“Rev War Revelry” Nathanael Greene, Quartermaster

In March 1778, Major General Nathanael Greene finally consented to become the quartermaster for the Continental army then encamped at Valley Forge. He was loathe to give up his position as a line commander in charge of a division of infantry but with reassurances from General George Washington that he would retain his place and that his expertise was absolutely needed to revitalize the quartermaster department the Rhode Islander agreed.

His work over the next two plus years paid huge dividends. On Sunday, August 21, at 7p.m. EDT join Emerging Revolutionary War on our Facebook page for the next “Rev War Revelry.” Joining ERW will be the American Battlefield Trust’s Senior Education Manager, historian and author Dan Davis.

In reference to Greene’s role as quartermaster general at Valley Forge, Davis said, “Primarily remembered for his actions during the Southern Campaign, Nathanael Greene’s efforts at Valley Forge were critical in sustaining the Continental Army during a crucial period of its history.”

We look forward to a great discussion and hope you can join us for this historian happy hour!

One artist’s depiction of what the encampment at Valley Forge looked like

‘Timely and Handsome’: Transformation of the Continental Army at Valley Forge (Virtual Event)

April 19th in American Revolutionary War history is usually remembered as the day the “shot heard around the world” happened in the towns of Lexington and Concord, Massachusetts. For the 2022 edition of that day, Emerging Revolutionary War invites you to turn your attention to Valley Forge and a virtual event hosted by the Valley Forge Park Alliance.

Starting at 7 p.m. EDT, Emerging Revolutionary War historian, Phillip S. Greenwalt will present a virtual talk entitled, ‘Timely and Handsome’: Transformation of the Continental Army at Valley Forge. A synopsis of the talk is below.

“As spring began to blossom over Valley Forge, Baron von Steuben’s drilling of the Continental army was in full effect. Although the men and officers of Washington’s army had become proficient on the drill field, there was still the simple question of how would they fare against the British in the upcoming campaign season? A month prior to the end of the winter encampment on June 19, 1778, a small-scale action, at Barren Hill, by a detachment of the Continental army would prove a snapshot into possible future battlefield behavior. The signs were promising. This talk will focus on the training of von Steuben, the composition of the Marquis de Lafayette’s force that marched out of the encampment in middle of May, the action at Barren’s Hill, and the insight this small scale action showed about the transformation of the army during the winter at Valley Forge.”

To register for the event, click here. The link will take you to the Valley Forge Park Alliance website. To learn more about this important aspect of the Valley Forge encampment, Emerging Revolutionary War invites you to click the link on the title bar at the top of this blog labeled “2022 Bus Tour” and secure one of 14 remaining tickets to attend the November 11-13, 2022 tour that will cover Valley Forge and Monmouth.

Reenactors portraying Continental soldiers being trained at Valley Forge
(courtesy of Valley Forge Park Alliance)

von Steuben arrives…

After a circuitous journey, from Paris, France across the Atlantic Ocean and then into Pennsylvania, an eager participant trekked to join the American effort. After an introduction to the Continental Congress this European officer headed toward the Continental army encampment. Baron Frederich William Ludolf Gerhard Augustin von Steuben, 47-years old, rode into camp drawn by horses and relaxing, as much as one can on the roads of Pennsylvania during 1770s, in a sleigh, with a Russian wolfhound dog strolling beside the wooden vehicle. On this date, 244 years ago, General George Washington, his staff, and any inquiring eyes around camp saw von Steuben for the first time.

Baron von Steuben Statue, Valley Forge NHP

Although Christmas was almost two months in the past, von Steuben became a late blessing for Washington and his Continental army. Through an adaptation of a military training regimen from continental Europe which became a manual known as the “Blue Book” (this guide was used to train United States Army recruits for decades into the future as well), von Steuben began to morph the rank-and-file and junior officer corps of the Continental army into an actual army that knew how to follow commands and change formations. This training aided the Continentals in the battles of 1778, from a small engagement in May at Barren Hill to the last major fighting in the northern theater at Monmouth in June and into other theaters of the conflict.

Today, the field in which he trained the first model company is preserved by the National Park Service within the boundary of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

This November, during the second annual Emerging Revolutionary War bus tour, attendees will see the field and stand at the foot of the statue to von Steuben, looking over the same ground he first saw on this date, February 23, 1778. To secure your tickets, click the link on the header bar above titled “2022 Bus Tour.”

See you in November!

Valley Forge Documentary

244 years ago this week is when the Continental army, under the command of George Washington, marched into what would become their winter encampment as the year turned from 1777-1778. Recently, Phillip S. Greenwalt, one of the Emerging Revolutionary War historians was a “talking head” on a documentary about the Valley Forge encampment and what the soldiers and civilians faced during the ensuing six-month cantonment.

