George Washington (1732-1799) was commander of the Continental Army during the American Revolution and the first president of the United States of America. A Virginia planter, surveyor, and land speculator, he sought a commission in the British Army before the Revolution, but in the 1770s, he became an early advocate for separation from Great Britain. During the war, he became synonymous with the cause of independence.
In 1775, John Adams nominated Washington for general and commander-in-chief of the Continental Army, and the Second Continental Congress unanimously agreed. Washington—one of the most experienced American officers after his service in the French and Indian War—accepted on the condition that he receive no salary. To advance the colonial cause, Washington engaged in a bloody war on the frontier. In September 1778, he sent General John Sullivan and an expedition force of 4,000 soldiers out towards western New York, to see that the (British-allied) Iroquois country be "not merely overrun but destroyed." Washington's greatest victory, however, came during the brutal winter of 1776-7 at Valley Forge. On Christmas night, George Washington quietly crossed the Delaware River with a force of 2,400 troops. They arrived at Trenton, New Jersey at dawn and surprised the garrison of 1,500 Hessians—German mercenaries hired by the British—who were still recovering from a night of holiday celebrations and plenty of rum. Washington led the Continental Army in a complete rout of the enemy, leaving only about 500 of them alive and un-captured. Only six of Washington's men were wounded, among them Lieutenant James Monroe, the future U.S. president.