The Battle of Valley Forge

The American Revolution era was one of the most significant time periods in the history of America. As America became more popular and gained more states they had to somehow break free from British rule. The thirteen colonies joined together to slowly gain freedom from Britain and become it’s own independent country. They began to decline British rule and eventually lead to war, to what is now known as the American Revolutionary War. The British sent invasion forces into New England in order to try and regain its power over the states, but they failed and were driven out by Washington and his army.
After, George Washington, the general of the troops at the time, moved his troops to a more secure location for the soon coming winter. This location was known as Valley Forge. The times in Valley Forge were known to be very difficult for the soldiers fighting. According to more traditional sources, the soldiers lacked food, shelter and warmth and were also in need of more men. According to Robert Middlekauff’s text from “The Glorious Cause”, the times at Valley Forge were indeed miserable and the troops suffered greatly.
Jack Rakove’s text from “Revolutionaries” agrees with Middlekauff’s view, and adds that over two thousand soldiers died that winter. However, Ray Raphael takes on the less traditional view and states that the soldiers did not in fact have such great difficulty. When you compare and contrast the other sources, Ray Raphael has a more persuasive document, as opposed to the more traditional accounts. Robert Middlekauff’s “The Glorious Cause” takes on the traditional story of Valley Forge, one that it was of extreme suffering and conditional, careless decisions, yet one of bravery and hope.

Valley Forge was a difficult time for the soldiers fighting for their country. The conditions were severe and there were no buildings, as the troops had to put up their own. The troops lacked shoes, clothing and soap and frequently had nothing to eat. The soldiers were starving and many were cold and sick. The water for all uses had to be carried for considerable distances. These are only few of the problems the soldiers faced day by day. George Washington, the leader of the troops, did his best to find food and get it to Valley Forge.
Although Congress encouraged Washington to seize food that troops needed, Washington resisted suggestions. He recognized that relief of his troops hunger would undercut principles of revolution, and political support of people. Instead, he sent commissary in search of provisions, seized supplies, and attempted to protect seller’s interest as much as possible. Washington’s orders suggest that he did not overlook many ways of maintaining discipline. The soldiers were absolutely miserable. They lacked everything an army needs for survival, from clothing to food to shelter.
They had been hungry for weeks and suffering for months. After all of agony and distress, the soldiers pulled through with hope, and continued to fight. “Revolutionaries”, by Jack Rakove, as well, speaks about the great hardships and suffering that the soldiers went through at Valley Forge. George Washington was somewhat of a tough leader who knew his priorities. “We have not more than three months to prepare a great deal of business in, and if we let these slip or waste, we shall be labouring under the same difficulties all next campaign as we have done this.
He explains that although George Washington understood the difficult circumstances that the men were going through, they had to continue in order to prevent from a cycle of the same things happening again. According to Rakove, when the winter at Valley Forge began, the soldiers were “barefoot, huddled in the snow around flickering fires”, while the enemy was sleeping warm, well fed, in nearby Philadelphia. In mid February, the men were lacking meat, and drenching rains washed out roads, swelled rivers, and badly disrupted the flow of supplies to camp.
Over two thousand soldiers died that winter. Although they were starving, lack of food was not the main reason for the soldier’s deaths, but rather the lowered resistance to disease, food shortages, and inadequate clothing while the men were overcrowded on the huts. What caused all of this was mostly the strategic and political considerations. Congress imposed well meant but misguided reforms, which strained to the breaking point of the supply system.
Although congress meant well, they’re plans were in fact failures and led to the critically harsh times of the soldiers. Many mistakes made by the congress lead to not only political problems, but also problems within the soldier’s lives during the harsh winter. Although Jack Rakove and Robert Middlekauff take on the more traditional story of the experience in Valley Forge, Ray Raphael takes on a different approach. In Ray Raphael’s “The Winter At Valley Forge”, he explains that many people believe in the traditional telling of the experiences in Valley Forge.
Many people believe that the winter was one of the cruelest winters in the countries history and that the soldiers suffered greatly, but were able to withstand the wrath of British. Raphael exclaims that the traditional Valley Forge story is “disrespectful to the soldiers who endured years of hardships, endangered their lives, and in many cases died so that the United States could gain and retain its independence. To give these patriots the respect that is their due, we have to cease creating idealized fantasies about how well they behaved themselves.
Raphael is greatly disappointed with the treatment and lack and respect towards the soldiers and story of Valley Forge and explains that the soldiers demanded food, clothing, and money, which had been promised to them and which was necessary for them in order to stay in the field and face the enemy. “The few who act upon Principles of disinterestedness are, comparatively speaking, no more than a drop in the Ocean. ” This is a quote by George Washington, commenting on the lack of people joining the army and helping the country fight for it’s independence.
Reluctantly, the Congress offered bounties to those who agreed to join the army. This is why the men demanded the food, clothing and pay. Congress allowed the Commissary Department to fall into shambles, as the much needed food and clothing never arrived. Congress was accountable for the lack of provisions that caused the soldiers great suffering and grief. Forced to move on, the troops moved forward from Valley Forge to pillage local civilians. When the soldiers failed to receive adequate food, minimal clothing, or the pay they had been promised, they were forced to make a decision.
They either had to endure their hardships silently, grumble among themselves, or make trouble. They could either defend themselves or walk away. Soldiers had to deal with this unsolvable problem everyday, and they chose to act forcibly and continue. This is the true story of Valley Forge. These three sources share similarities and differences. It is quite clear that Jack Rakove and Robert Middlekauff, for the most part agree on their depictions of the experience at Valley Forge. But, Ray Raphael shares a much more interesting, more realistic portrayal.
The traditional telling of Valley Forge is one somewhat out of a fairytale. It is simply over exaggerated with the overly harsh conditions and strong heart of the men who pulled through with their dedication to their country and continued fighting without ever giving up or losing hope. In the words of Ray Raphael himself, it is “disrespectful” towards the soldiers who fought for our country in Valley Forge. All three of these sources do agree that the times were not easy, but Raphael bases it off of a more reasonable explanation, rather than blaming the misery on nature.
Raphael explains that it was in fact the congress’ fault for the soldier’s suffering. The congress did not send the soldiers the proper necessities in which they were promised, such as food, clothing or pay. The soldier’s could have simply retreated and walked away, but they chose not to. They decided, despite the fact that they did not have the proper necessities to fight, they would continue and use what they could to survive and defeat the enemy. Raphael shares a more respectful, appreciative and persuasive telling of the story of Valley Forge.

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