Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER V
The Siege of Boston

THE American army that fought at Bunker Hill was in reality four different armies composed of militiamen, minutemen, and any others willing to wield a musket, drawn from the four New England colonies. Within an amazingly short time after the battles of Lexington and Concord, over twenty thousand men had laid siege to Boston. Yet, despite the urgency of the occasion, colonial distinctions were not wholly laid aside. Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire each sent its own army to the scene of action, and each colony refused to admit any but its own citizens to the ranks. Although, in May 1775, General Artemas Ward of Massachusetts was placed in command of these four armies, there was no general staff and no close integration of the various provincial contingents. It was not until the battle of Bunker Hill that the shortcomings of this imperfect merger of forces were fully revealed.

Even before that battle, Massachusetts, recognizing that the task of confining the British army to Boston and withstanding the inevitable onslaught from Great Britain was beyond the power of New England alone, urged the Continental Congress to take over control of the army besieging Boston and to appoint a commander-in-chief of this "continental" army. By this means, New Englanders foresaw, all the colonies would be directly involved in the struggle with Great Britain -- a consummation essential to the success of American resistance.

In June 1776, the Continental Congress responded to the pleas of Massachusetts by assuming direction of the military resistance to Great Britain. The Continental army was created, the New England troops then engaged in besieging Boston forming the nucleus of the new army. But in appointing a commander-in-chief of the Continental army, Congress

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