History Podcasts

Valley Forge Washinton report - History

Valley Forge Washinton report - History

George Washington to the President of Congress.

Valley Forge, December 23, 1777

Sir: Full as I was in my representation of matters in the Commys. department. yesterday, fresh, and more powerful reasons oblige me to add, that I am now convinced, beyond a doubt that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place in that line, this Army must inevitably be reduced tc one or other of these three things. Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can; rest assured Sir this is not an exaggerated picture, but that I have abundant reason to support what I see.

Yesterday afternoon receiving information that the Enemy, in force, had left the City, and were advancing towards Derby with apparent design to forage, and draw Subsistance from that part of the Country, I ordered the Troops to be in readiness, that I might give every opposition in my power when, behold! to my great mortification, I was not only informed, but convinced, that the Men were unable to stir on Acct. of Provision, and that~ dangerous Mutiny begun the Night before, and [which] with difficulty was suppressed by the spirited exertion's of some officers was still much to apprehended on acct. of their want of this Article.

This brought forth the only Comy, in the purchasing Line, in this Camp and, with him, this Melancholy and alarming truth; that he had not a sir~ hoof of any kind to Slaughter, and not more than 20. Barrels of Flour! From hence form an opinion of our Situation when I add, that, he could not~ when to expect any.

All I could do under these circumstances was, to send out a few I _ Parties to watch and harass the Enemy, whilst other Parties were instantly detached different ways to collect, if possible, as much Provision as we satisfy the present pressing wants of the Soldiery. But will this answer? Sir: three or four days bad weather would prove our destruction.

What then is to become of the Army this Winter? and if we are as ol without Provisions now, as with it, what is to become of us in the Spr when our force will be collected, with the aid perhaps of Militia, tot advantage of an early campaign before the Enemy can be reinforced? Th' are considerations of great magnitude, meriting the closest attention,' will, when my own reputation is so intimately connected, and to be affected by the event, justify my saying that the present Commissaries are by means equal to the execution of the Office or that the disaffection of People is past all belief. The misfortune however does in my opinion. Proceed from both causes, and tho' I have been tender heretofore of givings opinion, or lodging complaints, as the change in that department. took pl contrary to my judgment, and the consequences thereof were predicted;! finding that the inactivity of the Army, whether for want of provisions, Cloaths, or other essentials, is charged to my Acct., not only by the common vulgar, but those in power, it is time to speak plain in exculpation of myself; with truth then I can declare that, no Man, in my opinion, ever had his measures more impeded than I have, by every department of the Army.

Since the Month of July, we have had no assistance from the Quarter Master Genl. and to want of assistance from this department, the Commissary Genl. charges great part of his deficiency; to this I am to add, that notwithstanding it is a standing order (and often repeated) that the Troops shall always have two days Provisions by them, that they may be ready at any sudden call, yet no opportunity has scarce ever yet happened of taking advantage of the Enemy that has not been totally obstructed or greatly impeded on this Acct., and this tho' the great and crying evil is not all. Soap, Vinegar and other Articles allowed by Congress we see none of nor have [we] seen I believe since the battle of brandywine; the first indeed we have now little occasion of few men having more than one Shirt, many only the Moiety of one, and Some none at all; in addition to which as a proof of the little benefit received from a Cloathier Genl., and at the same time as a further proof of the inability of an Army under the circumstances of this, to perform the common duties of Soldiers (besides a number of Men confined to Hospitals for want of Shoes, and others in farmers Houses on the same Acct.) we have, by a field return this day made no less than 2000 Men now in Camp unfit for duty because they are bare foot and otherwise naked and by the same return it appears that our whole strength in continental Troops (Including the Eastern Brigades which have joined us since the surrender of Genl. Burgoyne) exclusive of the Maryland Troops sent to Wilmington amount to no more than 2898 In Camp fit for duty. Notwithstanding which, and that, since the 4th~ Instt. our Numbers fit for duty from the hardships and exposures they have undergone, particularly on Acct. of Blankets (numbers being obliged and do set up all Might by fires, instead of taking comfortable rest in a natural way) have decreased near 2000 Men.

We find Gentlemen without knowing whether the Army was really going into Winter Quarters or not . reprobating the measure as much as if they thought Men were made of Stocks or Stones and equally insensible of frost and Snow and moreover, as if they conceived it practicable for an inferior Army under the disadvantages I have described our's to be which. is by no means exagerated to confine a superior one (in all respects well appointed, and provide for a Winters Campaign) within the City of Phila., and cover from depredation and waste the States of Pensa,, Jersey, &cat but what makes this matter still more extraordinary in my eye is, that these very G ntn. who were well apprized of the nakedness of the Troops, from occular demonstration thought their own Soldiers worse clad than others, and advised n~e, near a Month ago, to postpone the execution of a Plan, I was about to adopt (in consequence of a resolve of Congress) for seizing Cloaths, undu strong assurances that an ample supply would be collected in ten days
agreeably to a decree of the State, not one Article of which by the bye, is yet come to hand, should think a Winters Campaign and the covering these States from the Invasion of an Enemy so easy a business. I can assure those Gentlemen that it is a much easier and less distressing things to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room by a a good fire side than to occupy a cold bleak hill and sleep under frost and Snow without Cloaths or Blankets; however, although they seem to have little feeling for the naked, and distressed Solider, I feel superabundantly for them, and from my Soul pity those miseries wch it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.
It is for these reasons therefore I have dwelt upon the Subject, and it adds not a little to my other difficulties, and distress, to find that much more is expected of me than is possible to be perfomed, and that upon the ground of safety and policy, I am obliged to conceal the true state of the Arm from Public view and therby expose myself to detraction and Calumny.

