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Valley Forge

VALLEY FORGE

VALLEY FORGE, Continental army encampment during the winter and spring of 1777–1778, is situated on the west bank of the Schuylkill River, in Chester County, Pa., about twenty-five miles northwest of Philadelphia.

After the American defeats at Brandywine, Paoli, and Germantown and after the British had occupied Philadelphia (then the national capital), Gen. George Washington led 11,000 regular troops to Valley Forge to take up winter quarters. The site provided convenient access to key roads, nearby military supplies, local farmlands, and a nearby health resort that could serve as a hospital for troops. Some officers also thought that the sloping hills, flanked by the Schuylkill and supported in the rear by the high, winding, wooded gorge of Valley Creek, could be made impregnable against attack. As a further safeguard, picket parties were detached to watch the movement of the British.

The encampment at Valley Forge was plagued by bad weather and poor conditions. An unexpectedly early winter, with heavy snows and abnormally freezing weather during Christmas week, prevented the delivery of regular supplies. A January thaw brought mud so deep on the roads that hundreds of army wagons had to be abandoned. Even when transport was available, the Continental Congress's neglect of the army and the commisary officers' failure to forward food, clothing, and supplies by the most available routes added to the troops' sufferings. At one point Washington reported that he had almost 3,000 men who were unfit for duty because they were barefoot "and otherwise naked." On several occasions, he expressed his fears that only extraordinary efforts could prevent the army from disbanding. Many soldiers deserted; the civilian governor of Philadelphia, Joseph Galloway, stated that more than 2,000 deserters had asked for his help. Camp fever—probably typhus—and smallpox were epidemic during the army's stay at Valley Forge, and medical supplies were lacking. About 2,500 men died and were buried in unmarked graves.

Despite the difficulties, however, the encampment at Valley Forge proved an important turning point for the Continental Army. Marquis de Lafayette, a French aristocrat who embraced the American cause, suggested new practices in training and command that helped boost the troops' morale. At the same time, Baron Friedrich von Steuben introduced efficient drilling techniques that improved military discipline. The formal Franco-American alliance, news of which reached Valley Forge in May 1778, resulted in improved equipment and supplies for the soldiers. All told, efforts like these helped reduce desertions and solidify a core military force in the Continental Army.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Bill, Alfred Hoyt. Valley Forge: The Making of an Army. New York: Harper, 1952.

Boyle, Joseph Lee. Writings from the Valley Forge Encampment of the Continental Army. Bowie, Md.: Heritage Books, 2000.

Middlekauff, Robert. The Glorious Cause: the American Revolution, 1763–1789. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

Harry EmersonWildes/s. b.

See alsoArmy, United States ; France, Relations with ; Revolution, American andvol. 9:Life at Valley Forge, 1777–1778 .

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"Valley Forge." Dictionary of American History. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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Valley Forge

Valley Forge, on the Schuylkill River, SE Pa., NW of Philadelphia. There, during the American Revolution, the main camp of the Continental Army was established (Dec., 1777–June, 1778) under the command of Gen. George Washington. The winter was severe, food and clothing was inadequate, and illness and suffering pervaded the camp. The number of ragged and half-starved troops dwindled through desertion; the remaining men, about 11,000, talked of mutiny but were held together by their loyalty to Washington and to the patriotic cause. Two distinguished foreigners, French General Lafayette and Prussian General Steuben, shared the misery of the troops; Steuben drilled and organized the men, transforming the loose-jointed army into an integrated force. The site is included in Valley Forge National Historical Park (see National Parks and Monuments, table).

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"Valley Forge." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Valley Forge." The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/reference/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/valley-forge

Valley Forge

Valley Forge Site of the winter camp of the army of George Washington in 1777–78, 34km (21mi) nw of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The men were short of food, proper housing and clothes, and about 2,500 out of 11,000 died. Their ordeal became symbolic of the heroism of the colonial troops in the American Revolution.

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"Valley Forge." World Encyclopedia. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Aug. 2017 <http://www.encyclopedia.com>.

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"Valley Forge." World Encyclopedia. . Retrieved August 17, 2017 from Encyclopedia.com: http://www.encyclopedia.com/environment/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/valley-forge