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George Washington was a leader of the Continental Army in the American Revolution, and was the first to become U.S. president.
Founding Father George Washington served as commander-in-chief of the Colonial Armies during the American Revolution and was the first President of the United States.
Learn about a young George Washington and how his early years shaped the man he later became.
After leaving the military, George Washington set out to become a farmer with the land at Mount Vernon he received from his brother, Lawrence.
When George Washington was 11 years old, his father passed away and he immediately took on adult responsibilities.
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He was selected as a delegate to the First Continental Congress in March 1775.
After the battles of Lexington and Concord in April 1775, the political dispute between Great Britain and her North American colonies escalated into an armed conflict. In May, Washington traveled to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia dressed in a military uniform, indicating that he was prepared for war. On June 15,
he was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the colonial forces against Great Britain. As was his custom, he did not seek out the office of commander, but he faced no serious competition.
Washington was the best choice for a number of reasons: he had the prestige, military experience and charisma for the job and he had been advising Congress for months. Another factor was political. The Revolution had started in New England and at the time, they were the only colonies that had directly felt the blunt of British tyranny. Virginia was the largest British colony and deserved recognition and New England needed Southern support.
Political considerations and force of personality aside, George Washington was not necessarily qualified to wage war on the world's most powerful nation. Washington's training and experience were primarily in frontier warfare involving small numbers of soldiers. He wasn't trained in the open-field style of battle practiced by the commanding British generals. He had no practical experience maneuvering large formations of infantry, commanding cavalry or artillery, or maintaining the flow of supplies for thousands of men in the field. But he was courageous and determined and smart enough to keep one step ahead of the enemy.
Washington and his small army did taste victory early in March 1776 by placing artillery above Boston, on Dorchester Heights, forcing the British to withdraw. Washington then moved his troops into New York City. But in June, a new British commander, Sir William Howe, arrived in the Colonies with the largest expeditionary force Britain had ever deployed to date.
In August 1776, the British army launched an attack and quickly took New York City in the largest battle of the war. Washington's army was routed and suffered the surrender of 2,800 men. He ordered the remains of his army to retreat across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Confident the war would be over in a few months, General Howe wintered his troops at Trenton and Princeton, leaving Washington free to attack at the time and place of his choosing.
On Christmas night, 1776, Washington and his men crossed the Delaware River and attacked unsuspecting Hessian mercenaries at Trenton, forcing their surrender. A few days later, evading a force that had been sent to destroy his army, Washington attacked the British again, this time at Princeton, dealing them a humiliating loss.
General Howe's strategy was to capture colonial cities and stop the rebellion at key economic and political centers. He never abandoned the belief that once the Americans were deprived of their major cities, the rebellion would wither.
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