Year
1775

John Adams proposes a Continental Army

On this day in 1775, John Adams proposes to Congress, meeting in Philadelphia, that the men laying siege to Boston should be considered a Continental Army led by a general.

The men who had armed themselves and rushed to surround British forces in Boston following the Battle of Lexington and Concord were overwhelmingly from New England. However, John Adams, representing Massachusetts, realized that the military effort would only succeed if the British thought the colonies were united. To this end, Adams suggested the appointment of a Virginian, George Washington, to command the Continental forces, despite the fact that New Englanders were used to fighting in local militias under officers elected from among their own ranks.

On June 15, Adams formally nominated George Washington as commander in chief of the Continental Army; Washington accepted the post the next day. On June 17, the newly named army fought the Battle of Bunker Hill, as John Adam’s wife, Abigail, and son, John Quincy, watched from their hometown of Braintree.

Just as the British had discovered the difficulties of waging war with obstreperous Yankees for soldiers during the Seven Years’ War, Washington, the Virginia planter-cum-soldier, was unimpressed upon meeting his supposed army. Just as the British had, he saw “stupidity” among the enlisted men, who were used to the easy familiarity of being commanded by neighbors. Washington promptly insisted that the officers behave with decorum and the enlisted men with deference. Although he enjoyed some success with this original army, the New Englanders went home to their farms at the end of 1775, and General Washington had to start fresh with new recruits in 1776.

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