Today, July 3, 1775: George Washington Assumes Command of Continental Army
In 1653, the Virginia House of Burgess created Westmoreland County, which at the time encompassed much of northeastern Virginia. If you look at map today and see the counties of Arlington, Fairfax, Prince William and Westmoreland, along with the city of Alexandria, you would get an idea of what Westmoreland County was.
In 1674, Colonel Nicholas Spencer and Lieutenant Colonel John Washington patented a section of land on the northwest bank of the Potomac River in Westmoreland County, named Mount Vernon. Little did Lt. Col. Washington realize that his great grandson would make Mount Vernon one of the most important and popular national landmarks.
On February 22, 1732, Augustine Washington and his second wife Mary Ball, welcomed their first of six children at their planation on Pope’s Creek, not far from Mount Vernon. The child’s name was George Washington. Augustine died when George was only eleven-years-old. Most of the family lands and estate went to George’s older half-brothers. Mary Ball and her children, including George, lived at the family Rappahannock River plantation. Being the oldest of the kids, George was tasked with many responsibilities of helping his mom run the plantation. He learned the meaning of hard work and began to develop ways to accomplish things more efficiently.
At twenty-two, Washington a young lieutenant colonel in the Virginia militia which at the time was considered part of the British Army. Virginia Governor Robert Dinwiddie dispatched Washington to the northwestern parts of Virginia territory to force French settlers to leave the area and to try to gain the friendship of the local Indian tribes.
When Washington began his trek into the wilderness of southwestern Pennsylvania, where Dinwiddie had set his sights on securing for Virginia, he met with some of the Indian leaders of the area. The Delaware, Mingo and Shawnee were allies with the Iroquois Council and as such, their tribal leaders were known as half-kings. One of the half-kings that Washington met with was a Seneca known as Tanacharison or Half King by the Virginians. Washington discovered that Tanacharison had problems with the French and was eager to ally himself with Washington the British. He agreed to accompany Washington to his destination.
On May 28, 1754, Washington discovered a French and Indian scouting party. Fearing that they would attack, Washington made the first move and attacked the scouting party. The scouting party was led by French Ensign, Joseph Coulon de Jumonville who was a French speaking Canadian. In the battle, Jumonville was captured. Washington was trying to interrogate the ensign but didn’t speak French. During the interrogation, Tanacharison grew angry and murdered Jumonville.
When news reached the French that Jumonville had been murdered while in captivity, they were furious and launched a retaliatory raid against Washington at his make-shift Fort Necessity.
On July 4th, 1754, Washington surrendered the fort to the French.
Washington’s attack on the scouting party and the murder of Jumonville was the spark that ignited open warfare between the French and British. The war took place not just in the American wilderness but in Europe as well. The war was known as the French and Indian War as well as the Seven Year War, which is ironic since it started on this day in 1754 and didn’t end until the Treaty of Paris was signed in 1763.
After the French Indian War, where Washington’s military campaigns were less than stellar, he spent time at home in Virginia, working and expanding his plantation. At 6 foot 2 inches in height, Washington was an impressive looking man of the day whose very presences seemed to command respect. Though he longed to just work his planation, he was steadily dragged into political and governmental affairs.
In 1774, colonial tensions with the British were rising, especially in Boston.
On February 9, 1775, British parliament officially declared the colony of Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion due to the actions of their militia.
On March 23, 1775, Patrick Henry spoke about declaring independence from Great Britain, speaking one of the most quoted lines from this time in history:
“Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty, or give me death!”
On March 30, 1775, King George of England approves the New England Restraining Act which forbids the New England colonies, especially Massachusetts, from trading with any other nation except Great Britain.
On April 18, 1775, patriots in Boston learn about the British plans to march to Lexington and Concord to confiscate patriot stores of ammunition and other military supplies. Paul revered and William Dawes ride to warn the Minutemen.
On April 19, 1775, a shot rang out on the Lexington Green Commons which ignites the first military conflict of the Revolutionary War. It was the shot heard around the world.
On June 15, 1775, the First Continental Congress appoints plantation owner George Washington to be Commander in Chief of the Continental Army. At the time, Washington anticipated that the war with Great Britain would not last more than a few months and wrote to his wife Martha that he should safely return home in the Fall.
On this day, July 3, 1775, General George Washington rode out in front of the Continental Army at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He rose his sword into the air and officially assumed command of the rag tag army that had come together to drive off a well-trained professional army. Little did he know at the time that his planned several month military campaign would last for eight years.
Sources for the above includes: George Washington’s Mount Vernon: Biography; Washington Takes Command of Continental Army in 1775; George Washington’s Commission as Commander in Chief; Continental Army; Washington Takes Command of Continental Army; Creating a Continental Army; Timeline for American Independence; Today, May 28, 1754: British Officer George Washington Launches French and Indian War [VIDEO].