Image of Living History Soldiers and Cannons

Overview

Valley Forge was a turning point in the American Revolution. The great improvements in miitary discipline and organization the Continental Army learned here, coupled with French assistance on land and sea, lead to final victory and independence.

On December 19, 1777, when Washington's army marched into camp at Valley Forge, tired, cold, and ill-equipped, it was lacking in much of the training essential for consistent success on the battlefield.

On June 19, 1778, after a six-month encampment, this same army emerged to pursue and successfully engage Lt. Gen. Sir Henry Clinton's British army at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey. The ordered ranks, martial appearance, revived spirit, and fighting skill of the American soldiers spoke of a great transformation having occurred amidst the cold, sickness, and hardship that was Valley Forge

General George Washington assumed command of the newly formed Continental Army in July 1775. He was an inspiring and tenacious leader. However, early in the war his outnumbered and untrained men were no match for the British. He succeeded in keeping an army in the field despite more defeats than victories. By early fall 1777, the British captured Philadelphia, the American capital. This loss was reinforced by defeats at Germantown, Pennsylvania; Fort Mercer, New Jersey; and Fort Mifflin, Pensylvania.

Washington needed to establish a winter quarters that allowed observation of the British army without exposure to surprise attack. Valley Forge provided that location. Washington led 12,000 men into Valley Forge in December 1777. The winter was severe. Housing was overcrowded and food shortages were acute. Dispirited soldiers were poorly clothed and undernourished. Illness kept many from duty. Nearly 2,000 American soldiers died of disease.

However, with determination and training, the Continental Army under Washington's leadership emerged as a disciplined fighting force.

This virtual exhibit and tour showcases Valley Forge National Historical Park museum collections from the American Revolutionary War period, and Washington and his officers' headquarters during the Encampment.


Virtual Tours

Washington's Headquarters Virtual Tour
Washington's Headquarters Virtual Tour

Varnum's Quarters Virtual Tour
Varnum's Quarters Virtual Tour

George Washington Portrait by Peale

Teaching with Museum Collections
Teaching with Museum Collections Lesson Plans