Early Days of Revolution

In June 1775, standing before the assembled Continental Congress in Philadelphia, George Washington accepted the daunting task of leading a makeshift army of farmers and tradesmen against the most powerful Army on earth.  This was not the life-weary, gray haired former President on our dollar bill.   Rather, this Washington was a 43 year-old, auburn-haired, battle-tested soldier with a reputation throughout the colonies for great physical and moral strength.  Delegates to Congress were impressed by Washington's commanding presence, military experience, and political skill. Benjamin Rush, a Philadelphia physician and patriot, stated: “He has so much martial dignity in his deportment that you would distinguish him to be a general and a soldier from among ten thousand people.  There is not a king in Europe that would not look like a valet de chambre by his side.”

An Indispensable Pairing

 Six months into the struggle, encamped in Cambridge during the Siege of Boston, Washington, remarking on his weighty responsibilities as Commander-in-Chief, wrote: “it is absolutely necessary  for me to have person’s that can think for me, as well as execute Orders— [this] pains me.”  On March 1, 1777, after the Continental Army had been driven from New York City and across New Jersey, followed by astonishing victories at the Battles of Trenton and Princeton, Washington’s plea was answered, in the form of a wispy, 22-year-old upstart immigrant “of irregular birth”:  Alexander Hamilton.   

Hamilton, orphaned at age 13, was soon operating a trading house on the island of St. Croix for a wealthy merchant, but became frustrated with the “groveling condition of a clerk of which my fortune condemns me”. He longed to achieve lasting fame, like that of the great men of ancient Rome.  In 1772, recognizing the boy’s brilliance, wealthy patrons on the island created a scholarship fund to send Hamilton, then age 17, to New York for study.   Hamilton attended Kings College (Now Columbia University) in New York, which was a hotbed of rebellion against the Crown. Hamilton was soon converted to the patriot cause, by (among others) Sons of Liberty member and tailor Hercules Mulligan, with whom Hamilton boarded for a time.  He became a prolific pamphlet writer, orator at patriot gatherings and a member of a New York Artillery company.   During the New York and New Jersey campaigns of 1776, he came to the attention of Washington.