On December 19, 1777, George Washington’s Continental Army settled into their winter quarters. Only trouble was, there were no quarters, just a freezing cold valley. To keep his men warm, General Washington set them to work chopping down trees, dragging them for miles back to camp, and building log huts. And that’s just one thing about
NATIONAL VALLEY FORGE DAY!
There were other things too, all of them problems, like the lack of food, winter clothing or blankets for 12,000 cold and hungry soldiers, and a sense of despair among the officers and men about their prospects of beating the British Army, the finest professional fighting force in the world.
They had retreated all the way to Pennsylvania from Long Island via Manhattan and New Jersey in a war where victories were hard to come by. Washington knew America’s fledgeling revolution hung in the balance during that harsh winter of 1777-78, and he needed to whip this ragtag, ill-equipped collection of farmers and tradesmen into a real army or lose them to desertion, and his own neck to a British hangman.
In the midst of profound suffering that took 2,500 soldiers’ lives, George Washington, with the help of his dedicated commanders like Prussian drillmaster Baron Von Steuben, somehow managed to instill discipline and pride in the Continental Army, who came out of their ordeal an effective fighting force that would hold their own and more on the battlefield.
They fought the British for 6 more years, finally forcing their surrender at Yorktown, Virginia and securing America’s independence. On this day in 1777 they were thinking more about making a fire than making history, but many historians agree that it was Valley Forge that won the American Revolution, where America’s first soldiers battled the elements as well as their own hearts, and won a great victory.
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