On June 14th, 1775, the Continental Army was created by the Second Continental Congress to form a unified force against the British. The British, for their part, generally reacted with full belly laughs and extra rounds of tea. You see, up until that point, the Patriots' military capability had generally been militia, which according to Mel Gibson had lots of guys with bad teeth and penchants for eating dogs. To be sure, there was no unified army to back up the will of the Patriots until the Continental Army was formed. This could have been quite embarrassing - showing up to battle with no color coordination (imagine a line of British Officers simultaneously humphing).
So what happened exactly during those couple months? Well, in keeping with the spirit of the make-shift army, here is a make-shift timeline:
- April 19th, 1775: Massachusetts Militia face off with British forces at Lexington. The British were attempting to destroy a weapons depot gathered by the colonists, which, as anyone who has tried to take a gun away from an American, is a "no-no". Before this, of course, there were a bunch of acts passed by the British Parliament, "outrages", people dressed as Indians, soldiers in homes, etc etc. I won't get into it, but suffice to say people were a little "put out."
- At Lexington someone fires an unordered shot (shot heard around the world). The British fire back, charge, regroup. Later, Militia attack the British force at Concord. Word gets out, all hell breaks loose.
- May 10, 1775 American forces led by Benedict Arnold and Ethan Allen capture Fort Ticonderoga in NY. Note that at this point there was still no official army.
- May 10, 1775 Second Continental Congress convenes in Philadelphia. John Hancock elected president with his giant, raving pen.
- June 14th, 1775 Congress establishes an official Continental Army. "Be all that thou can Be," as it were.
- June 15th, 1775 Congress unanimously votes to establish George Washington as commander-in-chief of the army. Washington accepts no payment other than expense compensation - take that, modern Congress!
- June 17th, 1775 The Battle of Bunker Hill - first major battle of the war. To make a long story short: British take the hill, but on the way lose over 1000 men. Continentals lose about 400.
- July 3rd 1775 Washington takes command of the Continental Army gathered at Cambridge, Massachusetts. He describes it as a "Mixed multitude of people...under very little discipline, order or government." But eventually, ol' Washington whips them into shape.
Well, the rest, as they say, is history. It is interesting to note that two days after Washington took command, Congress passed the "Olive Branch Petition," which was a direct appeal to the British for peace - so even then there was hope for a resolution. This was not to be however, as George III rejected the petition and claimed the colonies in "open rebellion."