Almost a Miracle: The American Victory in the War of Independence

By John Ferling | Go to book overview

2
“A LOSS THAT IS GREATER THAN
WE CAN BEAR”: GOING TO WAR

TWO MONTHS had passed since the bloody day along Battle Road. It was June 14, and in sweltering Philadelphia John Adams wished to address the Continental Congress on an urgent matter. Rising from his chair, Adams took the floor in the stuffy Pennsylvania State House and told Congress that he wished to nominate a man to command an American army, a soldier who was “modest and virtuous,… generous and brave.” He sits “among Us and “is” very well known to all of Us,” Adams went on, “a Gentleman whose Skill and Experience as an Officer, whose independent fortune, great Talents and excellent universal Character “will” commend the Approbation of all America and unite … all the Colonies better than any other Person in the Union.” That man was Colonel Washington of Virginia.1

Much had occurred between the day of fighting outside Boston and Adams's speech. The Massachusetts militia had swelled to twelve regiments in the course of that bloody April 19. During the rainy night that followed, militiamen poured steadily into the outskirts of the city, the sense of adventure and importance strong with them. Many came considerable distances in a surprisingly short time, as was the case with the minutemen from Nottingham, New Hampshire, who claimed to have covered fifty-five miles on foot in twenty hours. The next morning, gray and chilly, the redcoats awakened to discover that they were besieged by a vast American army. Over the next few days the siege army, or Grand American Army, as some called it, grew to nearly 16,000 men.2

Actually, there was not one siege army, but four separate armies in place, stretching in a serpentine arc from Chelsea, northeast of Boston, through

-34-

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