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American Revolution

Valley Forge

History >> American Revolution

Valley Forge was where the American Continental Army made camp during the winter of 1777-1778. It was here that the American forces became a true fighting unit. Valley Forge is often called the birthplace of the American Army.

Where is Valley Forge?

Valley Forge is located in the southeastern corner of Pennsylvania around 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

George Washington at Valley Forge on horses
Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge
by John Ward Dunsmore
Why did they camp there?

George Washington chose to make the winter camp at Valley Forge for several reasons. First, it was close to Philadelphia where the British were camping for the winter. He could keep an eye on the British and protect the people of Pennsylvania. At the same time it was far enough from the British so that he would have plenty of warning if they decided to attack.

Valley Forge was also a good place to defend if the army was attacked. There were high areas in Mount Joy and Mount Misery to make fortifications. There also was a river, the Schuylkill River, that served as a barrier to the north.

Who were the American leaders?

Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben
by Charles Willson Peale

It was at Valley Forge where the Continental Army turned into a trained fighting force. There were three leaders in particular who played a key role in building the army. Were the conditions bad?

The conditions that the soldiers had to endure at Valley Forge were horrible. They had to deal with cold, wet, and snowy weather. They were often hungry, as food was scarce. Many of the soldiers didn't have warm clothing or even shoes as their shoes had worn out on the long march to the valley. There were few blankets as well.

Living in cold, damp, and crowded log cabins made matters even worse because it allowed disease and sickness to spread quickly throughout the camp. Diseases such as typhoid fever, pneumonia, and smallpox took the lives of many soldiers. Of the 10,000 men who began the winter at Valley Forge, around 2,500 died before the spring.

Valley Forge-Washington & Lafayette. Winter 1777-78
Valley Forge-Washington & Lafayette. Winter 1777-78 by Alonzo Chappel
Interesting Facts About the Valley Forge
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Works Cited

History >> American Revolution

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