The Valley

Washington's HQ
Washington’s HQ at Valley Forge

All have read about George Washington’s army spending the winter of 1777-1778 at the village of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. At long last, I got to see the famous place, and get an idea of what our ancestors had to do to survive in that environment.

Crossing the Delaware River the day before, and putting-up with the incessant commands from Mrs Garmin, our aptly named GPS unit, we wound our way across Southeastern Pennsylvania to the location just northwest of Philadelphia. The country side is beautiful, and Valley Forge National Park is a natural beauty in itself, showcasing the beautiful, green rolling hills of the rich Pennsylvania countryside.

We were transported to the late eighteenth century to a time when my North Carolina ancestors, Jeremiah and Henry, were encamped with George Washington’s army. The film at the Visitor’s Center at the Park told the story of what transpired. Most of the men didn’t have shoes or boots, and many of the approximately 12.000 encamped there were without adequate clothing. Their officers described their state as being virtually naked in the winter elements.

Over 2,000 men died that winter of sickness, and most of those were the ones sent to local hospitals to receive medical attention. It was no accident that more men died while under medical care than those who refused medical care. Such was the state of medical science in 1777.

All the units built log huts to weather the winter. It was not a particularly hard winter, but it was a wet winter with snow and lots of rain, compounding efforts to bring in food and other supplies. According to the introductory film at the Park, the best equipped soldiers were from Connecticut, where the colonial government was able to collect supplies and money for their care.

North Carolina Regiments Marker at Valley Forge
North Carolina Regiments Marker at Valley Forge

The worst supplied men were from North Carolina, the colony of my ancestors. The men were cold, hungry, naked to a good extent, and had no shoes. Their guns were not adequate, and their food was touch and go all winter.

As spring came to Pennsylvania, George Washington started training the army with a newly arrived professional Prussian soldier, Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. von Steuban taught the men to handle rifles, bayonets, field drills, and general soldiering. With the help of interpreters, he also wrote a training manual. When the soldiers left Valley Forge in the spring, they were a new army.

Log Huts Similar To Those Built By American Continental Soldiers
Log Huts Similar To Those Built By American Continental Soldiers

The British army decided to vacate Philadelphia, and Washington pursued them into New Jersey. The Brits were not in a mood to fight, but were moving their army to New York. Washington’s army caught up with the British rear guard close to Monmouth, New Jersey, and attacked. It was a hot and deadly chase. It was also the first time an American army had fought the professional British soldiers toe-to-toe with rifles and bayonets, and did not back down. The British were the ones that left the battle field.

The Battle of Monmouth was a victory for the Americans, and I had two ancestors in that proud army.

As we celebrate another anniversary of the founding of our country, we cannot forget what George Washington and his army of men from the American back-woods managed to do. It was by the will and perseverance of those men that we became a country.

I pray it is God’s will that we can spread our message of freedom to the world for another 237 years.

8 thoughts on “The Valley”

  1. I love this adventure back into our wonderful history and that of George Washington (we sure could use him now) how I wish I could make that trip. I love historical sites and learning more about our true history not what the liberal school books are teaching our kids.

    Most kids have no idea that most of the men that signed the Constitution and Bill of Rights died in poverty. They literally gave up everything for the freedom we enjoy today, well, not any longer, since Obama took over.

  2. We went to a wedding in Pennsysvania, and were able to take in Valley Forge while on the trip. It is beautiful country, rich in our heritage and history. The problems our ancestors had to confront would make us shrink from our duty, today. They were tough, smart people. Thanks for your comment, Leticia.

  3. I loved that, thanks! I haven’t been to Valley Forge but I was in Gettysburg and felt so haunted by that war while I was there…I just loved the town, the fields, etc …………loved it. And very beautiful, yes.
    I don’t think we’re “tough, smart people” anymore, on the whole…I think we’ve been corrupted. I hope not…

  4. Z: I haven’t been to Gettysburg, but am looking forward to that trip. I toured Valley Forge in less than a half-day by driving the Park, but must allow at least a full day for Gettysburg as I understand that it is much larger. None of my ancestors were at Gettysburg, but they all wore gray.

    By the way, I believe that even though we have gotten soft and lazy, we can still do anything. It only takes motivation to do what needs to be done.

    Thanks for your comment.

  5. Medical care back then was horrible! Often the doctors killed off more people than they saved.

    Our forces suffered so much during our War for Independence. I wish that more Americans today had an appreciation for what heroism these colonial forces displayed.

    Let us today, our nation’s 237th birthday, give thanks for our Founders, their courage, and their wisdom. Then, tomorrow, back into the trenches to try to preserve America as she should be.

  6. BTW, I have been to Valley Forge National Park. At the time, I wondered why the ground didn’t still cry out because of all the suffering that the forces for good endured there.

  7. Yes. Valley Forge, I think, is an unappreciated event in American History. It not only was a tough time for the army, but it was also a turning point in the Revolutionary War as far as the confidence of the soldiers and leaders. Still, it was George Washington who made the real difference. Thanks for the comments, AOW. I hope Mr AOW is doing well.

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