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George Washington’s Contribution to the American Independence War

Over two hundred years ago, the American Revolution forever changed the global political landscape. Thirteen original colonies rose against the power of the British Crown in a fight for liberty in a war that lasted eight years and four months and cost over 100000 casualties on both sides. The outcome of the war was determined by several reasons. Colonists had significant advantages that helped them seize the victory, but it was George Washington’s timely appointment as the commander of the army that became the decisive factor.

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As far as the world’s history is concerned, revolutions usually have a range of reasons and do not happen spontaneously, which is also the case for the American War of Independence. According to Coccia, revolutions are caused by a combination of economic, political, and social factors. Dysfunction is another critical component, meaning that there is a lack of harmony between the state’s systems. When new processes are introduced, dysfunction rises, and, if the changes are implemented too rapidly, it may reach dangerous levels. This way, society does not have enough time to adjust gradually, and the process might end up in protests.

Similarly, the situation in the American colonies exploded when the Tea Act was adopted in 1773. According to it, the British East India Company would be able to export tea without taxes, while a similar tax in the colonies would remain. By that time, the American population was aggravated by the fact that the region lacked representation in the British government, and this act served to show that the Parliament had superior power over colonies. The injustice resulted in the Boston Tea Party when an entire shipment of tea was thrown in the Boston Harbor. It was a crucial moment that later led to the long Revolutionary War. In other words, the dysfunction caused by the British Parliament’s aggressive policy rose to a critical level, when rapid changes were introduced in an already unstable situation.

Following the Boston Tea Party, Great Britain wanted to punish the colonists for insubordination and enacted four laws known as The Intolerable, or Coercive, Acts. Firstly, a new law closed all ports in Boston until the cost of wasted tea is reimbursed in full. The Administration of Justice Act and The Massachusetts Government Act served to limit the power of the colonies. The Parliament wanted to make it clear that, from their point of view, local authorities of the colonies could not be trusted. Finally, the revised Quartering Act obliged colonists to provide British soldiers with accommodation even at the expense of the former’s comfort, which included letting the latter into their homes. Britain’s intentions were clear, as the Parliament wanted to highlight the superior position of the Crown in comparison with the New World. Nevertheless, this overreaction became the final straw that threw the situation off balance.

In spite of the recent laws, the colonies did not surrender. The First Continental Congress assembled delegates from 12 out of 13 colonies. George Washington, John Adams, and Samuel Adams, among other participants, discussed a plan of action in response to British aggression. The creation of a Union of Great Britain and Colonies was proposed, but Congress ended up drafting a Petition to the King and imposing a boycott on British trade. Besides, the colonies were advised to train their militia, as future Founding Fathers realized that the possibility of war was real.

These recent attacks on American colonies instigated a mass feeling of dissatisfaction and unrest. According to Coccia, this stage is usually followed by the emergence of organized opposition. In this case, the opposition was the majority of the colonies against the power of Great Britain. At this point, a successful revolution demands a great leader that would convince the public of the necessity of conflict. There are two types of such leaders: the first one paints a utopian future, whereas the second one takes methodical steps towards achieving the revolution’s goals. In the case of the American War of Independence, George Washington took this position and managed to use people’s dissatisfaction with Britain’s ruling to launch a separation campaign.

In 1775, as it became evident that the colonies were not going to adhere to Britain’s demands, the Crown declared Massachusetts a rebellious territory. The first armed conflict occurred in Lexington and Concord, where 700 British soldiers faced strong resistance on behalf of local militias. As a result, the army discovered and destroyed the Patriots’ military supplies but was forced to retreat. This battle marked the beginning of the Revolutionary War, and the Second Continental Congress shortly assembled and issued a call to arms in the American colonies. It was at that point that General George Washington took command of the Continental Army.

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However, the future president of the United States was not an obvious candidate. According to Bailey, Washington did not have enough experience commanding large armies and leading military campaigns. On the other hand, he was blessed with outstanding leadership skills that allowed him to gather an army more than capable of resisting one of the world’s most significant forces. The ability to inspire soldiers proved to be one of the critical components of a victory in many wars, and the American Revolution was not an exception. When facing a great enemy such as the British army, inspiration and morale are of utmost importance, so George Washington’s appointment was timely.

In fact, the colonies’ had to deal with a high number of obstacles along the way. Having emerged victorious in Massachusetts, the Continental Army made British forces retreat. Washington ordered to have New York fortified, as he was expecting the area to be the next target. At that time, the Declaration of Independence was adopted, thus proclaiming separation between Great Britain and America. The conflict was way past the point of no return after this major decision, and the battle in New York became the most destructive one in the course of the war. In spite of all preparations, the British managed to capture the area and nearly destroy Washington’s forces, which nearly put the entire campaign on the verge of collapse.

Nevertheless, the Continental Army managed to survive, and the resistance continued. When German mercenary forces intervened, Washington defeated them during the Battle of Trenton. This period of war demonstrated the strategic genius of the future U.S. President, who took controversial, yet fruitful decisions, as he decided that lack of action would be even worse than a lost battle. Crossing the Delaware River was a challenge that cost the Army many lives, but it made it possible for the rest to escape the advancing British forces. Following these events, Washington was victorious at Princeton, and the Americans regained faith in the success of the separation campaign.

Besides the British army, George Washington had another deadly enemy. According to Bailey, “the big epidemic in this war was not bullets or cannons, but instead smallpox.” Washington knew what this disease could do, as he had fought it himself in his young days, so he took the issue seriously. In 1777, he had his entire army inoculated, thus reducing the percent of smallpox deaths from 17% to 1% percent. As historians state, although barely recognized, this decision deserves to be considered one of the most important actions that changed the course of war. Washington had lost too many soldiers in previous battles, so losing more people to smallpox could potentially lead to his loss without a single bullet fired.

In addition to powerful enemies and lethal diseases, supplies were a major factor that posed obstacles for the Continental Army. Washington was in a constant state of battle against a shortage of clothes, arms, and food. Furthermore, it was a fight against his own allies that he had to endure, as Washington constantly had to ask Congress and thirteen states for more supplies. The issue became especially grave during the winter of 1777 to 1778. The British army was in a favorable position in this respect, so Washington had to act quickly and appointed a new quartermaster that rearranged the entire system of supplies. It was another important decision that had a positive effect on the remainder of the war, and, in the end, helped the colonies seize a victory.

All in all, George Washington’s participation was a decisive factor that contributed to the outcome of the War of Independence. Following the outbreak of the revolution, he was appointed commander of the Continental Army and had to lead his people against an enemy of great power. When facing major challenges, such as lost battles, smallpox, and shortage of supplies, Washington took a series of crucial decisions that proved fruitful in the course of the war. His ability to go through devastating defeat with giving up on the cause inspired Americans and led them towards victory, as George Washington himself continued fighting for his people as the first president of the United States.


American History: The Revolutionary War: Before the Revolution,” Lloyd Sealy Library. 2020. Web.

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American History: The Revolutionary War: Major Battles and Campaigns,” Lloyd Sealy Library. 2020. Web.

Bailey, Allison. “George Washington”. In WCDS History Papers, edited by Joseph Cook, 23-25., 2016.

Coccia, Mario. Revolution: Characteristics, Taxonomies, and Situational Causes. Forthcoming, Journal of Economic and Social Thought 6, no. 1 (2019): 48-56.

Furmuzachi, Gabriel. 2017. “The Intolerable Acts.” SocArXiv. March 6.

Johnston, Henry P. The Campaign of 1776 around New York and Brooklyn. Germany: Jazzybee Verlag, 2016.

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