Chapter Eight: America Secedes From the Empire
(1775 - 1783)
Congress Drafts George Washington
Bloodshed at Lexington and Concord as a clear call to arms. About 20,000
minutemen swarmed around Boston to coop up the outnumbered redcoats.
Second Continental Congress
met in Philadelphia the next month on May
10, 1775. This time all 13 colonies were represented. Still, there was no
real sentiment for independence – they merely wanted to continue fighting
to persuade Parliament to consent to a redress of grievances.
In hope of this, they drafted new appeals to the British people and king
– which were ultimately rejected.
Anticipating this rejection, the Congress also adopted measures to raise
money and to create an army and navy.
The Congress also selected
to head the hastily
improvised army in Boston. Washington, then 43, had never risen above the
rank of a colonel in the militia. His largest command had numbered only
2000 men, and that had been some 20 years earlier.
However, Washington was gifted with outstanding powers of leadership and
immense strength of character, radiating patience, courage, self-
discipline, and justice. He was a great moral force rather than a great
military mind. People instinctively trusted him.
Washington insisted on serving without pay. The Congress' selection of
Washington was largely political. Americans in other sections were
beginning to distrust the large New England army and prudence suggested a
commander from Virginia, the largest and most populous of the colonies.
Bunker Hill and Hessian Hirelings
While the Americans were affirming their loyalty to the king and voicing
their desire to patch up difficulties, they were also shooting down royal
soldiers. This curious war of inconsistency was fought for 14 long months
(from April 1775 to July 1776) before the fateful plunge to independence
In May 1775 a tiny America force, under
surprised and captured the British garrisons at
. A priceless store of gunpowder and artillery for the siege of
Boston was secured.
In June 1775 the colonists seized a hill, now known as
(actually Breed's Hill), from which they menaced the enemy in Boston. The
British, instead of flanking the Americans, launched a costly frontal
attack with 3000 men. Sharpshooter Americans, numbering 1500 and strongly
entrenched, mowed down the advancing redcoats. But the American supply of
gunpowder gave out and they were forced to retreat.
Even at this late date, in July 1775, the Continental Congress adopted
Olive Branch Petition
, which professed American loyalty to the crown
and begged the king to prevent further hostilities. But after Bunker Hill
bloodshed, King George III killed any hope of reconciliation.