• Log huts are coated in a fresh layer of snow

    Valley Forge

    National Historical Park Pennsylvania

Places

Washington’s Officers Slept Hereabouts

According to local tradition all of the generals who came to camp with George Washington found quarters with area residents. Many of these claims cannot be proven. Continental Army records, period maps and the personal papers of the officers do back up tradition in a number of cases and place certain generals in family homes. However, such details seldom surface from the murky depths of history.

When the army moved into the small farming and forge community of Valley Forge to set up camp, there was very little housing available. All soldiers, nearly every officer, and many of the generals spent the winter in log cabins built on site by the rank and file. Even though some generals did obtain housing amongst the civilian population in and around camp, they were probably better able to handle their administrative duties when housed in a log hut near their men. Moreover, some of the officer cabins were quite commodious and comfortable. One general’s hut measured thirty-two feet in length, had three fireplaces, a kitchen, dormitory for servants, and a stable. We can perhaps imagine the commanders pouring over army paperwork by the fireside of one of these cabins and, occasionally, engaging in one of the “frolics” or informal dinner parties that built camaraderie.

Records show that General Varnum, Inspector General von Steuben, Artillery Chief Knox, and General de Kalb spent part of the winter in a hut. While we do not know for certain where the following generals: Glover, McIntosh, Maxwell, Paterson, Poor, Scott, Sullivan, Wayne, and Woodford stayed, it would be safe to assume that most of them also wintered in large, multi-function log huts. Commanders who only stayed in camp for short intervals probably bunked with brother officers in their quarters.

Varied evidence shows that Generals Washington, Kalb, Duportail, Greene, Huntington, Lafayette, Muhlenberg, Stirling, Varnum and Weedon, did live in the homes of local families for at least part of their stay in camp. In most cases we can only guess at how such families felt about sharing their homes with Continental Army officers.

They may have enjoyed the protection that such a situation provided, basked in the whorl of excitement brought to a normally dull time of year or perhaps seethed with resentment at the imposition. One of the generals, Johann de Kalb, so bonded with local resident Abijah Stephens that he corresponded with him years later. William Moore, owner of the spacious Moore Hall located west of camp, put up General Greene and hosted a congressional delegation. The damage claim submitted to Congress by the elderly Moore indicated that the experience left him exhausted and financially strapped.

Did You Know?

Sketch by Michael Panno of a gracile sabertooth cat, Smilodon gracilis

Port Kennedy Cave, located in what is now Valley Forge NHP, produced one of the most significant assemblages of Pleistocene fossils in North America. 14 plants and 48 animals are represented, including wolverine, Wheatley's ground sloth, long-nosed peccary, Hay's tapir, and lesser short-faced bear. More...