Last updated: November 16, 2022
Writing During Difficult Times
The Contintental Army at Valley Forge was plagued by diseases like influenza, typhus, typhoid, and dysentery, and also suffered due to lack of food and supplies — but despite these difficulties, the army persevered through months of hardship and marched away from Valley Forge in the springtime a stronger and more unified group.
Much of what we know today about the Valley Forge encampment comes from the writings that people made in their journals and notebooks while they were in camp.
Learn more in the video below and check out the Valley Forge writing prompt!
Hi, friends. I'm Ranger Steve at Valley Forge National Historical Park. The third winter encampment of the Continental Army during the American Revolution. This was a very difficult winter for these soldiers. The encampment was a sea of mud covered in roughly 2000 log huts, much like the one that we're sitting in. They were burning green wood, which produces a lot of smoke.
[00:00:48:51 - 00:01:26:31]
Soldiers wrote that it would sting your eyes. Much of what we know about this encampment is because of the writings of the people who were here, the people who lived through the history. Many of them suffered. And oftentimes they used writing to work through the feelings that they felt here at Valley Forge. A young woman near the encampment named Elizabeth Drinker who had fled the city of Philadelphia when the British captured it, wrote in her diary in January.
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"The British troops have been out these two days foraging. It is amazing to see the great quantity of hay they have brought in. 70-odd loads, I am told they have taken from Abel James. What will they do when the present supply is gone? Large as it seems, I am told it will last but a little time. They used 'tis said 24 tons per day."
[00:01:51:16 - 00:02:24:59]
She used a little bit of math here, but it implies to a lot of math that the British were using, and the American army, in supplying their forces, supplying their people in camp to keep them fed. Sergeant James McMichael wrote a poem in his diary, one of his last diary entries. This poem was a farewell to his diary, and he wrote: “Farewell my journal, we must part, which contains some nature but no art.”
[00:02:25:42 - 00:02:42:58]
“The companion of my sore fatigues throughout the war, but not intrigues. Therefore, adieu my ambiguous book. May you be pleasing to those who in you look.” It's a short poem, but I like it. It illustrates how important his journal was to him.
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When you experience hard times, how do you find the strength to keep going? Do you create something? Do you work to solve a problem? Do you take the time and space that you need to rest? Write about a time that you or someone else you know, experienced something difficult and how they persevered to move past the challenging situation.
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Please send your stories to us here at Valley Forge National Historical Park via Facebook message, email, or snail mail. We look forward to seeing the stories that you share with us how writing has helped you persevere through difficult times.
[00:03:46:39 - 00:03:49:43]
I hope to see you out in the park.
- 3 minutes, 52 seconds
Ranger Steve sits by the fire and shares some journal entries that were written during the Valley Forge encampment. Many people kept diaries and wrote about the hardships of the winter and processed their feelings. These writings give us a view into what it was like at Valley Forge in 1777 and 1778. Write your own story about overcoming challenges and share it with the tag #WriteOut !
When you experience hard times, how do you find the strength to keep going? Do you create something? Work to solve a problem? Take the time and space you need to rest? Write about a time that you or someone else experienced something difficult and how you or they persevered to move past the challenging situation.
Send Us Your Stories
You can share your stories on Facebook, by sending an email, or even with a written letter. Tag social media using #WriteOut and #ValleyForgeNPS!
Email (vafo_information @ nps.gov)
Snail mail (written letter)
Valley Forge National Historical Park
1400 North Outer Line Drive
King of Prussia, PA 19406