Valley Forge

I have been fighting a bout of the flu, so no hiking for a while. So yesterday I bundled up and spent a little time at Valley Forge Historical Park.

Hopefully everyone remembers their American history. But it might be a good thing to occasionally brush up on our knowledge. This trip prompted me to do just this. This was the first time I have ever visited Valley Forge.

Once I got there it just didn’t seem right to to take pictures or go walk on the cement walkways. The right thing to do seemed to just try and absorb what this place stands for. To think about the rag-tag army that struggled to get here, many without shoes who trudged in the snow with bloody feet to this place. To think about the army that battled to just stay alive; fighting their immediate enemy the weather — and knowing that defeating winter would lead to more battles against the British Army. To think about the families, women and children who came here in hopes of nursing our soldiers back to life. To think about the approximately 20% who did not make it through that winter. To think about the newly disciplined and competent army that left this place when winter ended. To think about how much we owe those who suffered and persevered in Valley Forge during the winter of 1777-78. I found Valley Forge to be a very humbling hallowed place.

Maybe Armitt Brown said it best.

Oration of Henry Armitt Brown : on the one hundredth anniversary of the evacuation of Valley Forge, June 19, 1878

It is an honor to be here to-day. It is a privilege to behold 
this anniversary. This unusual spectacle, these solemn services, these flags and decorations, this tuneful choir, this mili- 
tary array, this distinguished company, this multitude darkening 
all the hill-side, proclaim the general interest and attest its 
magnitude. And it is proper to commemorate this time. One 
hundred years ago this country was the scene of extraordinary 
events and very honorable actions. We feel the influence of 
them in our institutions and our daily lives, and it is both nat- 
ural and right for us to seek, by some means, to mark their 
hundredth anniversaries. Those moments are passing quickly. 
Lexington, Bunker Hill, Germantown, Saratoga, have gone by 
already. Monmouth, Stony Point, Eutaw, and Yorktown are 
close at hand. It is eminently fit that we should gather here. 

I cannot add to what has already been said about this place. 
The deeds which have made it famous have passed into history. 
The page on which they are recorded is written. We can 
neither add to it nor take away. The heroic dead who suffered 
here are far beyond our reach. No human eulogy can make 
their glory greater, no failure to do them justice make it less. 
Theirs is a perfect fame, — safe, certain, and complete. Their 
trials here secured the happiness of a continent ; their labors 
have borne fruit in the free institutions of a powerful nation; 
their examples give hope to every race and clime; their names 
live on the lips of a grateful people; their memory is cherished 
in their children's hearts, and shall endure forever. It is not' 
for their sakes, then, but for our own, that we have assembled 
here to-day. This anniversary, if I understand it right, has i 
purpose of its own. It is duty that has brought us here. The 
spirit appropriate to this hour is one of humility rather than of 
pride, of reverence rather than of exultation. We come, it is true, the representatives of forty millions of free men by ways 
our fathers never dreamed of, from religions of which they 
never heard. We come in the midst of plenty, under a sky of 
peace, power in our right hand and the keys of knowledge in 
our left. But we are here to learn rather than to teach ; to 
worship, not to glorify. We come to contemplate the sources 
of our country's greatness; to commune with the honored past; 
to remind ourselves and show our children that joy can come 
out of sorrow, happiness out of suffering, light out of darkness, 
life out of death. 

Such is the meaning of this anniversary. I cannot do it 
justice. Would that there could come to some one in this 
multitude a tongue of fire, — an inspiration born of the time 
itself, that, standing in this place and speaking with the voice 
of olden time, he might tell us in fitting language of our fathers! 
But it cannot be. Not even now. Not even here. Perhaps 
we do not need it. Some of us bear their blood, and all alike 
enjoy the happiness their valor and endurance won. And if 
my voice be feeble, we have but to look around. The hills 
that saw them suffer look down on us ; the ground that thrilled 
beneath their feet we tread to-day ; their unmarked graves still 
lie in yonder field ; the breastworks which they built to shelter 
them surround us here I Dumb witnesses of the heroic past, 
ye need no tongues \ Face to face with you we see it all. This 
soft breeze changes to an icy blast ; these trees drop the glory 
of the summer, and the earth beneath our feet is wrapped in 
snow. Beside us is a village of log huts; along that ridge 
smoulder the fires of a camp. The sun has sunk, the stars 
crlitter in the inky sky, the camp is hushed, the fires are out, 
the night is still. All are in slumber save when a lamp glimmers in a cottage window, and a passing shadow shows a tall 
figure pacing to and fro. The cold silence is unbroken, save 
when on yonder ramparts, crunching the crisp snow with 
wounded feet, a ragged sentinel keeps watch for liberty! 

The close of 1777 marked the gloomiest period of the Revo- 
lution. The early enthusiasm of the struggle had passed away. 
The doubts which the first excitements banished had returned. 
The novelty of war had gone, and its terrors become awfully 
familiar. Fire and sword had devastated some of the best parts 
of the country, its cities were ruined, its fields laid waste, its 
resources drained, its best blood poured out in sacrifice. The 
strength now had become one of endurance, and while liberty 
and independence seemed as far off as ever, men began to 
appreciate the tremendous cost at which they were to be pur- 
chased. The capture of Burgoyne had, after all, been only a 
temporary check to a powerful and still unexhausted enemy. 
Nor was its effect on the Americans themselves wholly benefi- 
cial. It had caused the North to relax, in a great measure, its 
activity and vigilance, and, combined with the immunity from 
invasions which the South had enjoyed, to lull asleep two- 
thirds of the continent. While a few hundred ill-armed, half- 
clad Americans guarded the Highlands of the Hudson, a well- 
equipped garrison, several thousand strong, lived in luxury in 
the city of New York. The British fleet watched with the eyes 
of Argus the rebel coast. Rhode Island lay undisputed in their 
hands; Georgia, Virginia, and the Carolinas were open to their 
invasion, and as incapable of defence as Maryland had been ; 
when they landed in the Chesapeake. Drawn upon for the -) 
army, the sparse population could not half till the soil, and the 
savings of laborious years had all been spent. While the mis- 
erable paper currency which Congress, with a fatal folly never 
to be absent from the counsels of men, continued to issue and 
call money, obeyed natural rather than artificial laws, and fell 
four hundred per cent., coin flowed to Philadelphia and New 
York, and in spite of military orders and civil edicts, the scanty 
produce of the country followed it. Nor could the threatened 
penalty of death restrain the evil. Want began to be widely 
felt, and the frequent proclamations of the British, accompanied 
with Tory intrigue and abundant gold, to have effect. To some, 
even of the wisest, the case was desperate. Even the elements 
seemed to combine against the cause. A deluge prevented a 
battle at the Warren Tavern, a fog robbed Washington of vie- 
tory at Germantown, and at last, while the fate of America 
hung on the courage, the fortitude, and the patriotism of eleven 
thousand half-clothed, half-armed, hungry Continentals, who, 
discomforted but not discouraged, beaten but not disheartened, 
suffering but steadfast still, lay on their firelocks on the frozen 
ridges of Whitemarsh, a British army nineteen thousand five hundred strong, of veteran troops, perfectly equipped, freshly 
recruited from Europe and flushed with recent victory, marched 
into winter-quarters in the chief city of the nation. 


Philadelphia surely had never seen such gloomy days as 
those which preceded the entry of the British. On the 24th 
of August the American army marched through the length of 
Front Street ; on the 25th the British landed at the head of 
Elk. Days of quiet anxiety ensued. On the nth of Sep- 
tember, as Tom Paine was writing a letter to Dr. Franklin, the 
sound of cannon in the southwest interrupted him. From 
morning until late in the afternoon people in the streets 
listened to the dull sound like distant thunder. About six 
o'clock it died away, and the straining ear could catch nothing 
but the soughing of the wind. With what anxiety men waited, 
— with what suspense ! The sun sank in the west, and the 
shadows crept over the little city. It was the universal hour 
for the evening meal, but who could go home to eat? Men 
gathered about the State House to talk, to conjecture, to con- 
sult together, and the women whispered in little groups at the 
doorsteps and craned their necks out of the darkened windows 
to look nervously up and down the street. About eight o'clock 
there was a little tumult near the Coffee House. The story 
spread that Washington had gained a victory, and a few lads 
set up a cheer. But it was not traced to good authority, and 
disappointment followed. By nine in the evening the suspense 
was painful. Suddenly, far up Chestnut Street was heard the 
clatter of horses' feet. Some one was galloping hard. Down 
Chestnut, like an arrow, came at full speed a single horseman. 
He had ridden fast and his horse was splashed with foam. 
Hearts beat quickly as he dashed by; past Sixth Street, past 
the State House, past Fifth, and round the corner into Fourth. 
The crowd followed, and instantly packed around him as he 
drew rein at the Indian Queen. He threw a glance at the 
earnest faces that were turned toward his and spoke: "A battle 
has been fought at' the Birmingham Meeting-house, on the 
Brandywine; the army has been beaten; the French Marquis 
Lafayette shot through the leg. His Excellency has fallen 
back to Chester ; the road below is full of stragglers." And 
then the crowd scattered, each one to his home, but not to sleep. 
A few days followed full of contradictory stories. The armies 
are manoeuvring on the Lancaster pike. Surely Washington 
will fight another battle. And then the news came and spread 
like lightning, — Wayne has been surprised, and his brigade 
massacred at the Paoli, and the enemy are in full march for 
Philadelphia; the Whigs are leaving by hundreds; the authori- 
ties are going; the Congress have gone; the British have 
arrived at Germantown. Who can forget the day that followed? 

