3. George Washington & the Siege of Boston

Oil painting of General George Washington with a white horse.
"Washington at Dorchester Heights" By Gilbert Stuart c. 1806

Not long after the Vassalls left their house, the American Revolutionary War began several miles down the road in the farming communities of Lexington and Concord on April 19th, 1775. Members of the Massachusetts Committee of Safety moved into the abandoned Vassall house. Safety Committees in each of the thirteen colonies came to serve as the de facto governments in the colonies. George Washington came to the house in early July of 1775, where he would stay for nine months as commander of the newly formed Continental Army during the Siege of Boston. When Washington came to Cambridge, he was just forty-three years old and had been recently appointed to command the Continental Army on June 15th, 1775. Born in Virginia in 1732, Washington lived on a large, profitable plantation that had 200 enslaved people at the start of the Revolutionary War. When George Washington came to Cambridge, he brought with him his trusted valet, an enslaved man named William Lee. Lee would follow Washington from his Mt. Vernon estate in Virginia to Cambridge and continued to be by his side throughout most of the Revolutionary War.

Washington had served as a Colonel of the Virginia Regiment in the French and Indian War a decade before the start of the revolution. During the war, he gained a reputation as a solid, though not perfect, leader. He became widely admired by not only his fellow Virginians but other colonists in British North America. By the time Washington had arrived in July of 1775 the New England Army had already forced the British regulars back to Boston in April and had handed them a costly victory at the Battle of Bunker Hill in mid-June. The British troops were confined to Boston while the Continental Army occupied the surrounding towns. Washington and his troops laid siege to Boston, blocking the British from counterattacking and giving Washington time to train his new army. Washington’s time at the house came to an end in the Spring of 1776 when the British army left Boston on March 17th, 1776. Washington’s first major victory in the Revolutionary War was not a glorious battle but a negotiation.


William Lee, the Man Holding the Reins of Washington's Horse. "George Washington" John Trumbull c. 1780