George Washington was torn by the Continental Congress’ offer to lead the army assembled outside of Boston in June, 1775. Like other eighteenth century gentlemen, he welcomed the chance to demonstrate his military prowess and win fame and glory. But he knew the risks were great and his family and estate might suffer. As he wrote to his wife Martha on June 18, enclosing his hastily drafted will, “life is always uncertain, and common prudence dictates to every man the necessity of settling his temporal concerns while it is in his power ….” He also proclaimed, “I shall rely, therefore, confi dently on that Providence which has heretofore preserved and been bountiful to me, not doubting but that I shall return safe to you in the fall.”3 In fact, Washington was to be on duty and away from home for the next seven years, except for 10 days just before the climactic battle at Yorktown in 1781. Besides enemy forces and the privations of eighteenth century military encampments, Washington also had to contend with the Continental Congress, a body ill-suited to manage a life-or-death confl ict. The Congress was a part-time group of lawyers, merchants, and farmers gathered from the 13 colonies to fashion a common response to British policies in North America. It had no power to raise money or armies, but was dependent on the voluntary responses of the various provincial legislatures to its requests. Prior to independence, foreign recognition, and the election of new state governments under new constitutions, it had questionable legitimacy. Twice it was forced to fl ee its home base of Philadelphia to escape capture by the British. Yet it wrote the rules and gave the guidance to Washington and his Continental army, and struggled to acquire the weapons and supplies that allowed it to survive and fi ght and ultimately win. In that long process of

war and diplomacy, fund-raising and law-making, consideration of matters profound and mundane, the Continental Congress and Washington set precedents and practices which have endured into the twenty-fi rst century. The civil-military relations during the Revolutionary War established the model, including tensions and fl aws, for later confl icts.