A sense of something dreadful about to happen hangs over 
the town. A third of the houses are shut and empty. Shops 
are unopened, and busy rumor flies about the streets. Early 
in the morning the sidewalks are filled with a quiet, anxious 
crowd. The women watch behind bowed windows with half- 
curious, half-frightened looks. The men, solemn and subdued, 
whisper in groups, " Will they come to-day?" "Are they here 
already?" "Will they treat us like a conquered people?" It 
was inevitable since the hot-bloods would have war. Some- 
times the Tory can be detected by an exultant look, but the 
general sentiment is gloomy. The morning drags along. By 
ten o'clock Second Street, from Callowhill to Chestnut, is filled 
with old men and boys. There is hardly a young man to be 
seen. About eleven is heard the sound of approaching cavalry, 
and a squadron of dragoons comes galloping down the street, 
scattering the boys right and left. The crowd parts to let them 
by and melts together again. In a few minutes far up the street 
there is the faint sound of martial music and something mov- 
ing that glitters in the sunlight. The crowd thickens and is 
full of hushed expectation. Presently one can see a red mass 
swaying to and fro. It becomes more and more distinct. 
Louder grows the music and the tramp of marching men as 
waves of scarlet, tipped with steel, come moving down the 
street. They are now but a square off, — their bayonets glancing 
in perfect line and steadily advancing to the music of " God 
Save the King." 

These are the famous grenadiers. Their pointed caps of red. 
fronted with silver, their white leather leggings and short scar- 
let coats, trimmed with blue, make a magnificent display. They are perfectly equipped, and look well fed and hearty. Behind 
them are more cavalry. No, these must be officers. The first 
one is splendidly mounted and wears the uniform of a general. 
He is a stout man, with gray hair and a pleasant countenance, 
in spite of the squint of an eye which disfigures it. A whisper 
goes through the bystanders, " It is Lord Cornwallis himself." 
A brilliant staff in various uniforms follows him and five men 
in civilian's dress. A glance of recognition follows these last 
like a wave along the street, for they are Joseph Galloway, 
Enoch Story, Tench Coxe, and the two Aliens, — father and son, 
— Tories, who have only dared to return home behind British 
bayonets. Long lines of red coats follow till the Fourth, the 
Fortieth, and the Fifty-fifth Regiments have passed by. But 
who are these in dark blue that come behind the grenadiers? 
Breeches of yellow leather, leggings of black, and tall, pointed 
hats of brass complete their uniform. They wear moustaches, 
and have a fierce foreign look, and their unfamiliar music seems 
to a child in that crowd to cry " Plunder ! plunder! plunder!" 
as it times their rapid march. These are the Hessian mer- 
cenaries whom Washington surprised and thrashed so well 
at Christmas in '76. And now grenadiers and yagers, horse, 
foot, and artillery that rumbles along making the windows 
rattle, have all passed by. The Fifteenth Regiment is drawn 
up on High Street, near Fifth ; the Forty-second Highlanders 
in Chestnut below Third ; and the artillery is parked in the 
State House yard. All the afternoon the streets are full, — 
wagons with luggage lumbering along, officers in scarlet riding 
to and fro, aides and orderlies seeking quarters for their differ- 
ent officers. Yonder swarthy, haughty-looking man dismount- 
ing at Norris's door is my Lord Rawdon. Lord Cornwallis is 
quartered at Peter Reeves's in Second, near Spruce, and Knyp- 
hausen at Henry Lisle's, nearer to Dock Street, on the east. 
The younger officers are well bestowed, for Dr. Franklin's 
house has been taken by a certain clever Captain Andre. The 
time for the evening parade comes, and the well-equipped regi- 
ments are drawn up in line, while slowly to the strains of mar- 
tial music the sun sinks in autumnal splendor in the west. The 
streets are soon in shadow, but still noisy with the tramping of 
soldiers and the clatter of arms. In High Street, and on the 
commons, fires are lit for the troops to do their cooking, and 
the noises of the camp mingle with the city's hum. Most of 
the houses are shut, but here and there one stands wide open, 
while brilliantly dressed officers lounge at the windows or pass 
and repass in the doorway. The sound of laughter and music 
is heard, and the brightly lit windows of the London Coffee 
House and the Indian Queen tell of the parties that are cele- 
brating there the event they think so glorious, and thus, amid 
sounds of revelry, the night falls on the Quaker City. In spite 
of Trenton, and Princeton, and Brandywine; in spite of the 
wisdom of Congress, and the courage and skill of the Com- 
mander-in-Chief; in spite of the bravery and fortitude of the 
Continental army, the forces of the king are in the Rebel 
capital, and the " all's well" of hostile sentinels keeping guard 
by her northern border passes unchallenged from the Schuyl- 
kill to the Delaware. 

What matters it to Sir William Howe and his victorious army 
if rebels be starving and their ragged currency be almost worth- 
less? Here is gold and plenty of good cheer. What whether 
they threaten to attack the British lines or disperse through the 
impoverished country in search of food ? The ten redoubts 
that stretch from Fairmount to Cohocksink Creek are stout 
and strongly manned, the river is open, and supplies and re- 
inforcements are on the way from England. What if the earth 
be wrinkled with frost? The houses of Philadelphia are snug 
and warm. What if the rigorous winter has begun and snow 
be whitening the hills? Here are mirth and music, and dancing 
and wine, and women and play, and the pageants of a riotous 
capital ! And so with feasting and with revelry let the winter 
wear away ! 


The wind is cold and piercing on the old Gulf road, and the 
snow-flakes have begun to fall. Who is this that toils up yon- 
der hill, his footsteps stained with blood? "His bare feet peep 
through his worn-out shoes, his legs nearly naked from the tat- 
tered remains of an only pair of stockings, his breeches not 
enough to cover his nakedness, his shirt hanging in strings, his 
hair dishevelled, his face wan and thin, his look hungry, his 
whole appearance that of a man forsaken and neglected." 

On his shoulder he carries a rusty gun, and the hand that 
grasps the stock is blue with cold. His comrade is no better 
off, nor he who follows, for both are barefoot, and the ruts of 
the rough country road are deep and frozen hard. A fourth 
comes into view, and still another. A dozen are in sight. 
Twenty have reached the ridge, and there are more to come. 
See them as they mount the hill that slopes eastward into the 
great valley. A thousand are in sight, but they are but the 
vanguard of the motley company that winds down the road 
until it is lost in the cloud of snow-flakes that have hidden the 
Gulf hills. Yonder are horsemen in tattered uniforms, and 
behind them cannon lumbering slowly over the frozen road, 
half dragged, half pushed by men. They who appear to be in 
authority have coats of every make and color. Here is one 
in a faded blue, faced with buckskin that has once been buff; 
there is another on a tall, gaunt horse, wrapped in a sort of 
dressing-gown made of an old blanket or woollen bed-cover. 
A few of the men wear long linen hunting-shirts reaching to 
the knee, but of the rest no two are dressed alike, — not half 
have shirts, a third are barefoot, many are in rags. Nor are 
their arms the same. Cow-horns and tin boxes they carry for 
want of pouches. A few have swords, fewer still bayonets. 
Muskets, carbines, fowling-pieces, and rifles are to be seen to- 
gether side by side. 

