Squirrels Came to the Rescue of Washington’s Troops in Valley Forge

The difficult winter of 1777-1778 nearly destroyed the Army when General George Washington and the American Continental Army were camped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The damp and cold conditions, combined with disease, malnutrition and exposure, killed 2,500 of Washington’s 12,000 soldiers.

That tough winter was much colder than it has been so far this year in the eastern states. According to John Ludwig Snyder (1746-1860) – who was there with Washington at Valley Forge – it was an especially brutal winter, as recounted in his obituary when the Revolutionary War veteran died “in the 114th year of his age.”

obituary for John Ludwig Snyder, Sun newspaper article 9 April 1860

Sun (Baltimore, Maryland), 9 April 1860, page 1

It was so cold at Valley Forge that the men resorted to using squirrels to protect themselves from the freezing temperatures.

According to Snyder’s obituary:

He has said that the winter of that year was the coldest he ever experienced. Our troops, he has said, shot squirrels and drew their skins over their feet for shoes.

The Wikipedia entry on Valley Forge describes the camp’s shelters:

The first properly constructed hut appeared in three days. One other hut, which required 80 logs, and whose timber had to be collected from miles away, went up in one week with the use of only one axe. These huts provided sufficient protection from the moderately cold, but mainly wet and damp conditions of a typical Pennsylvania winter of 1777–1778. By the beginning of February, construction of 2,000 huts was completed. They provided shelter, but did little to offset the critical shortages that continually plagued the army.

I had two ancestors that served that winter with George Washington in Valley Forge.

Private Moses Starbird, a private in the Continental Army, had extensive service in the American Revolutionary War – including Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

This is an example of the cabin he would have stayed in. This replica stands in the Valley Forge National Park in Pennsylvania, approximately 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia.

photo of a replica cabin, Valley Forge National Park, Pennsylvania

Photo: replica cabin, Valley Forge National Park, Pennsylvania. Credit: Djmaschek; Wikimedia Commons.

Want to Involve the Grandkids in Family History? Tip #2

Make your family stories memorable. If you had an ancestor who camped with George Washington at Valley Forge, show them this photo of the replica cabin and read John Ludwig Snyder’s firsthand account from his obituary, telling that it was so cold and supplies were so low that they had to use squirrels for warm shoes.

Related Revolutionary War Articles:

GenealogyBank.com adds 5 newspapers from 2 states

GenealogyBank.com adds 5 newspapers from 2 states – Delaware & Illinois.


Delaware
Dover Post (Dover, DE)
Obituaries: 06/04/2008 – Current
Death Notices: 06/06/2008 – Current

Hockessin Community News (Hockessin, DE)
Obituaries: 06/04/2008 – Current
Death Notices: 06/12/2008 – Current
Middletown Transcript (Middletown, DE)
Obituaries: 06/04/2008 – Current
Death Notices: 06/11/2008 – Current

Illinois

Benton Evening News (Benton, IL)
Obituaries: 03/24/2009 – Current:
Death Notices: 03/24/2009 – Current:

Daily Leader (Pontiac, IL)
Obituaries: 05/05/2009 – Current
Death Notices: 03/30/2009 – Current
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GenealogyBank.com has thousands of military records, documents and reports from the Revolutionary War to today.

GenealogyBank.com has thousands of military records, documents and reports from the Revolutionary War to today.

Today we put one of them online for anyone to use. Everyone is welcome to read it online, download and keep it.

This is a good example of the types of documents found in GenealogyBank.

Barbour, James. Secretary of War. Names and Rank of the Officers of the Revolutionary War. American State Papers. 1827. Publication 342.

The report includes each officer of the Continental Army, their name, rank and the name of their regiment. They are listed alphabetically by state.