Wednesday, February 8, 2012

A Place Called Valley Forge

It all depended on him
And him alone
On his broad shoulders alone
When all else was lost
(Even hope itself)
He stood alone

His men’s uniforms
Were now reduced
To little more
Than rags
And rags were all
That now kept
Their bootless feet
From freezing
That winter
In 1777
At a place
In Pennsylvania
That the locals called
Valley Forge

With the winter settling in
And with prospects for
Joining against the British
In battle greatly diminished
General George Washington
Sought quarters for his men

Washington and his troops
Had just fought
The pompous Red Coats
To a draw at the
Battle of White Marsh
And Valley Forge
Would prove to be a
More secure location
For the coming winter
Where his men
Could heal their wounds
And regain their strength
To live to fight
Another day

Valley Forge
Proved to be
An excellent site
Far enough
To halt the threat
Of British surprise attacks and
Close enough to allow
Supplies and reinforcements
To get through to
His ill clothed and
Hungry troops

The high grounds
Of Mount Joy and
Mount Misery
Combined with the
Schuylkill River
Made for
Formidable defense
Against the British
Raiding and foraging
Sneak attacks that were
Designed to harass and
Disrupt the
American lines

Under their General’s
Close watch
12,000 Continentals
Prepared to face the
Coming winter’s full fury
As the men
Hurried to build huts
Of wood and mud

Though the huts
Did their job and managed to
Provide some protection
From the howling winds
And bone chilling cold
It was still
Difficult for the men
To keep dry
And disease began to fester

Soldiers ate a steady diet
Of  “fire cake”
(A tasteless mixture of
Flour and water)
And whatever other
Game and
Provisions that
Could be foraged from
The nearby farms and towns
(Where not all of the
Local townsfolk
Were loyal to
The American cause)

Conditions in the camp
Grew so severe that
Washington despaired that
“Unless some great
And capital change
Suddenly takes place
This Army must inevitably
Starve, dissolve or disperse”

The men tried to obtain
In the best manner
That they could
Under the guidance of
His new quartermaster
General Nathaniel Greene
Who had a talent for
Finding caches
Of food and clothing
“By hook or by crook”
As long as Washington
Wasn’t too inquisitive
As to how the supplies
Were obtained
(Every army needs a quartermaster
Like General Nathaniel Greene)
But despite Greene’s best efforts
Nearly 4,000 men were listed
As unfit for duty
Due to inadequate supplies

Undernourished and
Poorly clothed
Living in crowded
Damp quarters
The American Army was
Ravaged by
Sickness and disease
Dysentery and
Killed 2,500 brave men
While Washington’s
Appeals for help
Fell on the deaf ears
Of the constantly squabbling
Continental Congress
(Sound familiar?)

So sadly
The men continued to suffer
While hundreds
Of women and relatives
Of the enlisted men
(And many of the
Children as well)
Provided what help
That they could
To share the manual work
And to help with the cooking
And to help with
Nursing the wounded
And the sick
Back to health
All of them
Angels of mercy who
All shared in the
Many hardships and burdens
(Camp followers at Valley Forge
Consisted of the families
And sisters
Of the soldiers)
By the time
That the spring of 1778
Finally arrived
Word came to Washington
That the British
Had abandoned their stronghold
In Philadelphia

Washington lost no time
In ordering his men
To form their ranks and
To fix bayonets
With drums drumming
And with their flags
Once again unfurled
And snapping proudly
In the wind
On June 19, 1778
General George Washington
Marched his army
Out of Valley Forge
In hot pursuit
Of the foe

Promising the enemy
Neither quarter nor rest
Washington and his men would
Once again engage
The British at New York
No longer as a rag tag army
But now as a disciplined
Fighting force to be treated
With fear and respect!

An American Army
Whose metal had been tested
At a place called
Valley Forge!

Philadelphia, Pa. 2012

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