Monday, June 15, 2009

George Washington - This Day in History

On this day, June 15th 1775, George Washington was appointed General and Commander in Chief of the Army of the United Colonies. He was given his commission from The Continental Congress on June 19, 1775. Washington was selected over other candidates such as John Hancock based on his previous military experience and the hope that a leader from Virginia could help unite the colonies. Washington left for Massachusetts within days of receiving his commission and assumed command of the Continental Army in Cambridge on July 3, 1775. After eight years of war, Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief on December 23, 1783.

Interestingly, The Journals of the Continental Congress reports that George Washington was unanimously selected as Commander in Chief. In a speech given to the Continental Congress on June 16, Washington accepted the commission and requested that he not receive a salary for his service, only that his expenses be paid at the conclusion of the war. On June 17, the Continental Congress drafted Washington’s commission as commander in chief.

The Letters of Delegates to Congress contains a letter that George Washington wrote to Martha Washington on June 18, 1775, after receiving word of his commission as Commander in Chief. Washington announced that the "whole army raised for the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the Command of it. You may believe me my dear Patsy, when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it." The Letters of Delegates to Congress also contains a letter that John Adams sent to Abigail Adams stating, "I can now inform you that the Congress have made Choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington Esq., to be the General of the American Army, and that he is to repair as soon as possible to the Camp before Boston."

In his acceptance speech to the Continental Congress on June 16, 1775, Washington declined to receive a salary for his service as Commander in Chief. Instead, he asked only that his expenses be reimbursed at the end of the war. On July 1, 1783, Washington provided the Continental Board of Treasury with his Revolutionary War Expense Account.

George Washington issued his farewell order to the Continental Army on November 2, 1783. In an address to the Continental Congress on December 23, 1783, Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and returned to private life at Mount Vernon.

Search Washington's Papers to find additional material related to Washington's tenure as Commander-in-Chief during the American Revolution.

George Washington at The Library of Congress

Notable Biographies

Selected Bibliography
Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Ladies Association

The Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia

Rediscovering George Washington, PBS

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, Edited by John C. Fitzpatrick (1931-44), University of Virginia

Buchanan, John. The Road to Valley Forge: How Washington Built the Army that Won the Revolution. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Flexner, James Thomas. Washington: The Indispensable Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1974. [Catalog Record]

Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York: Scribner, 1948-1957. [Catalog Record]

McCullough, David G. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Patterson, Benton Rain. Washington and Cornwallis: The Battle for America, 1775-1783. Lanham, Md.: Taylor Trade Pub., 2004. [Catalog Record]

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