Image Image of Soldier smoking pipe Image of Pipe Bowl Image of Dice

Distractions and Diversions

At Valley Forge, enlisted men were busy building defenses, foraging for food, drilling and standing guard duty, while officers were preoccupied with paperwork, inspecting the camp and training their men. Still, in idle or lonely moments, soldiers found ways to make life bearable and, in some cases, enjoyable.

Simple musical instruments like tin whistles and jaw harps added much-needed melodies to the daily drudgery of building and maintaining a fortified log city. Soldiers also read to pass the hours and occasionally played group sports such as “base,” a precursor to baseball. During the spring, the camp put on several successful theatrical performances including Washington’s favorite play, Cato.

At Valley Forge, officers in particular enjoyed an active social life. Civilians came to visit. Officers held dinner parties and joined in theatrical performances. A few officers' wives, including Martha Washington, Lucy Knox, Caty Greene and Lady Stirling gathered to socialize and sew.

Gambling, swearing, and drunkenness were also present in camp. General Washington, always mindful of the importance of order and discipline, drafted numerous orders directed against "gaming" and other negative behavior occurring throughout the encampment.

Occasionally, there was reason for celebration. In honor of Washington's birthday, artillery musicians played outside Headquarters while a feast took place inside. May Day was a festive occasion complete with cheers for King Tammany and the erection of May poles. On May 6, 1778, the entire camp gathered at the Grand Parade to celebrate the alliance between France and the United States with a feu de joie, or “fire of joy.”


Image of Domino Image of Snuff Box