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Primary Documents in American History

George Washington's Commission as Commander in Chief

Washington, appointed Commander in Chief
Washington, appointed
Commander in Chief.
print: lithograph, hand-colored.
New York : Published by
Currier & Ives, c1876.
Prints & Photographs Division.
Reproduction Number:
LC-USZC2-3154

The Continental Congress commissioned George Washington as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on June 19, 1775. Washington was selected over other candidates such as John Hancock based on his previous military experience and the hope that a leader from Virginia could help unite the colonies. Washington left for Massachusetts within days of receiving his commission and assumed command of the Continental Army in Cambridge on July 3, 1775. After eight years of war, Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief on December 23, 1783.

Library of Congress Web Site | External Web Sites | Selected Bibliography

American Memory Historical Collections

A Century of Lawmaking for a New Nation

The Journals of the Continental Congress reports that George Washington was unanimously selected as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army on June 15, 1775. In a speech given to the Continental Congress on June 16, Washington accepted the commission and requested that he not receive a salary for his service, only that his expenses be paid at the conclusion of the war. On June 17, the Continental Congress drafted Washington’s commission as commander in chief.

The Letters of Delegates to Congress contains a letter that George Washington wrote to Martha Washington on June 18, 1775, after receiving word of his commission as Commander in Chief. Washington announced that the "whole army raised for the defense of the American Cause shall be put under my care, and that it is necessary for me to proceed immediately to Boston to take upon me the Command of it. You may believe me my dear Patsy, when I assure you in the most solemn manner, that, so far from seeking this appointment, I have used every endeavor in my power to avoid it." The Letters of Delegates to Congress also contains a letter that John Adams sent to Abigail Adams stating, "I can now inform you that the Congress have made Choice of the modest and virtuous, the amiable, generous and brave George Washington Esqr., to be the General of the American Army, and that he is to repair as soon as possible to the Camp before Boston."

Search this collection to find additional information on the George Washington and the Continental Army.

George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress

In his acceptance speech to the Continental Congress on June 16, 1775, Washington declined to receive a salary for his service as Commander in Chief. Instead, he asked only that his expenses be reimbursed at the end of the war. On July 1, 1783, Washington provided the Continental Board of Treasury with his Revolutionary War Expense Account.

George Washington issued his farewell order to the Continental Army on November 2, 1783. In an address to the Continental Congress on December 23, 1783, Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army and returned to private life at Mount Vernon.

Search Washington's Papers to find additional material related to Washington's tenure as Commander-in-Chief during the American Revolution.

America's Library

Jump Back in Time: Commander in Chief George Washington Resigned, December 23, 1783.

Exhibitions

American Treasures at the Library of Congress - Washington's Commission as Commander-in-Chief

George Washington, a leader of the revolutionary movement in Virginia, a former commander of Virginia's frontier forces, and a British colonial army officer, was commissioned "commander-in-chief of the army of the United Colonies of all the forces raised and to be raised by them" on June 19, 1775, by the Continental Congress.

The Teachers Page

American Memory Timeline: The American Revolution - Creating a Continental Army

Contains an essay on the creation of the Continental Army and links to related documents.

Today in History

December 23, 1783

George Washington resigned his commission as Commander in Chief of the Continental Army in the senate chamber of the Maryland State House in Annapolis, where the Continental Congress was meeting on December 23, 1783.

Link disclaimerExternal Web Sites

Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon Ladies Association

The Papers of George Washington, University of Virginia

Rediscovering George Washington, PBS

The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799, Edited by John C. Fitzpatrick (1931-44), University of Virginia

Selected Bibliography

Buchanan, John. The Road to Valley Forge: How Washington Built the Army that Won the Revolution. Hoboken, N.J.: John Wiley & Sons, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Ellis, Joseph J. His Excellency: George Washington. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Flexner, James Thomas. Washington: The Indispensable Man. Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1974. [Catalog Record]

Freeman, Douglas Southall. George Washington: A Biography. 7 vols. New York: Scribner, 1948-1957. [Catalog Record]

McCullough, David G. 1776. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2005. [Catalog Record]

Patterson, Benton Rain. Washington and Cornwallis: The Battle for America, 1775-1783. Lanham, Md.: Taylor Trade Pub., 2004. [Catalog Record]

Younger Readers

McGowen, Tom. The Revolutionary War and George Washington's Army in American History. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow Publishers, 2004. [Catalog Record]

Marrin, Albert. George Washington & the Founding of a Nation. New York: Dutton Children's Books, 2001. [Catalog Record]

Osborne, Mary Pope. George Washington: Leader of a New Nation. New York: Dial Books for Young Readers, 1991. [Catalog Record]

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  April 9, 2014
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