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AMERICAN ARMY GOES TO VALLEY FORGE.
wing or the American army.* For occupied, returned to Philadelphia two days Howe made various move- on December 8.* At that time the ments in front of Washington's armies were about equal numerically, camp in an endeavor to draw him
each consisting of slightly more than out. Some skirmishing took place 14,000 troops. After Howe's return but Washington remained within his to Philadelphia, Washington deterlines, and Howe, seeing no immediate mined to leave White Marsh and go prospect of an engagement, and into winter quarters at Valley Forge, deeming it inadvisable to attack about twenty miles from PhilaWashington in the position he then delphia.t
VALLEY FORGE: CONWAY'S CABAL. The army encamps at Valley Forge --Sufferings of the soldiers — Scarcity of food and clothing - Washington
remonstrates to Congress and the States — Trouble in the Commissary Department - Washington urges half pay system — Opposition of delegates in Congress — Attempt of Conway, Gates and Mifflin to ruin Washington's reputation - Anonymous letters circulated — Washington's reply — Projected expedition to Canada - Lafayette refuses to join the Cabal – Conway's confession.
It will be remembered that Washing and discretion. After Howe had ton had been clothed with large powers occupied Philadelphia and had failed by Congress so that, if it became
* Carrington, Battles of the Revolution, pp.
397necessary, he could use forcible means
398; Ford's ed. of Washington's Writings, vol. vi., to obtain supplies for the army, but pp. 238–240; Irving, Life of Washington, vol. iii., these powers he was loath to use. †
pp. 348–351; Stedman, American War, vol. i., pp.
305–306; Reed, Life of Joseph Reed, vol. i., pp. Instead of acting in an arbitrary
350-351; Greene, Life of Nathanael Greene, p. manner, he always first attempted to 534; Lossing, Field-Book of the Revolution, vol. gain his ends by peaceable means,
ii., pp. 115–116; Kapp, Life of Kalb, pp. 133-134.
† Gordon, American Revolution, vol. iii., pp. 10– and while he never failed to display 12 (ed. 1788); Ford's ed. of Washington's Writfirmness and decision, yet every act ings, vol. vi., pp. 243-245; Tower, Marquis de La
Fayette, vol. i., p. 255. was characterized by great prudence
I It was in December, 1777, that Mr. Bushnell,
the inventor of the American torpedo and other * On the manner in which Washington was submarine machinery, set afloat in the Delaware warned of Howe's attempt to surprise him, see a contrivance which frightened the British not a Lossing, Book of the Revolution, vol. ii., pp. 95– little. This was a squadron of kegs, charged with 96; Mrs. Ellett, Women of the Revolution, vol. i., powder, to explode on coming in contact with any. p. 170 et seq.
thing. The ice prevented the success of this con† See his letter of December 15 to the President trivance, but as a boat was blown up, and some of Congress, quoted in Sparks, Life of Washing- of the kegs exploded, the British at Philadelphia, ton, p. 243.
not knowing what dreadful affairs might be in 70
CONDITION OF AMERICAN ARMY.
to draw Washington into a general sions of the huts were 16 x 14 feet, battle, winter came on and practically and 12 privates were assigned to each put a stop to any further operations or a smaller number of officers acfor the season. Washington there- cording to rank. A general officer fore called a council of his officers to was the sole tenant of a hut.* Todetermine upon the most suitable ward the middle of December, the place as winter quarters for the army began its march toward Valley army. Many different opinions were Forge, and such was the condition of expressed, but finally Washington
Washington the troops that numbers were seen to was compelled to decide for himself, drop dead with the cold, while those selecting Valley Forge. This was a who remained alive, being without deep and rugged valley situated shoes, had their feet cut by the ice, about twenty miles from Philadel- and left their tracks in blood. At phia. On one side it was bounded by length, after the most painful experithe Schuylkill, and on the other by ence, the troops reached Valley ridges of hills. Shortly after the Forge and immediately set about army arrived at Valley Forge, Gen- constructing their habitations accorderal Greene, much against his will, ing to the plan. In a short time the was appointed Quartermaster-Gen
drew from him some pretty plain words on this eral.* The army was lacking in al- point: “We find gentlemen, without knowing most everything-food, clothing, tents,
whether the army was really going into winter.
quarters or not, reprobating the measure as much supplies, etc. As the clothing of the
as if they thought that the soldiers were made soldiers was so miserably deficient, of stocks or stones, and equally insensible of frost it were inhuman to consign them to
and snow; and moreover, as if they conceived it
easily practicable for an inferior army, under exposure to the inclement weather
the disadvantages I have described ours to be, merely under tents, and it was there
which are by no means exaggerated, to confine a
superior one, in all respects well appointed, and fore determined that a sufficient num
provided for a winter's campaign, within the city ber of huts should be built of logs
of Philadelphia, and to cover from depredation
and waste, the States of Pennsylvania and New filled in with mortar.t The dimen
I can assure these gentlemen,
that it is a much easier and less distressing thing, the water, fired at everything they saw in the ebb to draw remonstrances in a comfortable room, tide. Bushnell's own account of this affair is in by a good fireside, than to occupy a cold, bleak Transactions of the American Philosophical So- hill, and sleep under frost and snow, without ciety, vol. iv., p. 312. See also Thacher, Military clothes or blankets. However, although they seem Journal, pp. 63–64, 121–124. Mr. Hopkinson's to have little feeling for the naked and distressed Battle of the Kegs is reprinted in Frank Morse, soldiers, I feel superabundantly for them, and Diary of the American Revolution, vol. ii., pp. from my soul I pity those miseries, which it is 5-6; Thacher, pp. 361-362. See also the review neither in my power to relieve or prevent.” in Tyler's Literary History of the American Rev- Sparks, Life of Washington, pp. 256-257. The olution, vol. ii., pp. 146–149.