Determined to Persevere

Valley Forge is the site of the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army. The park features 3,500 acres of monuments, meadows, and woodlands commemorating the sacrifices and perseverance of the Revolutionary War generation and honoring the power of people to pull together and overcome adversity during extraordinary times. Read More

Tour the Encampment

There are many ways to experience the Valley Forge encampment!

Virtual Visitor Center

Visit the Virtual Visitor Center to plan a trip and learn more about how best to experience Valley Forge during COVID-19.

History and Significance

Learn about the history and significance of Valley Forge.

Become a Junior Ranger

Explore different ways to become a Junior Ranger at Valley Forge.

Check out the National Park Service App

Download the app for your next visit to Valley Forge!

Volunteer Opportunities

Learn more about volunteer opportunities in the park.

Take the Challenge

Walk, run, bike, or paddle 78 miles at Valley Forge during summer 2021 to earn a fun prize!

Museum Collections

Explore various collections of pictures, books, documents, and artifacts.

Winter at Valley Forge

In December, 1777, General George Washington moved the Continental Army to their winter quarters at Valley Forge. Though Revolutionary forces had secured a pivotal victory at Saratoga in September and October, Washington’s army suffered defeats at Brandywine, Paoli, and Germantown, Pennsylvania. The rebel capital, Philadelphia, fell into British hands. By the time the army marched into Valley Forge on December 19, they were suffering not only from cold, hunger, and fatigue, but from low morale in the wake of the disastrous Philadelphia Campaign.

Washington described Valley Forge as "a dreary kind of place and uncomfortably provided." Only 20 miles from British-occupied Philadelphia, in eastern Pennsylvania, Valley Forge presented a strategic location that allowed Washington's army to stay close to the city while maintaining a defensible position that offered access to clean water and firewood. However, in spite of these advantages, Washington's army was ill-prepared for the encampment that would last six months. The army’s supply of basic necessities, like food and clothing, ran perpetually short coupled with the wintertime cold, and the diseases that ran rampant through the camp, this lack of provisions created the infamously miserable conditions at Valley Forge.

The army camped at Valley Forge consisted of as many as 12,000 Continentals, as well as smaller numbers of African American and Native American soldiers. A number of women and children, including officers' wives, were also present at Valley Forge, having joined their husbands or family members in the encampment. While wintering in the camp, soldiers worked together to build huts for shelter, but unsanitary conditions, and shortages of food and blankets contributed to the disease and exhaustion which continually plagued the camp. The lack of clothing alone, including shoes, socks, and coats left as many as 3,000 of Washington's troops unfit for service, creating the image of starving, wearied soldiers leaving bloodied footprints in the snow and ice. A Continental Army Private, Joseph Plumb Martin wrote that the army's new winter quarters left them "in a truly forlorn condition,—no clothing, no provisions, and as disheartened as need be."

Though Washington pleaded with the Continental Congress and state governors to obtain food and supplies for his suffering army, starvation, and such dieses as typhus and smallpox, and a lack of protection from the elements caused the death of more than 2,000 soldiers. Washington eventually resorted to sending men, led by Nathanael Greene, on foraging missions to procure what provisions could be found in the surrounding countryside. Beyond vying with Congress for the supplies his army desperately needed, Washington had also to contend with threats to his authority that came from ordeals like the Conway Cabal and rivalries between military leaders. Washington's steady leadership was crucial to keeping the army intact through the logistical and administrative hardships of the winter of 1777-1778, and it likely accounted for the fact that there was a never a mass desertion or mutiny at Valley Forge.

Despite brutal conditions, Valley Forge marked a milestone in the army's military experience. In February, 1778, Baron Friedrich von Steuben arrived at Valley Forge, where Washington appointed him unofficial Inspector General of the camp shortly thereafter. Baron von Steuben worked to bring uniformity to the continental soldiers, who had seen combat, but lacked the martial training to pose an effective threat to the British. He developed a system of drill for the entire army and taught the men combat maneuvers that equipped them to rival the well-trained British regulars. Steuben’s previous experience in the Prussian army during the Seven Years' War prepared him to oversee the military training Washington’s men so desperately needed, and by the end of the encampment at Valley Forge, the army had undergone a significant transformation, from ragtag and wearied recruits to an ordered and disciplined fighting force.

The Marquis de Lafayette, a French officer, who provided another noteworthy addition to Washington’s staff at Valley Forge. Lafayette arrived at the camp with the army in December, 1777. Like Steuben, Lafayette engaged directly with his soldiers and became well known for enduring the same hardships as his men while working to ensure they were provided with as many resources as possible. Esteemed for his bravery, Lafayette became popular among the Continentals and well known for his dedication both to General Washington and the American cause.

News of a French alliance with the Americans came in May, 1778, a few weeks before the army’s departure from camp in June of the same year. Revitalized, reorganized, and uniformly trained, the army would forge ahead and display their newfound professionalism and discipline at the Battle of Monmouth in June, 1778. Valley Forge was significant not only for the reshaping Washington’s army, but for the dedication, endurance, and resilience demonstrated by the Americans in their cause for Independence.


