George Washington, appointed commander-in-chief of the Continental army, took command of a ragtag force of some 17,000 men in July 1775. He kept an army together for the next eight-and-a-half years-losing more battles than he won-but effectively ended the war with his victory at Yorktown in October 1781. Mission accomplished, Washington-a hero who could have been king-resigned his military commission before Congress on December 23, 1783, and retired to Mount Vernon. Here, the man all artists yearned to portray posed in his Continental army uniform for English artist Robert Edge Pine and wryly observed, "I am so hackneyed to the touches of the Painter's pencil, that I am now altogether at their beck, and sit like patience on a Monument."


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