Credit: SuperStock

Historical Insights Winter at Valley Forge

George Washington strategized that Valley Forge was close enough to Philadelphia to deter the British from pushing farther inland, but far enough away to prevent surprise attacks. About 1777, Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. Credit: SuperStock

Winter at Valley Forge

Taking refuge from the harsh winter in 1777, some 12,000 soldiers set up camp at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, just 20 miles from the British-occupied American capital at Philadelphia.

Under the command of George Washington, an estimated 12,000 weary soldiers marched into Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, on December 19, 1777. On a high plateau and surrounded by hills, the location was deemed secure from British forces that controlled the nation’s capital, Philadelphia, just 20 miles away. The British were notorious for pillaging local farms for supplies, so farmers rejoiced at the arrival of their American protectors, offering them food and shelter. With snow making surrounding roads impassable, battle was out of the question, so soldiers hunkered down and got to work building thousands of cabins. Only one in three men arrived with boots to cover their feet, but troops remained devoted, partaking in drills and battlefield formations. In February, much needed supplies finally arrived. With full bellies and sharpened military skills, the troops left Valley Forge for battle on June 18, 1778, fortified by a new alliance with France. Despite earlier defeats, local Pennsylvanians and soldiers alike remained hopeful, envisioning an American victory.