While there are many building in Valley Forge National Historical Park that are original to the time of the encampment, none holds more historical significance than Washington's Headquarters. For most of the six-month encampment, Washington made his home in this stone building, meeting with advisors as they made plans, not only for the encampment, but the continuation of the war.



Photo Credit: National Park Service

The house could be considered the "Pentagon" of its time, as it was the place where Washington and his highest-ranking officers lived and worked. Washington's office, as well as an aide's office, have been recreated to look much as they did during the encampment.


Photo Credit: National Park Service

George Washington was never alone during the encampment, and for several months he had an extra special guest as Martha Washington joined him for a time. George and Martha were two of up to 25 people who would have been living inside the house. Archaeological and documental evidence suggests a log annex was constructed next to the house to accommodate all of the necessary personnel.


A more modern building can be found next to Washington's Headquarters. The Valley Forge Train Station was erected in 1913 to serve passengers along the Reading Railroad. For several decades, the station was a frequent stop of tourist excursions to the park. Today, the century-old station has been restored and houses a collection of exhibits that look at Washington's leadership and is also the meeting place for ranger-led tours of the headquarters building.


January and February: Open on weekends only from 10AM-4PM (Exceptions in Jan and Feb: HQ is open on Martin Luther King Jr. Day and President's Day from 10AM-4PM)
Mid-March through Mid-June: Open daily from 10AM-5PM (Note: HQ will begin opening daily on March 16th in 2020)
Mid-June through Mid-August: Open daily from 10AM-6PM (Extended summer hours)
Mid-August through November (before Daylight Savings Time ends/the first Sunday in Nov): Open daily from 10AM-5PM
November (once Daylight Savings Time ends/the first Sunday in Nov) through the end of December: Open daily from 10AM-4:30PM

Note: Washington's HQ may be closed due to inclement weather, particularly snow/ice, or river flooding. When snow, ice, or flooding conditions are present, please call the Visitor Center at (610) 783-1099 to confirm the status of Washington's Headquarters.


From December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778, the main body of the Continental Army (approximately 12,000 troops) was encamped at Valley Forge. The site was chosen because it was between the seat of the Second Continental Congress in York, supply depots in Reading, and British forces in Philadelphia 18 miles (29 km) away, which fell after the Battle of Brandywine, in which many American soldiers were injured, including the Marquis de Lafayette This was a time of great suffering for the army, but it was also a time of retraining and rejuvenation. The shared hardship of the officers and soldiers of the army, combined with Baron Friedrich von Steuben's professional military training program, are considered key to the subsequent success of the Continental Army and marks a turning point in the Revolutionary War.

Valley Forge was established as the first state park of Pennsylvania in 1893 by the Valley Forge Park Commission (VFPC) "to preserve, improve, and maintain as a public park the site on which General George Washington's army encamped at Valley Forge.". [3] The area around Washington's Headquarters was chosen as the park site. In 1923, the VFPC was brought under the Department of Forests and Waters and later incorporated into the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission in 1971. [3]

The park served as the location of the National Scout Jamboree in 1950, 1957, and 1964.

Valley Forge was designated a U.S. National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was listed in the initial National Register of Historic Places in 1966. [4] [5] The area covered by these listings goes outside what was the Valley Forge State Park boundaries to include four historic houses where the Marquis de Lafayette and other officers were quartered. [5] : 6

In 1976, Pennsylvania gave the park as a gift to the nation for the Bicentennial. The U.S. Congress passed a law signed by President Gerald Ford on July 4, 1976, authorizing the addition of Valley Forge National Historical Park as the 283rd Unit of the National Park System. [6] In addition to establishing Valley Forge National Park, the law also allocated an initial budget of $8,622,000 and an additional $500,000 for essential facilities. [7]

The Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge, [8] led by Founding Regent Anna Morris Holstein, [9] was incorporated in 1878 with the purpose of saving, acquiring, preserving General Washington’s Headquarters [10] and immediate surrounding acreage. A large Centennial event to create awareness and raise funds was held on June 19, 1878, the 100th anniversary of Washington’s Army exiting Valley Forge. [11] Funds were raised to purchase the home from Hannah Ogden in May 1878. The Centennial and Memorial efforts continued to help acquire original artifacts, restore the Headquarters and acquire additional parcels of immediate surrounding acreage.

State Park Superintendents Edit

  1. Frederick D. Stone (1893 – 1895)
  2. Holstein DeHaven (1895 – 1898)
  3. Charles C. Adams (1899 – 1903)
  4. A.H. Bowen (1903 – 1911)
  5. Col. S.S. Hartranft (1911 – 1921)
  6. John S. Kennedy (1921 – 1924)
  7. Jerome J. Sheas (1925 – 1935)
  8. Gilbert S. Jones (1935 – 1938)
  9. Joseph E. Stott (1938 – 1940)
  10. E.F. Brouse (1940 – 1941)
  11. L. Ralph Phillips (1941 – 1953)
  12. Paul E. Felton (1953 – 1955)
  13. George F. Kenworthy (1955 – 1957)
  14. Wilford P. Moll (1957 – 1958)
  15. E.C. Pyle (1958 – 1966)
  16. Wilford P. Moll (1966 – 1969)
  17. Charles C. Frost, Jr. (1969 – 1971)
  18. Horace Wilcox (1971 – 1976) [12]

