George Washington Biography
1777 and Valley Forge
After defeating the British at the Battle of Trenton and Battle of Princeton in late 1776, Washington set up his winter quarters in Morristown, NJ. He spent much of the winter and early spring of 1777 rebuilding and reorganizing his army. By the end of May his army had somewhat recovered from the winter and new recruits had arrived to bolster his forces.
Battle of Brandywine
Washington felt that the British under General Howe would soon attack the capital of the new United States at Philadelphia. In late August of 1777, Howe sailed his fleet up the Chesapeake Bay and landed his army around 50 miles from Philadelphia. Washington quickly marched to defend the city.
The two forces came together around Brandywine Creek on September 11, 1977. Once the battle was engaged, Howe outmaneuvered Washington by sending the majority of his forces around Washington's right flank. These forces soon broke through and sent the Americans retreating. The battle was a decisive victory for the British, but the bulk of Washington's army escaped to fight another day.
After defeating Washington, Howe marched to Philadelphia and took control of the city. The Continental Congress was forced to abandon the city.
Battle of Germantown
After taking Philadelphia, General Howe moved the bulk of his army to the outlaying city of Germantown. Washington saw an opportunity to attack the British and destroy Howe's army. He devised a complicated plan that involved four separate columns of American troops attacking the British at the same time. The columns set out in the early hours of October 4, 1777 with the plan that all four columns would hit the British at 5:00 am.
Unfortunately for Washington, the plan proved too complicated for the inexperienced American troops. A heavy fog added to the confusion making it difficult for the separate columns to communicate. In the confusion, the American forces arrived at different times, giving the British time to shift their forces. In some cases the Americans became so confused they fired on each other. Seeing that the attack had failed, Washington ordered his army to retreat. Similar to the Battle of Brandywine, Washington lost the battle, but was able to retreat with the bulk of his army intact.
Although Washington lost the Battle of Germantown, he demonstrated to the British and the American patriots that he wasn't afraid to go on the offensive. The troops felt that with a few strategic changes, they would have won. This gave them confidence and hope that they could win the next battle. Perhaps even more important, the French decided to ally with the Americans in the war after the battle. French support would prove an important factor in the overall victory of the Americans against the British.
Licking his wounds from the Battles of Brandywine and Germantown, Washington set up winter camp at Valley Forge in late 1777. He chose this location because it was close to Philadelphia, allowing Washington to keep an eye on the British forces and to keep the British from foraging the local countryside for food. It was also a good location to defend.
The winter in Valley Forge proved to be a trying experience for Washington and the American forces. Lack of supplies including food, clothing, shoes, and blankets led to poor nutrition and disease throughout the camp. More than 2,500 soldiers died at Valley Forge that winter. Washington continually pressed the Congress for more supplies, but it wasn't until late February that Congress was able to respond.
Despite the terrible conditions, Washington and the Continental Army made it through the winter. Washington had help in the form of his wife Martha and a Prussian general named Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben. Martha Washington arrived in early February. She visited with sick soldiers and bolstered the morale of the troops. General von Steuben joined the camp and undertook the task of training the army. He drilled the inexperienced troops on how to fight as a group. He even wrote a book on army regulations that became the standard for American military training for many years. By the end of the winter, the ragtag group of American patriots had become a serious fighting force.
Interesting Fact: Washington also became fast friends with a young French soldier named Marquis de Lafayette. Lafayette would become a key commander in the American Revolution and would later play a major role in the French Revolution.
George Washington Biography Contents
- Overview and Interesting Facts
- Growing Up George Washington
- French and Indian War
- Fort Duquesne
- Married Life and Mount Vernon
- The American Revolution Begins
- Commander in Chief
- Crossing the Delaware
- 1777 and Valley Forge
- Victory in the American Revolution
- End of the War, King Washington, and the Constitutional Convention
- First President of the United States
- The Presidency
- Leaving the Presidency, Retirement, and Death
- George Washington Quotes and Bibliography