Winter in Valley Forge The Continental Army’s struggle for independence Winter 1777-1778
Interesting Facts Valley Forge was the third of the eight American winter encampments during the Revolutionary War. It is the best known of the eight, however, because it is remembered as the birthplace of the Continental Army. Valley Forge NHP commemorates one of the most defining events in our nation’s history: the encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge in 1777-78. General George Washington’s troops embodied triumph over adversity. Their commitment was a turning point in the American Revolution.
More interesting facts… Precision marching was the key to victory on the 18th century battlefield. Inspector General Baron von Steuben made marching the central element of his training program at Valley Forge. By May the army was able to stay in formation while advancing and retreating over all types of ground. None of the original soldier huts remain. The huts that you see in the park today are reproductions based on the model that General Washington wanted the soldiers to follow. Despite a lack of tools and the relative haste in which they were built, most served as decent shelters for the troops.
Orders from Washington The Writings of George Washington from the Original Manuscript Sources, 1745-1799. Head Quarters, Valley-Forge, December 24, 1777. Parole --. Countersigns --. Every regiment is to draw provisions, to complete their rations, for to morrow; and the whole army being supplied up to that time, the Issuing Commissaries are then to make return, to the Commissary General of Issues, of all the provisions they have on hand.
Marching on • On December 19, 1777, the Continental Army marched into Valley Forge, PA • December 23, 1777, General Washington notified the Congress that he had about 12,000 men that were “unfit for duty” because many of them were barefoot and had little clothing
Problems at Valley Forge • Had to feed 12,000 + people • Harsh winter storms • No supplies – clothing, ammunition • People in Congress are questioning Washington’s authority • Sickness spreads – typhus, typhoid, dysentery, and pneumonia kill about 2,000 men “What then is to become of the Army this Winter?” — letter from George Washington to Henry Laurens of the Continental Congress 12/23/1777
Engraving by HB HallWashington and Lafayette Reviewing the soldiers who are huddled together because there is no shelter
Building a city • Washington ordered that huts be built to shelter the soldiers “The Soldier's huts are to be of the following dimensions: fourteen by sixteen each, sides, ends and roofs made with logs, and the roof made tight with split slabs, or in some other way; the sides made tight with clay, fire-place made of wood and secured with clay on the inside eighteen inches thick, this fire-place to be in the rear of the hut; the door to be in the end next to the street; the doors to be made of split oak-slabs, unless boards can be procured. Side-walls to be six and a half-feet high. The officers huts to form a line in the rear of the troops, one hut to be allowed to each General Officer, one to the Staff of each brigade, one to the field officers of each regiment, one to the Staff of each regiment, one to the commissioned officers of two companies, and one to every twelve non-commissioned officers and soldiers.” G. Washington • About 2,000 huts were built from December 21st through January 20th
Letter from a surgeon "The soldiers were to be formed into twelve-man squads, each charged with building its own hut. These shelters were to be made of logs chinked with clay, and were to be six and a half feet high, fourteen feet wide, and sixteen feet long. They were to be aligned along company streets, with doors (made of boards, if available, otherwise of split-oak slabs) facing the street. There would be a fireplace in the rear, made of wood and "secured" with clay. Behind the enlisted men's huts was to be a line of huts for officers. These were to be of the same design and dimensions; but instead of twelve men, each would house the officers of two companies (six to eight men), the three field officers (major through colonel) of a regiment, the members of a brigade staff, or one general officer."
Ben in Valley Forge? “I was there when the army first began to build huts. They appeared to me like a family of beavers, everyone busy; some carrying logs, others mud, and the rest plastering them together…. it is a curious collection of buildings, in the true rustic order…” — Thomas Paine writing to Benjamin Franklin
Prussian army officer: Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben • Von Steuben arrives February 1778 • Did training with the army to make them proficient at marching • Started with a “model company” and trained 100 men • Introduced progressive training • Focus on camp sanitation
Monument dedicated to Baron Von Steuben at Valley Forge National Historic Park
Drilling the army • Von Steuben spoke no English so he wrote the drill orders in French and had his secretary translate his orders into English • Then military men (like Alexander Hamilton) translated his orders into military language
Isaac Potts House • Washington’s headquarters throughout his time in Valley Forge
Significance of Valley Forge • “Birthplace” of Continental Army • Boosted morale of the army • Made them stronger • Some historians say the encampment at Valley Forge is the reason why we later win the war