surrendered his army during the war, and he continued to fight the British relentlessly until the war's end. He plotted the overall strategy of the war, in cooperation with Congress.
Second, he was charged with organizing and training the army. He recruited regulars and assigned Baron von Steuben to train them, a veteran of the Prussian general staff. The war effort and getting supplies to the troops were under the purview of Congress, but Washington pressured the Congress to provide the essentials. In June 1776, Congress' first attempt at running the war effort was established with the committee known as "Board of War and Ordnance", succeeded by the Board of War in July 1777, a committee which eventually included members of the military. The command structure of the armed forces was a hodgepodge of Congressional appointees (and Congress sometimes made those appointments without Washington's input) with state-appointments filling the lower ranks. The results of his general staff were mixed, as some of his favorites (such as John Sullivan) never mastered the art of command.
Eventually, he found capable officers, such as General Nathanael Greene, General Daniel Morgan ("the old wagoner" with whom he had served in The French and Indian War), ColonelHenry Knox (chief of artillery), and ColonelAlexander Hamilton (chief of staff). The American officers never equaled their opponents in tactics and maneuver, and consequently, they lost most of the pitched battles. The great successes at Boston (1776), Saratoga (1777), and Yorktown (1781) came from trapping the British far from base with much larger numbers of troops.Daniel Morgan's annihilation of Banastre Tarleton's legion of dragoons at Cowpens in February 1781 came as a result of Morgan's employment of superior line tactics against his British opponent, resulting in one of the very few double envelopments in military history, another being Hannibal's defeat of the Romans at Cannae in 216 BC.
The decisive defeat of Col. Patrick Ferguson's Tory Regiment at King's Mountain demonstrated the superiority of the riflery of American overmountain men over British-trained troops armed with musket and bayonet. These overmountain men were led by a variety of elected officers, including the 6'6" William Campbell who had become one of Washington's officers by the time of Yorktown. Similarly, Morgan's Virginia riflemen proved themselves superior to the British at Saratoga, a post-revolutionary war development being the creation of trained "rifle battalions" in the European armies.
Washington's third and most important role in the war effort was the embodiment of armed resistance to the Crown, serving as the representative man of the Revolution. His long-term strategy was to maintain an army in the field at all times, and eventually this strategy worked. His enormous personal and political stature and his political skills kept Congress, the army, the French, the militias, and the states all pointed toward a common goal. Furthermore, he permanently established the principle of civilian supremacy in military affairs by voluntarily resigning his commission and disbanding his army when the war was won, rather than declaring himself monarch. He also helped overcome the distrust of a standing army by his constant reiteration that well-disciplined professional soldiers counted for twice as much as erratic militias. (This was clearly demonstrated in the rout at Camden, where only the Maryland and Delaware Continentals held firm under Baron DeKalb.)
Victory at Boston
Washington assumed command of the Continental Army in the field at Cambridge, Massachusetts in July 1775 during the ongoing siege of Boston. He recognized his army's desperate shortage of gunpowder and sought new sources. American troops raided British arsenals, including some in the Caribbean, and some manufacturing was attempted. They obtained a barely adequate supply (about 2.5 million pounds) by the end of 1776, mostly from France.
Washington reorganized the army during the long standoff in Boston and forced the British to withdraw by putting artillery on Dorchester Heights overlooking the city. The British evacuated Boston in March 1776 and Washington moved his army to New York City.
British newspapers disparaged most of the Patriots, but praised Washington's personal character and qualities as a military commander despite his opposition to Britain, which some believed would ruin the empire.
Defeat at New York
In August 1776, British General William Howe launched a massive naval and land campaign designed to seize New York. Many of Washington's generals preferred retreating from the city and engaging in a defensive strategy, but he believed it better to engage in a major pitched battle. The Continental Army under Washington engaged the enemy for the first time as an army of the United States at the Battle of Long Island, the largest battle of the entire war. The Americans were heavily outnumbered, many men deserted, and Washington was badly defeated. He and his generals determined on a course of retreat, and Washington instructed General