How America Fought Its Wars: Military Strategy from the American Revolution to the Civil War

By Victor Brooks; Robert Hohwald | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4
Boston Redeemed and
New York Damned

The Emergence of George Washington

The day before Colonel Prescott's men began their fortification of Charlestown peninsula, the Continental Congress chose a new commander-in‐ chief for the provincial forces besieging Boston. While the president of Congress, John Hancock, hoped and expected to be offered the command of an almost exclusively New England army, fellow Massachusetts delegate John Adams was equally determined to procure the position for a southern planter. Adams was convinced that the appointment of George Washington of Mount Vernon was the only logical choice for an army that had any pretensions of Continental scope. Thus despite Hancock's resentment "about Adams' back room negotiations," George Washington, Esquire, was appointed "General and Commander in Chief of all the forces raised and to be raised in defence of liberty."

The nomination of a Virginian to the supreme command of the newly established Continental Army provided a happy convergence of interests for key northern and southern members of the Continental Congress. On the one hand, a number of New England delegates believed that there was no better means of obtaining vital southern financial and military support for the rebellion in Massachusetts than by choosing a supreme commander from outside of the northern colonies. Even northern delegates noted George Washington's impressive appearance and his excellent record in the military committees of Congress. Compared to men with more or less equal military experience, no single individual gave evidence of the same well rounded personality, steadfast character and political sagacity.

While northerners viewed Washington's appointment as a device to secure more broad based support for the challenge to British rule, men from the middle and southern colonies viewed the Virginia planter as a barrier to

-39-

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