From December 1777 to June of 1778, the main body of the Continental Army (approximately 12,000 troops) encamped in Valley Forge.
Washington and his generals choose the village of Valley Forge, just west of what is now King of Prussia, because it was a midpoint between the seat of the Second Continental Congress in York, supply depots in Reading, and British forces in Philadelphia 18 miles away.
While the six months spent at Valley Forge was a time of great suffering for the army, but it was also a time of retraining, rejuvenation and ultimately served as a turning point in the Revolutionary War.
Being a life-long history buff, I learned several what turned out to by myths about the Continental Army’s six-month encampment at Valley Forge. One such myth was the bitter winter weather resulted in many soldiers dying of frostbite at Valley Forge.
In fact, according to Bob Drury and Tom Clavin, authors of Valley Forge, the winter of 1777 – 78 was one of the mildest winters on record in Southeastern Pennsylvania and not a single soldier’s death was attributed solely to the elements.
The other myth Drury and Clavin dispel is the notion Washington’s army nearly starved. While the troops did suffer from malnutrition, it wasn’t because there wasn’t sufficient food being grown in and around Valley Forge.
Instead, the food didn’t make it’s way to Washington’s troops at Valley Forge because the British loyalist who owned local farms sold their crops and livestock to the better-paying British army occupying Philadelphia.
Here are five more facts you may not know about the Continental Army’s Valley Forge six month encampment Drury and Clavin share in their book:
- Having just come off losing battles in Chadd Ford, Paoli, and Germantown, the Continental Army was in dire straits when it arrived in Valley Forge.
- The majority of the Continental Army was made up of Irish, Italians, Germans, Polish and African Immigrants marking the last time before the Korean War that the American Army was integrated.
- George Washington was not only fighting the British, but he was also battling a group of his own officers who questioned his leadership ability. At Valley Forge, Washington proved to his distractors not only could he handle the British, but he could deftly outmaneuver his internal distractors as well.
- After it became clear his troops would survive the elements, malnutrition, and diseases, Washington used his troop’s time at Valley Forge to completely transformed the Army into a coordinated fighting force.
- Many famous historical figures played a role in the success of Valley Forge. We all know about the John Adams and the Thomas Jefferson the Founding Fathers who created the United States of America. Much less well known are the contributions of men like Marquis de Lafayette, Alexander Hamilton, John Lawrence, and the Baron von Steuben all of whom helped Washington steer his troops through the Valley Forge experience.
Order Valley Forge today and learn more about how Washington transformed his ragtag band of colonialist into a fighting force at Valley Forge in what one historian called the Existential Moment of the American Revolution.