Today is the 284th birthday of the Father of our Country, George Washington. The above video from the musical 1776 depicts John Adams asking the Secretary of Congress, Charles Thomson, if he stands with Adams or the opponents of Independence. Thomson responds that he stands with the General, George Washington. Throughout 1776, Washington is an unseen presence but a powerful one. As Congress considers the question of Independence, Washington’s messages to Congress paint a gloomy military picture. Each member of Congress knows that if they declare Independence, only Washington and his ragtag army stand between them and a hangman’s noose.
Washington was always blunt, albeit respectful, in his messages to Congress. It was his task to somehow hold together an army paid in worthless currency, dressed in rags, often barefoot, ill-fed and hastily trained. For eight long years, while the American economy largely collapsed due to a blockade, he pulled endless rabbits out of his tri-corn hat to keep his army in being for yet another day. He did this while respecting the civilian leadership of the new nation, a leadership that often seemed feckless and impotent. He did this while confronting the mightiest empire in the world that controlled the seas and deployed a superb army.
At periods during the Revolution Washington led his army with a skill that excited the imagination of the world. After the Trenton-Princeton campaign, Frederick the Great, King of Prussia and the foremost general of his day, wrote, “The achievements of Washington and his little band of compatriots between the 25th of December and the 4th of January, a space of 10 days, were the most brilliant of any recorded in the annals of military achievements.” I certainly agree with this and Washington fully earned the nicknames bestowed upon him by his British adversaries: “the fox” and “the old fox”. However, what excites my admiration most about Washington during the American Revolution was that he kept the Continental Army alive, and made it a formidable force.
In his farewell order to his victorious Continental Army George Washington wrote:
A contemplation of the compleat attainment (at a period earlier than could have been expected) of the object for which we contended against so formidable a power cannot but inspire us with astonishment and gratitude. The disadvantageous circumstances on our part, under which the war was undertaken, can never be forgotten. The singular interpositions of Providence in our feeble condition were such, as could scarcely escape the attention of the most unobserving; while the unparalleled perseverence of the Armies of the U States, through almost every possible suffering and discouragement for the space of eight long years, was little short of a standing miracle.