George Washington Biography

Commander in Chief

George Washington accepted the position of Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army on Jun 19, 1775. Although he considered the appointment a great honor, he also considered himself unworthy of the task before him. His job was to take a bunch of colonial farmers and turn them into a fighting force capable of defeating the most powerful empire on the planet. It was not only a daunting task, but a nearly impossible one.

At the same time, Washington took on the command at great personal risk. Not only could he be killed in battle, but if the revolution failed, which was likely, he would lose his estate at Mount Vernon, his wealth, and his powerful position in the colony.


A few days after becoming Commander-in-Chief, Washington left Philadelphia to travel to Boston which was the center of the fighting at the time. By the time Washington arrived on July 2, the two sides were at a stalemate. The British had defeated the patriots at the Battle of Bunker Hill, but had suffered major losses. The Americans had surrounded the city and the British forces, but could not force the British out. This stalemate would become known as the Siege of Boston.

Organizing an Army

Upon Washington's arrival, he began to organize the ragtag groups of militias into an army. He established a chain of command and appointed senior officers to command the troops. He also implemented strict rules of discipline and behavior. He would not have his army injuring civilians or stealing from the people they were supposed to be protecting.

Siege of Boston

The Siege of Boston lasted for almost a year. During that time both sides dealt with dwindling food and supplies. Washington's soldiers ran short of gunpowder and some had to be armed with spears. Little fighting occurred except for the small skirmish here and there. Finally, in March of 1776, Washington moved some cannon captured from Fort Ticonderoga to Dorchester Heights overlooking the city of Boston. With the British fleet exposed, British General William Howe decided to retreat. The British evacuated the city and went to Nova Scotia in Canada.

After the siege lifted, Washington knew that General Howe would not stay quiet for long. Washington feared that Howe was sailing his army directly to New York City, the most strategic port in the Americas. He immediately ordered his army to march to New York, but soon discovered that Howe had gone to Canada. Washington continued to New York at a slower pace. Once he arrived he began to fortify New York against attack.

Battle of Long Island

Just as Washington suspected, the British fleet under General Howe soon arrived in New York Harbor. Howe wanted to avoid a large battle and sent a letter addressed to "Mr. Washington" hoping to open negotiations. Washington refused the letter and sent it back because he considered it an insult that Howe did not address the letter to "General" Washington. In the end, Washington refused to negotiate. When Howe offered him a pardon, Washington replied that he had done nothing that needed to be pardoned.

Howe began offloading troops onto Staten Island and began preparing for battle. Howe's troops outnumbered Washington's and were far more experienced. They landed on Long Island on August 22 and the battle began a few days later. By the night of August 29th, Washington found his army nearly surrounded by the British. He had lost the battle and may lose the war.

That night Washington made a brilliant maneuver. Gathering all the local boats he could, his entire army quietly snuck across the East River and into Manhattan. When the British went to attack the Americans the next morning, they were gone.


Washington and the Continental Army continued their retreat over the next several months fighting battles along the way including the Battle of Harlem Heights and the Battle of White Plains. They were forced into New Jersey and eventually across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. New York City was lost to the British. It would remain in British hands until the end of the war.

Interesting Fact: The Battle of Long Island was the largest battle of the Revolutionary War. It was also the first major battle that occurred after the Declaration of Independence was signed on July 4, 1776.

<<< Previous      Next >>>

George Washington Biography Contents
  1. Overview and Interesting Facts
  2. Growing Up George Washington
  3. French and Indian War
  4. Fort Duquesne
  5. Married Life and Mount Vernon
  6. The American Revolution Begins
  7. Commander in Chief
  8. Crossing the Delaware
  9. 1777 and Valley Forge
  10. Victory in the American Revolution
  11. End of the War, King Washington, and the Constitutional Convention
  12. First President of the United States
  13. The Presidency
  14. Leaving the Presidency, Retirement, and Death
  15. George Washington Quotes and Bibliography