The Continental Army 

The Continental Army, authorized by the Continental Congress and commanded by George Washington, was a microcosm of the thirteen newly formed states. Men drawn from traditions and temperaments of maritime New England, the agricultural south and the rugged western frontier all combined to form America’s first official army. From 1775 to 1783, officers and soldiers of the Continental Army served in the field from the Siege of Boston to victory at Yorktown and the end of the conflict. Throughout those eight years, the army was transformed from a fledging group of untrained amateur soldiers to a well-trained fighting force that could compete with the world-renowned British Army.

The First Virginia Regiment 

On the eve of the American Revolution, Virginia Great Britain’s largest and most populous colony. As tensions increased between Britain and its North American colonies, Patrick Henry called Virginia to arms in his March 23, 1775 “Liberty or Death” speech. The First Virginia Regiment was raised the summer of 1775 and Henry was commissioned its colonel. During service in the Continental Army, the regiment fought in many battles of the war including Harlem Heights, Trenton, and Princeton, and wintered at Valley Forge. The British captured many of the soldiers of the regiment in the surrender of Charleston, South Carolina in May 1780. A reconstituted First Virginia Regiment, consisting of veterans and new enlistees, saw service for the rest of the war.

Reproduction Clothing and Equipment 

The trunk includes clothing representing a soldier in the First Virginia Regiment. The coat complies with Washington’s orders for a Virginia uniform: blue with red facing. In addition to the coat, a soldier would wear a tricorn hat, white work shirt, stock (necktie), waist coat, and pants. Soldier carried haversacks containing paper and quill for letters home, and dice and games for amusement. He also carries candles, extra stockings, a canteen, and a cartridge boxSoldiers, mostly officers who could afford them, sometimes commissioned small paintings of themselves called portrait miniatures. Often in uniform, these small works of art were given to family, friends, and loved ones.

Additional Lesson Plans and Links 

The Legacy of America’s First Veterans – The American Revolution Institute

The Fight for Independence: A View From the Front Lines – The American Revolution Institute

An Eighteenth-Century Smartwatch? – The American Revolution Institute

Collections for the Classroom: Remembering America’s First Veterans – The American Revolution Institute

Hardships of the Continental Army – The American Revolution Institute