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 leader of the American military forces during the war. Narrowly escaping destruction during the 1776 New York Campaign, Washington was able to deliver a set of morale-boosting victories at Trenton and Princeton that helped to sustain the cause during its darkest moments – victories that also encouraged the French military to enter the war on the American side.
While he lost more battles than he won, George Washington employed a winning strategy against his more experienced British foe. By avoiding battles that would place his entire army at risk, Washington sought to wear down the British by remaining in the field and pressing his enemy where practicable. In October of 1781, Washington, in conjunction with the French military, delivered the decisive blow of the war at the Battle of Yorktown. With victory now in hand, Washington, on December 24, 1783, returned his commission to a grateful Congress, thereby reinforcing the American principle of civilian control over the military.
Learn more about George Washington’s bold crossing of the Delaware River as part of his attack on the Hessian forces at Trenton.
Learn more about the challenges facing Washington at the Battle of Brandywine, fought on September 11, 1777.
This article is from the recently published Journal of the American Revolution, a new book containing sixty essays about the Revolution written by twenty different historians.