(Pictured: Washington's portrait of 1772)
Washington knew he didn't have the kind of experience that he felt was necessary, but he also knew that he wanted overall command - he appeared at the 2nd Continental Congress (he was one of Virginia's representatives) in his Fairfax County Militia uniform, looking like a general . . . to his fellow representatives, he looked like Mars (the Roman God of War) himself. The 2nd C/C lacked any consensus for independence, but they did favor a defensive military posture after Lexington and Concord. Adding to the complexity of the 2nd C/C's situation, was news that the fort at Ticonderoga had fallen, taken by Ethan Allen and his men (Benedict Arnold participated, but was denied credit by Allen). The 2nd C/C needed someone to bring order out of chaos in terms of overall military organization and strategy, and they turned to Washington; before there was a nation, a flag, or even a symbol, there was Commander-in-Chief George Washington.
The only other serious contenders for the position of what was being named "Major General" were Horatio Gates and Charles Lee, both former British Regular officers. Many factors separated Washington from Hancock, Gates, and Lee, including gravitas, as well as being a politician for the last 16 years; it was thought that he would answer to civilian authority.
Among his major generals were Horatio Gates (pictured) and Charles Lee, which the 2nd C/C had forced upon him; they would not only turn out to be incompetent generals, but would also covet Washington's rank. Israel Putnam (Connecticut) was unfit for everything except fighting, and Philip Schuyler (New York) was more of a politician than a military man (but he would be the conduit for Alexander Hamilton joining Washington's artillery corps). Before he was able to head towards Boston, Washington opened a sealed dispatch addressed to Hancock in order to see if there was any timely information for him as Commander-in-Chief. In that communique was a summary of the Battle of Bunker Hill from 17 June, 1775; Washington saw the battle as a colossal missed opportunity for the Colonial forces - he blamed a lack of discipline as the main factor why the key high ground was abandoned to the British
(Below: a video segment from the Discovery Channel)
Another of the few New Englanders that were in Washington's "Circle of Trust" was Henry Knox (pictured), a Boston bookseller, who would not only become Washington's artillery commander, but also his Secretary of War when he was President. Washington liked Knox's imagination, candor, and enterprise, and came to implicitly trust Knox's strategies in terms of how to properly use the artillery. Knox never breathed a word of criticism towards Washington, even when Washington made huge mistakes during the Revolutionary War.
Unlike the deceptive, disloyal, and eventually disgruntled Gates and Lee, Washington's best and most-daring generals were young, homegrown officers in which Washington saw great potential, and he groomed them for command . . . they were the officers he counted on for his great military maneuver / bluff at Dorchester Heights in March, 1776, where he convinced the British to abandon their occupation of Boston.
(Below: a video segment from the History Channel's "Revolution" on Dorchester Heights)
(Pictured: General Washington officially taking command of the Continental Army in 1775)
Although Washington had started making inroads towards creating military discipline, he was badly outnumbered by the British (they had up to 10,000 more soldiers around Boston), and he had nowhere near enough food or ammunition in order to take the offensive; he had to become a "Master Bluffer"; out of necessity, secrecy and deception became part of Washington's military repertoire . . . he was able to convince General Howe that it would be folly to attack the Continental Army.
Adding to Washington's challenges in Boston was the real threat of a smallpox epidemic; Washington inoculated and quarantined hundreds of soldiers. The only "offensive" strategy employed by General Howe in 1775 was to dump 300 Americans with smallpox as close to Washington's lines as possible . . . even as Washington's command was in its infancy, his army was on the brink of disaster long before they were ready for any significant military engagement with the British.