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The Mystery of Valley Forge

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The conditions were unbearable.  Food was at its most scarce; more so than at any other time in the entire Revolutionary War.  Of the 11,000 troops that spent their winter there, more than 2,500 perished.  A striking figure considering that no war was actually waged at Valley Forge.  Nevertheless, 8,500 lived, and they did so with a previously unfound vigor.  Nine days after leaving the valley, Washington engaged the British with his winter battered, rag-tag soldiers and earned a decisive victory at Yorktown.  Many historians, to this day wonder how that victory could have been possible.  There are many unanswered questions surrounding that winter of 77-78 in Valley Forge:

*Why/how did only 2,500 die?

*How could they have possibly been battle ready?

*What kept this unmotivated army from disbanding?

*Washington emerged from threats of discharge and mutiny at Valley Forge to recognition and shortly after the first American Presidency.  HOW?!?!?!?

One of the world’s greatest war mysteries has riddled military philosophers and strategists for more than 200 years.  And in one fine day of gardening my Begonias, all rational thought would be turned upside-down with an envelope and letter discovered buried 2 feet underground.  I bring you the Valley Forge Mystery Revealed, in a letter from one war tested veteran to a confidant.


To: Nathaniel Lumpkin

From: Ethan Smythe

November 23, 1782

Dearest Friend,

As the war has come to a close I find now the ability to speak freely of the events as transpired.  Your curiosity is justified as I took solace in my New York estate shortly after the peace treaty was ratified, and refused all contact.

Simply; I was one of the lucky ones.  In my pack I had a generous amount of extra articles of clothing that I had collected from deceased redcoats in November of ’77. Though a few were bartered for a few pence.

An accountant had no business on the frontline, and yet I found business.  Though, most all could have made a case for not being there, spare the Negroes and Indians.

The Valley Forge was a merciless land.  Under Washington we had made fort for no more than a few weeks when our own began to perish in rapid succession.  Most from injuries sustained at Germantown or the Paoli Massacre.  But the cold was what finished them.

As the teeth of the winter sank it’s fangs into our troops, rations dwindled.  We were on our own as no outside supplies cavalry could reach us through the great snow drift over the passes.  Hunting crews set out on foot daily returning with small game.  Feeding 10,000 hungry men (though less by the day) was a daunting task.  The hunting expeditions ceased when no group of soldiers could manage the strength or discipline.

Dissent was growing in the ranks.  Most soldiers held General Washington accountable.  He had lead us to that place; that dead end.  We wondered if anyone would survive to see the spring.  Small pockets of conspiring soldiers began to form and discuss the current state of affairs.  Some of the men which I cannot mention by name, were planning to overthrow the General by use of force.

I managed to organize a non-violent sect of men to protest by non-violent means.  As the daily bread would make its way round, we huddled tightly and cried out, “BEEF…….BEEF……BEEF’, into the night.  We wailed until our voices could no longer carry a tune.

The cries continued everyday, gaining supporters each time.  The chant grew louder and we rallied behind it.  It was our first sign of solidarity in months.  For a solid week, as many died at our sides, twice that amount would join our ranks.


And then it happened; after nine days of protest, stuffed within our ration of bread was a sliver of meat.  It was savory and delicious, sweet unlike any other we had tasted.  The soldiers in unison ‘Hyip Hyip Hyoorah’d’ on that first taste.

Each day that followed, the slivers increased in size and eventually made for a hearty meal.  Spirits had not been higher since General Burgoyne defeated the Brits at Saratoga.

We had not questioned where the new meal had originated.  Some suspected that supplies had come in from the North, but no evidence was visible of such.  Nonetheless, Washington was the overall consensus, a hero.

As the definitive representative for the former protesters, I had been elected to personally thank the General for his hospitality and resourcefulness under extreme circumstances.  A glow came from under his tent as I approached.  There was a rustling within.

The soldiers had never spoken directly to the General.  He was regarded as a stern and quite hard-nosed gentleman.  Yet we saw a merciful side of him.  Of which I was to directly address.

Nervously, I pulled away the leather door of his tent, and peered in, slightly blinded by the light contrast from several lanterns against the dark of the forest night.

When my eyes recovered focus; unveiled was a scene that mine eyes will never willingly recreate or admit to any outside of this letter to have ever seen.

I say to you in high confidence; my dear friend, in that tent that eve was Washington in his most dignified duty chair, slightly reclined and robed from only the waist upward.  He appeared weary…