National Park Superintendents Edit

  1. H. Gilbert Lusk (1976 – 1981)
  2. Wallace Elms (1981 – 1990)
  3. Warren Beach (1990 – 1996)
  4. Arthur L. Stewart (1996 – 2004) [13]
  5. Mike Caldwell (2004 – 2011) [14]
  6. Kate Hammond (2012 – 2016) [15]
  7. Steven Sims (2017 – 2019) [16]
  8. Rose Fennell (2020 – Present) [17]

Upon its designation as a National Park in 1976, Valley Forge was considered a part of the Mid-Atlantic Region of the National Park Service. The Mid-Atlantic Region included five states: Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia. This changed in 1995 when the North Atlantic Region merged with the Mid-Atlantic Region to create the Northeast Region. [18]

Visitor center Edit

The park's visitor center includes a museum with artifacts found during excavations of the park, an interactive muster roll of Continental soldiers encamped at Valley Forge, ranger-led gallery programs and walks, a storytelling program, a photo gallery, a visitor information desk, and a store for books and souvenirs.

90-minute bus tours of the park and bike rentals are available seasonally. A short 18-minute film, "Valley Forge: A Winter Encampment" is shown in the park's theater next door. The visitor center, built in 1976, was undergoing renovations, and visitor center operations have moved to a temporary visitor center, located in the parking lot of the existing facility. The newly remodeled visitor center was expected to reopen in late spring 2020.

Headquarters buildings Edit

A key attraction of the park is the restored colonial home used by General George Washington as his headquarters during the encampment. Rehabilitation of the headquarters area was completed in summer 2009, and included the restoration of the old Valley Forge train station into an information center, new guided tours, new exhibits throughout the landscape, and the elimination of several acres of modern paving and restoration of the historic landscape. Quarters of other Continental Army generals are also in the park, including those of Huntington, Varnum, Lord Stirling, Lafayette, and Knox. Varnum's quarters is open on weekends during the summer.

Reconstructed works and buildings Edit

Throughout the park there are reconstructed log cabins of the type thought to be used during the encampment. Earthworks for the defense of the encampment are visible, including four redoubts, the ditch for the Inner Line Defenses, and a reconstructed abatis. The original redoubts and several redans on Route 23, Outer Line Drive, and Inner Line Drive were covered with sod to preserve them, but they are currently in need of further restoration. The original forges, located on Valley Creek, were burned by the British three months prior to Washington's occupation of the park area. However, neither the Upper Forge site nor the Lower Forge site has been reconstructed. There are also several historical buildings that have not been made open to the public because of reasons such as their current state of disrepair. These include: Lord Stirling's Quarters, Knox's Quarters, and the Von Steuben Memorial. Other historical buildings include the P.C. Knox Estate, Kennedy-Supplee Mansion and Potts' Barn.

Washington Memorial Chapel Edit

The Washington Memorial Chapel and National Patriots Bell Tower carillon sit atop a hill at the center of the present park. The chapel is the legacy of Rev. Dr. W. Herbert Burk. Inspired by Burk's 1903 sermon on Washington's birthday, the chapel is a functioning Episcopal Church, built as a tribute to Washington. Burk was also instrumental in the development of the park, including obtaining Washington's campaign tent and banner, which used to be on display in the visitor center but is now in the Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia. [19] The chapel and attached bell tower are not technically part of the park but serve the spiritual needs of the park and the community that surround it. The bell tower houses the Daughters of the American Revolution Patriot Rolls, listing those that served in the Revolutionary War, and the chapel grounds hosted the World of Scouting Museum. [20]

Memorial markers Edit

Sitting atop a hill at the intersection of the Outer Line of Defense with the Gulph Road, the National Memorial Arch dominates the southern portion of the park. It is dedicated "to the officers and private soldiers of the Continental Army December 19, 1777 – June 19, 1778." The arch was commissioned by an act of the 61st Congress in 1910 and completed in 1917. It is inscribed with George Washington's tribute to the perseverance and endurance of his army:

Naked and Starving as they are>
We cannot enough admire
the Incomparable Patience and Fidelity
of the Soldiery.

The drive is lined with large (

2 m high) memorial stones for each of the brigades, or "lines", that encamped there. Crossing Gulph Road at the arch, the drive proceeds through the Pennsylvania Columns and past the hilltop statue of Anthony Wayne on horse. More brigade stones line Port Kennedy Road.

Mount Joy Observation Tower Edit

Atop Mount Joy, the highest elevation in the main park area, stood a steel observation tower. The tower was closed in the 1980s because of deterioration, liability concerns, and the surrounding trees outgrowing the platform. The tower was removed and shipped to a private area near Wellsboro, Pennsylvania, where people can still climb it. The area where it stood is now only accessible by foot trail, the roads have been removed and the area is being given back to the woods.

Trails Edit

There are 26 miles (42 km) of hiking and biking trails within the park, such as the Valley Creek Trail and the River Trail. The main trail is the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, which encircles 8.7 miles of the park. Portions of regional trails, including the Horse Shoe Trail and the Schuylkill River Trail, also run through the park.

Recreation Edit

The many trails in Valley Forge allow for different activities such as jogging, walking and biking. Other activities include horseback riding and canoeing/kayaking. There are three picnic areas located on the site. In addition, Park Rangers dressed in period uniforms are stationed as the Muhlenburg Brigade Huts and Washington's Headquarters, ready to inform visitors about the historic events that happened on the site. The Valley Forge 5-Mile Revolutionary Run is also held in the park every April.

