Bunker Hill
After the British rout from Lexington, a loosely organized New England army of volunteers and militia laid siege to Boston. The British commander, Sir Thomas Gage, determined to gain more elbowroom by seizing the Charlestown peninsula. Learning of Gage's plans, the Massachusetts Committee of Safety recommended the occupation of Bunker Hill, a commanding height near the neck of the Charlestown peninsula. But a working party of 1,200 Americans, sent out on the night of June 16-17, 1775, instead fortified Breed's Hill, a lower height nearer Boston.

WASHINGTON (Army News Service, June 5, 2014) -- When the American Revolutionary War broke out in 1775, the original 13 colonies did not have a shared army, but instead, a collection of independent colonial militias.

The first battles of that war were fought April 19, 1775, in Middlesex County, Mass., by patriots of the Massachusetts militia. They were the Battles of Lexington and Concord, the first hostilities between the colonies and Great Britain.

Following the Battles of Lexington and Concord, and as British troops moved back across Massachusetts toward Boston, colonial militia from around New England began massing around that city. Within days, thousands of militia members under the leadership of Artemas Ward of Massachusetts had Boston under siege.

By May 10, just weeks after hostilities began in Massachusetts, the Second Continental Congress convened in Philadelphia. On the agenda: creating a common army to defend the colonies.

A month later, on June 14, the Congress approved the creation of that army, the Continental Army. The new force was made of those militiamen already gathered outside Boston, some 22,000 of them, plus those in New York, about 5,000.

The following day, the 15th, the Congress named Virginian George Washington as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and named Ward his second in command the following day.

The Congress also resolved to form a committee "to bring in a draft of rules and regulations for the government of the Army," and voted $2 million to support the forces around Boston, and those in New York City.

Congress authorized the formation of 10 companies of expert riflemen from Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, which were directed to march to Boston to support the New England militia. These were the first troops Congress agreed to pay from its own funds, and the units later became the 1st Continental Regiment.

(John R. Maass of the U.S. Army Center for Military History contributed to this article.)

Page last updated Wed June 11th, 2014 at 17:43