Are these soldiers that huddle together and bow their heads 
as they face the biting wind ? Is this an army that comes 
straggling through the valley in the blinding snow ? No mar- 
tial music leads them in triumph into a captured capital ; no 
city full of good cheer and warm and comfortable homes awaits 
their coming ; no sound keeps time to their weary steps save 
the icy wind rattling the leafless branches and the dull tread of 
their weary feet on the frozen ground. In yonder forest must 
they find their shelter, and on the northern slope of these inhos- 
pitable hills their place of refuge. Perils shall soon assault 
them more threatening than any they encountered under the 
windows of Chew's house or by the banks of Brandywine. 
Trials that rarely have failed to break the fortitude of men 
await them here. False friends shall endeavor to undermine 
their virtue and secret enemies to shake their faith ; the Congress whom they serve shall prove helpless to protect them, 
and their country herself seem unmindful of their sufferings; 
cold shall share their habitations and hunger enter in and be 
their constant guest ; disease shall infest their huts by day and 
famine stand guard with them through the night; frost shall 
lock their camp with icy fetters and the snows cover it as with 
a garment ; the storms of winter shall be pitiless, — but all in 
vain. Danger shall not frighten nor temptation have power to 
seduce them. Doubt shall not shake their love of country nor 
suffering overcome their fortitude. The powers of evil shall 
not prevail against them, for they are the Continental Army, and 
these are the hills of Valley Forge ! 

It is not easy to-day to imagine this country as it appeared a 
century ago. Yonder city, which now contains one-fourth as 
many inhabitants as were found in those days between Maine 
and Georgia, was a town of but thirty thousand men, and at 
the same time the chief city of the continent. The richness of 
the soil around it had early attracted settlers, and the farmers 
of the great valley had begun to make that country the garden 
which it is to-day ; but from the top of this hill one could still 
behold the wilderness under cover of which, but twenty years 
before, the Indian had spread havoc through the back settle- 
ments on the Lehigh and the Susquehanna. The most important 
place between the latter river and the site of Fort Pitt, " at the 
junction of the Ohio," was the frontier village of York, where 
Congress had taken refuge. The single road which connected 
Philadelphia with the western country had been cut through the 
forest to Harris's Block-House but forty years before. It was 
half a century only since its iron ore had led to the settlement 
of Lancaster, and little more than a quarter since a single house 
had marked the site of Reading. The ruins of Colonel Bull's 
plantation — burned by the British on their march — lay in solitude on the hills which are covered to-day with the roofs and 
spires of Norristown, and where yonder cloud hangs over the 
furnaces and foundries of Phcenixville a man named Gordon, 
living in a cave, gave his name to a crossing of the river. Nor 
was this spot itself the same. A few small houses clustered 
about Potts's Forge, where the creek tumbled into the Schuyl- 
kill, and two or three near the river-bank marked the beginning of a little farm. The axe had cleared much of the bottom- 
lands and fertile fields of the great valley, but these hills were 
still wrapped in forest that covered their sides far as the eye 
could reach. The roads that ascended their ridge on the south 
and east plunged into densest woods as they climbed the hill 
and met beneath its shadow at the same spot where to-day a 
school-house stands in the midst of smiling fields. It is no 
wonder that Baron de Kalb, as he gazed on the forest of oak 
and chestnut that covered the sides and summit of Mount Joy, 
should have described the place bitterly as " a wilderness." 


But nevertheless it was well chosen. There was no town 
that would answer. Wilmington and Trenton would have 
afforded shelter, but in the one the army would have been use- 
less, and in the other in constant danger. Reading and Lan- 
caster were so distant that the choice of either would have left 
a large district open to the enemy, and both, in which were 
valuable stores, could better be covered by an army here. 
Equally distant with Philadelphia from the fords of Brandy- 
wine and the ferry into Jersey, the army could move to either 
point as rapidly as the British themselves, and while distant 
enough from the city to be safe from surprise or sudden attack 
itself, it could protect the country that lay between and at the 
same time be a constant menace to the capital. Strategically, 
then, the General could not have chosen better. And the place 
was well adapted for the purpose. The Schuylkill, flowing from 
the Blue Hills, bent here toward the eastward. Its current was 
rapid and its banks precipitous. The Valley Creek, cutting its 
way through a deep defile at right angles to the river, formed a 
natural boundary on the west. The hill called Mount Joy, at the 
entrance of that defile, threw out a spur which, running parallel 
to the river about a mile, turned at length northward and met its 
banks. On the one side this ridge enclosed a rolling table-land ; 
on the other it sloped sharply to the great valley. The engi- 
neers under Duportail marked out a line of intrenchments four 
feet high, protected by a ditch si.K feet wide, from the entrance 
of the Valley Creek defile along the crest of this ridge until it 
joined the bank of the Schuylkill, where a redoubt marked the eastern angle of the encampment. High on the shoulder of 
Mount Joy a second line girdled the mountain and then ran 
northward to the river, broken only by the hollow through 
which the Gulf road descended to the Forge. This hollow 
place was later defended by an abatis and a triangular earth- 

A redoubt on the east side of Mount Joy commanded the 
Valley road, and another behind the left flank of the abatis 
that which came from the river, while a star redoubt on a hill 
at the bank acted as a tete-de-pont for the bridge that was 
thrown across the Schuylkill. Behind the front and before the 
second line the troops were ordered to build huts for winter- 
quarters. Fourteen feet by sixteen, of logs plastered with clay, 
these huts began to rise on every side. Placed in rows, each 
brigade by itself, they soon gave the camp the appearance of a 
little city. All day long the axe resounded among the hills, and 
the place was filled with the noise of hammering and the crash 
of falling trees. " I was there when the army first began to 
build huts," wrote Paine to Franklin. " They appeared to me 
like a family of beavers, every one busy: some carrying logs, 
others plastering them together. The whole was raised in a 
few days, and it is a curious collection of buildings in the true 
rustic order." The weather soon became intensely cold. The 
Schuylkill froze over and the roads were blocked with snow, 
but it was not until nearly the middle of January that the last 
hut was built and the army settled down into winter-quarters on 
the bare hill-sides. Long before that its sufferings had begun. 

The trials which have made this place so famous arose chiefly 
from the incapacity of Congress, It is true that the country in 
the neighborhood of Philadelphia was wellnigh exhausted. An 
active campaign over a small extent of territory had drawn 
heavily on the resources of this part of Pennsylvania and the 
adjacent Jersey. Both forces had fed upon the country, and it 
was not so much disaffection (of which Washington wrote) as 
utter exhaustion, which made the farmers of the devastated 
region furnish so little to the army. Nor would it have been 
human nature in them to have preferred the badly printed, often 
counterfeited, depreciated promise to pay of the Americans for 
the gold which the British had to offer. In spite of the efforts 
of McLane's and Lee's Light-Horse and the activity of Lacey, 
of the miHtia, the (ew suppHes that were left went steadily to 
Philadelphia, and the patriot army remained in want. But the 
more distant States, North and South, could easily have fed 
and clothed a much more numerous army. That they did not 
was the fault of Congress. That body no longer contained the 
men who had made it famous in the years gone by. Franklin 
was in Paris, where John Adams was about to join him. Jay, 
Jefferson, Rutledge, Livingston, and Henry were employed at 
home. Hancock had resigned. Samuel Adams was absent in 
New England. Men much their inferiors had taken their places. 

The period, inevitable in the history of revolutions, had 
arrived when men of the second rank come to the front. 
With the early leaders in the struggle had disappeared the 
foresight, the breadth of view, the loftiness of purpose, and 
the .self-sacrificing spirit belonging only to great minds which 
had marked and honored the commencement of the struggle. 
A smaller mind had begun to rule, a narrower view to influ- 
ence, a personal feeling to animate the members. Driven from 
Philadelphia, they were in a measure disheartened, and their 
pride touched in a tender spot. Incapable of the loftier senti- 
ments which had moved their predecessors, they could not 
overcome a sense of their own importance, and the desire to 
magnify their office. Petty rivalries had sprung up among 
them, and sectional feeling, smothered in '74, '75, and 'y6, had 
taken breath again, and asserted itself with renewed vigor in 
the recent debates on the confederation. But if divided among 
themselves by petty jealousies, they were united in a greater 
jealousy of Washington and the army. They cannot be wholly 
blamed for this. Taught by history no less than by their own 
experience of the dangers of standing armies in a free state, 
and wanting in modern history the single example which we 
have in Washington of a successful military chief retiring vol- 
untarily into private life, they judged the leader of their forces 
by themselves and the ordinary rules of human nature. Their 
distrust was not unnatural nor wholly selfish, and must find 
some justification in the exceptional greatness of his character. 

