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George Washington and his Continental Army braving the frigid winter at Valley Forge form an iconic image in the popular history of the American Revolution. Such winter camps were also a critical factor in the waging and winning of the War of Independence.
The Fort Plain Museum has announced “Surviving the Winters Housing Washington’s Army during the American Revolution,” a virtual conversation with Steven Elliott set for June 7th at 7 pm.
Steven Elliott will base his talk on his book Surviving the Winters: Housing Washington’s Army during the American Revolution. Documenting the growth of Washington and his subordinates as military administrators, Surviving the Winters offers a new perspective on the commander’s generalship during the Revolutionary War.
Exploring the inner workings of the Continental Army through the prism of its encampments, Elliott’s book is the first to show how camp construction and administration played a crucial role in Patriot strategy during the war.
Elliott explains how Washington’s troops spent only a few days a year in combat. The rest of the time, especially in the winter months, they were engaged in a different sort of battle — against the elements, unfriendly terrain, disease, and hunger. Victory in that more sustained struggle depended on a mastery of camp construction, logistics, and health and hygiene — the components that Elliott considers in his environmental, administrative, and operational investigation of the winter encampments at Middlebrook, Morristown, West Point, New Windsor, and Valley Forge.
Beyond the encampments’ basic function of sheltering soldiers, his study reveals their importance as a key component of Washington’s Fabian strategy: stationed on secure, mountainous terrain close to New York, the camps allowed the Continental commander-in-chief to monitor the enemy but avoid direct engagement, thus neutralizing a numerically superior opponent while husbanding his own strength.
Steven Elliott is a lecturer in the Department of History at Rutgers University–Newark.
This event will be held via Zoom, and is free and open to the public. Registration is required and can be completed online.
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