All that winter the people of the colonies were anxious and fearful. Would the king pay any heed to their petition? Or would he force them to obey his unjust laws?
Then, in the spring, news came from Boston that matters were growing worse and worse. The soldiers who were quartered in that city were daily becoming more insolent and overbearing.
"These people ought to have their town knocked about their ears and destroyed," said one of the king's officers.
On the 19th of April a company of the king's soldiers started to Concord, a few miles from Boston, to seize some powder which had been stored there. Some of the colonists met them at Lexington, and there was a battle.
This was the first battle in that long war commonly called the Revolution. Washington was now on his way to the North again. The Second Continental Congress was to meet in Philadelphia in May, and he was again a delegate from Virginia.
In the first days of the Congress no man was busier than he. No man seemed to understand the situation of things better than he. No man was listened to with greater respect; and yet he said but little.
Every day, he came into the hall wearing the blue and buff uniform which belonged to him as a Virginia colonel. It was as much as to say: "The time for fighting has come, and I am ready."
The Congress thought it best to send another humble petition to the king, asking him not to deprive the people of their just rights.
In the meantime brave men were flocking towards Boston to help the people defend themselves from the violence of the king's soldiers. The war had begun, and no mistake.
The men of Congress saw now the necessity of providing for this war. They asked, "Who shall be the commander-in-chief of our colonial army?" It was hardly worth while to ask such a question; for there could be but one answer. Who, but George Washington?
No other person in America knew so much about war as he. No other person was so well fitted to command.
On the 15th of June, on motion of John Adams of Massachusetts, he was appointed to that responsible place. On the next day he made a modest but noble little speech before Congress.
He told the members of that body that he would serve his country willingly and as well as he could—but not for money. They might provide for his necessary expenses, but he would never take any pay for his services.
And so, leaving all his own interests out of sight, he undertook at once the great work that had been entrusted to him. He undertook it, not for profit nor for honor, but because of a feeling of duty to his fellow-men. For eight weary, years he forgot himself in the service of his country.
Two weeks after his appointment General Washington rode into Cambridge, near Boston, and took formal command of his army.
It was but a small force, poorly clothed, poorly armed; but every man had the love of country in his heart. It was the first American army.
But so well did Washington manage matters that soon his raw troops were in good shape for service. And so hard did he press the king's soldiers in Boston that, before another summer, they were glad to take ship and sail away from the town which they had so long infested and annoyed.