It was in vain that he called on them to dismiss their doubts 
and trust an army which had proved faithful. In vain he urged them to let their patriotism embrace, as his had learned 
to do, the whole country with an equal fervor. In vain he 
pointed out that want of organization in the army was due to 
want of union among them. They continued distrustful and 
unconvinced. In vain he asked for a single army, one and 
homogeneous. Congress insisted on thirteen distinct armies, 
each under the control of its particular State. The effect was 
disastrous. The personnel of the army was continually chang- 
ing. Each State had its own rules, its own system of organi- 
zation, its own plan of making enlistments. No two worked 
together, — the men's terms even expiring at the most delicate 
and critical times. Promotion was irregular and uncertain, and 
the sense of duty was impaired as that of responsibility grew 
less. Instead of an organized army, Washington commanded 
a disorganized mob. The extraordinary virtues of that great 
man might keep the men together, but there were some things 
which they could not do. Without an organized quartermaster's 
department the men could not be clothed or fed. At first mis- 
managed, this department became neglected. The warnings of 
Washington were disregarded, his appeals in vain. The troops 
began to want clothing soon after Brandywine. By November 
it was evident that they must keep the field without blankets, 
overcoats, or tents. At Whitemarsh they lay, half clad, on 
frozen ground. By the middle of December they were in 
want of the necessaries of life. 


" We are ordered to march over the river," writes Dr. 
Waldo, of Colonel Prentice's Connecticut Regiment, at Swedes* 
Ford, on December 12. " It snows — I'm sick — eat nothing — 
no whiskey — no baggage — Lord — Lord — -Lord. Till sunrise 
crossing the river, cold and uncomfortable. I'm sick," he goes 
on two days after, in his diary, ** discontented, and out of 
humor. Bad food — hard lodging — cold weather — fatigued — 
nasty clothes — nasty cookery — smoked out of my senses — I 
can't endure it. Here comes a bowl of soup, sickish enough 
to make a Hector ill. Away with it, boy — I'll live like the 
chameleon, on air." On the 19th of December they reached 
Valley Forge. By the 21st even such a bowl of soup had become a luxury. " A general cry," notes Waldo again, 
" through the camp this evening : ' No meat, no meat.' The 
distant vales echoed back the melancholy sound : ' No meat, 
no meat.' " It was literally true. On the next day Washing- 
ton wrote to the President of Congress : " I do not know from 
what cause this alarming deficiency, or rather total failure of 
supplies, arises, but unless more vigorous exertions and better 
regulations take place in that line immediately this army must 
dissolve. I have done all in my power by remonstrating, by 
writing, by ordering the commissaries on this head from time 
to time, but without any good effect or obtaining more than a 
present scanty relief Owing to this the march of the army 
has been delayed on more than one interesting occasion in the 
course of the present campaign ; and had a body of the enemy 
crossed the Schuylkill this morning (as I had reason to expect 
from the intelligence I received at four o'clock last night), the 
divisions which I ordered to be in readiness to march and meet 
them could not have moved." Hardly was this written when 
the news did come that the enemy had come out to Darby, 
and the troops were ordered under arms. " Fighting," re- 
sponded General Huntington when he got the order, " will be 
far preferable to starving. My brigade is out of provisions, nor 
can the commissary attain any meat." " Three days succes- 
sively," added Varnum, of Rhode Island, " we have been with- 
out bread, two entirely without meat." It was impossible to 
stir. " And this," wrote Washington, in indignation, " brought 
forth the only commissary in camp, and with him this melan- 
choly and alarming truth, that he had not a single hoof to 
slaughter and not more than twenty-five barrels of flour." " I 
am now convinced beyond a doubt that unless some great and 
capital change takes place in that line this army must inevita- 
bly be reduced to one of these three things, — starve, dissolve, 
or disperse in order to obtain subsistence." 

But no change was destined to take place for many suffering 
weeks to come. The cold grew more and more intense, and 
provisions scarcer every day. Soon all were alike in want. 
" The colonels were often reduced to two rations, and some- 
times to one. The army frequently remained whole days 
without provisions," is the testimony of Lafayette. " We have 
lately been in an alarming state for want of provisions," says 
Colonel Laurens, on the 2ist of February. "The army has 
been in great distress since you left," wrote Greene to Knox 
five days afterwards ; " the troops are getting naked. They 
were seven days without meat, and several days without 
bread. . . . We are still in danger of starving. Hundreds 
of horses have already starved to death." The painful testi- 
mony is full and uncontradictory. " Several brigades," wrote 
Adjutant-General Scammel to Timothy Pickering, early in 
February, " have been without their allowance of meat. This 
is the third day." " In yesterday's conference with the Gen- 
eral," said the committee of Congress sent to I'eport, writing on 
the 1 2th of February, " he informed us that some brigades had 
been four days without meat, and that even the common sol- 
diers had been at his quarters to make known their wants. 
Should the enemy attack the camp successfully, your artillery 
would inevitably fall into their hands for want of horses to 
remove it. But these are smaller and tolerable evils when 
compared with the imminent danger of your troops perishing 
with famine or dispersing in search of food." " For some 
days past there has been little less than a famine in the camp," 
writes Hamilton to Clinton ; " a part of the army has been 
a week without any kind of flesh, and the rest three or four 

Famished for want of food, they were no better off for 
clothes. The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything. 
" They had neither coats, hats, shirts, nor shoes," wrote the 
Marquis de Lafayette. "The men," said Baron Steuben, "were 
literally naked, some of them in the fullest extent of the word." 
" 'Tis a melancholy consideration," were the words of Picker- 
ing, " that hundreds of our men are unfit for duty only for 
want of clothes and shoes." Hear Washington himself on the 
23d of December: "We have (besides a number of men con- 
fined to hospitals for want of shoes, and others in farm-houses 
~on the same account), by a field return, this day made, no less 
than two thousand nine hundred and eighty-nine men now in 
camp unfit for duty, because they are barefoot and otherwise 
naked. Our numbers since the 4th instant from the hardships 
and exposures they have undergone, numbers having been obliged for want of blankets to sit up all night by fires instead 
of taking rest in a natural and common way, have decreased 
two thousand men." By the 1st of February that number had 
grown to four thousand, and there were fit for duty but five 
thousand and twelve, or one-half the men in camp. " So," in 
the words of the Hebrew prophet, "they labored in the work, 
and half of them held the spears from the rising of the morn- 
ing till the stars appeared." 


Naked and starving in an- unusually rigorous winter, they 
fell sick by hundreds. " From want of clothes their feet and 
legs froze till they became black, and it was necessary to ampu- 
tate them." "Through a want of straw or materials to raise 
them from the wet earth" (I quote again from the committee of 
Congress) " sickness and mortality have spread through their 
quarters to an astonishing degree. The smallpox has broken 
out. Notwithstanding the diligence of the physicians and sur- 
geons, the sick and dead list has increased one-third in the last 
week's return, which was one-third greater than the preceding, 
and from the present inclement weather will probably increase 
in a much greater proportion." Well might Washington ex- 
claim, " Our sick naked, our well naked, our unfortunate men 
in captivity naked ! Our difficulties and distresses are certainly 
great, and such as wound the feelings of humanity." Nor was 
this all. What many had to endure beside, let Dr. Waldo tell: 
"When the officer has been fatiguing through wet and cold, 
and returns to his tent to find a letter from his wife filled with 
the most heart-aching complaints a woman is capable of 
writing, acquainting him with the incredible difficulty with 
which she procures a little bread for herself and children ; that 
her money is of very little consequence to her, — concluding 
with expressions bordering on despair of getting sufficient food 
to keep soul and body together through the winter, and beg- 
ging him to consider that charity begins at home, and not 
suffer his family to perish with want in the midst of plenty, — 
what man is there whose soul would not shrink within him? 
Who would not be disheartened from persevering in the best 
of causes — the cause of his country — when such discouragements as these lie in his way which his country might remedy if it would?" 

Listen to his description of the common soldier : " See the 
poor soldier when in health. With what cheerfulness he meets 
his foes and encounters every hardship. If barefoot, he labors 
thro' the mud and cold with a song in his mouth, extolling war 
and Washington. If his food be bad he eats it notwithstand- 
ing with seeming content, blesses God for a good stomach, and 
whistles it into digestion. But harkee ! Patience a moment ! 
There comes a soldier and cries with an air of wretchedness 
and despair, * I'm sick ; my feet lame ; my legs are sore ; my 
body covered with this tormenting itch ; my clothes are worn 
out ; my constitution is broken ; my former activity is exhausted 
by fatigue, hunger, and cold ; I fail fast ; I shall soon be no more ! 
And all the reward I shall get will be, ' Poor Will is dead !' " 
And in the midst of this they persevered ! Freezing, starving, 
dying, rather than desert their flag they saw their loved ones 
suffer, but kept the faith. And the American yeoman of the 
Revolution remaining faithful through that winter is as splendid 
an example of devotion to duty as that which the pitying ashes 
of Vesuvius have preserved through eighteen centuries in the 
figure of the Roman soldier standing at his post, unmoved 
amid all the horrors of Pompeii. " The Guard die, but never 
surrender," was the phrase invented for Cambronne. " My 
comrades freeze and starve, but they never forsake me," might 
be put into the mouth of Washington. 

