Image of Living History Soldiers and Cannons


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

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

On June 19, 1778, after a six-month encampment, this same army emerged from Valley Forge to engage Lieutenant General Sir Henry Clinton’s British Army at the Battle of Monmouth in New Jersey. The ordered ranks, revived spirit, and fighting skill of the American soldiers revealed a great transformation that had occurred amidst the cold, sickness, and hardship that surrounded the Valley Forge encampment.

General George Washington assumed command of the newly formed Continental Army in July of 1775. While an inspiring and tenacious leader, his outnumbered and untrained men were no match for the British in the early war years. Still, he succeeded in keeping an army intact, despite suffering more defeats than victories. By the early fall of 1777, the British had captured the American capital city of Philadelphia. Defeats at Germantown, Pennsylvania; Fort Mercer, New Jersey; and Fort Mifflin, Pennsylvania further overwhelmed the struggling army.

As the British settled down in Philadelphia for the winter, Washington sought a location for winter quarters that allowed observation of the British Army without exposure to surprise attack. Valley Forge, just 20 miles away from Philadelphia, met these needs. General Washington led 12,000 men into Valley Forge in December, 1777. Living in their hand-hewn log huts, the soldiers experienced overcrowding, food and clothing shortages, and severe illness. Nearly 2,000 American soldiers died of disease.

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

This virtual exhibit and tour illustrates life during the Valley Forge winter by showcasing Valley Forge National Historical Park museum collections and the headquarters occupied by Washington and his officers 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