On December 19, 1777, one day after America’s First National Thanksgiving, Washington’s army marched into Valley Forge to begin preparations for winter camp. Valley Forge, named after an iron forge on Valley Creek, was about 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia, PA, the site of the British army’s winter camp. Winter conditions were already difficult. Henry Dearborn noted in his Journal, “The weather still Remains uncomfortable- this is Thanksgiving Day thru the whole Continent of America—but god knows We have very Little to keep it with this being the third Day we have been without flour or bread…”
Why was Valley Forge chosen? Washington explained, “The General ardently wishes, it were now in his power, to conduct the troops into the best winter quarters— But where are these to be found? Should we retire to the interior parts of the State, we should find them crowded with virtuous citizens, who, sacrificing their all, have left Philadelphia and fled thither for protection. To their distresses humanity forbids us to add.
This is not all, we should leave a vast extent of fertile country to be despoiled [stripped] and ravaged by the enemy, from which they would draw vast supplies, and where many of our firm friends would be exposed to all the miseries of the most insulting and wanton depredation— A train of evils might be enumerated, but these will suffice—These considerations make it indispensably necessary for the army to take such a position, as will enable it most effectually to prevent distress & to give the most extensive security; and in that position we must make ourselves the best shelter in our power— With activity and diligence Huts may be erected that will be warm and dry— In these the troops will be compact, more secure against surprises than if in a divided state and at hand to protect the country.” George Washington, General Orders, December 17, 1777