Though the British Proclamation Act of 1763—prohibiting settlement beyond the Alleghenies—irritated him and he opposed the Stamp Act of 1765, Washington did not take a leading role in the growing colonial resistance against the British until the widespread protest of the Townshend Acts in 1767. His letters of this period indicate he was totally opposed to the colonies declaring independence. However, by 1767, he wasn't opposed to resisting what he believed were fundamental violations by the Crown of the rights of Englishmen.
Washington introduced a resolution to the House of Burgesses calling for
Virginia to boycott British goods until the Acts were repealed. After
the passage of the Intolerable Acts in 1774, Washington chaired a
meeting in which the Fairfax Resolves were adopted calling for the
convening of the Continental Congress and the use of armed resistance as
a last resort. He was selected as a delegate to the First Continental
Congress in March 1775.
After the battles of Lexington and
Concord in April 1775, the political dispute between Great Britain and
her North American colonies escalated into an armed conflict. In May,
Washington traveled to the Second Continental Congress in Philadelphia
dressed in a military uniform, indicating that he was prepared for war.
On June 15, he was appointed Major General and Commander-in-Chief of the
colonial forces against Great Britain. As was his custom, he did not
seek out the office of commander, but he faced no serious competition.
was the best choice for a number of reasons: he had the prestige,
military experience and charisma for the job and he had been advising
Congress for months. Another factor was political. The Revolution had
started in New England and at the time, they were the only colonies that
had directly felt the blunt of British tyranny. Virginia was the
largest British colony and deserved recognition and New England needed
Political considerations and force of
personality aside, George Washington was not necessarily qualified to
wage war on the world's most powerful nation. Washington's training and
experience were primarily in frontier warfare involving small numbers of
soldiers. He wasn't trained in the open-field style of battle practiced
by the commanding British generals. He had no practical experience
maneuvering large formations of infantry, commanding cavalry or
artillery, or maintaining the flow of supplies for thousands of men in
the field. But he was courageous and determined and smart enough to keep
one step ahead of the enemy.
Washington and his small army did
taste victory early in March 1776 by placing artillery above Boston, on
Dorchester Heights, forcing the British to withdraw. Washington then
moved his troops into New York City. But in June, a new British
commander, Sir William Howe, arrived in the Colonies with the largest
expeditionary force Britain had ever deployed to date.
1776, the British army launched an attack and quickly took New York City
in the largest battle of the war. Washington's army was routed and
suffered the surrender of 2,800 men. He ordered the remains of his army
to retreat across the Delaware River into Pennsylvania. Confident the
war would be over in a few months, General Howe wintered his troops at
Trenton and Princeton, leaving Washington free to attack at the time and
place of his choosing.
On Christmas night, 1776, Washington and
his men crossed the Delaware River and attacked unsuspecting Hessian
mercenaries at Trenton, forcing their surrender. A few days later,
evading a force that had been sent to destroy his army, Washington
attacked the British again, this time at Princeton, dealing them a