I hadn’t picked up my camera for over a month, but yesterday I had the opportunity to visit Valley Forge National Historical Park with my daughter and her friend. We hired bicycles for two hours and cycled around 9 miles through this beautiful area. It was hard work on some of the unpaved trails but well worth the effort.
There were no battles fought at Valley Forge, but lack of supplies was so severe that starvation and disease saw 2,500 men and over 700 horses dead during the six months the Continental Army was encamped there from December 1777 to June 1778.
Yet, despite the appalling living conditions, the Continental Army was transformed from a rebellious force into a fully fledged army that was eventually able to fend off the British Army and allow the colonies to establish themselves as an independent nation.
The weather in February 1778 eased and became milder, alleviating some misery and Washington’s appointment of the resourceful General Nathaniel Greene as Quartermaster enabled better supply lines to be established. Successful petitioning of the Continental Congress finally allowed funding for the army and then, in March 1778, the mercenary ex-Prussian Army drill-master “Baron” Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben arrived at camp. Though he spoke no English, von Steuben, with the help of translators, and due to his peculiar style of actually interacting directly with the men, was able boost morale and to train the American soldiers. His work became “The Blue Book” (Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States) and would remain as the official training manual for over 30 years.
With the Treaty of Alliance with France signed in February 1778, ensuring supplies and support, and a well trained army behind him, Washington was able to leave Valley Forge after six months and face the British.
The rest, as they say, history…