What is the Continental Army?

On the 22nd of June, 1775, the Congress resolved to issue a sum not exceeding two million dollars, on bills of credit, "for the defence of America," prescribed the form of the bills, and appointed a committee of five to attend to the printing of them. The plates were rudely engraved by Paul Revere, of Boston, and printed on such thick paper, that the British called the currency "the paste-board money of the rebels." Each denomination had a separate and significant device and motto, which bore the stamp of the mind of Dr. Franklin, who was one of the committee. Twenty-eight gentlemen were appointed to sign them. New issues were made at various times until the close of 1779, when the aggregate amount was $242,000,000. Then the bills had so much depreciated that one hundred dollars in specie would buy twenty-six hundred in paper currency. They very soon became worthless. In January, 1781, Captain Allan McLane paid $600 for a pair of boots, and $10 for a skein of thread.

Feeling that the union of the colonies was complete, notwithstanding Georgia was not yet represented in the congress, that body, on the 7th of June, in a resolution for a general fast, had spoken, for the first time, of "the twelve United Colonies." To make the bond stronger, they now, on motion of John Adams, adopted the forces at Cambridge as a Continental Army, and proceeded to choose a commander-in-chief. At the suggestion of the New England delegation, Thomas Johnson of Maryland nominated George Washington, of Virginia, then a member of the Congress, for that important office, and he was elected by a unanimous vote. That was on the 15th of June. When, on the following morning, President Hancock officially announced to Washington his appointement, that gentleman arose in his place, and formally accepted the office. In his modes speech on that occasion, after expressing doubts of his ability to perform the duties satisfactorily, he said: "As to pay, sir, I beg leave to assure the Congress that, as no pecuniary consideration could have tempted me to accept the arduous employment at the expense of my domestic ease and happiness, I do not wish to make any profit from it. I will keep an exact account of my expenses. Those, I doubt not, they will discharge, and that is all I desire." Washington was then forty-three years of age. Four major-generals and eight brigadier-generals were appointed in the course of a few days. The former were Artemas Ward, Charles Lee, Philip Schuyler, and Israel Putnam; the latter were Seth Pomeroy, Richard Montgomery, David Wooster, William Heath, Joseph Spencer, John Thomas, John Sullivan, and Nathaniel Greene.

At the beginning of June (1775) the army at Cambridge numbered about sixteen thousand men, all New Englanders. General Ward was the chief, and John Thomas was his lieutenant. Richard Gridley, who was the engineer-in-chief at the reduction of Louisburg thirty years before, was commissioned to command an artillery corps and to be chief engineer, and was assisted by Henry Knox, a Boston bookseller, who had commanded an artillery company in that town. The British force in Boston was increasing by fresh arrivals. It numbered then about ten thousand men. Generals Howe, Clinton, and Burgoyne had arrived late in May, and heartily joined Gage in forming and executing plans for dispersing the "rebels." Feeling strong with these veteran officers and soldiers around him, and the presence of several ships-of-war under Admiral Graves, the governor issued a most insulting proclamation, declaring martial law, branding those citizens in arms, and their abettors, as "rebels" and "parricides of the Constitution," and offering pardon to all who should forthwith return to their allegiance, excepting Samuel Adams and John Hancock, who were reserved for condign punishment as traitors. This proclamation produced intense indignation throughout the province. "All the records of time," wrote Mrs. John Adams to her husband, "cannot produce a blacker page. Satan, when driven from the regions of bliss, exhibited not more malice. Surely the father of lies is superseded. Yet we think it the best proclamation he could have issued."

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