Learn more about how General George Washington led the American army to victory in the Revolutionary War.

In June 1775, Congress ordered General George Washington to take command of the Continental Army besieging the British in Boston. Despite having little practical experience in managing large, conventional armies, Washington proved to be a capable and resilient leader of the American military forces during the war. While he lost more battles than he won, George Washington employed a winning strategy that included signal victories at the Battle of Trenton in 1776 and Yorktown in 1781. Washington’s greatest wartime legacy was his decision to surrender his commission to Congress, affirming the principle of civilian control of the military in the new United States.

Revolutionary War

Videos on Gen. George Washington and the Revolutionary War

George Washington in the American Revolution

1775
1783
George Washington is appointed by Congress as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army
Washington takes command at Cambridge, MA
Washington commences the bombardment of British positions in and around Boston
The Battle of Long Island
Battle of White Plains
The Battle of Trenton
The Battle of Brandywine
The Battle of Germantown
Washington Arrives at Valley Forge
The Battle of Monmouth
Winter Encampment at Morristown
Washington and Rochambeau's armies begin their march to Virginia
Victory at Yorktown
Washington Delivers the Newburgh Address
Washington surrenders his commission to Congress

June 15, 1775

George Washington is appointed by Congress as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army

Attending the Second Continental Congress in military uniform, George Washington was appointed as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army by his fellow congressmen.

Washington takes command at Cambridge, MA

After his appointment as Commander-in-Chief in Philadelphia, Washington traveled to Cambridge, Massachusetts to take command of the newly formed Continental Army positioned around Boston.

Washington commences the bombardment of British positions in and around Boston

With the arrival of heavy guns from Fort Ticonderoga, Washington made the bold decision to place these artillery pieces upon Dorchester Heights.  From this lofty position Washington could target the British ships in Boston harbor.  British attempts to deny the American's this position failed and the British forces departed Boston on March 17, 1776.

The Battle of Long Island

A British amphibious assault upon the American positions atop Brooklyn Heights led to a signal British victory.  Facing the prospect of a total defeat, Washington was able to save his remaining forces by shuttling them across the East River to Manhattan.

Battle of White Plains

William Howe's regulars attacked and defeated Washington's Continental Army at White Plains as part of the 1776 New York Campaign.

The Battle of Trenton

After crossing the icy Delaware River on Christmas Day 1776, Washington led his forces in an attack upon the Hessian garrison at Trenton, New Jersey.  Washington's lightning attack surprised the Hessians and led to the capture of almost two-thirds of the 1,500 man force - at the cost of zero American combat casualties.  This victory greatly bolstered the sagging morale of the Continental Army.

The Battle of Brandywine

George Washington and the Continental Army are defeated by General Howe's force marching north.  Howe was able to successfully flank the American forces holding positions across the Brandywine Creek near Chadds Ford.

The Battle of Germantown

Despite losing yet another battle to Gen. William Howe, Washington and his French allies were impressed with the vigor and determination shown by the Americans at the Battle of Germantown.

Washington Arrives at Valley Forge

Upon the conclusion of the 1777 Philadelphia Campaign, Washington led his poorly fed and weary army to winter quarters in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Washington's army was ravaged by disease, cold, and sickness during its time in Valley Forge.  Washington repeatedly asked Congress and other local magistrates for support of his wasting army.  During the time at Valley Forge, the Continental Army did receive improved field training from Baron Friedrich von Steuben.

The Battle of Monmouth

Seeking to strike the British army as it made its way north from Philadelphia, Washington's Continental Army attacked the British forces under the command of Sir Henry Clinton and Charles Cornwallis near Monmouth Courthouse, New Jersey.  

Winter Encampment at Morristown

While Valley Forge is more famous, the winter that Washington's army confronted in its winter quarters at Jockey Hollow, near Morristown, New Jersey, was the coldest in recent memory.  It was here at Morristown that the Continental Army was nearly starved out of existence.  The constant lack of food and the never-ending hard winter led to the mutiny of several Continental regiments.  Washington declared that the army could "perish for want of food."

Washington and Rochambeau's armies begin their march to Virginia

After deciding to take advantage of the arrival of the French West Indies fleet off the coast of Virginia and the precarious position of Lord Conwallis' army, Washington and Rochambeau agreed to march their armies south in a bold attempt to attack the isolated British garrison.

Victory at Yorktown

After almost a month since the start of the American and French siege of Yorktown, Lord Cornwallis agrees to surrender his British and Hessian forces to Gen. Washington.  This total victory over the British is the final major military action upon the continent.

Washington Delivers the Newburgh Address

Aware of the growing dissatisfaction within his officer corps stationed near Newburgh, New York, Washington deftly confronted a group of officers planning to march on Congress.  Asking to speak to the officers during their gathering at the "Temple", Washington's plea for patience and continued loyalty won over the conspirators and defused a potential military coup.

Washington surrenders his commission to Congress

With the war now at an end, General George Washington surrendered his commission to Congress in Annapolis, Maryland.  Washington's actions reaffirmed his core belief that the military was subordinate to civilian rule - a central principle of the new United States.

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