The colonists were divided over breaking away from British rule and split into two factions: Patriots who rejected British rule, and Loyalists who desired to remain subject to the King. General Thomas Gage was commander of British forces in America at the beginning of the war. Upon hearing the shocking news of the onset of war, Washington was "sobered and dismayed", and he hastily departed Mount Vernon on May 4, 1775, to join the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.
Congress created the Continental Army on June 14, 1775, and Samuel and John Adams nominated Washington to become its commander in chief. Washington was chosen over John Hancock because of his military experience and the belief that a Virginian would better unite the colonies. He was considered an incisive leader who kept his "ambition in check". He was unanimously elected commander in chief by Congress the next day.
He was commissioned on June 19 and was roundly praised by Congressional delegates, including John Adams, who proclaimed that he was the man best suited to lead and unite the colonies.
Upon arrival on July 2, 1775, two weeks after the Patriot defeat at nearby Bunker Hill, he set up his Cambridge, Massachusetts headquarters and inspected the new army there, only to find an undisciplined and badly outfitted militia.