Illustration of Continental Army’s 1777-1778 Winter Encampment at Valley Forge

Designing and Building
Valley Forge

Unlike the British, who requisitioned housing from Philadelphia residents, the Continental Army had to build its own shelter on the farmland around Valley Forge. Engineers laid out the camp huts in parallel lines. Officers divided their troops into 12 man squads, provided tools, and gave precise instructions for construction of the huts. Soldiers, many of whom had no building skills, had to cut timber in distant woods and hauled it back to their building sites. By early February, most of the squads had completed their huts.

Pickets were posted around the perimeter of camp and different passwords and countersigns were issued each day. Inner and outer lines of defensive works provided security. Four guarded roads led out of camp. The newly constructed Sullivan's bridge offered an escape route to the north over the Schuylkill River in case the British attacked.

Why Valley Forge?

From this location twenty miles northwest of British-occupied Philadelphia, General Washington was close enough to maintain pressure on the enemy dwelling in the captured patriot capital, yet far enough away to avoid a surprise attack. From here, the Continental Army secured the outlying parts of the state, where wary citizens, precious military stores and the Continental Congress (located in York, Pennsylvania), all could be protected from the British.

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