360 Soldier Huts

photograph, indoors, fire, hay, soldiers sleeping
A squad of up to 12 soldiers slept in each enlisted hut.

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Huts for Enlisted Soldiers

General George Washington's Orders

The Colonels, or commanding officers of regiments, with their Captains, are immediately to cause their men to be divided into squads of twelve, and see that each squad have their proportion of tools, and set about a hut for themselves: And as an encouragement to industry and art, the General promises to reward the party in each regiment, which finishes their hut in the quickest, and most workmanlike manner, with twelve dollars—And as there is reason to believe, that boards, for covering, may be found scarce and difficult to be got—He offers One hundred dollars to any officer or soldier, who in the opinion of three Gentlemen, he shall appoint as judges, shall substitute some other covering, that may be cheaper and quicker made, and will in every respect answer the end.

The Soldier’s huts are to be of the following dimensions—viz.—fourteen by sixteen each—sides, ends and roofs made with logs, and the roof made tight with split slabs—or in some other way—the sides made tight with clay—fire-place made of wood and secured with clay on the inside eighteen inches thick, this fire-place to be in the rear of the hut—the door to be in the end next the street—the doors to be made of split oak-slabs, unless boards can be procured—Side-walls to be six and a half-feet high.

“General Orders, 18 December 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-12-02-0573. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 12, 26 October 1777 – 25 December 1777, ed. Frank E. Grizzard, Jr. and David R. Hoth. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002, pp. 626–628.]
 
 

An Officer's Hut

Imagine you are an American officer. You are well-educated and most likely from the upper class. Members of your family are leaders in the community; you come from wealth. But can you lead men in battle? Are you formally trained in the art of war, or were you elected because of your family’s status?

You may choose to join the cause because you could no longer stand by as the British government curtailed your political and economic future. You also may have sought adventure, advancement, or to make a name for yourself. You, like many enlisted men, fight for freedom and the defense of the new United States of America.

There is a time for all things; a time to preach and a time to pray, but those times have passed away; there is a time to fight, and that time has come!

~ General Peter Muhlenberg, 21 January 1776

 

General George Washington's Orders:

The officers huts to form a line in the rear of the troops, one hut to be allowed to each General Officer—one to the Staff of each brigade—one to the field officers of each regiment—one to the staff of each regiment—one to the commissioned officers of two companies—and one to every twelve non-commissioned officers and soldiers.

“General Orders, 18 December 1777,” Founders Online, National Archives, https://founders.archives.gov/documents/Washington/03-12-02-0573. [Original source: The Papers of George Washington, Revolutionary War Series, vol. 12, 26 October 1777 – 25 December 1777, ed. Frank E. Grizzard, Jr. and David R. Hoth. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 2002, pp. 626–628.]
 
 

What Does an Officer Need?

Officers were expected to supply everything they needed to manage a unit and live comfortably. This included their uniforms, weapons, furniture, and possibly a horse. All items that could not be carried with them on their horses had to be easily transported on a wagon. The photo above depicts a hut belonging to two officers from a community of German heritage in Western Virginia. Their furnishings reflect their background.

 

The Trunk

The German trunk at the foot of the bed on the left has the initials “TP,” which stand for Tarlton Payne. He is listed as follows in the Valley Forge Muster Roll Project, a project of the Valley Forge Park Alliance:

Lieutenant Tarlton Payne, Commissioned Officer
State: Virginia
Ethnicity:
Division: 5th
Brigade: Muhlenberg's
Regiment: 1st Virginia
Company: Capt Alexander Cummins
Notes: Commissioned Captain Feb. 4, 1778.

Society of Cincinnati

Over the course of the war several thousand men served as officers. Camaraderie grew among them, especially during hard times such as those faced at Valley Forge. Having lived and fought together for so long, many formed fraternal bonds they expected would continue for the rest of their lives. In May of 1783 the officers formed the Society of Cincinnati, the nation’s first patriotic organization, so that their fidelity would endure long after the war had ended. The organization lives on in their descendants, who carry on the mission to promote a greater understanding of the achievements gained by American independence.

The Society adopted the eagle as its insignia and commissioned Captain Pierre Charles L’Enfant, who served at Valley Forge, to create a medal for its members.The Pennsylvania Chapter of the Society of Cincinnati generously contributed to the funding of this hut exhibit.

Last updated: April 20, 2021

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