Though there was no battle at Valley Forge, George Washington and the Continental Army fought valiantly here, against hunger, disease and the harsh winter. Those six months are some of the most important in American history; that’s why Valley Forge Park is a must-see attraction.
It is September 1777. The War for American Independence, in its second year, is in an uneasy stalemate. The Continental Army, led by General George Washington, scored two successes in late 1776 with victories at Trenton and Princeton. The British however, under General Sir William Howe, control New York City. Looking to put an end to the rebellion, Howe sets his eyes on Philadelphia, the American capital and seat of the Continental Congress.
Washington and the Continental Army are encamped at Morristown, New Jersey to keep an eye on the British in New York. The British make their move as Howe sails his troops out of the New York City harbor.
Washington doesn’t know where they are headed yet. He receives a report that they are nearing the mouth of the Delaware River, but the British keep sailing south. Was Howe heading to South Carolina?
The fleet lands in the Chesapeake Bay, putting Philadelphia in great danger. Washington rushes south to defend his nation’s capital
Reeling from crushing losses and a relentless bombardment by the British, Washington’s army limps into the quiet village of Valley Forge on December 19. Many had no boots or shoes, and their feet were bound in rags to protect against the icy, frozen roads. Exhausted, the 12,000 troops begin building 1,000 log huts for the winter encampment. By February, death, disease, and desertions reduce the number at camp to 6,000.
Washington knew if they were to win, the troops needed to be reinvigorated and properly trained. Former Prussian Officer Baron Friedrich Von Steuben tirelessly drills the soldiers, teaching them how to load their weapons faster and execute advanced battle formations. He works directly with the men, and his enthusiastic energy transforms them into an effective fighting force. By June of 1778, the camp is alive with excitement and a renewed determination. Although no actual battle took place at Valley Forge, a decisive victory of will had been won. Washington’s army was now prepared to face the British and give birth to a new nation.