Valley Forge is located on the border between Montgomery County and Chester County, Pennsylvania, near the city King of Prussia. Many Americans come to this site in order to learn more about the American Revolution and how life was for a soldier in the Continental army. The encampment was named after an iron forge near Valley Creek and set up on December 9, 1777 as a base for the Continental army under George Washington.
winning a strategic victory over the British in early December at the battle of
White Marsh, Washington had to pull his troops from their encampment to a more
secure location to make camp for the winter.
Although many sites were proposed, in the end Washington chose Valley
Forge, which was Northwest of Philadelphia, for two reasons. One was to keep British raiding and foraging
parties out of the interior of Pennsylvania, the other being that it was at
enough distance to protect the area against British ambushes. With two densely forested plateaus, and the
Schuylkill River in the north, Valley Forge was a relatively easy area to
Washington’s army however was weary
from forced marches, ill equipped and poorly fed. Only one in three Continental soldiers had
shoes, and many of them had left bloody footprints from marching. When the grounds had been selected for
brigade encampments and defense lines were drawn up, the troops began building
shelters to withstand the long Pennsylvania winter. These were mainly huts made from logs and
were basically one room log cabins.
While they did provide protection from the cold, they were damp and
The army’s food supplies were also
relatively low, and soldiers received inadequate rations of meat and
bread. Even animals suffered too, about
700 horses died by the end of the winter of 1778. Soldiers were poorly clothed as well. Many wounded men from previous battles died
of exposure. Diseases such as typhoid, smallpox, pneumonia and dysentery were
rampant throughout the camp. As many as
2,500 American soldiers died in the harsh winter of 1777-78. Conditions in the camp were so horrible
during the winter, that many began to criticize Washington for his inability to
advance the effort of the war.
Ironically, Washington responded
saying that if the people were unsatisfied with him, he would retire to Mount
Vernon. This renewed people’s trust in Washington
as a commander. Congress sent additional
food and supplies. To add on to the
newly boosted morale, French reinforcements came to aid in the fight against
the British. More importantly, it
transformed the Continental army from a ragtag band of amateur troops into an
18th century military force capable of defeating the British in open
In 1893, Valley Forge was made into
a national historical park so as to preserve the memory and sacrifice of the
brave men who endured the hardships of the long grueling winter. Many of the huts and other buildings have
been restored and visitors can be given a hands-on experience of what life was
like as an American soldier in the late 18th century.