Following the Drum

Women at the Valley Forge Encampment

Nancy K Loane

Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment tells the story of the forgotten women who spent the winter of 1777-78 with the Continental Army at Valley Forge.
Publication date:
March 2020
Publisher :
Potomac Books, Inc.
Language:
English
Format Available     Quantity Price
Paperback
ISBN : 9781640123090

Dimensions : 228 X 152 mm
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This book is available
£17.95

Overview
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Friday, December 19, 1777, dawned cold and windy. Fourteen thousand Continental Army soldiers tramped from dawn to dusk along the rutted Pennsylvania roads from Gulph Mills to Valley Forge, the site of their winter encampment. After the soldiers came the army's wagons and then hundreds of camp women. Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment tells the story of the forgotten women who spent the winter of 1777-78 with the Continental Army at Valley Forge - from those on society's lowest rungs to ladies of the upper echelon. Poor, dirty beings who clung to the very edge of survival, many camp women were soldiers' wives who worked as the army's washerwomen, nurses, cooks, or seamstresses.

Though these women's written correspondence is scarce, author Nancy Loane uses sources such as issued military orders, pension depositions after the war, and soldiers' descriptions to bring these women to life. Other women at the encampment were of higher status: they traveled with Washington's entourage when the army headquarters shifted from place to place and served the general as valued cooks, laundresses, or housekeepers. In fact, based on letters exchanged with the general, former housekeeper Elizabeth Thompson was so esteemed by George Washington that in her advanced old age she was invited to live at Mount Vernon. There were also the ladies at Valley Forge. A part of the "numerous and splendid" audience who enjoyed the camp theater and had their portraits painted by Charles Willson Peale, they were not subject to the harsh conditions of camp life and came and went as they and their husbands, Washington's generals and military advisers, saw fit.

Drawing from diary entries and letters, Following the Drum illuminates the experiences of these ladies, including Martha Washington, Lucy Knox, and Lady Stirling, during the encampment and then traces their lives after the Revolutionary War. Contrary to past arguments, no evidence suggests that Martha Washington visited informally among the troops at any camp, including Valley Forge. In Following the Drum, readers will learn of the 1777-78 encampment from the women who lived it and undoubtedly discover a Valley Forge that many never knew existed.