Identify and explain the significance of the Continental Army.

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The Continental Army was the main colonial force during the Revolutionary War (1775–1783). It was led by George Washington. The initial battles of the war against the British—at Lexington and Concord—were fought by colonial militiamen. These American militiamen were part-time soldiers. They mobilized quickly when needed and then often disbanded just as quickly thereafter. The colonial militiamen won many important battles during the war, but they lacked discipline and were unreliable. They sometimes ran away when in a pitched battle with regular British troops. But they were excellent at hit-and-run tactics. In addition, the militiamen preferred to remain near their homes and return to their tasks on the farms as soon as possible.

The Continental Army, a force of full-time soldiers, was established by the Continental Congress. George Washington was the commander of the Continental Army. Washington had to create an army from scratch. His army was often ill-supplied, and a lesser man would not have been able to keep it together. The winter at Valley Forge (1777–1778) almost destroyed the Continental Army; his men were bereft of provisions and clothing, and many died that winter. Washington finally managed to instill discipline into his troops with the help of Baron Frederich von Steuben of Prussia. Another foreign officer who helped greatly was Marquis de Lafayette.

Washington gained experience as a battlefield commander during the long war and steadily became better at waging war. In 1781, he seized an opportunity to win the war by using the Continental Army and French soldiers and sailors. The British surrender to Washington at Yorktown practically ended the war.

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