June 3, 2008
I went to Valley Forge today. Whittney, I’m sure Mrs. Lusk told you all about George Washington and the winter at Valley Forge and how difficult it was for the soldiers. I watched a power point presentation overview of the 1777-1778 winter encampment. It was interesting to realize that the Valley Forge winter was the third winter of the campaign and it was not the worst winter the soldiers would experience before the end of the war. That would come later at the Morristown encampment. Did you realize that the Revolutionary War was fought for eight years?
Park Ranger Bill Troppman explained that there are four reasons social studies books spend so much time on the Valley Forge winter when there were other winter encampments that were worse.
1. It had the highest death toll, but not from battle-related casualties. The deaths were mostly from the extreme fluctuations of ice storms to barely above freezing and back. Nothing ever dried out. The soldiers’ clothes stayed wet or sometimes froze to their bodies, they had to burn green wood which created a lot of smoke that polluted the air, and in these damp, muddy conditions, diseases set in. Diseases like typhus and Swine Flu. Dysentery was a huge problem.
When the alliance with France came along, followed by the arrival of the French military officer, La Fayette, world attention turned in earnest to the revolution in America. When the Prussian mercenary Baron von Stueben came to America, George Washington put him in charge of the army and von Stueven’s military tactics were studied until the war of 1812 when technology had evolved enough that new military tactics replaced his. It’s interesting to note that Von Stueben wasn’t interested in American independence, he was interested in making a name for himself as a military genius.
The discovery of really good iron deposits in the valley between Mount Misery and Joy (don’t you love the names) were discovered and instead of sending the iron to Britain (per an agreement that I won’t go into in this blog), America crafted its own weapons and ammunition from the iron instead of depending upon Britain for them. This did not make the Brits happy.
Here are some pictures of Valley Forge.
This is Baron von Stueben’s actual original military book (field manual) that he wrote. It was was printed and distributed as the definitive guide for military strategy. This book is a first edition of a 1798 printing (I think the year is right). Whittney, you know how much I love books and old “things”, you can only imagine what it was like to see a book this old. Von Stueben was originally from Prussia and had served under Frederick the Great. At one point, von Stueben wrote that he wasn’t going to return because he had become the “Apostle of American Liberty” under George Washington’s appointment as commander of the Continental Army.
I have a book called “Private Yankee Doodle” that we’ll have to read together. The young man who wrote it served all through the war. It’s his journal of what it was like being there first hand.
I will use Private Yankee Doodle, a journal-narrative by Joesph Plumb Martin, and the alternate version, Yankee Doodle Boy, with my middle school and high school history students. As we read the books, the pictures I’ve taken will enhance the visualization of the Josep Plumb Martin’s experiences as a soldier in the Continental Army.
Well, enough for today. Here are a few questions.
1. I mentioned earlier that Baron von Stueben was a mercenary. What is a mercenary? Click here – mercenary – and decide which definition applies to this situation.
2. The American army at the time of the Revolutionary War was called the Continental Army. The Continental Congress was the governing body of the colonies. In order to finance the war, Congress issued its own paper money. The problem with this was each of the states also issued their own currency. There was a problem with the different kinds of currency not being of the same value or the paper simply having no value. As a result, this phrase went around, “Not worth a Continental”. What does this phrase mean? Click here – Continental – to read an explanation, then tell me what the phrase means.
Tomorrow I’m off to Princeton University in New Jersey. It’s a couple of hours away. We’ll take a walking tour of downtown Princeton including the Bainbridge House, Princeton University Campus, Albert Einstein’s house, Morven and Palmer Square, and the Princeton Cemetery.