Washington and his Generals

What do we mean when we say Bicentennial? It is a 200th anniversary. But of what great American event? The signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4th 1776. Of course, you know that the Revolutionary War had begun in April of 1775. Where did it begin? At Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts.
On June 15, 1775, General George Washington was selected to be the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. On July 3, General Washington took command of the army of about sixteen thousand militiamen and volunteers at Cambridge, Massachusetts. Today, I plan to tell you something about the generals who served under Washington. They were brave and able men, but none could really be called experienced military men when the war began.
General Benedict Arnold, unhappy traitor but a brave and daring soldier, was a druggist, book seller and ship owner at New Haven, Connecticut, when the news of the clash of arms at Lexington called him to battle. General Nathaniel Greene was a Rhode Island farmer and blacksmith, without any military experience when the war came. In a hurry, he read Julius Caesar’s Commentaries on War and took up the sword. General Francis Marion, the “swamp fox” of South Carolina, was a shy and modest planter whose only experience was a brief but desperate fight with the Indians ten or twelve years earlier.
General Daniel Morgan, one of the heroes of the Battle of Cowpens, had little knowledge of military tactics. His only previous military experience was as a teamster in the French and Indian War. But he learned fast. At Cowpens, Morgan backed his regiments up against the river and told them you either stop the British when they attack or you drown. The line held and the British went down to defeat.
General John Sullivan was a successful lawyer at Durham, New Hampshire, and a major in a local militia company when he decided to lay down his law briefs and take up the sword. General Anthony Wayne was a Pennsylvania farmer and land surveyor who on hearing the call to arms read a few books on war and raised a regiment and offered himself for service.
These brief sketches show the background of the chief American military leaders. Some had seen some fighting against the French and Indians, but none of them had seen warfare on a large scale. Courage, natural ability, leadership, quickness of mind and faith in their cause gave them the energy and the determination that appeared to be lacking in the British generals they opposed. Evidently the generals of the British armies as well as the soldiers under their command did not have the energy and high morale of the colonial soldiers although they were better trained, better armed, and better supplied than the Americans.
Most historians agree that the big advantage the colonists had over the British was vested in one man. Who was that man? General George Washington, the Commander-in-Chief. The Americans had a great commander in Washington. He had long been interested in military strategy and tactics. His coolness under fire had been tested in the French and Indian War. He had no doubts about the justice of his cause. He was stern, dogged, patient. He drove straight ahead amid victory or defeat. Nothing could shake his iron will, not the delays of Congress in furnishing men and supplies, nor the selfishness of the civilians who lived comfortably while his army was half-starved, nor the plots of army officers against him, not even the treason of Benedict Arnold. He took it all in stride. The weight of Washington’s moral force was tremendous, and he never wavered even in the darkest hours of the war. He was in fact, first in war, first in peace and first in the hearts of his countrymen.

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