'' Naked and starving as they are," writes one of their officers^ 
" one cannot sufficiently admire the incomparable patience and 
fidelity of the soldiers that have not been ere this excited by 
their sufferings to a general mutiny and desertion." " Nothing 
can equal their sufferings," says the committee, " except the 
patience and fortitude with which they bear them." Greene's 
account to Knox is touching: "Such patience and moderation 
as they manifested under their sufferings does the highest honor 
to the magnanimity of the American soldiers. The seventh day 
they came before their superior officers and told their sufferings 
as if they had been humble petitioners for special favors. They 
added that it would be impossible to continue in camp any 
longer without" support," In March, Thomas Wharton wrote in the name of Pennsylvania : " The unparalleled patience and 
magnanimity with which the army under your Excellency's 
command have endured the hardships attending their situation, 
unsupplied as they have been through an uncommonly severe 
winter, is an honor which posterity will consider as more illus- 
trious than could have been derived to them by a victory 
obtained by any sudden and vigorous exertion." " I would 
cherish these dear, ragged Continentals, whose patience will 
be the admiration of future ages, and glory in bleeding with 
them," cried John Laurens in the enthusiasm of youth. "The 
patience and endurance of both soldiers and officers was a 
miracle which each moment seemed to renew," said Lafayette 
in his old age. But the noblest tribute comes from the pen of 
him who knew them best :/f^ Without arrogance or the smallest 
deviation from truth, it may be said that no history now extant 
can furnish an instance of an army's suffering such uncommon 
hardships as ours has done, and bearing them with the same 
patience and fortitude. To see men without clothes to cover 
their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes 
(for the want of which their marches might be traced by the 
blood from their feet), and almost as often without provisions 
as with them, marching through the frost and snow, and at 
Christmas taking up their winter-quarters within a day's march 
of the enemy without a house or a hut to cover them till they 
could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of 
patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be 
paralleled.") Such was Washington's opinion of the soldiers 
of Valley Forge. 


Americans, who have gathered on the broad bosom of these 
hills to-day, if heroic deeds can consecrate a spot of earth, if 
the living be still sensible of the example of the dead, if cour- 
age be yet a common virtue and patience in suffering be still 
honorable in your sight, if freedom be any longer precious and 
faith in humanity be not banished from among you, if love of 
country still find a refuge among the hearts of men, "take your 
shoes from off your feet, for the place on which you stand is 
holy ground." 

And who are the leaders of the men whose heroism can sanctify a place like this? Descend the hill and wander through 
the camp. The weather is intensely cold and the smoke hangs 
above the huts. On the plain behind the front line a few gen- 
eral officers are grouped about a squad whom the new inspector, 
the German baron, is teaching some manoeuvre. Bodies of men 
here and there are dragging wagons up-hill (for the horses have 
starved to death) or carrying fuel for fires, without which the 
troops would freeze. The huts are deserted save by the sick 
or naked, and as you pass along the street a poor fellow peeps 
out at the door of one and cries, " No bread, no soldier!" 


These are the huts of Huntington's brigade, of the Connecti- 
cut line ; next to it those of Pennsylvanians under Conway. 
This is the Irish-Frenchman soon to disappear in a disgraceful 
intrigue. Here in camp there are many who whisper that he 
is a mere adventurer, but in Congress they still think him " a 
great military character." Down towards headquarters are the 
Southerners, commanded by Lachlin Mcintosh, in his youth 
" the handsomest man in Georgia." Beyond Conway, on the 
hill, is Maxwell, a gallant Irishman, commissioned by New 
Jersey. Woodford, of Virginia, commands on the right of the 
second line, and in front of him the Virginian Scott. The next 
brigade in order is of Pennsylvanians, — many of them men 
whose homes are in this neighborhood, — Chester County boys 
and Quakers from the valley turned soldier for their country's 
sake. They are the children of three races : the hot Irish blood 
mixes with the colder Dutch in their calm English veins, and 
some of them — their chief, for instance — are splendid fighters. 

There he is at this moment riding up the hill from his quarters 
in the valley. A man of medium height and strong frame, he 
sits his horse well and with a dashing air. His nose is promi- 
nent, his eye piercing, his complexion ruddy, his whole appear- 
ance that of a man of splendid health and flowing spirits. He 
is just the fellow to win by his headlong valor the nickname of 
" The Mad." But he is more than a mere fighter. Skilful, ener- 
getic, full of resources and presence of mind, quick to comprehend 
and prompt to act, of sound judgment and extraordinary cour- 
age, he has in him the qualities of a great general, as he shall show many a time in his short Hfe of one-and-fifty years. 
Pennsylvania, after her quiet fashion, may not make as much 
of his fame as it deserves, but impartial history will allow her 
none the less the honor of having given its most brilliant sol- 
dier to the Revolution in her Anthony Wayne. Poor, of New 
Hampshire, is encamped next, and then Glover, whose regiment 
of Marblehead sailors and fishermen manned the boats that 
saved the army on the night of the retreat from Long Island. 
Learned, Patterson, and Weedon follow, and then at the corner 
of the intrenchments by the river is the Virginian brigade of 
Muhlenberg. Born at the Trappe, close by, and educated 
abroad, Muhlenberg was a clergyman in Virginia when the war 
cjame on, but he has doffed his parson's gown forever for the 
buff and blue of a brigadier. His stalwart form and swarthy 
face are already as familiar to the enemy as they are to his own 
men, for the Hessians are said to have cried, " Hier kommt 
teufel Pete !" as they saw him lead a charge at Brandywine. 
The last brigade is stationed on the river-bank, where Varnum 
and his Rhode Islanders, in sympathy with young Laurens, of 
Carolina, are busy with a scheme to raise and enlist regiments 
of negro troops. These are the commanders of brigades. The 
major-generals are seven, — portly William Alexander, of New 
York, who claims to be the Earl of Stirling, but can fight for a 
republic bravely nevertheless; swarthy John Sullivan, of New 
Hampshire, a little headstrong but brave as a lion ; Steuben, 
the Prussian martinet, who has just come to teach the army; De 
Kalb, — self-sacrificing and generous De Kalb, — whose honest 
breast shall soon bear eleven mortal wounds received in the 
service of America; Lafayette, tall, with auburn hair, — the French boy of twenty with an old man's head, — ^just recovering from the wounds of Brandywine ; and last and greatest of them all, 
Nathaniel Greene, the Quaker blacksmith from Rhode Island, 
in all great qualities second only to the Chief himself Yonder 
is Henry Knox, of the artillery, as brave and faithful as he is 
big and burly, and the Pole, Pulaski, a man " of middle stature, 
of sharp countenance and lively air." Here are the Frenchmen, 
Duportail, Dubryson, Duplessis, and Duponceau. Here are 
Timothy Pickering and Light-Horse Harry Lee, destined to 
be famous in Senate, Cabinet, and field. Here are Henry Dearborn and William Hull, whose paths in life shall one day cross 
again, and John Laurens and Tench Tilghman, those models 
of accomplished manhood, destined so soon to die ! 

Does that silent boy of twenty, who has just ridden by with 
a message from Lord Stirling, imagine that one day the doc- 
trine which shall keep the American continent free from the 
touch of European politics shall be forever associated with the 
name of James Monroe ? Does yonder tall, awkward youth, 
in the Third Virginia, who bore a musket so gallantly at 
Brandywine, dream, as he lies there shivering in his little hut 
on the slopes of Mount Joy, that in the not distant future it is 
he that shall build up the jurisprudence of a people, and after a 
life of usefulness and honor bequeath to them, in the fame of 
John Marshall, the precious example of a great and upright 
Judge? Two other youths are here, — both of small stature 
and lithe, active frame, — of the same rank and almost the same 
age, whose ambitious eyes alike look forward already to fame 
and power in law and politics. But not even his own aspiring 
spirit can foretell the splendid rise, the dizzy elevation, and the 
sudden fall of Aaron Burr — nor can the other foresee that the 
time will never come when his countrymen will cease to admire 
the genius and lament the fate of Alexander Hamilton ! 


