Washington: Commander in Chief (1775)


~ By James Still ~

By the summer of 1775, it was increasingly clear the Colonies needed an army and General.  Was there anyone who could both unite the Colonies and command an army?  John Adams suggested Washington: “… I had no hesitation to declare that I had but one Gentleman in my Mind for that important command… a Gentleman whose Skill and Experience as an Officer, whose independent fortune, great Talents and excellent universal Character, would command the Approbation of all America, and unite the cordial Exertions of all the Colonies better than any other Person in the Union.” John Adams, Autobiography, Part 1, (June 1775)

Congress agreed with Adams and selected Washington as Commander in Chief.  When informed of his appointment, Washington replied:

“Though I am truly sensible of the high Honor done me in this Appointment, yet, I feel great Distress from a Consciousness, that my Abilities and Military Experience may not be equal to the extensive and important Trust: However, as the Congress desire it, I will enter upon the momentous Duty, and exert every Power I possess in their Service, and for Support of the glorious Cause.  I beg they will accept my most cordial Thanks for this distinguished Testimony of their Approbation.

But, lest some unlucky Event should happen unfavorable to my Reputation, I beg it may be remembered by every Gentleman in the Room, that I this Day declare with the utmost Sincerity, I do not think myself equal to the Command I am honored with.

As to Pay, Sir, I beg Leave to assure the Congress, that as no pecuniary Consideration could have tempted me to accept this arduous Employment, at the Expense of my domestic Ease and Happiness, I do not wish to make any Profit from it.  I will keep an exact Account of my Expenses.  Those I doubt not they will discharge, and that is all I desire.” George Washington, Journals of Congress, June 16, 1775

James Still (June 2015), JamesStill@RetraceOurSteps.com

“Resolved unanimously, Whereas the Delegates of all the Colonies from Nova Scotia to Georgia, in Congress assembled, have unanimously chosen George Washington, Esq. to be General and Commander in Chief…” Journals of Congress, June 17, 1775

“… this Congress doth now declare, that they will maintain and assist him, and adhere to him the said George Washington, with their Lives and Fortunes in the same Cause.”  Journals of Congress, June 17, 1775