Disney - General George Washington at Valley Forge - 1777
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, was the site of the camp of the American Continental Army over the winter of 1777–1778 in the American Revolutionary War. This was a time of great suffering for George Washington's Army, but it was also a time of retraining and rejuvenation.
With the winter setting in and the prospects for campaigning being greatly diminished, General George Washington sought quarters for his men. Washington and his troops had just fought what was to be the last major engagement of 1777 at the Battle of White Marsh (or Edge Hill).
On December 19, 1777, when Washington's poorly fed, ill-equipped army, weary from long marches, struggled into Valley Forge, winds blew as the 12,000 Continentals prepared for winter's fury. Grounds for brigade encampments were selected, and defense lines were planned and begun. Though construction of more than a thousand huts provided shelter, it did little to offset the critical shortages that continually plagued the army.
Undernourished and poorly clothed, living in crowded, damp quarters, Washington's troops were ravaged by sickness and disease. Long marches had destroyed shoes. Blankets were scarce. Tattered garments were seldom replaced. At one point these shortages caused nearly 4,000 men to be listed as unfit for duty. Typhoid, jaundice, dysentery, and pneumonia were among the killers that felled as many as 2,000 men that winter. So severe were conditions at times that Washington despaired "that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place... this Army must inevitably... Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can." Although Washington repeatedly petitioned for relief, the Congress was unable to provide it, and the soldiers continued to suffer. Women, relatives of enlisted men, alleviated some of the suffering by providing valuable services such as laundry and nursing that the army desperately needed.
Soon word of the British departure from Philadelphia brought a frenzied activity to the ranks of the Continental Army. On June 19, 1778, six months after its arrival, the army marched away from Valley Forge in pursuit of the British, who were moving toward New York. The ordeal had ended. The war would last for another five years, but for Washington, his men, and the nation to which they sought to give birth, a decisive victory had been won — a victory not of weapons but of will. No war ever took place here in Valley Forge.
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