A Harsh Winter At Valley Forge

Today, December 19, 1777 about 20,000 Coninental Soldiers walk into Valley Forge. George Washington and his army struggle to survive the cold weather, snow and ice at Valley Forge,. If they make it, in the end they are trying accomplish to be a stronger army. Washington and his troops had just fought what was to be the last major engagement of 1777 at The Battle of Black Hill. He then decides to move his troops to a more secure and safer location for the upcoming winter. He has chosen to stay at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The area that Washington has chosen is known to be close enough to keep the British parties out of Pennsylvania. Washington's army doesn't have much in supplies, food, or shelter. This winter is going to be really rough. There are being poorly fed, very little equipped, and tired from long marches, but now they are to prepare for the winter that is soon to come. The army has many shortages but more than a thousand huts provided for shelter. The men are under cover within six weeks and three days. These men describe their huts that they have made as cozy and comfortable quarters, and they are proud of what they have built. These huts provide shelter for when it's cold, but mostly for wet and damp conditions. There isn't much snowfall, but there still are small amounts. Melting of snow and ice make it impossible to keep dry and this allows for diseases to spread. Soldiers have not gotten a lot of meat and bread because it is very limited. The only way some soldiers can get their food is by making "fire cake", a non-tasting mixture of flour and water cooked on a stick above a fire. With the talents of Baker General Christopher Ludwig, the men at Valley Forge have received fresh baked bread 25 out of 30 days during the month. When the conditions are severe Washington has stated, "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." This food supply and weather isn't any better for the animals, hundreds of the horses have already starved to death or died of exhaustion. Many wounded soldiers from previous battles died from exposure. Long marches worn out and destroyed shoes, and there are very few blankets. The clothes of the soldiers are worn out and ruined from the hard marching and many other months of battles. At one point these shortages have already caused nearly 4,000 men to be listed as unfit for the duty. Living in these crowded areas with damp quarters, and with very few clothing items to keep warm, the army have been surrounded by diseases and sicknesses. When soldiers go out in the cold they all share there clothing that they have with each other. Sicknesses and diseases such as Typhoid, Jaundice, Dysentery, and Pneumonia killed as many as 2,000 men this winter. The soldiers continue to suffer through this hard, desperate time. Women relatives of the men provide valuable services such as laundry and nursing that the army desperately need. Washington had kept asking The Continental Congress for help but it was not available and so the soldiers continue to suffer. Wives, sisters, and daughters of the men try to help the suffering by each doing these different services. Each man carries his muskets, which is the most popular weapon, and a cartouche or cartridges. The infantryman carries a powder horn, which was a device to hold gunpowder which was created by a buffalo or cow horn, and a hunting bag and bullet pouch. His knapsack or haversack holds his extra clothing, if he's even fortunate to have any, a blanket, a spoon and plate, a knife, fork and tumbler. Canteens are often shared with others, and six to eight men share cooking utensils. By February, 1778, the men finally finish building there huts by adding fireplaces into them to keep warm. The men at Valley Forge spent most of their time drilling to improve there fighting skills. Baron Friedrich von Steuben, who is a military officer from Prussia, joined Washington and is helping to train the troops. They are both trying to make it a more disciplined and stronger fighting force. When the troops had finally left Valley forge six months later, June 19, 1777, they have made great progress in improving there skills, and creating a good fighting force that's able to stand up to The British Army. The winter at Valley Forge is a major turning point in the war. valleyforge1.jpg

1. What did the infantryman carry? What did it do and what was it made out of?
2. What were two diseases that killed the men during the Winter? How many men were killed? Why do you think these men were all dying from these diseases?
3. What battle did the soldiers just fight? How long did they stay in Valley Forge for?