Soldiers Stories: Letters from the Valley Forge Encampment

 

What did the soldiers write about at Valley Forge?  Would you be surprised by a letter stating the huts were comfortable, or another that said that they have Milk and Sugar in plenty?  Soldiers shared their views through letters they wrote at this encampment and it shows Come and join us on Monday, May 8th as noted author and researcher Dr. Nancy K. Loane shares Soldiers Stories: Letters from the Valley Forge Encampment.

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Jun 282016
 

Did you know that during the 6 day siege at Fort Mifflin the 400 American’s inside the fort had only 10 cannon to defend against the British with 2000 troops, a fleet of ships, and 228 cannon?  It was a cold and wet November in 1777 at Fort Mifflin (Named after General Thomas Mifflin), a wood and stone structure located nine miles from center city Philadelphia, on a muddy island in the Delaware River. What happened here may well have changed American history. But few people are aware of it.

Join us on Monday, April 10th as we welcome Elizabeth Beatty, executive director of the National Historic Landmark Fort Mifflin.

Our lectures have proved to be very popular and we strongly recommend that you book your seat now. 

Register NOW

Click here to register for this lecture

The all inclusive admission price is $49 per person which includes the 18th century American Fare Buffet, all soft beverages and coffee, family style sweets during the question and answer session, all tax and gratuities, the lecture, and a donation to help support the Paoli Battlefield Historical Park.

Your admission also includes a raffle ticket for a chance to win a night’s stay at the General Warren Inne. There will be one winner drawn at each lecture.

ftmifflin

Ariel View of Fort Mifflin

In 1777 (from November 10th to the 15th), British troops bombarded the 22-acre fort with more than 10,000 cannon balls, eventually destroying the structure.

Inside the fort, a cold, wet and hungry garrison of 400 men suffered 240 casualties in the effort. So short were the Americans on ammunition that anyone retrieving a cannonball that could be fired back was promised a gill of rum — about four ounces.

The weather hurt the Continental soldiers in another critical way. With unusually heavy rains flooding the back channel, two British ships were able to sail up the channel and bombard the fort’s only unfinished walls at point-blank range. British Marines even climbed up to the crow’s nest of the HMS Vigilant and threw hand grenades at soldiers inside the fort.

With the fort walls collapsing around them from the incredible shelling, most of the Americans evacuated after nightfall on November 15th, rowing with muffled oars across the river to nearby Fort Mercer (now part of Redbank Battlefield Park, Gloucester, New Jersey).

The 40 men remaining at Fort Mifflin set fire to what was left of the structure, and then joined their comrades. But they left the fort’s flag flying, and they never surrendered.

Sinking of the HMS Agusta

Sinking of the HMS Agusta

Biggest Boom: The explosion of the 64-gun HMS Augusta in the Delaware River in October 1777 after running aground and being fired on by Americans at Fort Mifflin and Fort Mercer. Author Tom Paine, of “Common Sense” fame, who was on the road between Germantown and Whitemarsh, wrote to Ben Franklin that the sound was “like the peal of a hundred cannon at once.” The Augusta was the largest ship ever lost by the British to the Americans in two wars.

What they accomplished: The troops at Fort Mifflin bottled up 250 British ships in the Delaware River for about six weeks, destroying several — and preventing food, clothing, gunpowder and munitions from reaching the British army in Philadelphia.

By holding “to the last extremity,” as General George Washington had ordered, the men at Fort Mifflin gave Washington time to move his exhausted troops to Valley Forge for the winter — and very possibly saved the country.

After the war, Fort Mifflin was rebuilt. It served as a prison during the Civil War, and a naval munitions depot during World War I and II. Beth Beatty, who became executive director in 2010, views the fort as a veteran who has served and sacrificed for the country over an extended period of time.

 

For donations to Fort Mifflin, or to volunteer, go to: www.FortMifflin.us, or call 215-685-4167.

Jun 272016
 

What did the soldiers write about at Valley Forge?  Would you be surprised by a letter stating the huts were comfortable, or another that said that they have Milk and Sugar in plenty?  Soldiers shared their views through letters they wrote at this encampment and it shows Come and join us on Monday, May 8th as noted author and researcher Dr. Nancy K. Loane shares Soldiers Stories: Letters from the Valley Forge Encampment.

