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Bloody footprints in the snow left by bootless men Near naked soldier wrapped in thin blankets huddled around a smoky fire of green wood The plaintive chant from the starving We want meat We want meat An army of skeletons appeared before our eyes naked starved sick and discouraged wrote New Yorks Governor Morris of the Continental Congress These are the indelible images of suffering and endurance associated with Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78 The suffering and sacrifices of the American soldiers at Valley Forge are familiar iconic images but there is another side of the picture Valley Forge was where a new confident professional American army was born Three months of shortage and hardship were followed by three months of relative abundance that led to wonderful changes in the morale and fighting capabilities of the Continental Army France would enter the war on the side of the new nation Valuable foreign volunteers and fresh replacements would trickle into camp Most important it was at Valley Forge that a vigorous systematic training regime transformed ragged amateur troops into a confident 18th century military organization capable of beating the Red Coats in the open field of battle Lethargic Maj Gen William Howe commander of British forces in America made his move on Philadelphia in September 1777 thinking that perhaps the capture of the rebel capital would end the war Howe loaded 15000 troops on an armada of ships and sailed from New York City to Elkton Maryland on the Chesapeake Bay His forces then marched north on Philadelphia Washington attempted to block Howe along the banks of the Brandywine River but was outnumbered and outmaneuvered Two weeks after Brandywine Howe entered Philadelphia unopposed When told that the British had taken Philadelphia Benjamin Franklin representing his nation in Paris said No Sir Philadelphia has taken the British As events turned out Franklins clever quip contained a kernel of truth Washington attempted a bold surprise attack
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