Near Washington's Headquarters is the Valley Forge Train Station, owned by the park. The station was completed in 1911 by the Reading Railroad and was the point of entry to the park for travelers who came by rail through the 1950s from Philadelphia, 23.7 miles (38.1 km) distant. [21] The station was restored in 2009 and is used as a museum and information center that offers visitors a better understanding of Washington's Headquarters and the village of Valley Forge. [22] Constructed of the same type of stone as Washington's Headquarters, the building was erected on a large man-made embankment overlooking the headquarters site.

Near the visitor center is another station at Port Kennedy, on the same line. Also owned by the park, the station, both platforms and the former parking area are in a state of disrepair. [23]

As a park in an increasingly urbanized area, Valley Forge faces problems including traffic, urban sprawl, and an overpopulation of white-tailed deer.

Valley Forge Park Road (PA Route 23), a heavily traveled two-lane commuter road, passes through the park and carries about six million vehicles per year of mostly commuter traffic. Efforts to divert the traffic have thus far been unsuccessful, owing to existing traffic volume on alternate routes. A consortium of local governments and state and federal agencies are working on approaches to traffic congestion throughout the area, particularly improvements to US 422.

In 2001, a privately held 62-acre (25 ha) tract of land within the authorized park boundaries was offered for sale. When the Park Service was unable to purchase it, it was sold to Toll Brothers, a real estate development company, for $2.5 million. It took a grass roots campaign to get the Federal Government to purchase the land from the developer two years later, for $7.5 million. [24]

In 2007, a non-profit organization – the American Revolution Center – purchased 78 acres (32 ha) of land within the park boundary with plans to construct a conference center, hotel, retail, campground and museum on the site. [25] The National Parks Conservation Association and local citizens sued Lower Providence Township over the zoning change that enabled this proposal. [26] The two parties agreed to allow NPS to keep the land, and in exchange, the American Revolution Center was given property in Philadelphia, where it built the Museum of the American Revolution.

An overpopulation of white-tailed deer has resulted in "changes in the species composition, abundance, and distribution of native plant communities and associated wildlife" in the park. In 2008, the National Park Service released a draft deer management plan and environmental impact statement for public review. The intent of the controversial plan was to "support long-term protection, preservation, and restoration of native vegetation and other natural resources within the park." [27] Hunting is expressly prohibited by the legislation that created the park, and action by Congress would be required before it could be sanctioned. [28] Since the plan was put into place, natural habitats have been restored and vegetation not seen in the park for decades has begun to return.

The park includes the site of the Ehret Magnesia Company, a former manufacturer of asbestos-insulated pipes. Pre-existing dolomite quarries were subsequently backfilled with asbestos-containing slurry waste materials. Those areas of the park are closed to visitors, and an effort is underway at permanent remediation.

Powerpoint presentation
Annotated bibliography
Lab report
Grant proposal
Technical report
Article review
Literature review

Personal statement
Capstone project
Do my homework
Buy essay
Pay for essay
Write my essay
Admission essay
Movie review
Case study

Critical thinking
Reflection paper
Journal article
Write My Research Paper
Creative writing

Buying Research Papers
Pay for Research Paper
Research Papers for Sale
Buy Dissertation
Free plagiarism checker
CV Writing Service
Free samples
Dissertation Help
Assignment Help

Winter: The VPFA had an amazing year planned for 2020, filled with outreach, programs, events, and fundraising for the park. But as winter gave way to spring, COVID-19 appeared on the horizon. For the safety of our guests, we began to cancel our events.

Spring: We began to adjust to our new normal. The VFPA received a Paycheck Protection Program loan for $17,500 toward payroll expenses. We also received a $5,000 Muster Roll grant from the Descendants of Washington's Army at Valley Forge to create a new website and database. Our wonderful Muster Roll volunteers and web design consultants worked tirelessly to create a new website. Once it was deemed safe, Trail Tuesday walks resumed.

Summer: The VPFA took one of its most popular programs, the Lunch and Learn series, online with the help of Tredyffrin Public Library. It reached 329 viewers, and inspired by its success we began planning to take the Speaker Series online as well. We also partnered with Washington Memorial Heritage to celebrate 100th birthday of women’s suffrage and the Justice Bell.

Maurice Stephens House: The Maurice Stephens House Advisory Group, comprised of elected officials and business and community leaders, meets for the first time outside the house. We couldn't help but notice the symbolism when a rainbow appeared at the end of a stormy day.

Virtual Events: The new film for the Park theater, Determined to Persevere, had been slated to premiere this fall. We weren't going to let the opportunity pass us by, so we held a virtual premiere featuring the film's director and producer on October 29. We also kicked off our Virtual Speaker Series in October and held our first ever photo contest, which received over 400 entries - more than we could have ever hoped for.

Diversity and Inclusion: Our board worked with a diversity, equity, and inclusion consultant to create a mission statement and goals for 2021. We hope that VFPA can broaden its outreach and attract board members who better represent all park users.

Income: In October, we received a $5,000 grant from PECO for our Guide by Cell program. This enabled the VFPA to provide this free service to all park visitors, so that they can tour the park on their own in English and Spanish. We also received a $25,000 National Park Foundation grant for capital campaign work for the Maurice Stephens house. Trying something new, we held our first Instagram auction, raising $3,000.

