Patrick Henry Chapter “President’s Campfire”

July is a time of celebration for our nation.  We celebrate our independence on the fourth of July every year commemorating the adoption of the “Declaration of Independence” by the Continental Congress in 1776 having declared that the thirteen American colonies regarded themselves as a new nation, the United States of America, and no longer a part of the British Empire.  Until that declaration was made on that day, the thirteen colonies were in essence conducting themselves as independent entities.  For the first time, they were united against a common tyrannical foe.

General George Washington became the Commander-in-Chief of the new united colonies’ Continental Army, but he was not uniformly supported by members of the Continental Congress for this command position nor even within his own officer ranks by some.  As today, there were those, who during turbulent times, have different ideas and thoughts regarding who should lead and what should be done. Several battles were fought and the untrained Continental Army did not fare well against the highly trained, well-armed British regular troops.

After the Battle of Brandywine near Philadelphia, PA, Washington’s Army marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777 for the winter.  Although the Continental Army did not win the Battle of Brandywine, they did acquit themselves admirably for the first time.  The Continental Army entered their winter encampment battle worn, hungry, and poorly clothed for the cold, wet weather, but hopeful.  It is said that Washington commented that he could follow his men’s trail to Valley Forge by the blood staining the snow.  Sickness would soon follow and many would die.

George Washington directed his officers to begin cutting trees to build cabins for shelter from the cold and wet weather.  To keep the morale of his soldiers high under sever duress, competition was encouraged between the units to see who could complete their cabins first.  It took about a month of hard work to complete the much needed cabins.  During this time and the months that followed, George Washington sent several requests to the Continental Congress requesting food, clothing and supplies, but to little avail.  The young Continental Congress was too busy discussing issues of the day through committee assignments.  He sent out soldiers to search for what food and supplies could be acquired.  The problem was that farmers were not prepared to provide for a Continental Army in excess of 10,000 soldiers.  To add to the problem, the Continental Army paid with almost worthless Continental Script, while the British paid the farmers with gold.  It was a very difficult time for the Continental Army.

George Washington was able to sustain the Continental Army at Valley Forge for six months through determination and the sacrifice of all.  British troops quickly moved out of Philadelphia, PA to reinforce their position in New York, NY when France entered into a pact with the United States of America.  This critical pact drastically changed the dynamics of the war.  The Continental Army marched out of Valley Forge on June 19, 1778 to follow the British troops and the rest is history.  As Compatriots, let us not forget our original heroic soldiers and honor their service to our country.  The soldiers at Valley Forge could only dream of the abundance we take for granted today, but their spirit will always be with us as we honor their bravery, strength and resolve!