Researching the American Revolution

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Valley Forge Encampment


Valley Forge holds significant historical importance as the site where the Continental Army, led by General George Washington, encamped during the harsh winter of 1777-1778 in the American Revolutionary War. Located in Pennsylvania, Valley Forge became a symbol of endurance, sacrifice, and resilience. Despite enduring harsh conditions, including extreme cold, limited supplies, and disease outbreaks, the soldiers at Valley Forge persevered and underwent intensive training, transforming into a more disciplined and professional fighting force. This period also witnessed the arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, a Prussian military officer, whose training methods and expertise played a crucial role in enhancing the army’s efficiency and effectiveness. Valley Forge marked a turning point for the Continental Army, as it emerged stronger and better prepared for future battles, eventually securing American independence.

Today, Valley Forge is preserved as a National Historical Park, attracting visitors from around the world. The park offers a glimpse into the soldiers’ hardships through reconstructed log cabins, historic landmarks, and informative exhibits. Visitors can explore the rolling hills and wooded landscapes, retracing the steps of the soldiers who endured the bitter winter. Interpretive programs and guided tours provide insights into the soldiers’ daily lives, military strategies, and the challenges they faced. Valley Forge serves as a powerful reminder of the sacrifices made by the Continental Army and their determination in the face of adversity, making it a site of great historical significance and a testament to the spirit of the American Revolution.

Diaries and Memoirs

Joseph Clark Diary, A single diary entry is reproduced in Ryan, Dennis P., and Daughters of the Cincinnati, eds. A Salute to Courage: The American Revolution as Seen through Wartime Writings of Officers of the Continental Army and Navy. New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

The entire diary is available in the New Jersey Historical Society, Newark, NJ. Below is a link to a Finding Aid.

Secondary Sources

Drury, Bob, and Thomas Clavin. Valley Forge. First Simon&Schuster hardcover edition. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018.

Fischer, David Hackett. Washington’s Crossing. Pivotal Moments in American History. Oxford, England ; New York: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Fleming, Thomas J. Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge. New York: Smithsonian Books/Collins, 2006.

Herrera, Ricardo A. Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2022.

Military historian Rick Herrera debunks several widely held myths surrounding the American 1778 encampment at Valley Forge. He identifies the lack of transport, and not available food supplies as the principal cause of food shortages in the Rebel camp. As a result, General George Washington sent out elite light infantry units to round up supplies and wagons. Lessor known, the British command also sent foraging parties out from Philadelphia to capture badly needed supplies. As a result, the British were more interested in obtaining food, fuel, and forage and did not attack the Americans when they had a chance to do so. Herrera credits Generals Nathanael Greene and Anthony Wayne with most effectively carrying out Washington’s orders and returning to Valley Forge with critical supplies. His narrative highlights the impact of logistics and supply as necessary factors in sustaining an Army’s ability to conduct combat operations. I highly recommend Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778.

Hubert, Patricia M. Major Philip M. Ulmer: A Hero of the American Revolution. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014.

———. Major Philip M. Ulmer: A Hero of the American Revolution. Charleston, SC: The History Press, 2014.

Lockhart, Paul Douglas. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army. 1st ed. [Washington, D.C.] : New York, NY: Smithsonian Books ; Collins, 2008.

Stempel, Jim. Valley Forge to Monmouth: Six Transformative Months of the American Revolution. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, 2020.

Images from Valley Forge National Park

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