As I read Washington’s Immortals by Patrick O’Donnell, I have noted how many mistakes George Washington made as a military commander. Obviously he was outmatched and outgunned by a far superior British army, which was highly experienced, well-trained, and disciplined. My assessment is that Washington wanted the Continental Army to be a European style army that could stand up to the British in a conventional fight. Early in the war, he intended to employ them in this manner. As Joe Ellis mentions in the video below, General Washington had to learn that his strength was wearing down the British Empire’s will to fight. Furthermore, he had to prolong the conflict until significant events like the French entering the war occurred. In this case, the Revolutionary War became more than a struggle in colonial America. For the British it became a global struggle. The extent to which the British had to worry about invasion at home from the French forced them to commit fewer troops to fighting in America. They were also fighting the Spanish in central America and the Caribbean.
George Washington was not a brilliant tactician, but he was an exceptionally determined leader, who insisted on high standards of excellence for his troops. When he came up with operational plans like the battle of Trenton, these plans were often overly complicated. In spite of his faults, Washington’s personal example routinely made the difference in a number of battles. He never hesitated to lead from the front and assert his influence at points of friction. He was bold sometimes to the point of recklessness. Also, as Joe Ellis mentions, he may have had a “death wish” (although that is simply historical speculation). Overall, George Washington is a fascinating military commander to study because of his blunders, and his ability to learn from them. His mental toughness and confidence in the American cause compounded by his willingness to lead the cause inspired his army during the Revolutionary War. They also inspire many people to this day!