Transcript-Valley Forge National Historic
Park Electronic Field Trip
follows is the transcript from a live Internet
chat that occurred on Weds., Oct. 18, 2000
with historians and archeologists from Valley
Forge National Historical Park.
Douglas V. Campana, Senior Archeologist,
Valley Forge Center for Cultural Resources
L. Steele, Senior Archeologist, Valley
Forge Center for Cultural Resources
M. McDermott, Chief of Interpretative
& Cultural Resource Management
Mark, Supervisory Park Ranger - Interpretation
Matlack - Park Ranger - Interpretation
from across the country logged on and asked
questions about General George Washington
and the winter of 1777-78 when he and his
Continental Army troops were encamped at
Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, during the Revolutionary
Okay, let's begin our chat. Franklin School,
please ask your first question.
What year was Valley Forge developed?
soldiers came to Valley Forge on Dec. 19,
1777 and began to set up camp.
Do people still live in Valley Forge?
Yes, people still live in Valley Forge.
Just outside the park there are many residential
neighborhoods. And some employees reside
within the park.
What artifacts have you recently found and
what have they told you about Valley Forge?
We have found military things like gunflints
and musket balls, and some personal things
like buttons dropped by the soldiers.
What is Valley Forge?
Valley Forge was the third winter encampment
for George Washington's soldiers during
the Revolutionary War. Today, to remember
their struggles, it is a National Historical
What type of jobs are there at Valley Forge?
Currently, the jobs are park rangers, archeologists,
maintenance workers, administrators, librarians,
historians, plumbers, HVAC staff etc. Anything
to operate a park.
I know there are log cabins in Valley Forge,
how many are there?
Soldiers built 2,000. The only things left
of them are their archeological remains.
Today there are 60 reconstructed huts.
Where exactly is Valley Forge located?
In southeast Pennsylvania, 18 miles northwest
Were any of the cabins ever destroyed by
enemies? Was there evidence that the cabins
had been fired upon?
No, none of the cabins were ever destroyed
by the British. There was never a battle
at Valley Forge, although of course the
Americans were prepared for one.
How did they survive?
It was a struggle. They needed more of everything
when they first arrived and worked through
the winter to get enough cover. They built
their own huts. They made the camp safe
and sent out many foraging parties to look
for supplies. Cattle were driven to camp
from as far away as Connecticut and Maryland.
How long did Washington have smallpox?
Washington caught smallpox when he took
his brother Lawrence to the West Indies
to help cure his tuberculosis. He only had
a light case which made him immune for life
and left him with a few scars.
How old is the oldest cabin?
The cabins that stand at Valley Forge today
are all re-creations. The oldest ones are
about 100 years old. The remains of the
cabins from the Revolution are now part
of a vast, buried archeological site and
are all below ground.
When was Valley Forge built?
The village of Valley Forge dates from 1742
with the building of the forge. The soldiers
built the encampment in 1777.
What food did Washington and his men eat
in the cabins?
The troops ate beef and pork,when they could
get it. We found some of these food bones
in the dig. They also got flour so they
could have bread..
What did you find in the dig?
We found the remains left in the ground
from some of the soldiers' huts. There were
no original huts left, only the depressions
left in the ground, with artifacts in them.
How old was George Washington when he died?
He died at 67 years of age.
What is the most interesting thing found
in the dig?
The most interesting thing we found so far
are several British uniform buttons from
different British regiments. Since Valley
Forge was an American camp, this seemed
a bit odd. We found out that British uniforms
had been captured and reused by the Americans
who were short of clothing.
What was the weather like at Valley Forge
while the soldiers were there?
It was not as cool and snowy as generally
thought. There was rain and lots of mud.
How many log cabins were at Valley Forge?
The soldiers built about 2,000 huts while
they were in the encampment.
How long has the excavation been going on
at Valley Forge?
We just started the excavation at Valley
Forge this June and we have been working
through the summer. We will be starting
in again next summer.
How did he die?
George Washington went outside and got caught
in a sleet storm. He caught a cold which
became worse. It turned into a disease they
called quinsy, which made his throat swell
shut. So he really died because he could
not breathe. He died on December 14, 1799.
Where did the soldiers go when they left
They marched to Monmouth, NJ following the
British. A battle took place and the Americans
proved that they could stand their ground
with the British who were considered the
greatest army in the world.
How many kids did George have?
George Washington had no children of his
own. His wife had two children from her
first marriage that Washington helped to
raise. They were Patsy (or Martha - named
for her mother) who died of epilepsy when
she was 17, and John Park Custis (Jackie)
who lived into his 20's, married and gave
Martha four grandchildren - 3 girls and
a boy. Jackie died in 1781 because he caught
camp fever while volunteering with the army
with his stepfather, the General.
Did George and his soldiers get wet in their
cabins in Valley Forge?
George Washington didn't actually live in
a cabin. His troops might have been damp,
but they kept their fires going, and tried
to keep their roofs in good condition.
Where did George Washington live after the
He returned to Mt. Vernon, but was selected
as President of the US and lived for a while
in New York City then Philadelphia. And
when he retired he again returned to Mt.
Vernon in Virginia.
Did any Patriot soldiers desert Valley Forge
to return to their families?
Some soldiers did desert but George Washington
did not approve. He believed in keeping
the discipline of the camp. The punishment
for desertion was to be hanged and several
men are on record for being hanged for desertion
at Valley Forge. Because the other men were
paraded by the hanging, they learned not
to desert so they would not be punished
Were there any woman at Valley Forge?
Women were with the army pretty much all
the time. At the beginning of Valley Forge
there were 300 to 400 women who came to
camp with the soldiers. When the weather
got better whole families visited their
soldiers. Mrs. Washington came to camp in
Feb. and helped to run the headquarters.
Other officers' wives came, too. Catharine
Greene, Rebecca Biddle, Lucy Knox and others
visited the camp. Over 750 officers' wives
were present for the May 6 French alliance
Is the winter of Valley Forge a bit overrated,
or was it really a huge part of the development
Valley Forge is very important for reasons
other than the weather. When the army marched
in it was in a disorganized state. The army
needed to be reorganized, the soldiers needed
to be trained, the supply system need to
be reorganized. With hard work over the
winter of 1777-78, the soldiers become a
fighting force that could go on to win the
Thank you for your time.
That's great information! Thank you all
for participating. If you have additional
questions, please e-mail them to firstname.lastname@example.org
This has been very interesting and informative!
Thank you for putting this together for