Today we honor our country’s veterans. They have given it all for the country over the many years it has existed. But before the United States came into being we had to break away from England. King George’s country was the most powerful nation on Earth and America one of the least. The men who sought to free her fought and died in often horrible conditions. They were beaten at every turn for a long time. The writings of General Washington describe a little of how they lived. Here is a short excerpt:
“To see the men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes…without a house or hut to cover them until those could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled.”
George Washington at Valley Forge, April 21, 1778
You know how it feels when your stomach rumbles? Well, imagine that you are in the army and eating “firecake” (a tasteless mixture of flour and water) day after day. You have had very little bread or meat to eat, your shoes are worn through, your clothes were made for warmer weather or well worn from many battles, and you have no warm place to sleep. Would you complain? Sure! However, according to General George Washington’s letter to Congress, the soldiers in his Continental Army did not.
The Continental Army arrived at Valley Forge on December 19, 1777, after a tough campaign of battles with the British. Since early fall, the General had problems with getting supplies to his troops. As winter approached, the problems became worse. Soldiers received irregular supplies of meat and bread. Shortages forced the men to forage for food in the forests and farm fields that they passed.
Conditions were so severe at times that General Washington wrote, “that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place… this Army must inevitably… starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can.”