The Most Memorable American Winter of All

January 14, 2011

The March to Valley Forge by W.T. Trego, 1883

“Naked and starving as they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery,”
     — George Washington, February 1778

We may have difficulty bearing the cold of present-day winters, but while I was cuddled up under a quilt reading Posterity: Letters of Great Americans to Their Children, I was reminded of the privations suffered in one of the most memorable winters in American History, that of George Washington’s Continental Army at Valley Forge in 1777/78.  In 1848, William Henry Seward (the man who secured purchase of Alaska for the United States) wrote about Valley Forge in a letter to his nine-year old son.  I found his words a valuable lesson in history, and I’ll share some of this letter here:

“I saw on the banks of the Schuylkill, Valley Forge the place where General Washington had his camp during one of the most severe winters which occurred during the American Revolution.  His camp extended four miles long with two entrenchments in front and high mountains on the one side and a deep creek on the other.  From the mountain in rear he could see with his spy glass the British army in Philadelphia seventy miles off.  He was almost destitute of ammunition to protect himself.  The Congress was not able to supply him with money, the army was in deplorable want of bread and meat clothes and shoes.  They suffered exceedingly.  The poor horses and dogs died of hunger and diarrhea and death extended to the men, a dozen were buried in a day and in one place, scarcely beneath the frost in the surface of the ground.  The farmer now often turns up the bones of the lost men when plowing his fields.  Mrs. Washington was a good woman, she spent the winter in the camp and she served and consoled the sick and dying.  It was by such sacrifice that Liberty was obtained for the American people.  How good and virtuous and just we ought to be and how thankful to God that we have blessings secured by the virtue and sufferings of our ancestors.”

Isn’t this an apt reminder to keep our hardships in perspective?


3 Responses to “The Most Memorable American Winter of All”

  1. Margaret Says:

    It’s interesting that Martha was involved in tending to the men.

  2. Shirley Mord Says:

    Perfect, that you should find that interesting item about Martha Washington. Thank you

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