1776 by David McCullough
George Washington: Washington was 43 year old when he was appointed by the Continental Congress to be Commander-in-Chief of the American army. He had almost no formal schooling, and was a self-educated man. He was a brave man who was totally dedicated to America, the country he loved. He was strong and rarely showed his discouragement or despair, even though he suffered greatly through the course of the American Revolution.
After seeing Washington for the first time, Dr. James Thatcher, a doctor at the army’s hospital at Cambridge, described Washington: “His Excellency was on horseback, in company with several military gentlemen. It was not difficult to distinguish him from all others. His personal appearance is truly noble and majestic, being tall and well proportioned.” (p. 34)
Dr. Benjamin Rush, a doctor and patriot, described Washington by saying he, “has so much martial dignity in his deportment that you would distinguish him to be a general and a soldier from among 10,000 people.”(p. 43)
John Adams, who nominated Washington to be Commander-in-Chief, wrote that Washington “will have great effect in cementing and securing the union of these colonies.” (p. 43) He went to say that Washington would become “one of the most important characters in the world.”(p. 43)
Although revered by many, Washington was aware of his limitations, including that he was not experienced in leading an army in battle. He was a humble man. In his acceptance speech to his command, he said: “I am truly sensible of the high honor done me in this appointment, yet I feel great distress from a consciousness that my abilities and military experience may not be equal to the extensive and important trust.” (p. 49)
He did accept the appointment, of course, but he warned Congress that he might fail, explaining, “… I do not think myself equal to the command I [am] honored with.” (p.49) Many times he told his friend Reed that if he had known what he was getting himself into, he never would have accepted the command.
Showing his ability to understand the importance of what was taking place, and that he felt it was right, Washington said to his troops before the attack at Dorchester: “It is a noble cause we are engaged in, it is the cause of virtue and mankind, every temporal advantage and comfort to us and our posterity depends upon the vigor of our exertions….” ( p. 91)
Congress wrote a letter expressing gratitude to Washington after the win at Dorchester which read: “Those pages in the annals of America will record your title to be a conspicuous place in the temple of fame, which shall inform posterity, that under your directions, an undisciplined band of husbandmen, in the course of a few months, became soldiers.” (p. 109)
Washington understood the importance of the mission and he believed that God wanted America to succeed. He said, “The fate of unborn millions will now depend, under God, on the courage and conduct of this army.”(p. 113)
He was brave, but not reckless. He was cautious and protective of his men, in that he told Congress, “We should on all occasions avoid a general action or put anything to the risk unless compelled by a necessity.” (p 207)
Washington never gave up and he was an excellent motivator. Even when he was discouraged, he pressed on and called others to persevere. He always called for “unremitting courage and perseverance” from his people. (p.293)
Washington was a humble man and did not let power go to his head. When Congress granted him unlimited power and expressed their total trust in him, he wrote: “Instead of thinking myself freed from all civil obligations by this mark of their confidence, I shall constantly bear in mind that as the sword was the last resort for the preservation of our liberties, so it ought to be the first thing laid aside when those liberties are firmly established.” (p. 286)
Although he had sometimes been...
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