Imagine having to deal with the cold that we’ve been having and live in a wooden hut with only fire for heat, practically starving, too. That was the state of affairs at Valley Forge, just about two months in to the Continental Army’s encampment. So where was the army supposed get its food? From the farmers who lived in the area. The theme of my novel, Becoming Valley Forge, is what happens when the war comes to your back yard? How did the people in the Philadelphia area fare during the Valley Forge encampment and that period from September 11, 1777 through the Valley Forge march out that’s called The Phialdlephia campaign?
Here’s a letter from General George Washington to General Anthony Wayne, who lived with his men at Valley Forge, even though his home was a few miles away in Paoli. Washington is directing Wayne to lead a foraging expedition to gather up food, cattle, sheep, and just about anyting else that you can eat for the use of the Continental Army. Washington tells Wayne that if his men can’t arrange to take the food out of some areas, like the islands between Philadelphia and Chester, they should burn it so the British, who were occupying Philadlephia, can’t come out and get it on a foraging party of their own.
What happens when the war comes to your back yard? Here’s what:
From George Washington to Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 9–12 February 1778
To Brigadier General Anthony Wayne
Head Quarters Valley Forge
9[–12]th Feby 1778Sir
The good People of the State of Pennsa Living in the Vicinity of Philadelphia and near the Delaware River—having suffered much by the Enemy Carrying off their Property without allowing them any Compensation—thereby Destressing the Inhabitants—Supplying their own Army and Enabling them to protract the Cruel and unjust War that they are now Wageing against these States.
And Whereas by Recent Intelligence I have reason to expect that they Intend making an Other grand forage into this Country—It is of the utmost Consequence—that the Horses Cattle Sheep and Provender (Within fifteen miles West from the River Delaware between the Schuylkill and the Brandywine) be Immediately removed to prevent the Enemy from Receving any benefit therefrom, as well as to Supply the present exegencies of the American Army.
I do therefore Authorise, Impower, and Command you forthwith, to take, carry off, and Secure, all such Horses as are Suitable for Cavalry, or for Draft, all Cattle and Sheep fit for Slaugter, together with every kind of forage, for the use of this Army—that may be found in the possession of any of the Inhabitants within the aforesaid Limits causing Certificates to be given to each person for the Number, Value and Quantity of the Horses, Cattle, Sheep & Provender so taken1—Notice will be given to the holders of such Certificates by the Commissary and Qr Master Genl when and where they may apply for Payment that they may not be disappointed in calling for the money.
All Officers Civil and Military—Commissaries Quarter Masters &ca are hereby Ordered to obey aid & Assist you in this necessary buisness.
All the provender on the Islands between Phila. and Chester, which may be Difficult of Access or too Hazardous to attempt Carrying off—you will Immediately cause to be Destroyed giving Derections to the Officer or Officers to whom this duty is Assigned to take an Acct of the Quantity—together with the Owners names, as far as the Nature of the Service will admit.2 Given at Head Quarters Valley Forge 12th Feby 1778.
(cited from “From George Washington to Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, 9–12 February 1778,” Founders Online, National Archives (http://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-13-02-0411 [last update: 2015-12-30]). Source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 13, 26 December 1777 – 28 February 1778, ed. Edward G. Lengel. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, 2003, pp. 492–493.)
So, what would you have done when General Wayne and his men showed up at your door?
More to come.