On this day (June 15) in 1775, the Continental Congress appointed George Washington “General and Commander in Chief of the army of the United Colonies.” Just two months earlier, fighting at Lexington and Concord had sparked war in Massachusetts. Within days, thousands of armed and angry New Englanders had rushed to besiege British-occupied Boston. Bottled up in the city, British forces under General Thomas Gage stared across the narrow Boston neck and harbor as military camps and fortifications spread over the encircling hills.
When delegates to the Second Continental Congress gathered in Philadelphia (just two blocks from the site of the Museum of the American Revolution) in early May, they faced the momentous question of how to respond to the situation in New England. Within weeks, Congress moved to create a “continental” army by adopting the New England forces.