Valley Forge

Following on the heels of major defeats in the Philadelphia Campaign that resulted in the loss of the capital itself, the Continental Army endured one of the most trying periods of its history during the six months it spent in winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, from December 19, 1777 to June 18, 1778. Although the spot was superb as a defensive position, and close to fresh water and plenty of wood for huts and fires, the breakdown of the army's supply system meant little food or clothing reached the encampment for long stretches. That logistical failure, more than the weather (for that winter was comparatively mild), accounts for the misery faced by the soldiers at Valley Forge, where an estimated 2,000 men — almost one of every five in George Washington's army — died. Nevertheless, the men who emerged from Valley Forge were a stronger army than the one that entered it. A training program led by Prussian officer Friedrich von Steuben, a restructured supply system put into place by Nathanael Greene, and other reforms implemented by Washington turned the Continental Army into a much more disciplined and effective fighting force.

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