Valley Forge Muster Roll: Six dedicated Muster Roll volunteers assisted hundreds of online visitors to discover if their history leads to Valley Forge and awarded Official Certificates of Service to 121 individuals, plus added 43 new additions to the Valley Forge Muster Roll.

Washington's Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge

The defining moments of the American Revolution did not occur on the battlefield or at the diplomatic table, writes New York Times bestselling author Thomas Fleming, but at Valley Forge. Fleming transports us to December 1777. While the British army lives in luxury in conquered Philadelphia, Washington's troops huddle in the barracks of Valley Forge, fending off starvation and disease even as threats of mutiny swirl through the regiments. Though his army stands on the edge of collapse, George Washington must wage a secondary war, this one against the slander of his reputation as a general and patriot. Washington strategizes not only against the British army but against General Horatio Gates, the victor in the Battle of Saratoga, who has attracted a coterie of ambitious generals devising ways to humiliate and embarrass Washington into resignation.

Using diaries and letters, Fleming creates an unforgettable portrait of an embattled Washington. Far from the long-suffering stoic of historical myth, Washington responds to attacks from Gates and his allies with the skill of a master politician. He parries the thrusts of his covert enemies, and, as necessary, strikes back with ferocity and guile. While many histories portray Washington as a man who has transcended politics, Fleming's Washington is exceedingly complex, a man whose political maneuvering allowed him to retain his command even as he simultaneously struggled to prevent the Continental Army from dissolving into mutiny at Valley Forge.

Written with his customary flair and eye for human detail and drama, Thomas Fleming's gripping narrative develops with the authority of a major historian and the skills of a master storyteller. Washington's Secret War is not only a revisionist view of the American ordeal at Valley Forge - it calls for a new assessment of the man too often simplified into an American legend. This is narrative history at its best and most vital.

What Archaeologists Know About George Washington's Time At Valley Forge

General Washington's headquarters in Valley Forge, PA.

(Inside Science) -- Archaeologists, digging into George Washington’s headquarters at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania, have added domestic images to the picture of one of the most iconic moments of American history.

They may have found the cabin Washington had built so he could get out of the chaos of the headquarters, and perhaps eat in peace with his wife and officers.

It also turns out the Father of the Nation liked pork for dinner and may have instituted a no-smoking zone.

The work was done by archaeologists working with the National Park Service at the Valley Forge National Park, sometimes with volunteers from the public. The latest findings were reported earlier this month at a meeting of the Society for Historical Archaeology in Seattle by Joseph Blondino of the Fredericksburg, Virginia-based Dovetail Cultural Research Group.

Historian Wayne Bodle of Indiana University of Pennsylvania said Valley Forge “was unquestionably as important as it was iconic,” although it might not have been the turning point of the Revolutionary War he doesn’t think there was a turning point.

It was, however, perhaps emblematic of the low point. The British had landed in Chesapeake Bay in August of 1777 and captured Philadelphia, the capital of the American colonies at the time. Washington’s Continental Army was defeated easily at Brandywine Creek and Germantown.

On Dec. 19, the army began a weeklong retreat to Valley Forge, located 20 miles north of Philadelphia.

It almost was a death march. The army was poorly clothed and largely unfed. Washington wrote you could tell their path by the blood from their bare feet in the snow.

“One half of our troops are without breeches, shoes and stockings,” Washington wrote, “and some thousands without blankets.”

At Valley Forge, Washington ordered them to build log “huts” of clay-daubed wood, even describing the size (14 by 16 feet), laid out in a street pattern, 12 men to a hut. The 2,000 huts gave some protection from the weather, but not much. The wind blew through the walls the huts filled with smoke from badly designed stoves.

Nothing remains above ground of the huts, but archaeologists are still digging in the soil for artifacts.

Disease and frostbite were rampant at the encampment.

The quartermaster system broke down. They had no clothing, very little food, and had to send raiding parties through the area to keep from starving. Washington wrote to Congress that the men came near to mutiny.

Washington himself stayed in a tent until most of the men were housed. Then he moved into a small stone house (still standing), the Isaac Potts house, where he set up his headquarters.

“The rooms aren’t any larger than a normal house today,” Blondino said. It must have been chaotic.

Washington ordered a log cabin be built next to the Potts house so he could dine with his officers out of the bedlam of headquarters. His wife, Martha, spent most of the time with him and probably ate there as well, Blondino said. A letter she wrote was the only evidence of the cabin, but Blondino said a linear stain discovered by archaeologists covering a trench 25 feet in length, was probably part of the foundation.

Trash pits in the backyard nearby contained pig bones. Curiously missing was smoking pipe stems, Blondino said, usually ubiquitous in late 18th century digs. It might have been that Washington ordered the men not to smoke when they were at the noisy, crowded headquarters.

They were an undisciplined rabble more than an army. Enter a man known to history as Frederick William Augustus Henry Ferdinand, Baron von Steuben, a Prussian officer who knew no English and claimed--falsely--to be a Prussian general and nobleman, according to historian Christopher Ward's 1952 book "The War of the Revolution."

He was an organizational genius who pulled the quartermaster system together, brought discipline through the camp, and drilled the men how to be soldiers. By springtime, the men were a well-fed, well-dressed army.

In June, the British abandoned Philadelphia and Washington’s army, 11,000-12,000 strong, chased them across New Jersey. On June 28, 1778, the Americans took on what many believed to be the best army in the world at Monmouth Courthouse (now Freehold), and fought them to a standstill. The momentum never changed back.