 

Our lectures have proved to be very popular and we strongly recommend that you book your seat now. 

Register NOW

Click here to register for this lecture

The all inclusive admission price is $49 per person which includes the 18th century American Fare Buffet, all soft beverages and coffee, family style sweets during the question and answer session, all tax and gratuities, the lecture, and a donation to help support the Paoli Battlefield Historical Park.

Your admission also includes a raffle ticket for a chance to win a night’s stay at the General Warren Inne. There will be one winner drawn at each lecture.

Washington_and_Lafayette_at_Valley_Forge

Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge

Letters written by the soldiers tell the story of Valley Forge like this one from Johann de Kalb to Comte de Broglie, Valley Forge, Christmas Day 1777 which says …it is very certain that half the army is almost naked, in a great measure bare-footed.” The army trudged into winter quarters at the “Forge in the Valley” less than a week before Christmas. The situation was grim: On 23 December Washington reported to Congress that his soldiers had to “…occupy a cold bleak hill and sleep under frost and Snow without Cloaths or Blankets…” The Continental Army struggled to get adequate clothing, shoes, blankets, food and supplies to the soldiers for the entire encampment period. Although the Connecticut troops were well supplied, the other states did not or could not send sufficient clothing for their men. Furthermore, the supply roads were treacherous, horses and wagons scarce, wagon drivers few. Clothing supplies were lost or stolen in transit. With inadequate clothing and shoes, the soldiers were unable to leave their huts to stand guard duty, go on foraging duty, or drill under Steuben. The clothing crisis ebbed in the spring with warmer weather, better roads, and a new quartermaster. But the “great deficiency of Blankets” continued through May.

 Dr. Nancy K. Loane, a former seasonal park ranger at Valley Forge National Historical Park, is a recognized authority on the women at the 1777-78 Valley Forge encampment. She is the author of several articles about the women at camp as well as the critically acclaimed book, Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment (Potomac Books, 2009). Described as “truly one of the great books on the Valley Forge encampment,” “not to be missed,” and “thoroughly researched and a compelling read,” Following the Drum received the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia’s “Best Book of the Year Award.”

An outstanding speaker, Nancy has presented more than 150 talks in eight states (including at the Library of Congress) on the women at the Valley Forge encampment, Martha Washington, and the Valley Forge encampment itself. Her fascinating, fun, fact-filled talks—all thoroughly grounded in primary research— bring history to life.

nancy k loane

Dr. Nancy K. Loane

Nancy Loane, who has participated in four archaeological digs at Valley Forge National Historical Park, is a board member of The Friends of Valley Forge Park, an honorary life-time member of the Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge, and a founding member of the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia. A former Pennsylvania Commonwealth Speaker, she has appeared on several radio shows and on cable network shows, including C-Span and Pennsylvania Cable Network. Recently Nancy was featured on C-Span’s series on the first ladies, where she discussed Martha Washington’s role at Valley Forge.  Dr. Loane’s website is www.womenatvalleyforge.com.

“Now prepare thyself, Pennsylvania”

 
Thomas McGuire

We are pleased to announce that our friend Thomas McGuire has agreed to take the May speaker slot.  Tom’s presentation is called “Now prepare thyself, Pennsylvania!” a series of lesser-known episodes of the Revolution which happened outside the Valley Forge encampment. They mostly center in Chester County and many of them involve the Lancaster Road September 1777-Spring 1778.

“Now prepare thyself, Pennsylvania!”, the title, comes from Rev. Henry Muhlenberg, who wrote it after hearing of the defeat at Brandywine, “Now prepare thyself, Pennsylvania, to meet the Lord thy God!” Scrounge around the county with British, Hessian, and Continental foraging parties; patrol the Lancaster Road with Col. Daniel Morgan and Captain Johann Ewald, and experience how they connected; share the grief of Gen. Nathanael Greene, who told Washington in February, “Like Pharaoh, I harden my heart,” while foraging to feed a desperate army; engage in spying with local patriots and loyalists; learn where Captain Henry “Light Horse Harry” Lee fended off a 200-strong British dragoon force, using only eight men and his wits; share the tragedy of Rev. William Currie, Anthony Wayne’s pastor at St. David’s, who lost his family during the Valley Forge encampment. Reserve your spot now!