And what shall I say of him who bears on his heart the 
weight of all? Who can measure the anxieties that afflict his 
mind? Who weigh the burdens that he has to bear? 'Who 
but himself can ever know the responsibilities that rest upon 
his soul ? Behold him in yonder cottage, his lamp burning 
steadily through half the winter night, his brain never at rest, 
his hand always busy, his pen ever at work; now counselling 
with Greene how to clothe and feed the troops, or with Steuben 
how to reorganize the service ; now writing to Howe about 
exchanges, or to Livingston about the relief of prisoners, or to 
Clinton about supplies, or to Congress about enlistments or 
promotions or finances or the French Alliance ; opposing 
foolish and rash councils to-day, urging prompt and rigorous 
policies to-morrow ; now calming the jealousy of Congress, 
now soothing the wounded pride of ill-used officers ; now ansvvering the complaints of the civil authority, and now those of 
the starving soldiers, whose sufferings he shares, and by his 
cheerful courage keeping up the hearts of both ; repressing the 
zeal of friends to-day, and overcoming with steadfast rectitude 
the intrigues of enemies in Congress and in camp to-morrow; 
bearing criticism with patience and calumny with fortitude, and, 
lest his country should suffer, answering both only with plans 
for her defence, of which others are to reap the glory; guard- 
ing the long coast with ceaseless vigilance, and watching with 
sleepless eye a chance to strike the enemy in front a blow ; a 
soldier subordinating the military to the civil power; a dictator 
as mindful of the rights of Tories as of the wrongs of Whigs ; 
a statesman, commanding a revolutionary army; a patriot, for- 
getful of nothing but himself; this is he whose extraordinary 
virtues only have kept the army from disbanding and saved 
his country's cause. Modest in the midst of pride, wise in the 
midst of folly, calm in the midst of passion, cheerful in the 
midst of gloom, steadfast among the wavering, hopeful among 
the despondent, bold among the timid, prudent among the 
rash, generous among the selfish, true among the faithless, 
greatest among good men and best among the great, — such was 
George Washington at Valley Forge. 

But the darkest hour of night is just before the day. In 
the middle of February Washington described the dreadful 
situation of the army and "the miserable prospects before it" 
as " more alarming" than can possibly be conceived, and as 
occasioning him more distress " than he had felt" since the 
commencement of the war. On the 23d of February he whom 
we call Baron Steuben rode into camp ; on the 6th, Franklin 
signed the Treaty of Alliance at Versailles. 


Frederick William Augustus, Baron von Steuben, was a native 
of Magdeburg, in Prussia. Trained from early life to arms, he 
had been Aide to the Great Frederick, Lieutenant-General to 
the Prince of Baden, Grand Marshal at the Court of one of the 
Hohenzollerns, and a Canon of the Church. A skilful soldier, a 
thorough disciplinarian, a gentleman of polished manners, a 
man of warm and generous heart, he had come in the prime of life and vigor to offer his services to the American people. 
None could have been more needed or more valuable at the 
time. Congress sent him to the camp, Washington quickly 
discerned his worth, and in a little time he was made Major- 
General and Inspector of the army. In an instant there was a 
change in that department. A discipline unknown before took 
possession of the camp. Beginning with a picked company of 
one hundred and twenty men, the Baron drilled them carefully 
himself on foot and musket in hand. These when they became 
proficient he made a model for others, and presently the whole 
camp had become a military school. Rising at three in the 
morning, he smoked a single pipe while his servant dressed his 
hair, drank one cup of coffee, and with his star of knighthood 
gleaming on his breast was on horseback at sunrise, and with 
or without his suite galloped to the parade. There all day he 
drilled the men, and at nightfall galloped back to the hut in 
which he made his quarters, to draw up regulations and draft 
instructions for the inspectors under him. And thus day after 
day, patient, careful, laborious, and persevering, in a few months 
he transformed this untrained yeomanry into a disciplined and 
effective army. There have been more brilliant services ren- 
dered to America than these, but few perhaps more valuable 
and worthier of remembrance. Knight of the Order of Fidelity, 
there have been more illustrious names than thine upon our 
lips to-day. Like many another who labored for us, our busy 
age has seemed to pass thee by. But here, at last, when, after 
a century, Americans gather to review their country's history, 
shall they recall thy unselfish services with gratitude, and thy 
memory with honor. 

And surely at Valley Forge we must not forget what Frank- 
lin was doing for his country's cause in France. It was a 
happy thing for the Republican Idea that it had a distant conti- 
nent for the place of its experiment. It was a fortunate thing 
for America that between her and her nearest European neigh- 
bor lay a thousand leagues of sea. That distance — a very dif- 
ferent matter from what it is to-day — made it at the same time 
difficult for England to overcome us, and safe for France to 
lend us aid. From an early period this alliance seemed to 
have been considered by the Cabinet of France. For several 
years secret negotiations had been going on, and in the fall of 
1777 they became open and distinct, and the representatives of 
both nations came face to face. There was no sympathy be- 
tween weak and feeble Louis and his crafty Ministers on the 
one side and the representatives of Democracy and Rebellion 
on the other, — nor had France any hopes of regaining her foot- 
hold on this continent. The desire of her rulers was simply to 
humiliate and injure England, and the revolution in America 
seemed to offer the chance. Doubtless they were influenced 
by the fact that the cause of America had become very popular 
with all classes of the French people, impressed to a remark- 
able degree with the character of Dr. Franklin, and stirred by 
the contagious and generous example of Lafayette. Nor was 
this popular feeling merely temporary or without foundation. 
Long familiar as he had been with despotism in both politics 
and religion, the Frenchman still retained within him a certain 
spirit of Liberty which was stronger than he knew. His sym- 
pathies naturally went out toward a distant people engaged in 
a gallant struggle against his hereditary enemies, — the English; 
but besides all that, there was in his heart something, he hardly 
knew what, that vibrated at the thought of a freedom for others, 
which he had hardly dreamed of and never known. Little did 
he or any of his rulers foresee what that something was. Little 
did France imagine, as she blew mto a flame the spark of liberty 
beyond the sea, that there was that within her own dominions 
which in eleven years, catching the divine fire from the glowing 
West, would set herself and Europe in a blaze. Accordingly, 
after much doubt, delay, and intrigue, during which Franklin 
bore himself with rare ability and tact, treaties of amity, com- 
merce, and alliance were prepared and signed. The indepen- 
dence of America was acknowledged and made the basis of 
alliance, and it was mutually agreed that neither nation should 
lay down its arms until England had conceded it. A fleet, 
an army, and munitions were promised by the King, and, as a 
consequence, war was at once declared against Great Britain. 


We are accustomed to regard this as the turning-point in the 
Revolutionary struggle. And so it was. But neither the fleet of France nor her armies, gallant as they were, nor the sup- 
plies and means with which she furnished us, were as valuable 
to the cause of the struggling country as the moral effect, at 
home as well as abroad, of the alliance. Hopes that were built 
upon the skill of French sailors were soon dispelled, the ex- 
pectation of large contingent armies was not to be fulfilled, 
but the news of the French alliance carried into every patriotic 
heart an assurance that never left it afterward, and kept aroused 
a spirit that henceforward grew stronger every year. Says the 
historian Bancroft : " The benefit then conferred on the United 
States was priceless. And so the flags of France and the United 
States went together into the field against Great Britain unsup- 
ported by any other government, yet with the good 'wishes of 
all the peoples of Europe." And so illustrious Franklin, the 
Philadelphia printer, earned the magnificent compliment that 
was paid him at the French Academy : " Eripuit fulmen coslo, 
sceptrumque tyrannis." 

And all the while, unconscious of the event, the winter days 
at Valley Forge dragged by, one after another, with sleet and 
slush and snow, with storms of wind, and ice and beating rain. 
The light-horse scoured the country, the pickets watched, the 
sentinels paced up and down, the men drilled and practised, 
and starved and froze and suffered, and at last the spring-time 
came, and with it stirring news. Greene was appointed Quarter- 
master-General on the 23d of March, and under his skilful man- 
agement relief and succor came. The conciliatory bills, offering 
all but independence, were received in April, and instantly rejected by Congress, under the stirring influence of a letter from Wash- 
ington, declaring with earnestness that " nothing short of inde- 
pendence would do," and at last, on the 4th of May, at eleven 
o'clock at night, the news of the French treaty reached the 

