Valley Forge

Located just 25 miles Northwest of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Valley Forge was George Washington’s Continental army military camp and the place that they spent the harsh winter of 1777-1778 during the American Revolutionary War.

Washington chose this place after they were defeated by the British at Germantown, and he gave orders for the exhausted army to build shelter huts.

The men suffered from the disease, hunger, and a lack of supplies, but they persevered on. Historians have said that Valley Forge became the birthplace of the American army.

It should be understood that during this time, there were few funds from Congress to support any kind of fighting force. Washington was scrambling to try to get the most meager to help keep the men alive and thriving.

When there is hunger, the disease often follows. Nearing two-thirds of the men suffered and died from influenza, pneumonia, dysentery, smallpox, and typhoid.

  • George Washington had chosen this area because it could be defended from a British army attack, and it had the Schuylkill River that was a northern barrier. It was close to Philadelphia, where the British had held their forces, and he could monitor the British while trying to protect the people living in Philadelphia. Valley Forge was a strategic location that served multiple purposes, even though the winter weather was harsh, and his troops had little.
  • Benjamin Franklin sent a former Prussian General Staff member, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, to Valley Forge to help with the camp sanitation and start the troops in training drills. Others had been sent out to search for horses and cattle in New Jersey.
  • Many of the men that were in the camp had no shoes, and some had few clothes. There are not enough words to express how horrible the conditions were during the winter. The freezing temperatures, combined with little food, created a situation of depression and death. Washington lost around 2,500 men during the winter at Valley Forge.
  • In addition to von Steuben, a French military leader, General Marquis de Lafayette, joined Washington and worked for no pay as well as any special treatment to help in training the Continental Army. Lafayette was an excellent strategist and participated later in many of the critical battles to come.
  • Some of the families of the men set up camp close to Valley Forge to help with survival tactics, gather food, and mend clothes. George Washington’s wife, Martha, was one of these family members, and she was known to deliver food and darn socks that were sorely needed.
  • Once warmer weather hit in 1778, the army began to perk up, and the thirteen colonies experienced an alliance with France, which caused the British soldiers to leave Philadelphia. The new army celebrated with a parade, cannon and musket firings, and cheers. This was the morale booster that they sorely needed.
  • The men forged on with Washington to win the Battle of Yorktown as they intercepted the British Army and proclaimed yet another victory.
  • Some have said that the horrendous conditions at Valley Forge created a sense of unity and strength among Washington’s men.
  • Today the location is the Valley Forge National Historical Park, and there are original cannons spread out across the area as well as replicas of the log cabins that Washington and his men lived in.

Q&A:

Why did George Washington choose Valley Forge for his men?
Close to watch British troops in Philadelphia, close to help to protect the local people, had a river to act as a barrier

How many men were thought to have died due to horrible conditions at Valley Forge?
2,500

What were the most prevalent diseases that the men at Valley Forge suffered from?
Influenza, pneumonia, dysentery, smallpox, and typhoid

Writing Prompts On History
Writing Prompts On History
How did the families of the soldiers help them?
Camped near Valley Forge to supply food, clothes, and mending

What alliance in 1778 was cause for the men at Valley Forge to celebrate?
Alliance with France

Why did George Washington not have the food, supplies, and clothes for his troops?
Congress hadn’t given him enough money