Feeding Washington’s Army: Surviving the Valley Forge Winter of 1778

Univ. of North Carolina. May 2022. 272p. ISBN 9781469667317. $28. HIST
Herrera (For Liberty and the Republic) expands the scope of the familiar legend of George Washington bringing his Continental Army to Valley Forge for winter encampment in 1777–78. The army was hungry, cold, badly clothed, and sick. It was a strategic location physically, logistically, and politically. The British had displaced the Congress from Philadelphia, and Washington wanted to challenge British commander William Howe for control of southeastern Pennsylvania. That Washington’s soldiers suffered during those bitter cold months, severely deprived of provisions, yet remained loyal to the cause is the familiar narrative. Herrera acknowledges their suffering, but he makes clear that Washington acted boldly to try and supply the needs of his soldiers. At great risk, he organized three extensive forays into southeast Pennsylvania, Delaware, southern New Jersey, and northeast Maryland to forage for livestock, horses, wheat, flour, and more from farmers. A malfunctioning commissariat, congressional politics, competition for the same resources by British foragers, and reluctant farmers prevented these forays from easing the army’s privations. And yet the army survived, ready to fight.
VERDICT Impeccably researched, this is a needed addition to the story of the war for independence.
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