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Sunday, February 24, 2013

More Thoughts on Valley Forge and Today

Here are the huts of Washington's guard, reconstructed at Valley Forge.

According to Thomas Fleming (Washington's Secret War), a "little-discussed aspect of Valley Forge" was the relative comfort of the officers compared to the enlisted soldiers.  He describes the "jollitry" they report on their leaves, while in the meantime, the soldiers--mainly poor and from the bottom of American society--were suffering from starvation, disease and cold.

Today, we are bombarded with rhetoric about the "middle class," the "99%" and so forth.  We have a Congress whose members travel the world on "fact-finding" missions.  When is the last time a Congressional delegation went to Camden, New Jersey--reported in 2012 by the U.S. Census as the poorest city in America? 

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Valley Forge, the Sequester and the Oscars

     We all know that Washington wintered the Continental Army at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, for the winder of 1777-1778.  Here is an image taken in the Knox Artillery Park section of what is now a federal park.

     What many don't know is the "secret war" (as historian Thomas Fleming puts it) engaged in by Washington to defeat an attempt to replace him as commander in chief.  What many also don't know is that the winter at Valley Forge was not the worst of the war.  However, the Continental Army did suffer from lack of clothes and food, let alone proper nutritional needs.  A large part of the problem was the manner in which the Continental Congress dealt with (or failed to deal with) the situation.  Among its mistakes was setting prices for purchase of food and supplies, with the predictable economic result that local farmers and merchants often sold to the British to get hard currency and better prices.  I have been reading Fleming's book Washington's Secret War and am struck by the same attitudes of the members of the Continental Congress with many of those today in dealing with government spending and the so-called sequester.  Rhetoric continues to trump reality.  Politics and power are more important than result.  In the meantime, just as the troops starved at Valley Forge, we have a large part of our present population suffering from a malignant economy while the press is dominated and bedazzled with a golfing president and who George Clooney brings to the Oscars.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Revolutionary War Raids

     February 19 marks the 235 anniversary of the raid at the tavern in Newtown, Pennsylvania, in which  five American soldiers were killed and the 2000 yards of cloth for uniforms was lost.  Here is the spot.

     40 Loyalist members of the Light Dragoons and Bucks County Volunteers carried out the raid.  The Americans guarding the area were Pennsylvania militia.  It's another example of the civil war nature of the Revolution and the fierceness of the war between Loyalists and militia. It was also yet another setback to the efforts to clothe the men at Valley Forge, while the British in occupied Philadelphia enjoyed relative luxury.

     It is good to pay attention to these markers.  Not every exchange in which men died during the Revolution was a major battle or even skirmish; in many instances, these guerrilla-styled raids that disrupted supplies were as important to the war as well.