The George Washington Papers at the Library of Congress
Time Line: The American Revolution
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April 19, the battles of Lexington and Concord.
Ethan Allen and his Green Mountain Boys, and Benedict Arnold and the Massachusetts and
Connecticut militia, take Fort Ticonderoga on the western shore of Lake Champlain, capturing its
garrison and munitions.
May 10, the Second Continental Congress convenes. Washington attends as a delegate from
May 18, Congress learns of the capture of Fort Ticonderoga and that military
reinforcements from Britain are on their way to North America.
May 25, British generals William Howe, Henry Clinton, and John Burgoyne arrive in Boston with
reinforcements for military commander Thomas Gage. July 12, Howe's brother Admiral Richard
Howe will arrive in North America with a large fleet of warships.
May 26, Congress resolves to begin preparations for military defense but also sends a petition
of reconciliation, the "Olive Branch Petition," to King George III.
June 12, British General Thomas Gage declares Massachusetts to be in a state of rebellion. He
offers amnesty for all who lay down their arms--except for Samuel Adams and John Hancock.
June 14, debate begins in Congress on the appointment of a commander in chief of Continental
forces. John Hancock expects to be nominated but is disappointed when his fellow Massachusetts
delegate, John Adams, suggests George Washington instead as a commander around whom all the
colonies might unite. June 15, Washington is appointed commander in chief of the Continental
Army. The forces from several colonies gathered in Cambridge and Boston become the founding
core of that army.
June 16, Washington makes his acceptance speech in Congress. As a gesture of civic virtue, he
declines a salary but requests that Congress pay his expenses at the close of the war. On July 1,
1783, Washington submits to the Continental Board of Treasury his expense account.
George Washington's Revolutionary War Expense Account
June 15-16, the battle of Bunker or Breeds Hill.
June 27, Congress establishes the northern army under the command of Major General Philip
Schuyler, and to prevent attacks from the north, begins planning a campaign against the British in
July 3, Washington assumes command of the main American army in Cambridge, Massachusetts,
where it has been laying siege to British-occupied Boston.
July 4, Washington issues general orders to the army, announcing that they and those who enlist
"are now Troops of the United Provinces of North America," and expressing hope "that all
Distinctions of Colonies will be laid aside; so that one and the same Spirit may animate the whole,
and the only Contest be, who shall render, on this great and trying occasion, the most essential
service to the Great and common cause in which we are all engaged."
General Orders, July 4, 1775
July 6, Congress approves and arranges for publication of A Declaration by the
Representatives of the United Colonies of North America...., written by Thomas Jefferson
and John Dickinson. Unlike Jefferson's Declaration of Independence of a year later, this
document blames Parliament primarily and King George III secondarily for the Colonies'
July 12, Congress establishes commissions on Indian relations for the north, middle, and southern
regions of the Colonies.
July 31, Congress rejects a proposal for reconciliation from the North Ministry. The proposal is
sent to prominent private individuals instead of to Congress and falls short of independence.
George Washington's Commission as
Commander in Chief of the Continental Army.
August, Washington establishes a naval force to battle the British off the New England coast and
to prey on British supply ships.
August 23, King George III declares all the Colonies to be in a state of rebellion.
September 6, Washington's final draft of his "Address to the Inhabitants of Canada" calls for their
support in the war for independence. Benedict Arnold will carry the Address on his march
through the Maine wilderness to take Quebec. On the same day, Washington calls for volunteers
from among his own army to accompany Benedict Arnold and his Virginia and Pennsylvania
Address to the Inhabitants of Canada, September 6, 1775 |
George Washington's Revolutionary War Expense Account: September 28, 1775,
expenses for printing copies of the "Address" by Ebenezer Gray
September 28, Washington writes the Massachusetts General Court, introducing an Oneida Chief
who has arrived at the Continental army encampment in Cambridge. Washington believes he has
come "principaly to satisfy his Curiosity." But Washington hopes he will take a favorable report
back to his people, with "important Consequences" to the American cause. The Oneidas are
members of the Iroquois or Six Nation League of the upper New York region. To preserve their
lands from incursions by either side, the League attempts a policy of neutrality. The Revolution,
however, causes a civil war among the Iroquois, and the Oneidas are one of the few tribes to side
with the Americans.
George Washington to Massachusetts General Court, September 28, 1775
October 4, Washington writes Congress about the treasonous activities of Dr. Benjamin Church.
Church, a leading physician in Boston, has been active in the Sons of Liberty, in the Boston
Committee of Correspondence, and the Massachusetts Committee of Safety and Provincial
Congress. At the same time, however, he has been spying for British military commander of
Boston Thomas Gage. In his October 5 letter to Congress, Washington describes how one of
Church's letters to Gage was intercepted. Eventually Church is tried by several different courts
and jailed. In 1778, he is allowed to go into exile. He is lost at sea on his way to the West Indies.
Congress passes more severe penalties for treason as a result of this case.
George Washington to Congress, October 5, 1775
October 18, a British squadron under command of Lieutenant Henry Mowat bombards and burns
the Falmouth (Portland, Maine) waterfront after providing inhabitants time to evacuate the area.
Washington writes the governors of Rhode Island and Connecticut, October 24, enclosing an account of the attack by a Falmouth
citizen, Pearson Jones, and severely criticizing the British for not allowing enough time for
inhabitants to remove their belongings. When Mowat briefly comes ashore on May 9, he is
captured by Brunswick, Maine, citizens, but they are persuaded by Falmouth town leaders to let
Pearson Jones's Account of the Destruction of Falmouth, October 24, 1775
October 24, Washington writes to the Falmouth, Maine, Safety Committee to explain why he
cannot send the detachment from his army they request. Throughout the war, the British attempt
to lure Washington into committing his whole army to battles he cannot win, or, into weakening it
by sending out detachments to meet British incursions.
George Washington to Falmouth, Maine, Safety Committee, October 24, 1775
November 1, Congress learns of King George's rejection of the Olive Branch Petition, his
declaration that the Colonies are in rebellion, and of reports that British regulars sent to subdue
them will be accompanied by German mercenaries.
George III, King of
Great Britain and Ireland
[1802?] 1 print.
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
Cromek, R. H. (Robert Hartley),
November 5, General Orders, Washington reprimands the troops in Cambridge for celebrating the
anti-Catholic holiday, Guy Fawkes Day, while Congress and the army are attempting to win the
friendship of French Canadian Catholics. He also writes commander of the northern army, Philip
Schuyler, on the importance of the acquisition of Canada to the American cause.
George Washington, General Orders, November 5, 1775 |
George Washington to Philip Schuyler, November 5, 1775
December 31, Benedict Arnold and Richard Montgomery and their forces join on the St.
Lawrence River to attack Quebec. Montgomery has recently taken Montreal and has replaced Philip Schuyler, then weakened by illness, as commander of the northern army. During the attack, Montgomery is killed
immediately and Arnold is wounded. The attack fails, but Arnold follows it with a siege of the
city, which also fails.
On June 18, 1776, Arnold will be the last to retreat from Canada and the still
undefeated city of Montreal, then commanded by Sir Guy Carleton. On January 27, Washington will write Arnold to
commiserate with him on the failure of the campaign. Arnold is commissioned a brigadier general
in the Continental Army on January 10, 1776.
George Washington to Benedict Arnold, January 27, 1776
Death of General Montgomery at Quebec.
c[between 1900 and 1912] 1 negative.
Trumbull, John, 1756-1843, artist.
from Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.
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