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Letter from John Hancock to Artemas Ward, 22 June 1775

Letter from John Hancock to Artemas Ward, 22 June 1775

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"Chief of all the Forces Rais'd"
Artemas Ward, a General from Massachusetts, has been in charge of the colonial forces camped in Cambridge since the day after the battles of Lexington and Concord. He has written to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia of the trials in organizing an army, asking for assistance or "I shall be left all alone." He waits for a response. A debate breaks out in Congress: should they authorize the creation of an Army of the United Colonies? If so, whom should they pick to lead it? Artemas Ward already has experience and knows his troops, but he is relatively unknown outside New England. Some members in Congress also believe it is important to raise support outside of the turbulent New England area. Attention turns to a Virginian, one who has turned up to Congress repeatedly in his military uniform.

Questions to Consider

1. What are the reasons behind John Hancock's decision to write this letter?

2. If you were Artemas Ward, and received word that you were being replaced and demoted, how would you react?

3. If you were a delegate to the Continental Congress, what would you consider the most important qualifications in picking a Commander-in-Chief? If you were such a delegate, would you volunteer yourself? Why or why not?

4. According to John Adams, John Hancock had also wanted to be named Commander-in-Chief. Do you find any evidence of Hancock's feelings in this letter?

Further Exploration

5. What was Washington's reaction to being made Commander-in-Chief? Find out what he told his wife about the assignment and any hopes or concerns he expressed about this endeavor.

6. Imagine that you are a delegate to the Continental Congress in 1776 and you agree that George Washington is the best choice for Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army. Which of Washington's qualifications make him a good candidate for the role? Looking back on Washington's entire career today (more than 200 years later) which qualifications made him a good choice for the role? Would you choose the same qualifications today as you would have in 1776? Why or why not?