When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
December 17, 1777 — ENCAMPMENT AT VALLEY FORGE: The third of eight military encampments for the Continental Army. Following defeats at Brandywine and Germantown and with the British Occupation of Philadelphia the army entered winter quarters at Valley Forge, located approximately 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia. At Valley Forge, the Continentals struggled to manage a disastrous supply crisis while retraining and reorganizing their units. About 1,700 to 2,000 soldiers died from disease, possibly exacerbated by malnutrition. The army also learned, under the tutelage of Gen Friedrich von Steuben how to maneuver and fight as a European Army, enabling future victories at Monmouth and Yorktown.
Throughout the American Revolution, General George Washington often remarked that he would rather be home at Mount Vernon. Despite his wishes, Washington managed to return to his home on the Potomac only once between his acceptance of his appointment as the Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Army in 1775 and the American victory at Yorktown in 1781. Even under the most trying conditions, including his army’s winter encampments, Washington remained with his soldiers.
During the winter of 1777 to 1778, Washington camped with his troops at Valley Forge, nearly twenty miles north of Philadelphia. Images of bloody footprints in the snow, soldiers huddled around lonely campfires, and Washington on his knees, praying that his army might survive often come to mind when people hear the words “Valley Forge.” But truer images of the place would show General Washington using the time between December 1777 and June 1778 to train his men and to fight to maintain his position as the head of the Continental Army.
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