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A Winter in Valley Forge

The Continental Army settled down for winter encampment in December 1777 . His Excellency General George Washington (yes, they call him that) chooses Valley Forge for its ready food supply. It is also easily defended. Unfortunately, the British are paying the farmers better for food than the Continental Army which leaves Washington's troops cold and hungry. Desertions are up. Men without shoes are threatening to walk home. (About 700 horses are missing and presumed... eaten.) Over 100 officers have resigned their commissions, so Washington arranges for his favorite inspirational play to be performed: "Cato, a Tragedy" (KAY-toe'). General Greene is confiscating food from helpless farmers to feed the troops. George Washington feels ashamed but he is getting no response from Congress for supplies. His troops are eating "firecake" (wet wheat poured over a hot rock). Women are suffering too since wives have accompanied their men to the winter encampment, including Martha Washington. Then a swarm of spawning fish (shad) move up the river. It helps. By spring over 2,500 soldiers are dead out of the original 12,000. Congress is calling for Washington to resign but he is telling them in a gentlemanly way to KISS OFF! So they do. [1] [2]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
OK, there are a couple of questions. First, they had previous winter quarters. Why move to Valley Forge? Because the British had moved too close to the previous winter camp. Second, why didn't patriotic farmers sell food to the troops? Because the Continental money wasn't worth the paper it was printed on. (In the modern day, Venezuela's money is literally not worth the paper it is printed on, so they have stopped printing paper money.) There was also a social safety problem. Armies move. Farms stay put, so if you are a farmer supporting the Continental Army, you might get hurt by your Crown loyalist neighbors once the Continental Army moved out. It was safer to remain neutral. Finally, the backstabbing in Congress was intense, and shocking, but no worse than what happens in the modern day. John Adams was once congratulated by a younger man for his role in the American Revolution, but Adams would not accept hero-worship. He replied, "I have no reason to believe we were better than you are." FYI, Adams was saving his letters for posterity. That means he knew we would be looking over his shoulder, so he was speaking to our generation as well. [3] [4]

The Franco-Franklin Alliance

France LOVES Benjamin Franklin! He wears this fur hat that looks like a large beaver climbed onto his head and died, but in France his hat has become all the rage in fashion. Everyone is copying his rustic garb. He is also on the A-list for all the parties. Why is he there? He is a diplomat attempting to get France to commit to helping the United States in commerce and in its fight for independence. And we might as well get this out of the way. Franklin's confidant and the secretary to the American delegation is Dr. Edward Bancroft. He is also a spy working for Great Britain. Does anyone know this? Yes. Franklin knows it and he is using Bancroft to feed information to the British and to get information from the British. He is using a British spy to spy on the British! (No wonder Franklin is on the 100 dollar bill. This guy is a hoot!) Benjamin Franklin has been negotiating two treaties with France. The first is a mutual defense treaty against Great Britain. (Cheers can be heard all the way from Valley Forge right now!) The other treaty involves mutual commerce and opening ports for the Americans. It also protects American commerce from French privateers. By the time John Adams arrives in France to begin negotiations, the work is done. Adams is a little torqued off now that he has nothing to do and frankly, the French don't like him. [5] [6]

My Take by Alex Shrugged
For centuries France and Great Britain have had this love-hate relationship going on. If you will recall, the King of Great Britain can actually make a claim to the crown of France and the British still take pleasure in pointing this out on occasion. (The claim is thin but its there.) In 1777, France didn't want to get involved with the USA if it was going to fall apart soon, but after the American win at the Battle of Saratoga there were rumors that Great Britain would settle their differences with the USA. That rumor forced France to make alliance with the USA in order to divide British military attention and thus weaken it. In this case, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. I wonder how France heard a rumor that the USA was seeking an alliance with Great Britain? FRANKLIN! [7]

Joshua Tetley is Born

Joshua is the son of a brewer and the grandson of a brewer but in 1822 Joshua Tetley will buy his own brewery in Leeds, England for 400 pounds. Tetley's Brewery will grow to become a very popular beer in the United Kingdom and the second largest seller of ale after John Smith's Brewery. It will remain at its original site and expanding into adjoining properties until 2011 when it will close down the original brewery site and move production elsewhere. It will delay it's announcement of the closure until one day after Barack Obama is elected President of the United States... probably to deflect the impact of the news of the closure. [8]

This Year in Wikipedia

Year 1778, Wikipedia.

See Also


  1. Valley Forge - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 May 2016. “Martha Washington, the wife of George Washington, arrived at the camp on February 10, 1778. She visited soldiers in the huts and in the camp hospital. Martha Washington also organized a sewing circle of women who knitted, crafted, and patched socks, shirts, and trousers.”
  2. Newcomb, Benjamin H. (October 1993). "Washington's Generals and the Decision to Quarter at Valley Forge". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography (The Historical Society of Pennsylvania) 117 (4): 309-329. http://www.jstor.org/stable/20092823. Retrieved 3 May 2016. "No matter where Washington had quartered the army, it would have suffered from lack of supplies. The brigades that he sent to Wilmington under General Smallwood were no better fed or equipped than those at Valley Forge, and they suffered considerable desertion.". 
  3. Venezuela Doesn't Have Enough Money to Pay for Its Money. Bloomberg.com (April 27, 2016). Retrieved on 3 May 2016. “Venezuela, in other words, is now so broke that it may not have enough money to pay for its money.”
  4. Ellis, Joseph J.. First Family: Abigail and John Adams. Knopf. “He considered all efforts to mythologize him or the founding generation as a whole misguidedly reverential: "But to tell you the truth," he wrote one young admirer, "as far as I am capable of comparing the merit of different periods, I have no reason to believe we were better than you are."” 
  5. Benjamin Franklin - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 May 2016. “Franklin, in his fur hat, charmed the French with what they perceived as rustic New World genius.”
  6. Isaacson, Walter. Benjamin Franklin: An American Life. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0684807610. “After a full year of deflecting requests for an alliance, the French were suddenly impatient as 1777 drew to a close. They were prodded not only by America's success at Saratoga and the completion of their own naval rearmament program, but also by a new gambit by Franklin. He began to play the French and British off against one another and to let each side discover--and here is where he relied on the spies he knew were in his midst--how eager the other side was for a deal.” 
  7. Battles of Saratoga - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 May 2016. “The Battles of Saratoga (September 19 and October 7, 1777) marked the climax of the Saratoga campaign giving a decisive victory to the Americans over the British in the American Revolutionary War.”
  8. Joshua Tetley - Wikipedia (2016). Retrieved on 3 May 2016. “Joshua Tetley (20 July 1778 – 26 August 1859) was the founder of the Tetley's Brewery in Leeds, England. The brewery was founded in 1822 and Joshua Tetley bought the brewery for £400. In 1839, Tetley made his son a partner of the business.”

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