whole letter is in Irving, Life of Washington, * F. V. Greene, Life of Greene, p. 96 et seq. vol. iii., pp. 355-358. See also Trevelyan, Ameri
† At the time the legislature of Pennsylvania, can Revolution, vol. iv., p. 303; Johnson, General vexed at the loss of Philadelphia, complained be- Washington, pp. 180–182. cause Washington went into winter-quarters. This * Sparks, Life of Washington, p. 245.
SUFFERING OF THE SOLDIERS.
barracks were completed and the ing any blankets ;- it is small wonder troops were lodged therein with that the greater part of the army was some degree of comfort.*
soon unfit for service. As a result, The army was soon called upon large numbers sickened; while others, to endure intense suffering which being unfit for duty because of nakedcan hardly be described in words.
ness, were excused from military Tattered, half naked, and utterly duty by their officers and remained in destitute of everything necessary their barracks or were lodged in the to support life; some of the sol- houses of neighboring farmers; so
diers having only one shirt while a that, of the entire army more than large majority had none at all; 3,000 men were incapable of bearing large numbers being compelled to arms. In a letter to Patrick Henry walk over the frozen ground bare- dated December 27, 1777, Washington footed for want of shoes,t; few hav- said: “I assure you, Sir, it is not
easy to give you a just and accurate * On the disposition of the troops, see Lossing,
idea of the sufferings of the Troops Field-Book of the Revolution, vol. ii., p. 128.
† Gordon, American Revolution, vol. iii., p. 68 at large. Were they to be minutely et seq.; Hart, American History Told by Con- detailed the relations so unexpected, temporaries, vol. ii., p. 570; Ford's ed. of Washington's Writings, vol. vi., p. 260; Brooks, Life of Stillé, Wayne and the Pennsylvania Line, p. 115 Knox, p. 115; Kapp, Life of Steuben, p. 118;
MISMANAGEMENT AND CORRUPTION.
so contrary to the common opinion of chiefly by gross mismanagement people distant from the Army, would rather than by the poverty of the scarcely be thought credible. I fear I country.* Sumner also points out shall wound your feelings by telling that there was plenty all about and you that by a Field Return of the 23d that the people were not paying any Instant, we had in camp no less than war taxes. Distress and poverty were 2898 men unfit for duty by reason of not general and, except at the very their being barefoot and otherwise seat of military operations for the naked. Besides these there are many
time being, the war did not press on others detained at the Hospitals the people in any way. The whole and Farmers houses for the same trouble lay in the lack of organization causes. Even the miserable huts and system. The commissariat was erected for the soldiers were without
wretched working condition straw, and the soldiers, overwhelmed throughout the entire war, and while with lassitude, benumbed with cold, we probably have heard more of the and enfeebled by hunger, were com
sufferings at Valley Forge than those pelled to sleep on the humid ground. t of any other period during the war, In conjunction with other causes, this still the sufferings during the next condition propagated disease, and
two or three winters were no less the hospitals were replenished as
severe. Greene often complained of soon as death evacuated them. The the nakedness and distress of the administration of the hospitals was
Southern army during the campaigns no less defective in its organization
of 1780–81.7 However, the sufferthan that of the camp. I Hospital
Hospital ings of the soldiers were not in the fever soon broke out because of the least alleviated by saying that the unsuitableness of the building in
commissariat was at fault, for no which the patients had been lodged,
matter where the fault lay, the facts and the crowding of the sick, with the
still remained that the soldiers sufnatural result that large numbers of
fered and that under the present those who otherwise would probably management there was no possible have survived, succumbed.||
way to remedy the sad condition. Fiske says that while these suffer- There was no clean linen to be seings have drawn forth unlimited cured; even the coarsest diet was pity, we should not lose sight of the scarcely obtainable; while the little fact that this misery was caused
medicine the army had was so adul
terated through the shameless cupidHenry, Life of Patrick Henry, vol. iii., p. 137.
ity of contractors as to be almost See also his letter of February 19, 1778, p. 148. † See Trevelyan, American Revolution, vol. iv.,
worthless. This corruption among p. 295 et seq. # See Kapp, Life of Kalb, p. 137 et seq.
* American Revolution, vol. ii., pp. 28–29. || Trevelyan, p. 298 et seq.
† Life of Alexander Hamilton, pp. 87–88.