Valley Forge is located in Pennsylvania in an area along the Schuylkill River, about twenty-five miles west of Philadelphia. General George Washington and his Continental Army camped there for the winter of 1777 and 1778 during the Revolutionary War. The conditions in Valley Forge were horrible, and the men (those who survived) endured several months of intense suffering.
The American troops lost the battles at Brandywine and Germantown, Pennsylvania, which left the British in control of Philadelphia. Washington led his army to Valley Forge to spend the winter. The soldiers had little food and not enough clothing for the cold weather because the Continental Congress was unable to provide the necessary supplies for the army.
There were about 10,000 soldiers at Valley Forge who lived in log huts they built for themselves. About 2,500 soldiers died at Valley Forge, and many other soldiers were sick or too weak to fight. Besides not enough food and no warm clothing, they were also battling a smallpox epidemic. On December 23, 1777, Washington wrote, "We have this day no less than 2,873 men in camp unfit for duty because they are barefooted and otherwise naked."
The people who lived in the area around Valley Forge were doing well because there was little fighting during this period of time, and the British Army was comfortable in Philadelphia. The winter at Valley Forge was a trying time for the soldiers and tested their loyalty to the cause of liberty. Only the most dedicated patriots remained in the Continental Army. Washington stayed at Valley Forge through the winter and spring in spite of criticism from many people. The troops at Valley Forge were trained by Baron von Steuben, a former Prussian soldier, and by spring the soldiers had become a disciplined and well-trained army. Washington was at Valley Forge on May 6, 1778, when he learned that France had committed to help the Americans. This news helped Washington when he moved against the British in June.
Valley Forge National Historical Park now covers Washington's camp site. The old stone house that served as Washington's headquarters still stands. The buildings and monuments in the park were built to honor Washington and his army. In addition to the old stone house, there are the following: Washington Memorial Chapel, National Memorial Arch, Cloister of Colonies, and Valley Forge Museum of Natural History.
Facts for this blog post are from an article by William Morgan Fowler, Jr., World Book Encyclopedia, Vol. 20, p 290.
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