Sunday, June 13, 2021

The Continental Army at Valley Forge

 From The Journal of the American Revolution:

Beginning in the 1890s, publications describing the iconic Valley Forge winter rounded this troop strength down to a simplified “11,000,” an easily remembered number routinely cited for the next 125 years to the present date as Washington’s entry strength on December 19, 1777.[5] From an unknown source, some publications have increased that number to “approximately 12,000 troops.”[6] After consulting “the most meticulous scholars and researchers,” the two authors of a recent publication accepted the range of 11,000-12,000 and also acknowledged estimates up to 2,000 higher than this for the number of soldiers that left Whitemarsh (eight days before they entered Valley Forge).[7] The tradition was that, after entry, disease and hardships from inadequate food, clothes, and supplies reduced Washington’s army significantly below 11,000. According to a National Park Service teaching guide, “It may have been as low as 5,000-6,000 at some point,” before turning steeply on an upswing due to a combination of factors including several thousand new recruits and levees, and the influx of previously hospitalized and furloughed soldiers.[8]

Regardless of these scant and unattributed suggestions of a possibly higher entry force, that original figure of 11,000 as well as the revised 12,000 have never been seriously challenged. The following assessment for the first time analyzes thirty official returns: twenty-seven completed during the six-month encampment of Washington’s Continental army as well as three others surrounding it. The results of this analysis should force a reconsideration not only of the traditionally accepted size of Washington’s force that entered Valley Forge, but also to his army’s actual numerical strength throughout the first half of 1778 in his winter encampment, and the size of the army that departed Valley Forge on June 19, 1778 to embark upon the Monmouth campaign. (Read more.)


1 comment:

julygirl said...

I never understood why they decided to winter in such a hostile climate instead of in Virginia or Maryland. But then I also never understood why the D Day assault was at a place where they had to rappel up cliffs and were shot at like 'sitting ducks'.