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Health and Medicine

While food and clothing shortages brought hardship to Valley Forge, most soldiers perished from disease, not cold or starvation. Two-thirds of the men who perished during the encampment died during the warmer months of March, April and May when supplies were more abundant but disease was running rampant. The most common killers were influenza, typhus, typhoid and dysentery. Nearly 2,000 American soldiers died of disease during the winter of 1777-1778.

In an effort to limit outbreaks of disease, General Washington often issued orders to deal with sanitation. Officers instructed soldiers to gather and burn all kitchen waste and bedding straw, use only authorized latrines, maintain safe water sources, disinfect drinking water by dousing it with whiskey and vinegar, and air out cabins in the spring.

The Continental Army’s medical services ranged from camp hospital huts to outlying general care and quarantine facilities. Remote locations included the Yellow Springs hospital and buildings provided by the area’s religious societies. Some camp followers assisted as nurses in the hospitals.


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