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Chapter Thirteen. Washington at Valley Forge

Mary Stockwell

Subject History » Military History

Place Americas » Northern America

Period 1000 - 1999 » 1700-1799

Key-Topics American War of Independence

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781444331035.2012.00015.x


It is a frequent complaint about Americans today that we no longer know our own history. Probably few of us could describe exactly what happened on July 4, 1776 although we celebrate the Fourth of July faithfully each year with fireworks and family picnics. We would struggle even more to explain what the Constitution actually says despite the fact that we loudly proclaim its rights. Just as certainly, the great debate over slavery and its possible extension into the western territories – and so permanently into the nation's future – is no longer a story that we can recall with any ease. But if the words “Valley Forge” come to mind, a chill invades our hearts. We become at once a people who remember something remarkable and terrible that happened. Images come quickly to every one of us – bloody footprints of shoeless men marching in the snow, lonely campfires with a few ill-clad soldiers huddled about them, and General George Washington on his knees with his head bowed, praying that his army and his nation might survive the winter and the long fight ahead. These images are so deeply ingrained on our collective soul that if we pass through a terrible trial of our own, we often describe it as our “Valley Forge.” Americans might be surprised to learn that their forebears did not always remember Valley Forge quite so vividly. Whether this came from the tendency of the nation to move ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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