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When George Washington was appointed commander in chief of the Continental Army in June of 1775, it was hardly an army at all.

While Washington managed to organize and motivate this ragtag group of citizen-soldiers, he continually struggled to obtain funds for them from the Continental Congress. Signing up as a new recruit meant committing to low pay, harsh discipline, and poor food.

This enlistment form from Mount Vernon’s archives shows 25 signatures of the hardy men who agreed to serve for the “United Colonies of America” for three months in January of 1776. Those who were unable to read or write signed with an X. The printed notice advises Washington’s soldiers to bring with them, “a good effective Fire Arm, and Blanket, also a good Bayonet and Cartridge Punch, (if possible).”

Despite these tough conditions, many flocked to join out of commitment for the cause of liberty and independence.


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Enlistment Form, 1776 January 26 (MVLA)

Revolutionary War

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 Revolutionary War.

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