The Continental Army


The Leader of the Continental Army

George Washington was appointed the commander-in-chief and he served throughout the war without pay, requesting only that his expenses be paid.

When it all started

The Continental Army was established by the Second Continental Congress a few days before the Battle of Bunker Hill on June 17, 1775.

Poorly Armed Soliders

Throughout the war, the continental soldiers were poorly armed, poorly clothed, poorly fed, and poorly paid. The rifles they carried were an assortment of homemade and imported weapons. The men from the frontiers used long rifles that had longer range than their British opponents, and they were often better shots. There was no uniform, and many soldiers were reduced to rags.

A letter from Washington

By early 1778, it became evident to Washington that the organization of the army needed to be reformed. Washington wrote to Congress on January 28, explaining the many problems:

"A small knowledge of human nature will convince us, that, with far the greatest part of mankind, interest is the governing principle; and that almost every man is more or less, under its influence. Motives of public virtue may for a time, or in particular instances, actuate men to the observance of a conduct purely disinterested; but they are not of themselves sufficient to produce a persevering conformity to the refined dictates and obligations of social duty. Few men are capable of making a continual sacrifice of all views of private interest, or advantage, to the common good. It is vain to exclaim against the depravity of human nature on this account; the fact is so, the experience of every age and nation has proved it and we must in a great measure, change the constitution of man, before we can make it otherwise. No institution, not built on the presumptive truth of these maxims can succeed."

After the War

Near the end of the war, with the officers and men of the Continental Army still not receiving what they had been promised by Congress, some voices were raised in defiance, suggesting that the army should take by force if necessary what was owed them. Washington addressed the officers and rebuked those who spoke in this fashion, urging them on practical and ethical grounds to be patient.