A very brief, but to me quite important, entry on the This Day in U.S. Military History calendar had the headline “Washington takes command of Continental Army.” So I marked it on my long-range planning calendar for today’s column.
But alas, when time to put fingers to keyboard was nigh, and I scrambled for more information, although my deadline was nigh, more information was not. All the little calendar said was that “George Washington rode out in front of the American troops gathered at Cambridge common in Massachusetts and draws his sword, formally taking command of the Continental Army.
“Washington had been appointed commander in chief by the Continental Congress two weeks before. In agreeing to serve the American colonies in their war for independence, he declined to accept payment for his services beyond reimbursement of future expenses.”
Interesting, but hardly enough for a 300-word column.
So I turned to my secondary favorite source, the massive 956-page tome “Chronicle of America.” For about the very first time, the massive tome failed me. There was no hint in its information for June 1776 of Washington having been appointed commander in chief.
Thee was an entry in February where he lauded a Negro woman poet for a poem she had written about him. He invited her to his headquarters in Cambridge (mentioned above) so they could meet and he could thank her in person.
There was almost a full page about a book titled “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine that is still read and talked about today. I acquired a copy of it last year and have it in a growing pile of “to read someday” books. Might have to move it higher on the pile.
There was a color picture of the Grand Union flag, the first flag flown by the fledgling nation-to-be, that had the British Union Jack in the upper left field. It did not last long, and soon the field was replaced by 13 stars that today has grown to 50.
And there was a relatively large article about British forces evacuating Boston aboard 125 transport ships that had sailed into Boston Harbor to take them away. Washington was mentioned in the article, but there was no mention of his now being commander in chief.
And as if to confuse me even more, another military oriented calendar had no mention of Washington on July 3, but did say the Battle of Gettysburg ended that day, as had the Quebec Campaign in 1776. Sometimes I think calendar makers hire people who think up ways to confuse people who try to use the calendars.
John Reichley is a retired Army officer and Department of the Army civilian employee.