On the 6th, by general orders, the army, after appropriate 
religious services, was drawn up under arms, salutes were fired 
with cannon and musketry, cheers given by the soldiers for the 
King of France and the American States, and a banquet by the 
General-in-Chief to all the officers in the open air completed a 
day devoted to rejoicing. "And all the while," says the English satirist, " Howe left the famous camp of Valley Forge untouched, whilst his great, brave, and perfectly appointed army 
fiddled and gambled and feasted in Philadelphia. And by 
Byng's countrymen triumphal arches were erected, tourna- 
ments were held in pleasant mockery of the Middle Ages, and 
wreaths and garlands offered by beautiful ladies to this clement 
chief, with fantastical mottoes and poesies announcing that his 
laurels should be immortal." On the i8th of May (the day of 
that famous festivity) Lafayette took post at Barren Hill, from 
which he escaped so brilliantly two days afterwards. At last, 
on the 1 8th of June, George Roberts, of Philadelphia, came 
galloping up the Gulf road covered with dust and sweat, with 
the news that the British had evacuated Philadelphia. Six 
brigades were at once in motion, — the rest of the army pre- 
pared to follow with all possible despatch early on the 19th. 
The bridge across the Schuylkill was laden with tramping 
troops. Cannon rumbled rapidly down the road to the river. 
The scanty baggage was packed, the flag at headquarters taken 
down, the last brigade descended the river-bank, the huts were 
empty, the breastworks deserted, the army was off for Mon- 
mouth, and the hills of Valley Forge were left alone with their 
glory and their dead. The last foreign foe had left the soil of 
Pennsylvania forever. Yes, the last foreign foe ! Who could 
foretell the mysteries of the future? Who foresee the trials 
that were yet to come ? Little did the sons of New England 
and the South, who starved and froze and died here in the 
snow together, think, as their eyes beheld for the last time the 
little flag that meant for them a common country, that the time 
would come when, amid sound of cannon, their children, met 
again on Pennsylvania soil, would confront each other in the 
splendid agony of battle ! Sorrow was their portion, but it 
was not given them to suffer this. It was theirs to die in the 
gloomiest period of their country's history, but certain that her 
salvation was assured. It was theirs to go down into the grave 
rejoicing in the belief that their lives were sacrifice enough, 
blessedly unconscious that the liberty for which they struggled 
demanded that three hundred thousand of their children should 
with equal courage and devotion lay down their lives in its de- 
fence. Happy alike they who died before that time and we 
who have survived it! And, thank God this day, that its shadow has passed away forever. The sins of the fathers 
visited upon the children have been washed away in blood, — 
the sacrifice has been accepted, — the expiation has been com- 
plete. The men of North and South whose bones moulder on 
these historic hill-sides did not die in vain. The institutions 
which they gave us we preserve, — the freedom for which they 
fought is still our birthright, — the flag under which they died 
floats above our heads on this anniversary, the emblem of a 
redeemed, regenerate, reunited country. The Union of these 
States still stands secure. Enemies within and foes without 
have failed to break it, and the spirit of faction, from whatever 
quarter or in whatever cause, can no more burst its holy bonds 
asunder thnn can we separate in this sacred soil the dust of 
Massachusetts and that of Carolina from that Pennsylvania 
dust in whose embrace it has slumbered for a century, and 
with which it must forever be indistinguishably mingled. 


Such, then, is the history of this famous place. To my mind 
it has a glory all its own. The actions which have made it 
famous stand by themselves. It is not simply because they are 
heroic. Brave deeds have sanctified innumerable places in every 
land. The men of our revolution were not more brave than their 
French allies, or their German cousins, or their English brethren. 
Courage belongs alike to all men. Nor were they the only men 
in history who suffered. Others have borne trial as bravely, 
endured with the same patience, died with as perfect a devotion. 
But it is not given to all men to die in the best of causes or 
win the greatest victories. It was the rare fortune of those 
who were assembled here one hundred years ago that, having 
in their keeping the most momentous things that were ever 
intrusted to a people, they were at once both faithful and vic- 
torious. The army that was encamped here was but a handful, 
but what host ever defended so much ? And what spot of earth 
has had a farther reaching and happier influence on the human 
race than this ? 

Is it that which the traveller beholds when from Pentelicus 
he looks down on Marathon ? The life of Athens was short, 
and the liberty which was saved on that immortal field she 
gave up ingloriously more than twenty centuries ago. The 
tyranny she resisted so gallantly from without she practised 
cruelly at home. The sword which she wielded so well in her 
own defence she turned as readily against her children. Her 
civilization, brilliant as it was, was narrow, and her spirit selfish. 
The boundaries of her tiny state were larger than her heart, 
whose sympathy could not include more than a part of her 
own kindred. Her aspirations were pent up in herself, and she 
stands in history to-day a prodigy of short-lived splendor, — a 
warning rather than example. Is it any one of those, where 
the men of the forest cantons fell on the invader like an ava- 
lanche from their native Alps and crushed him out of exist- 
ence ? The bravery of the Swiss achieved only a sterile inde- 
pendence, which his native mountains defended as well as he, 
and he tarnished his glory forever when the sword of Morgarten 
was hawked about the courts of Europe, and the victor of 
Grandson and Morat sold himself to the foreign shambles of 
the highest bidder. 


Or is it that still more famous field, where the Belgian lion 
keeps guard over the dead of three great nations ? There, 
three-and-sixty years ago yesterday, the armies of Europe met 
in conflict. It was the war of giants. On the one side England, 
the first power of the age, flushed with victory, of inexhaustible 
resources, redoubtable by land and invincible by sea, and 
Prussia, vigorous by nature, strong by adversity, hardened by 
suffering, full of bitter memories and hungry for revenge, and 
on the other France, once mistress of the Continent, the arbiter 
of nations, the conquerer of Wagram and Marengo and Fried- 
land and Austerlitz, — spent at last in her own service, crushed 
rather by the weight of her victories than by the power of her 
enemies' arm, — turning in her bloody footsteps, like a wounded 
lion, to spring with redoubled fury at the throat of her pursuers. 
Behold the conflict as it raged through the long June day, 
while all the world listened and held its breath ! 

The long lines of red, the advancing columns of blue, the 
glitter of burnished steel, the roll of drums, the clangor of 
trumpets, the cheering of men, the fierce attack, the stubborn 
resistance, the slow recoil, the rattle of musketry, the renewed 
assault, the crash of arms, the roar of cannons, the clatter of 
the charging cavalry, the cries of the combatants, the clash of 
sabres, the shrieks of the dying, the confused retreat, the gal- 
lant rally, the final charge, the sickening repulse, the last strug- 
gle, the shouts of the victors, the screams of the vanquished, 
the wild confusion, the blinding smoke, the awful uproar, the 
unspeakable rout, the furious pursuit, the sounds fading in the 
distance, the groans of the wounded, the falling of the summer 
rain, the sighing of the evening breeze, the solemn silence of 
the night. Climb the steps that lead to the summit of the 
mound that marks that place to-day. There is no spot in 
Europe more famous than the field beneath your feet. In out- 
ward aspect it is not unlike this which we behold here. The 
hills are not so high nor the valleys so deep, but the general 
effect of field and farm, of ripening grain and emerald wood- 
land, is much the same. It has not been changed. There is 
the chateau of Houguomont on the west, and the forest through 
which the Prussians came on the east ; on yonder hill the 
Emperor watched the battle ; beneath you Ney made the last 
of many charges, — the world knows it all by heart. The 
traveller of every race turns toward it his footsteps. It is 
the most celebrated battle-field of Europe and of modern 

But what did that great victory accomplish ? It broke the 
power of one nation and asserted the independence of the rest 
It took from France an Emperor and gave her back a King, a 
ruler whom she had rejected in place of one whom she had 
chosen, a Bourbon for a Bonaparte, a King by Divine right for 
an Emperor by the people's will. It revenged the memory of 
Jena and Corunna, and broke the spell that made the fated 
name Napoleon the bond of an empire almost universal ; it 
struck down one great man and fixed a dozen small ones on 
the neck of Europe. But what did it bequeath to us beside 
the ever-precious example of heroic deeds? Nothing. What 
did they who conquered there achieve ? Fame for themselves, 
woe for the vanquished, glory for England, revenge for Prussia, 
shame for France, nothing for humanity, nothing for liberty, 
nothing for civilization, nothing for the rights of man. One 
of the great Englishmen of that day declared that it had turned 
back the hands on the dial of the world's progress for fifty 
years. And, said an English poetess, — 

The Kings crept out again to feel the sun, 
The Kings crept out — the peoples sat at home, 
And finding the long-invocated peace, .^ 
A pall embroidered with worn images 
Of rights divine, too scant to cover doom 
Such as they suffered — curst the corn that grew 
Rankly to bitter bread on Waterloo. 

