“HASTENING FAST TO A CRISIS”:
JUNE 1775–JUNE 1776
WASHINGTON had been to Boston once before. In 1756 he had come to plead with the commander of British forces in America for a commission in the British army. He returned in 1775 hoping to defeat the British army.
After eight hard days on the road from Philadelphia, Washington arrived at Cambridge, across the Charles River from Boston, on July 2. The Continental army had been assembled on a makeshift parade ground for the occasion, but a sudden heavy rainstorm caused a postponement in the festivities. The next day, the new commander met his army amid what one soldier thought was “a great deal of grandor.”1 Washington read a short speech that included the 101st Psalm, a song of mercy and judgment, and a vow to “destroy all the wicked of the land “and” … cut off all wicked doers from the city of the Lord.” Several soldiers noted his speech in their journals and letters, but none appear to have been especially impressed by its content or delivery. One even remarked: “nothing hapeng extrorderly we preaded “paraded” thre times” and were dismissed.2
From what he had heard in Congress, Washington expected to face formidable problems with the new army, and he had only just arrived in Cambridge when the Massachusetts Provincial Congress told him that the siege army was untrained and undisciplined. Neither soldiers nor officers, it added, had the least understanding of the steps necessary for “the preservation of Health and even of Life” within the army. To make matters worse, he was also informed that “it was highly probable Gage's Troops would very Shortly attack our Army.”3