As Commander in Chief, Washington relied on a number of officers to help him win the war.

Some had little previous military experience; others were veteran soldiers.  These are some of the most important men who guided the Continental Army and its allies during the Revolutionary War.  

General Nathanael Greene

Greene emerged from the Revolutionary War as one of the country’s best generals.

Known as “the fighting Quaker,” Greene came into the war with very little military experience.  He advanced rapidly through the ranks, gained a field command, served as quartermaster general, and replaced Benedict Arnold as commander in the Hudson highlands.  He is best known for his brilliant southern campaign that helped turn the tide of the war in favor of the Americans.

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General Henry Knox

From Chief Artillery Officer to General to Secretary of War, Henry Knox helped gain critical victories for the continental army.

A self-taught pupil of military history, Knox possessed a keen understanding of martial strategy.  Washington entrusted one of war’s most important and jeopardous missions to Knox – the stealing of artillery at Fort Ticonderoga on Lake Champlain and transporting them to Dorchester Heights resulting in the British abandoning Boston.

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General Marquis de Lafayette

As Washington’s protégé, the young Frenchman became a valued Continental Army Officer.

Enamored of the American Revolution, Lafayette sailed from France to the United States in 1777, with hopes of joining Washington’s army.  Within months of his arrival, the nineteen-year-old had befriended the American Commander in Chief and fought with him at Brandywine.  He continued his close relationship with Washington, serving with distinction at Valley Forge, Monmouth, and Yorktown.

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Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Rochambeau

This French Lieutenant General teamed with Washington at Yorktown to defeat the British.

In 1780, King Louis XVI of France sent Lieutenant General Rochambeau along with 5,500 regular troops to the United States to aid the American cause.  A year later Rochambeau and Washington marched together from New York to Virginia, leading to British General Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown and the end of the war.

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General Anthony Wayne

Washington valued Wayne “as an administrator and as a field commander.”

Known as “Mad Anthony” for his fiery battlefield temperament, Wayne began the Revolutionary War as a colonel and was promoted to Brigadier General in 1777.  He fought at Brandywine, Germantown, and Monmouth, but won his greatest victory at Stony Point along the Hudson River in 1779, where he captured a vital British fort during a nighttime raid. 

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General Benedict Arnold

This infamous traitor fought for both the Americans and the British.

A successful merchant before the war, Benedict Arnold built an impressive resume fighting for the Americans and became one of Washington’s most trusted generals.  But in 1779, Arnold began bargaining with the British to turn over West Point.  The plot was foiled, and Arnold barely escaped with his life.  He led two battles against the Americans before leaving the country.

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Inspector General Friedrich Wilhelm Baron Von Steuben

Baron Von Steuben became known as “the first teacher of the American Army.”

In February 1778, Baron von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge and offered to train Washington’s troops. In the midst of a bitter winter, the former Prussian army officer transformed the rag tag group of soldiers into a cohesive fighting force.  Impressed by von Steuben’s accomplishment, the Continental Congress appointed him Inspector General of the Continental Army.

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Admiral François Comte de Grasse

De Grasse’s vital naval support at Yorktown helped force a British surrender.

In 1781, the French promoted de Grasse to Rear Admiral and sent him to the West Indies with orders to provide the Americans with much needed naval support.  Later that summer, he sailed north to the mouth of the Chesapeake River and blockaded British troops encamped at Yorktown, while Washington and French General Rochambeau closed the trap by land, leading to an eventual British surrender. 

Lieutenant Colonel Francis Marion

Marion’s guerrilla warfare actions helped push the British out of the Carolinas.

A planter and Indian fighter before the war, Marion organized guerilla troops after the British captured Charleston in 1780.  His partisan forces harassed southern loyalists and launched surprise attacks against British regulars.  Marion’s hit-and-run tactics earned him the nickname, Swamp Fox, because of his ability to disappear into swamp country in order to evade British capture. 

Brigadier General Thaddeus Kosciuszko

A brilliant military engineer, Kosciuszko served the American cause for eight years.

Dedicated to the ideals of liberty, Kosciuszko came to the United States in 1776 and volunteered his services as a military engineer to the Continental Army.  His major contributions included the fortifications at Saratoga and West Point.  He also accompanied American General Nathanael Greene, serving as cavalry leader during the Southern Campaign.

General Daniel Morgan

A first cousin of Daniel Boone, Morgan gained a reputation as a brave but cantankerous leader.

This French and Indian War veteran distinguished himself during the early years of the Revolutionary War.  He took over for a wounded Benedict Arnold during the March to Quebec and fought valiantly at the Battles of Saratoga in 1777.  Three years later, he transferred to the American Southern Army to lead an elite corps.

Major General François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux

Chastellux served as one of the principle liaison officers between General George Washington and Rochambeau.

Major General François Jean de Beauvoir, Marquis de Chastellux, was a French officer in Lieutenant General Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau's expeditionary force sent to North America during the War of Independence.

Because of his strong knowledge of the English language, he served as an important liaison between Rochambeau and Washington. In this position, he became a close lifelong friend of Washington.

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Benjamin Tallmadge

George Washington's military intelligence liaison for British occupied New York.

Tallmadge was appointed director of military intelligence by George Washington, with the objective of securing information on the British in New York City.  Tallmadge created a system in which numbers were substituted for common words, names, and places to encode messages, and provided a key to Washington, Woodhull, and Robert Townsend, another member of the Culper spy ring

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Major General William Moultrie

Key general in the Southern Campaign and the defense of Charleston.

Moultrie likely came to George Washington’s attention for the first time in mid-1776 when Washington learned of Colonel Moultrie’s brave and dramatic June 28 defense of a small fort constructed of sand and palmetto logs on Sullivan’s Island at the entrance to Charleston harbor. Through holding off the British naval attack against Charleston it  temporarily prevented the establishment of a British foothold in the south.

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Lieutenant Colonel John Laurens

Aide-de-Camp for General Washington

During the war, Laurens devised a plan to recruit slaves from the southern states into regiments for the Continental Army and emancipate them in return for their military service.  Laurens was selected to serve as an aide to Washington due to his fluency in French. During the years that followed, Laurens developed close relationships with the other members of Washington's military inner circle, including Alexander Hamilton and the Marquis de Lafayette.

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The Revolutionary War

Learn more about George Washington's victories and defeats during the Revolutionary War.

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