Today in History- George Washington Was Made Commander Of The Continental Army (1775)

Brooklyn, New York -- August 27, 1776 Colonel Henry "Light-Horse Harry" Lee, a hero of the Revolutionary War and father of Robert E. Lee, once commented that during the war "the state of Delaware furnished one regiment only; and certainly no regiment in the army surpassed it in soldiership." At the Battle of Long Island, the actions of the Delaware Regiment kept the American defeat from becoming a disaster. Fighting alongside the 1st Maryland Regiment, the soldiers from Delaware may well have prevented the capture of the majority of Washington's army - an event that might have ended the colonial rebellion. Organized in January 1776 by Colonel John Haslet, the Delaware Regiment was noted as the best uniformed and equipped regiment of the Continental Army. Delaware's blue jackets with red facings and white waistcoats and breeches would later become the uniform for all the Continental troops. During the Battle of Long Island, the Delaware and Maryland troops were positioned on the right of Washington's line. They defended the most direct route from the British landing site in south Brooklyn to the American fortifications in Brooklyn Heights. Though the troops faced the fiercest fighting of the day, they held their ground long enough to allow the remainder of Washington's army to safely retreat to the fortifications. However, the Delaware regiment was outflanked and forced to retreat, taking 23 prisoners with them, through marshland and across the Gowanus creek. Two nights later, Washington entrusted his Delaware and Maryland soldiers to be the rear guard as he secretly withdrew his army from Brooklyn to Manhattan. Today, the 175th Infantry Regiment, Maryland Army National Guard, preserves the legacy of the 1st Maryland Regiment. The 198th Signal Battalion, Delaware Army National Guard, perpetuates the proud lineage of the Delaware Regiment.
Advertisement

On this day in 1775, George Washington, was appointed the commander of the Continental Army. This was the combined forces of the American colonies.

George Washington was an experienced soldier and he had fought in the Indian wars and in the French and Indian war. He was a widely respected figure. In 1775, there was growing tension between the American colonies and the British. Many American feared that the British would attempt to end their old freedoms and liberties. On order to protect their rights, they formed an army, to defend those rights in the British King, tried to impose his will on the colonists by force. Washington was also selected because he came from Virginia, which was then one of the most important colonies.

Washington had played little part in the politics of the period. He had participated at the 2nd Continental Congress. He has represented Virginia. The 2nd Continental Congress voted that he be offered the command of the newly formed Continental army. The new General was to establish a unified command and to turn the various colonial militias into an army that could defend the colonies against the British.

Infantry,_Continental_Army,_1779-1783
Infantry Continental Army (1775)

The Continental army at this stage only existed on paper and it was composed of untrained colonial troops. Washington was expected to create a professional army, with little money and resources. It was a daunting task.

This was a remarkable turn of events as Washington was of British descent and had served in the regular British army. However, like many Americans, he was angered by what he saw as the British Monarch’s attempts to reduce the rights of the colonists. He like many of his contemporaries believes that the English king, Geroge III wished to exploit them and their country for his own and Britain’s benefit.

After accepting the position, Washington, with some reluctance, he wrote a letter to his wife. He expressed his innermost thoughts on his appointment. He declared that he had not wanted the position but he felt honor bound to accept it. He believed that if he had refused it his honor would have been slighted and people would have regarded him as a coward. Washington apologized in advance for his long absences and he hated the idea that he would be leaving his wife alone.

Washington officially took command of the Continental Army in July. He had a formidable task in getting the ragged, ill-equipped and ill-disciplined recruits into soldiers. Many of the soldiers were poor men who were unwilling to fight, while many more were reluctant to fight outside their home colony. However, Washington performed something of a military miracle. He transformed the Continental Army into a formidable force that withstood the British army. Critically, he was able to coordinate the various colonial militias, into a unified and efficient army.

Because of his successful command of the Continental army, he was able to secure the independence of the American States. A grateful people elected him the first President of the newly formed United States.

Advertisement