In war there is a time for fighting, a time for thinking and even a time for resting, a time of temporary peace. When winter arrived in the revolutionary war, both the patriots and the British decided to stop fighting for a while, since mobilization of troops and fighting was much tougher when struggling to keep your body warm or walk on dense snow.
On the winter of 1777 and 1778, the patriot army had lost Philadelphia and needed a place to spend the winter. It had to be close enough to Philadelphia in order to have some intel on the British and prevent them from marching deeper into Pennsylvania, but not so close that British could risk a night raid on the Patriots while they were asleep.

Washington decided to make camp at Valley Forge, it was a optimum defensive spot for the Patriots. It was surrounded by mounts that provided a natural barrier and it had the Schuyilkill River to the North which was an obstacle for anyone who wanted to attack them. Besides having a very good geographical location for defending, it was 25 miles northwest of Philadelphia, it was close enough to send spies and gather intel and far enough for the British not to risk their troops on a march to attack the colonists.

Everything looks perfect up to this point, but the Continental army is going through very hard times. Out of the 10,000 man he has at his command, only 1/3 of the army possessed boots and coats to spend the winter. Many of the soldiers had to wrap up their feet using dead rat fur, and that was for the lucky ones who could find rats to kill. The rest of the soldiers walked barefooted on snow! If you haven’t touch snow in your bare skin entire life, let me tell you, it so cold, that it burns your skin. Now to that, add up the cold winds that blow and marching almost 10 hours a day. Some historians assure, that the Continental army left a trail of blood wherever they marched.

“We have this day no less than 2,873 men in camp, unfit for duty because they are barefooted and otherwise naked.” – George Washington

Not only that, supplies for food were scarce, the men would usually work tirelessly under the cold winter in order to build some cabin for them to spend the night, but they would do this starving. They received very few and inadequate supplies of meat and bread, luckily for the Continental army, the baking talents of general Christopher Ludwig helped them by providing them one pound of freshly baked bread a day, which was better than nothing. George Washington taking a look at the desperate situation in which his army stands, decides to write a letter to the Congress in which he explained that if circumstances didn’t improve he would be force to starve, disperse or dissolve the Continental army.

 

 

 

 

 

 

But still, it took some time for the letter to arrive, and patriots had to hold on. Horses were starting from starvation, and the soldiers were dying because of exposure of wounds to the outer environment, not only that but with all these factors of lack of hygiene, hunger and living overcrowded in one cabin made sickness ravage Valley Forge; typhoid, jaundice, dysentery, and pneumonia were among the many diseases that killed 2,500 men that winter.

After many attempts from Washington to make the Continental Congress send supplies, there was still no reply. The Congress had too much things to do throughout the whole territory. But a luckily sky heaven angels came to the rescue, and these angels were the women. Wives, daughters, sisters, nieces, mothers all of them provided help to this army in need. They help to nurse and treat them, sewing and making coats and clothing to the army, and gathering and cooking food for the exhausted soldiers. Some even disguised themselves as men and fought in the battles ahead.

“They were as sky heaven angels, that came to our aid in the most adequate moment… “- taken from a soldier’s diary

Not only did the army received this miraculous morale help, but the army received as well specialized training by the European general Baron Friedrich von Steuben. He taught them discipline, taught them organization while in battle and gave this farmers and merchants a top quality military training that would really prove to be useful when fighting the red coats in future battles.

Having no help or support at all from the Continental Congress, George Washington and his army were not only able to withstand the hardest of challenges that winter had against his weaken army, but they were able to improve their skills, increase their motivation for fighting, and were eager to fight the British when spring arrived, and their wishes will soon become true. After 6 months of having arrived to Valley Forge, word of the British leaving Philadelphia and moving north toward New York arrived, and George Washington went on their pursuit.
It is incredible that when you think about it, Washington was able to win such a great war against the best army in the world by those times, with an army of farmers and merchants; just because of the fact that he and his army were able to survive for one more day in that cold winter of 1777-1778. It is the little things, the ones who make up the huge difference in the end.

“There is a Destiny which has the control of our actions, not to be resisted by the strongest efforts of Human Nature.” – Mighty General George Washington

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