We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is the Continental Army?

Mary McMahon
Updated Feb 26, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

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.

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.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a WiseGeek researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By anon1001458 — On Apr 19, 2019

The different tactics of both the Continental Army and the militias made it more unpredictable complimenting each other. Today we are still able to do this because we have the non-commissioned officer corps. However, war will always be played out by money, politics and Motivation.

I don't think soldiers have changed that much even 240+ years ago. I know from seeing pictures of WWI and WWII that they still are very similar. Washington in all honesty was good at choosing his subordinate officers. Generals are so far removed that they don't consider the low men. The men would rise or fall to the occasion based on their local leadership.

By Izzy78 — On May 12, 2012

@TreeMan - I always found the mythology of George Washington so intriguing simply because it is one of the rare myths that has not been overly romanticized without due justice.

He is what made the Continental Army work and defeat the British and simply because of this fact it gave the American people hope that they could in fact beat the mighty British.

I really find it interesting that he was able to convey the Army to the people in such a way that they were able to bring it upon themselves to act out against the British and do whatever they could to win the war and gain their independence.

I guarantee he used his persona to ignite the flames of liberty onto his people and started a fire that would not die and the Continental Army was the driving force behind it.

I really wonder if this topic has been fully explored or if there is more to be researched? I have not heard much about it and wonder if a historian has written on it?

By TreeMan — On May 12, 2012

@Emilski - You are absolutely correct. I have researched the American Revolution and the biggest role the Continental Army played was the hope that it gave for the nation as a whole.

The fact that there was actually a professional army to fight the mighty British allowed the Americans to have a sense a pride and in reality a better chance at winning the war as opposed to just having a rag tag group of people together to try and overcome a nearly impossible hurdle.

The Americans were very lucky to have a General such as George Washington on their side as he was the main reason for the victory over the British.

He was also the face of the Continental Army and allowed the people of the nation to have a hero and a group of followers and soldiers to follow him into battle until the end and victory was had.

By Emilski — On May 11, 2012
@jcraig - Although you do have a point with your statement I feel like it is something that can be a bit debatable.

Although the local and state militias were a major part of the American Revolution, the Continental Army were the ones that ultimately won the battles.

For the most part the militias were people that simply were farmers or townsfolk that stayed home and chose to only fight when the British invaded their turf. Although this did happen, it could only happen if it were a small number of British, otherwise they could not handle a large scale assault.

This is why the Continental Army was so important, because it centralized the fighting force for the nation and allowed for the soldiers doing the fighting to be united together and be able to face their foe and actually have a chance to win.

Although the militias did play a role, they took a back seat to the Continental Army, which made a monumental impact on the American cause.

By jcraig — On May 11, 2012
I have heard stories about the Continental Army and how General George Washington's leadership is what led the Americans to victory over Great Britain during the American Revolution. However, I have also heard that due to the restrictions regarding how long one could serve this led to a greater reliance on the local militias in order to ensure American victory.

Unlike today, the local militias were the groups of people that took care of the British in small scale assaults and supplemented the large scale battles that George Washington and the Continental Army engaged in.

Although without the Continental Army there is no way the Americans could have won the war, the same thing can be said for the local and state militias that played a major role in the American Revolution and were the ones that were expected to face off with the British more often in small scale battles.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.