The site is a good example of how a domestic landscape, scattered farms, can be turned into a military camp, Blondino said. Once the army left, archaeologists found, it quickly returned to its domestic functions.

Bodle said the army could have easily fallen apart and the revolution would have been over at Valley Forge. Washington and von Steuben kept it together to a stage where “more British strategic mistakes could lead to checkmate. Which finally happened.”

Encyclopedia of Greater Philadelphia

This map of Valley Forge, drawn in 1890, depicts the small town nestled in rolling hills on the banks of the Schuylkill River. The village is located in Chester County and occupies the swath of land where Valley Creek and the river intersect. The southern portion of the park begins at the town and continues west into Montgomery County. When Washington and his troops encamped there during the winter of 1777-78, he counted on the small farms and homes nearby to supply food and other necessities. Almost two-thirds of the area was dedicated to farming and the section along the Schuylkill was populated with industrial buildings—sawmills, blacksmiths, and charcoal houses. By the latter half of the nineteenth century, many of the factories were converted to textile mills.

Hospital Hut

During the winter of 1777-78, the soldiers camped at Valley Forge needed to provide their own shelter. When camped near larger towns or cities the troops were sometimes able to find shelter in the homes of local residents. However, Valley Forge was a relatively sparsely populated farm town at the time and the troops were left to construct their own buildings. This a reconstruction of the “Hospital Hut,” where the soldiers tended their sick and wounded. The bunk beds, made of logs, are similar to the beds found in the men’s regular barracks. The raised wooden slab in the center of the hospital room functioned as an operating table.

Washington's Headquarters

Valley Forge Historical Park preserves the houses that served as headquarters for General George Washington (1732-99) and his officers. Washington’s Headquarters, seen here, have been restored to give visitors to the park a better understanding of Revolutionary War encampments. Quarters for General James Mitchel Varnum (1748-89) and the parade ground where Baron Von Steuben (1730-94) drilled the Continental Army, along with other important historic structures and landscapes, are available to park visitors year-round.

Washington Memorial Chapel

It was well into the nineteenth century before the people of Valley Forge began to romanticize the Continental Army’s takeover of their countryside. Though the farmers of the day were disrupted and disadvantaged by the army, which destroyed much of the farmland and cost the farmers a planting season, by the time of the war’s centennial many residents had laid those grievances to rest. The area’s historic significance and quaint, country location, mad Valley Forge became a tourist destination for Philadelphians. Before the end of the nineteenth century, the former encampment was declared a Pennsylvania state park.

In 1903, 125 years after the army departed Valley Forge, the cornerstone of the Washington Memorial Chapel, pictured here, was laid in the park. Dr. W. Herbert Bunk, an Episcopal priest, had been swept up in the religious and patriotic culture of the time and proposed a chapel be built to honor George Washington and his time in Valley Forge. Over fourteen years, small donations were able to fund the main chapel's construction, and doors opened to congregants in 1917. The chapel is a national memorial to Washington as well as an active church.

Running in Valley Forge

Valley Forge National Historic Park offers recreation as well as Revolutionary era architecture and artifacts. Expansive trails that pass the park's many historic features, including Varnum's Quarters (pictured here), attract runners and cyclists. Scientists and nature lovers are drawn by more than 315 species of wildlife and diverse habitats.

Related Topics


A-Z Browse

  • Activism
  • African Americans
  • Agriculture and Horticulture
  • Animals
  • Architecture
  • Art
  • Boundaries
  • Business, Industry, and Labor
  • Children and Youth
  • Cities and Towns
  • Commemorations and Holidays
  • Counties
  • Crime and Punishment
  • Economic Development
  • Education
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Events
  • Food and Drink
  • Geography
  • Government and Politics
  • Health and Medicine
  • Historic Places and Symbols
  • Housing
  • Immigration and Migration
  • Law
  • LGBT
  • Literature
  • Maritime
  • Media
  • Military and War
  • Movies
  • Museums and Libraries
  • Music
  • National History Day Topics
  • Native Americans
  • Performing Arts
  • Planning (Urban and Regional)
  • Popular Culture
  • Religion and Faith Communities
  • Science and Technology
  • Sports and Recreation
  • Streets and Highways
  • Suburbs
  • Tourism
  • Trades
  • Transportation
  • Wealth and Poverty
  • Women

Valley Forge

This map of Valley Forge, drawn in 1890, depicts the small town nestled in rolling hills on the banks of the Schuylkill River. (Library of Congress)

In 1777 the Continental Army, unable to prevent the British forces from taking Philadelphia, retreated to Valley Forge for the winter of 1777-78. Selected for its strategic location between Philadelphia and York, along the Schuylkill River, Valley Forge had natural defensive positions, access to water, enough land to support the army, and was far enough from Philadelphia to prevent a surprise attack by the British. While preserved for its eighteenth-century significance as the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Valley Forge has a more extensive past and continues to play an integral role in the region’s history and environment.

American Indian tribes inhabited the area that became known as Valley Forge as early as the Archaic Period, 8000 BCE to 1000 BCE. William Penn’s land grant in 1681 led to plantations, which displaced the Indians. In 1699, the Pennsylvania Land Company of London bought the land that later became the north side of Valley Forge National Historical Park the majority of it was subsequently purchased by two families, the Pawlings and the Morgans. By the early 1700s they had established substantial plantations called Pawlings and Mill Grove.

