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THE WAR OF INDEPENDENCE








Gage decided to go beyond these orders and to seize the military stores his spies had informed him were being assembled in the village of Concord. He neither caught the rebel leaders, nor completely destroyed the military supplies. A troop of 700 British regulars did reach Concord on April 19, 1775 after scattering some slight resistance at Lexington. And they managed to destroy some of the riffles and ammunition that the colonists had been unable to hide. Then, as the British turned back to Boston, they were set upon by angry Minute Men who peppered them from behind fences and trees. After the raid, the British counted 273 dead, wounded, and missing; the Americans had lost 93. Far more important than the skirmish itself were the propaganda possibilities it dropped into the patriotsí hands. They concocted chilling reports of British atrocities and rapine, and convinced many of the colonists that Britain was thirsting for American blood.
On May 10, 1775, the Second Continental Congress met in Philadelphia. By June, 65 delegates had arrived, representing all 13 colonies. None of them could have imagined that they were to continue in session with only brief recesses for the next 14 years. They were a distinguished group; sitting among them were the men who were to be the first three presidents of the United States.
The Congress would support the action Massachusetts had taken, and yet there was no formal resolve that the Continental Congress creates a Continental army, whose existence was recognized only in an off-hand announcement of the Congress.
The Congress was almost unanimous in choosing Washington as commander-in-chief of the American forces. Like many an American leader to come, Washington had some qualities to satisfy every group.
The choice of Washington as commander-in-chief was a fortunate one. True, Washington did not turn out to be a brilliant tactician. His courage, tenacity, honesty, and dignity were in the long run more vital to success than was military genius.




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