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The Continental Army at Valley Forge, 1777

The winter of 1777-8 was the low point of America's struggle for independence. The troubles began the previous August when the British fleet unloaded a force of Redcoats at the top of the Chesapeake Bay with the objective of capturing the American capital at Philadelphia. The Americans were routed by the British at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, leaving Philadelphia undefended. Members of the Continental Congress fled the city: first to Lancaster and then to York where they reestablished the capital. The British entered Philadelphia on September 26.

The Continental Army suffered another defeat at the Battle of Germantown just north of Philadelphia on Oct. 4. General Washington led his weary and demoralized army to Valley Forge a few miles away where they would camp for the winter and prepare for battle with the return of warm weather.

Conditions in the camp were horrendous. Forced to live in damp, crowded quarters, Washington's army of approximately 12,000 suffered from a lack of adequate clothing and food. Diseases such as typhoid, dysentery, typhus and pneumonia ran rampant. An estimated 2,000 died. Morale plummeted.


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