At the start of the American Revolution Valley Forge was one of several farming towns that supplied Philadelphia. Along with large farms, the town also included several mills, a forge, and a predominantly Quaker population. The revolution came to Valley Forge in December 1777, after British troops moved south from New York and captured Philadelphia, and the Continental Army retreated. At Valley Forge, generals and their staffs rented homes of local farmers, most of who stayed to care for their livestock and safeguard their property. Soldiers initially lived in tents, but for this long-term encampment they also constructed log cabins, sixteen by fourteen feet in size, each housing sixteen men. The soldiers suffered from lack of basic supplies due to mismanagement and weather conditions. Contrary to popular belief, Valley Forge was not the coldest encampment of the War for Independence (Morristown, New Jersey, was). Mild weather with heavy rain resulted in muddy roads and swollen rivers that prevented supplies from reaching the camp.

During this encampment the newly appointed Prussian-born Inspector General Baron von Steuben (1730-1794) began drilling the Continental Army. The Battle of Monmouth Courthouse (1778), while not a victory for the Americans, proved that the new skills learned under the general were essential to the army’s survival.

Remnants of Military Occupation

During the winter of 1777-78, the soldiers camped at Valley Forge needed to provide their own shelter. This is a reconstruction of the “Hospital Hut,” where soldiers tended their sick and wounded. (Library of Congress)

During the Revolutionary War the farms at Valley Forge were ransacked by the British troops and used by the Americans. Archaeologists have uncovered saw-cut animal bones from cattle and pigs, uniform buttons, musket balls, and redware shards from the Revolutionary period to verify these events. Following the war the land continued to be farmed, and the community embraced scientific farming. The first permanent bridge over the Schuylkill was built in 1810, and the canals came into place during the 1820s.

Initial preservation efforts at Valley Forge did not start until the mid-nineteenth century, when poets began romanticizing the site and it became a place of interest for the colonial revival movement. By the 1880s, trains brought tourists from Philadelphia to Valley Forge.

The Centennial and Memorial Association, modeled after the Mt. Vernon Ladies Association, set about opening Washington’s Headquarters as a historic house museum for the encampment’s centennial. The fundraising efforts were spearheaded by Anna Morris Holstein (1825-1900) and initially were very successful. The first “march out” commemoration of the end of the encampment was held on June 19, 1878. With the aid of the Patriotic Order of the Sons of America (POSA) and a grant from the state, the restored house was eventually purchased from private owners (the house had been privately owned and lived in since 1778) and opened to the public.

From Encampment to State Park

In 1893 the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania took a further interest in Valley Forge and established it as a state park. The state park commission began acquiring land that encompassed remnants of the inner and outer line defenses from the encampment and eventually accrued several historic structures, including Washington’s Headquarters, as well as a thin strip of property north of the Schuylkill River.

The area remained popular into the 1920s with city dwellers seeking to escape the oppressive heat of the city and return to nature. The south side of the park remained a historic tourist destination, but the popularity of the north side declined. With the strong connection to the American Revolution, Valley Forge became a symbolic site for reflection, commemoration, and occasionally protest. During the Vietnam era, Vietnam Veterans Against the War organized Operation RAW (Rapid American Withdrawal), a march from Morristown to Valley Forge culminating with a rally in Valley Forge on Labor Day 1970.

In 1976 the National Park Service acquired stewardship of Valley Forge when President Gerald Ford (1913-2006) signed legislation creating Valley Forge National Historical Park. Today, Valley Forge National Historical Park is more than five square miles of green landscape in Philadelphia’s suburban sprawl. Bisected by the Schuylkill River, the park is divided into the well-known south side, where there is an abundance of historic structures and interpretation of the Revolutionary War, and the north side, which has an extensive trail system.

Siobhan Fitzpatrick has worked with several history organizations in New Jersey and at Valley Forge National Historical Park.

Copyright 2014, Rutgers University.

Related Reading

Bodle, Wayne. The Valley Forge Winter: Civilians and Soldiers in War. University Park: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 2002.

Brier, Mark A. “Tolerably Comfortable: A Field Trial of a Recreated Soldier Cabin at Valley Forge,” Valley Forge National Historical Park, 2004.

Dodd, John Bruce, and Cherry Dodd. Historic Structure Report: The Philander Knox Estate. Valley Forge National Historical Park. Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. 1981.

— — —. Historic Structure Report: Varnum’s Quarters. Valley Forge National Historical Park Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. 1981.

— — —. Historic Structure Report: Washington’s Headquarters. Valley Forge National Historical Park Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. 1981.

Fleming, Thomas. Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge. New York: Harper Perennial, 2006.

Kurtz, James. Archeological Inventory and Assessment: North of the Schuylkill River. Valley Forge National Historical Park Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. 1988. Revised 2001.

Lockhart, Paul. The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army. New York: Harper Perennial, 2010.

Treese, Lorett. Valley Forge Making and Remaking a National Symbol. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1995.


At Valley Forge National Historical Park , Valley Forge, Pa.: Horace Willcox Memorial Library Collections George C. Neumann Collection John Reed Collection Francis M. Brooke Collection Records of the Valley Forge Park Commission Archeological Collection Photographic & Postcard Collection.

Places to Visit

Valley Forge National Historical Park, Visitor Center, 1400 North Outer Line Drive, King of Prussia, Pa.

Watch the video: Philadelphia history and Valley Forge (January 2022).