After Bunker Hill, the Continental Congress knew it had to act. It got right to work creating a Continental Army. John Adams, the always outspoken member of Congress, said that there would have to be a leader for this army chosen immediately. Adams’ choice was shocking. He announced a quiet member of Congress, George Washington, as the commander-in-chief of this new army.
Three days later, Washington took his first look at the army he now commanded. It was horrible. The 1,600 soldiers had no discipline, only limited amounts of food, clothing, and musket balls, and they had no training. The worst thing was that most of them had only signed up for a year. As soon as his soldiers would be ready to fight, Washington would get a new batch of recruits.
When the British got the news of a new Continental Army, they were furious. Not only had the colonists disobeyed the king’s orders, but now they had created an army to attack Great Britain. George III decided to sent 1,000 Grenadiers, the elite soldiers in the British Army, to help Howe crush the rebellion. Howe already had almost 5,000 regulars and was ready to crush the colonies. Howe knew that Washington had less experience than him, and that British soldiers had the best discipline and training in the world , but he still harbored doubts. In the area, there were almost 30,000 militia. There were only 1,600 Continentals, but by new year there were almost 14,000 of them. Howe was surrounded.
Meanwhile Washington got ready to attack Boston with his large army. Four months earlier, a very important man had stepped onto the stage; Benedict Arnold (see more about Arnold in my post The Life of Benedict Arnold). He stepped onto the stage when he helped Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga, but Arnold had gotten no credit for the victory. In December a former bookseller named Colonel Henry Knox dragged Fort Ticonderoga’s 70 cannon from the fort all the way to headquarters in Cambridge, Massachusetts. There Washington received the cannon, all of which were intact. Now Washington had what it would take to take Boston.
Early in 1776, Washington organized 2,500 men, along with half of Knox’s cannon, to go up to Dorchester Heights. At night they reached the heights. By dawn, they had all their cannon and trench systems set up. The British were stunned. When Howe woke up and saw the cannons on Dorchester Heights aiming down on Boston, he exclaimed “The Rebels have done something overnight that my soldiers couldn’t to in one month,”.
Just two weeks later, the British evacuated Boston, along with 4000 loyalists. John Burgoyne, who came to America with Howe and Clinton, decided to leave for Britain. Howe, however, started planning an attack. He decided he would leave behind Boston, and head for New York in the summer.
Meanwhile, Washington celebrated the first victory of his career. The war looked as if it would end by Christmas, but unknown to Washington, this would be his last victory in the year. 1776 would see 35,000 Redcoats, the largest sea campaign ever to happen until WWI.