J. L. BELL is a Massachusetts writer who specializes in (among other things) the start of the American Revolution in and around Boston. He is particularly interested in the experiences of children in 1765-75. He has published scholarly papers and popular articles for both children and adults. He was consultant for an episode of History Detectives, and contributed to a display at Minute Man National Historic Park.

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Saturday, July 03, 2010

A Washington Takeover

On this date back in 1775, Gen. George Washington officially took command of the newly renamed Continental Army besieging Boston. I’m pulling together a bunch of research on the general’s nine months in Massachusetts, so Boston 1775 will focus on that topic a lot this season.

Appointed by the Continental Congress on 15 June, Washington had arrived in Cambridge the previous afternoon, during a rainstorm, and stayed overnight in the house of the Harvard president, which still looks out on Harvard Square.

With the new commander-in-chief came Gen. Charles Lee and a small retinue of aides and servants, enslaved and free. Soon Gen. Horatio Gates would arrive, and later several companies of riflemen from Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Maryland.

Those commanders and soldiers embodied how Congress had accepted the New England colonies’ invitation to take over the war, turning it from a regional fight into one that involved all twelve colonies represented in Philadelphia. (Georgia was still on the fence when Washington and Lee arrived.)

Washington taking command was undoubtedly a significant event, but authors have debated just how much meaning people saw in it on 3 July 1775. Specifically, they asked what sort of ceremony, if any, took place when Washington took over.

TOMORROW: The assembled army and the Washington elm.


Jim said...

Count me as an eager follower for this new material. Your work is outstanding. Thanks!

RFuller said...

".....what sort of ceremony, if any, took place when Washington took over[?]..."

Uh, none, IIRC. Hope I'm wrong, though.