For more information about Washington's Continental Army, visit the Valley Forge Encampment History section.



George Washington

Commander-in-Chief

Washington served as a Virginia delegate to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia in 1775. Facing a fight for independence with Britain, he was elected Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. He was chosen to lead the army because of his experience and reputation. On July 3, 1775, at Cambridge, Massachusetts, he took command of his ill-trained troops and entered a war that lasted 8-1/2 grueling years.

As Commander-in-Chief, Washington was a daring leader. He used the element of surprise to win American victories. One of the most memorable surprise movements was when he led his troops across the Delaware River and attacked the unsuspecting Hessian troops at Trenton, New Jersey in 1776. Generals Howe and Cornwallis, leaders of England's Ministerial Army, had planned to engage the entire American army in combat at one time and defeat them. But Washington surprised them when he secretly led his troops across the icy Delaware River. From there, the Americans captured Trenton and Princeton, New Jersey, briefly pushing the British army back to New York. This maneuver forced the British troops to spend the winter in New York City. During this short three-week campaign, the entire cause of the American Revolution was saved by Washington's bold and skillful action, and the Revolutionary troops were more confident of their abilities to win their war for independence.

The road to victory, however, was not easy. Over the next long months, Washington's Continental Army grew weary. The soldiers marched into Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on December 19, 1777, after several tough battles with the British. Washington and his men spent the winter at Valley Forge, living in a log hut city for six months. There, the men received expert training to improve their skills as soldiers. Washington was able to reorganize several military departments, improving services to the soldiers.

On June 19,1778, the Continental Army marched out of Valley Forge with new spirit and determination. The troops pursued the British as they departed from Philadelphia, and defeated them at the Battle of the Monmouth in New Jersey.

The Continental Army bravely fought for another five years under Washington's leadership. Finally, they defeated the larger and better-equipped British. Washington's courage and determination inspired his troops. He defeated General Cornwallis and his troops at Yorktown in October 1781, the last major battle of the Revolutionary War.

Learn more about our George Washington:

Life Before the Presidency
Commander-in-Chief
Presidential Accomplishments
Did You Know?
Life After the Presidency
Washington's Legacy