The documentary which features historians and park rangers is airing on Fox News Nation, the streaming service that is part of the Fox News network. Below is a screen shot of Phillip, who is also the author of Winter that Won the War, the Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778, which is part of the Emerging Revolutionary War Series published by Savas Beatie LLC.

So, if you need a break from the holiday specials that are airing, tune in for your history fix and learn more about the history at Valley Forge. If you want to dive even deeper into this period of the American Revolution, check out the link above labeled “2022 Bus Tour” and secure your tickets to join ERW at our second annual bus tour next November, which will include Valley Forge.

Washington’s First Valley Forge Abode Location

As the Continental Army marched into Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, staff officers under the commanding general had scoured the local area for a residence suitable for George Washington that winter. While discussions and negotiations were taking place, since the Continental Congress had decreed that the army had to ask and could not just commandeer private residences which was a chief complaint of the British policy prior to the war, Washington spent five nights in his marquee.

Afterwards Washington and his military family, later joined by Martha Washington, the general’s wife, moved into the Isaac Potts House for the remainder of the winter encampment.

This tent, called a marquee and served as headquarters, sleeping quarters, and dining area, was pitched in a field in the valley. The site is now marked by a stone monument and within the boundaries of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

On the second annual Emerging Revolutionary War Bus Tour, “The Rise of the American Army: Valley Forge and the Battle of Monmouth” from November 11 -13, 2022, this site, where Washington’s marquee tent was hoisted, will be one of the sites shown to tour participants.

To secure your spot, click here or the link on the banner at the top of this page.

“Rev War Revelry” The Winter that Won the War, Valley Forge

In June 1778, the Continental army marched out of their winter encampment in Valley Forge, Pennsylvania and headed toward New Jersey in pursuit of the retreating British army. The past six months, from December 1777 to June 1778, ushered in a period of suffering, renewal, and change.

Valley Forge is imprinted into the psyche of Americans as the the toughest winter of the entire American Revolution. In fairness, it was one of many tough winters that the Continental army survived. However, the reasons why this winter stands out will be part of the discussion of this Sunday evening’s “Rev War Revelry” which can be found on Emerging Revolutionary War’s Facebook page at 7 pm. EDT.

This week’s historian happy hour includes a discussion with Philip S. Greenwalt author of the recently released Emerging Revolutionary War Series title, The Winter that Won the War. This is the fourth volume in the series, with previous ones covering Lexington and Concord, Trenton and Princeton, and Monmouth.

Greenwalt will discuss how the Valley Forge winter was the intersection of various issues and how the decisions made and the determination of survival by the army made this the winter that won the war.

Tune in as well to hear how you can purchase a copy of this book to take with you as you plan that summer trip to Valley Forge and the Philadelphia area!

Marching Out of Valley Forge

On this date, in 1778, the Continental army, under the command of General George Washington broke winter camp and began the spring campaign. Their objective was to catch the British army, under Sir Henry Clinton, retreating across New Jersey to the safety of New York City.

Nine days later, in the last major action in the northern theater, Washington’s forces would engage their adversary in the Battle of Monmouth. The army that fought this engagement in one of the hottest recorded days of any battle in American history, was a much improved military organization. Not perfect but much improved from the force that marched into Valley Forge six months prior.

During that half-year, from December 19 to June 19, the army saw an improved quartermaster department, the formation of a military handbook and tactical training, and the news that a powerful European nation had agreed to become allies in the quest for American independence.

Much is made of turning points or the critical importance of an event so I do not want to retread that argument here. However, what happened at Valley Forge was significant in the path to eventual American victory and the formation of the United States of America.

There is an old saying that even the greatest fiction writers cannot envision a story that is unbelievable as actual events can be. Or to sum it up more succinctly, a coincidence. After delays due to the pandemic, the latest volume of the Emerging Revolutionary War Series was released, in time for the 243rd anniversary of the end of the winter cantonment at Valley Forge.

The book is authored by yours truly and can be found via the publisher’s website by clicking here or through your favorite bookseller or by emailing Emerging Revolutionary War.

Then follow in the footsteps of Washington’s forces to Monmouth.

The Forgotten Woman of Valley Forge from America’s Forgotten Ally

During the winter encampment at Valley Forge, as thousands of men huddled around drafty wooden cabins, with dwindling supplies, and battled boredom and disease, a relief effort was organized hundreds of miles away.

George Washington, ensconced at the Potts House in the heart of the Valley Forge encampment, was very aware of the dire straights that his forces were exposed to. Throughout the winter he sent missives, directly and through intermediaries, discreetly asking for more aid, for supplies, for changes to military bureaucracy. He even consented to a delegation of congressmen to visit Valley Forge and see first-hand the situation in the winter of 1777-1778.

