The Continental Army was a military force organized in 1775 to represent what would eventually become the United States in the Revolutionary War. This force fought against the British and though it was dissolved at the conclusion of the war, it laid the groundwork for what eventually became the United States Army.
When the 13 American Colonies initially began resisting Britain, they had no organized military. Individual states fielded militias and troops, but a unified military was lacking. In part, this was a result of wary attitudes among many members of the public, who did not support the idea of an organized military force acting on behalf of all of the colonies. In May 1775, several leaders urged for the formation of the Continental Army, and the Continental Congress set things in motion, appointing George Washington as the commander in chief.
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The Continental Congress required each of the then-colonies to send men and to supply and pay those men. Few colonies were able to meet their requirements and the Continental Army was often inadequately supplied with food, clothing, and other materials. Many soldiers were poorly paid, and there was a very high turnover rate. Much to Washington's frustration, his recommendation of a three-year military service was not followed, and soldiers enlisted for periods of time as short as a summer, making it difficult to train and coordinate soldiers.
The Continental Army represented an interesting blend of traditional and well-established military tactics and innovation. While it often struggled against the more highly trained and organized British troops in open battle, Continental forces were not above using guerrilla tactics to harry the British. It subverted traditional ideas about how wars should be fought, relying on knowledge of the terrain and creativity to fight the British, rather than attempting to overpower British forces by conventional means. Inconsistent organization within the British military forces was exploited by Continental troops.
Washington's command of the Continental Army was often frustrated by lack of troops and poor organization. The troops lacked even the most rudimentary supplies, like uniforms, and were jeered at by the British. However, ultimately the United States was successful in its bid for independence. After the signing of the Treaty of Paris in 1783 to end the Revolutionary War, the Continental Army was disbanded. The need for a regular military force for the new nation was recognized, and steps were taken to organize a permanent army.