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 19, 1777 Encampment at Valley Forge
With the campaign season ending and cold weather rapidly approaching, Washington moved his army into winter quarters. For his winter encampment, Washington selected Valley Forge on the Schuylkill River approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia. With its high ground and position near the river, Valley Forge was easily defensible, but still close enough to the city for Washington to maintain pressure on the British.
The location also allowed the Americans to prevent Howe’s men from raiding into the Pennsylvania interior as well as could provide the launching point for a winter campaign. Additionally, the location next to the Schuylkill worked to facilitate the movement of supplies. Despite the defeats of the fall, the 12,000 men of the Continental Army were in good spirits when they marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777.
The encampment at Valley Forge took place from December 19, 1777 through June 19, 1778 and served as winter quarters for General George Washington’s Continental Army. Having suffered a string of defeats that fall, including losing the capital of Philadelphia to the British, the Americans made camp for the winter outside of the city. While at Valley Forge, the army endured a chronic supply crisis but largely remained as well fed and clothed as it did during the previous campaigning season.
During the winter, it benefited from the arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben who implemented a new training regimen which transformed the men in the ranks from inexperienced amateurs into disciplined soldiers capable of standing up against the British. When Washington’s men departed in June 1778, they were an improved army from the one that had arrived months earlier.
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