December 19th, 1777

washington-and-lafayette-at-valley-forge-loc-webToday, in 1777, General George Washington led his 12,000 troops to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania to take up winter quarter. Approximately 20 miles, the British forces had established themselves in Philadelphia, better supplied and better equipped than the Continental Army, many of whose troops didn’t even have shoes, leaving bloodied tracks in the snow from their long march. Subjected to the elements they had to construct their own shelters from the brutal winter that surrounded them, 2,000 soldiers would die in the encampment, many from illnesses like dysentery, influenza, typhoid and typhus. Yet, despite the grim winter, and the recent losses at Brandywine and Germantown, despite the inability of General Washington to push back the 17,000 British Troops at Chesapeake Bay, and the loss of Philadelphia to General William Howe, forcing the Revolutionary government to flee first to Lancaster and then to York, and causing the many in the Continental Congress to question his leadership, these were not broken men, downtrodden or close to surrender. Yes, they were tired and weary from battle, but so many of them were bold, proud men, unwilling to abandon their cause. Yet, as that terrible Winter wore on, Washington would have to enact harsh policies to prevent soldiers from abandoning their ranks. Today we recognize Valley Forge as a transformative time in the leadership of General Washington, and for the cause of the American Revolution with the news of the French joining the American cause and the arrival of Baron Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben, one time aide-de-camp of Old Fritz, the Prussian King Fredrick the Great, but it was also a time of incredible sacrifice. The level of commitment, of bravery, of courage of our troops during that brutal time cannot be underscored enough. So much rested on the change that would occur, but without those men, none of it could have happened.

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