My countrymen : — For a century the eyes of struggling na- 
tions have turned towards this spot, and lips in every language 
have blessed the memory of Valley Forge ! The tide of battle 
never ebbed and flowed upon these banks ; these hills never 
trembled beneath the tread of charging squadrons nor echoed 
the thunders of contending cannon. The blood that stained 
this ground did not rush forth in the joyous frenzy of the 
fight; it fell drop by drop from the heart of a suffering people. 
They who once encamped here in the snow fought not for 
conquest, not for power, not for glory, not for their country 
only, not for themselves alone. They served here for posterity; 
they suffered here for the human race; they bore here the cross 
of all the peoples ; they died here that freedom might be the 
heritage of all. It was humanity which they defended; it was 
Liberty herself whom they had in keeping, — she that was 
sought in the wilderness and mourned for by the waters of 
Babylon, — that was saved at Salamis and thrown away at Chser- 
onea, — that was fought for at Cannae and lost forever at Phar- 
salia and Philippi, — she who confronted the Armada on the 
deck with Howard and rode beside Cromwell on the field of 
Worcester, — for whom the Swiss gathered into his breast the 
sheaf of spears at Sempach and the Dutchman broke the dykes 
of Holland and welcomed in the sea, — she of whom Socrates 
spoke and Plato wrote and Brutus dreamed and Homer sung, 
— for whom Eliot pled and Sydney suffered and Milton prayed 
and Hampden fell ! Driven by the persecutions of centuries 
from the older world, she had come with Pilgrim and Puritan 
and Cavalier and Quaker to seek a shelter in the new. At- 
tacked once more by her old enemies, she had taken refuge here. Nor she alone. The dream of the Greek, the Hebrew's 
prophecy, the desire of the Roman, the ItaHan's prayer, the 
longing of the German mind, the hope of the French heart, 
the glory and honor of Old England herself, the yearning of 
all the centuries, the aspiration of every age, the promise of 
the past, the fulfilment of the future, the seed of the old time, 
the harvest of the new, — all these were with her. And here, 
in the heart of America, they were safe. The last of many 
struggles was almost won ; the best of many centuries was 
about to break ; the time was already come when from these 
shores the light of a new civilization should flash across the 
sea, and from this place a voice of triumph make the Old World 
tremble, when, from her chosen refuge in the West, the spirit 
of liberty should go forth to meet the rising sun and set the 
people free ! 


Americans: — A hundred years have passed away, and that 
civilization and that liberty are still your heritage. But think 
not that such an inheritance can be kept safe without exertion. 
It is the burden of your happiness that with it privilege and 
duty go hand-m-hand together. You cannot shirk the present 
and enjoy in the future the blessings of the past. Yesterday 
begot to-day, and to-day is the parent of to-morrow. The old 
time may be secure, but the new time is uncertain. The dead 
are safe; it is the privilege of the living to be in peril. A 
country is benefited by great actions only so long as her chil- 
dren are able to repeat them. The memory of this spot shall 
be an everlasting honor for our fathers, but we can make it an 
eternal shame for ourselves if we choose to do so. The glory 
of Lexington and Bunker Hill and Saratoga and Valley Forge 
belongs not to you and me, but we can make it ours if we will. 
It is well for us to keep these anniversaries of great events ; 
it is well for us to meet by thousands on these historic spots; 
it is well to walk by those unknown graves and follow the 
windings of the breastworks that encircle yonder hill ; it is well 
for us to gather beneath yon little fort, which the storms of so 
many winters have tenderly spared to look down on us to-day ; 
it is well to commemorate the past with song and eulogy and 
pleasant festival,' — but it is not enough. 

If they could return whose forms have been passing in imag- 
ination before our eyes ; if in the presence of this holy hour 
the dead could rise and lips dumb for a century find again a 
tongue, might they not say to us: You do well, countrymen, 
to commemorate this time ; you do well to honor those who 
yielded up their lives in glory here. Theirs was a perfect sacri- 
fice, and the debt you owe them you can never pay. Your lines 
have fallen in a happier time. The boundaries of your Union 
stretch from sea to sea. You enjoy all the blessings which 
Providence can bestow, — a peace we never knew, a wealth we 
never hoped for, a power of which we never dreamed. Yet 
think not that these things only can make a nation great We 
laid the foundation of your happiness in a time of trouble, in 
days of sorrow and perplexity, of doubt, distress, and danger, 
of cold and hunger, of suffering and want. We built it up by 
virtue, by courage, by self-sacrifice, by unfailing patriotism, by 
unceasing vigilance. By those things alone did we win your 
liberties ; by them only can you hope to keep them. Do you 
revere our names ? Then follow our example. Are you proud 
of our achievements ? Then try to imitate them. Do you honor 
our memories ? Then do as we have done. You owe some- 
thing to America better than all those things which you spread 
before her with such lavish hand, — something which she needs 
as much in her prosperity to-day as ever in the sharpest crisis 
of her fate, — yourselves ! For you have duties to perform as 
well as we. It was ours to create; it is yours to preserve. It 
was ours to found ; it is yours to perpetuate. It was ours to 
organize; it is yours to purify! And what nobler spectacle 
can you present to mankind to-day than that of a people honest, 
steadfast, and secure, — mindful of the lessons of experience, — 
true to the teachings of history, — led by the loftiest examples, 
and bound together to protect their institutions at the close of 
the century, as their fathers were to win them at the beginning, 
by the ties of "Virtue, Honor, and Love of Country," — by that 
virtue which makes perfect the happiness of a people, — by that 
honor which constitutes the chief greatness of a State, — by that 
patriotism which survives all things, braves all things, endures 
all things, achieves all things, and which, though it find a refuge 
nowhere else, should live in the heart of every true American ? 

My countrymen : — The century that has gone by has changed 
the face of nature and wrought a revolution in the habits of 
mankind. We stand to-day at the dawn of an extraordinary 
age. Freed from the chains of ancient thought and supersti- 
tion, man has begun to win the most extraordinary victories 
in the domain of science. One by one he has dispelled the 
doubts of the ancient world. Nothing is too difficult for his 
hand to attempt,— no region too remote, — no place too sacred 
for his daring eye to penetrate. He has robbed the earth of 
her secrets, and sought to solve the mysteries of the heavens ! 
He has secured and chained to his service the elemental 
forces of nature; he has made the fire his steed; the winds his 
ministers; the seas his pathway; the lightning his messenger. 
He has descended into the bowels of the earth, and walked in 
safety on the bottom of the sea. He has raised his head above 
the clouds, and made the impalpable air his resting-place. He 
has tried to analyze the stars, count the constellations, and 
weigh the sun. He has advanced with such astounding speed 
that, breathless, we have reached a moment when it seems as 
if distance had been annihilated, time made as naught, the in- 
visible seen, the inaudible heard, the unspeakable spoken, the 
intangible felt, the impossible accomplished. And already we 
knock at the door of a new century which promises to be infi- 
nitely brighter and more enlightened and happier than this. But 
in all this blaze of light which illuminates the present and casts 
its reflection into the distant recesses of the past, there is not a single ray that shoots into the future. Not one step have we 
taken toward the solution of the mystery of life. That remains 
to-day as dark and unfathomable as it was ten thousand years 

We know that we are more fortunate than our fathers. We 
believe that our children shall be happier than we. We know 
that this century is more enlightened than the last We believe 
that the time to come will be better and more glorious than 
this. We think, we believe, we hope, but we do not know. 
Across that threshold we may not pass ; behind that veil we 
may not penetrate. Into that country it may not be for us to 
go. It may be vouchsafed for us to behold it, wonderingly, 
from afar, but never to enter it. It matters not. The age in 
which we Hve is but a link in the endless and eternal chain, i 
Our lives are like the sands upon the shore ; our voices like/ 
the breath of this summer breeze that stirs the leaf for a 
moment and is forgotten. Whence we have come and whither 
we shall go not one of us can tell. And the last survivor of 
this mighty multitude shall stay but a little while. 

But in the impenetrable To be, the endless generations are 
advancing to take our places as we fall. For them as for us 
shall the earth roll on, and the seasons come and go, the snow- 
flakes fall, the flowers bloom, and the harvests be gathered in. 
For them as for us shall the sun, like the life of man, rise out of 
darkness in the morning and sink into darkness in the night. 
For them as for us shall the years march by in the sublime 
procession of the ages. And here, in this place of sacrifice, in this vale of humiliation, in this valley of the Shadow of that Death out 
of which the Life of America arose, regenerate and free, let us 
believe with an abiding faith that to them Union will seem as 
dear, and Liberty as sweet, and Progress as glorious as they 
were to our fathers, and are to you and me, and that the insti- 
tutions which have made us happy, preserved by the virtue of 
our children, shall bless the remotest generations of the time 
to come. And unto Him who holds in the hollow of His 
hand the fate of nations, and yet marks the sparrow's fall, let 
us lift up our hearts this day, and into His eternal care commend ourselves, our children, and our country. 


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