In a proverbial sense, he did not leave any stone unturned to try and ease the plight of his forces or continue to stay abreast of British designs, less than twenty-miles away in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

After hearing of the contributions of the Oneidas and Tuscaroras at the Battle of Oriskany in New York, Washington sent a letter of invitation for the Native Americans to visit his army. Approximately 50 warriors along with supplies made the few hundred mile journey from upstate New York to eastern Pennsylvania. They left their villages on April 25 and arrived on May 15,1778 in Valley Forge. The leaders of the Oneida party dined with Washington. Five days later some of the warriors participated in the engagement at Barren Hill under the Marquis de Lafayette. Six of the warriors gave their life in service to their ally.

In 2007 historian Joseph T. Glatthaar published a book about the Oneidas and their contributions to the American victory in the war. The title, in part, is Forgotten Allies. A fitting testament to the service and sacrifice this tribe underwent in their partnership with the fledgling American nation.

In 2004 a sculpture was completed of Polly Cooper, Chief Skenandoah, and George Washington
(courtesy of King of Prussia Historical Society)

If the Oneidas were the “forgotten allies” than in the winter encampment at Valley Forge there was a forgotten woman that tramped south with her fellow Oneidas. Her name was Polly Cooper.

Along with the warriors, whom Washington wanted to serve as scouts, the Oneidas brought much needed supplies, including bushels of white corn. While the leaders dined at the Potts House, Cooper established a de-facto cooking show. She handed out the white corn to the soldiers and taught them how to use husks to make soup and ground grain to make it palatable.

This much needed food sources, along with an improved supply chain under quartermaster Nathanael Greene rounded out the bleak winter with the glimmer of hope for better supplies in the upcoming campaign season.

The Oneida, including Polly Cooper for her services, refused any and all payment. Friends help friends in need is what the Oneida told Washington and his officers. However, a tradition exists in the history of the Oneida nation. That story, passed down orally from generation to generation, highlights that Marth Washington, in her gratitude for what Polly Cooper did for the rank-and-file of the Continental army, presented the Oneida heroine with a shawl and bonnet.

Another account reads that Cooper was gifted a black shawl that she saw for sale in a store window. The Continental Congress appropriated the money for the clothing item and gifted it as their thanks to her. This shawl is still in the ownership of her descendants and has been loaned to the Oneida cultural center from time to time.

The black shawl that Polly Cooper received for her services to the Continental Army at Valley Forge
(courtesy of the Oneida Indian Nation
http://www.oneidaindiannation.org)

Emerging Revolutionary War Series 2019 Releases

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In 2018, the inaugural two volumes, of the Emerging Revolutionary War Series published by Savas Beatie, LLC. Those first two volumes were; A Single Blow, The Battles of Lexington and Concord and The Beginning of the American Revolution and Victory or Death, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton.

In 2019, the series is set to release the next two volumes. The Winter that Won the War, The Winter Encampment at Valley Forge, 1777-1778 and A Handsome Flogging, The Battle of Monmouth, June 28, 1778. This past week, the covers of both were released by Savas Beatie so get a sneak peak below.

Both titles are scheduled for a release later this year. Stay tuned for updates!

Book Review: Bob Drury & Tom Clavin, Valley Forge, Kindle ed., (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018).

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Bob Drury and Tom Clavin have spent years writing books, both individually and as a team.  Between the two of them, they have explored topics ranging from baseball and golf to the old west and America’s 20th century wars.  With Valley Forge (Simon & Schuster, 2018), Clavin and Drury have turned to the American Revolution.  The result is another successful collaboration. (I’m biased as I have enjoyed several of their earlier books.)

Valley Forge tackles the Philadelphia Campaign, the winter encampment at Valley Forge (and elsewhere in truth), and the Continental Army’s emergence as a quality army capable of fighting the British on their own terms, which it demonstrated at Monmouth.  The focus is on Washington and the main army with him.  The reader sees both of them grow as Washington defeats political attempts to undermine his leadership and struggles to hold the army together in the face of harsh conditions and insufficient support from the rebelling states, Continental Congress, and local farmers.  Meanwhile, the Army develops into a core of hard-bitten professionals suitably trained in European methods specifically adjusted for their circumstances. After undergoing Steuben’s training program, it had the military skills needed to match its fighting spirit. By and large, it marked a turning point in the war.  Thus, at the end, the authors argue, “For those who survived, not least their inspired and inspiring commander in chief, the hardships they overcame had not so much transformed their innate character as revealed it.”[i] Continue reading “Book Review: Bob Drury & Tom Clavin, Valley Forge, Kindle ed., (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2018).”