Day 5, Dec. 17, 1777 — Gen. Washington issues inspirational orders announcing the move to Valley Forge and prepares for nation’s first Thanksgiving celebration on Rebel Hill and Gulph Mills

Sheilah Vance

Generals George Washington, Marquis de Lafayette, and Nathaniel Green (Gilder Lehrman collection)

December 17, 1777 was a momentous day on Rebel Hill and Gulph Mills.

After weeks of debate, General Washington decided on Valley Forge as the site of the Continental Army’s winter quarters.  As hard as it is for us to believe today, armies at this time generally did not fight in the winter.  It was extremely difficult for all of the people and objects of war to move.  Armies went into winter quarters and prepared for the resumption of conflict in the spring.

Nothing that I could write about General Washington’s decision is more eloquent and moving than his General Orders for that day, which appear below in full text.

In those Orders, Washington mentions that the march to winter quarters will be delayed for a day so the Continental Army can celebrate the new nation’s first Thanksgiving.  The…

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