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Economy of the Encampment

At Valley Forge, the Continental Army suffered from the effects of a poorly administered supply system, the depreciation of continental currency, and inflated prices. By the time of the encampment, the lack of supplies had reached crisis proportions. Officers and enlisted men openly criticized the states for failing to honor their contract to supply their regiments with food and clothing.

In a dramatic letter to the Continental Congress, Washington forced Congress to reorganize the Quartermaster Department. With the selection of Nathanael Greene as Quartermaster General, conditions began to improve.

Additionally, regular markets with fresh foods were set up near camp where local farmers could trade with the Americans rather than sell to the British in Philadelphia. These markets opened in February but with the coming of spring more farmers, sutler and merchants appeared to sell their wares.

During the American Revolution, the most reliable legal tender was hard coin, but it was not easily obtained. The Continental Congress printed paper currency called Continental scrip backed by hard Spanish milled dollars. However, as war continued, both Congress and counterfeiters printed more currency, which devalued the scrip and prompted inflation. Therefore, civilians were reluctant to do business with the Continental Army, which paid in paper. Meanwhile, many soldiers were still waiting for several months of back pay from Congress and had no money to spare.


18th Century Currency Photo Gallery
Currency During the
American Revolution

Image of Wallet

Image of Continental Currency (Two-Thirds Dollar)