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Alexander Hamilton in Valley Forge

Posted on Tuesday, July 21, 2020

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Valley Forge National Historical Park

Hamilton in Valley Forge

When Alexander Hamilton arrived in Valley Forge in January of 1778, he was just 21 years old, but had already impressed General George Washington to the extent that he had been appointed to Washington's personal staff and had risen to the rank of Lieutenant-colonel. The Winter of 1778 at Valley Forge was a very difficult period for the Continental Army. The Army lacked adequate supplies and struggled to survive the harsh realities of Winter in which roughly two thousand soldiers died of disease, exposure and malnutrition. Despite these challenges, the Continental Army was able to rise to the occasion and was retrained and reinvigorated by the time they marched out of Valley Forge in June of 1778. Hamilton likewise endured a Winter of many challenges, but was able to rise to the occasion and further cemented his relationship with George Washington, a man who would have great influence over the rest of Hamilton's life. The two men would remain friends until Washington's death in 1799.

Hamilton arrived late to Valley Forge since Washington had sent him away in October of 1777 on a mission to return infantry brigades that had been under the command of General Horatio Gates. By the time Hamilton arrived to Valley Forge in late January of 1778, the rest of the Continental Army had already been camped at Valley Forge for over a month. Washington was impressed with Hamilton's successful completion of his duties and continued to offer the young Hamilton more responsibilities. Viewed as a talented writer, Hamilton was pressed into service to address the biggest issue at Valley Forge, a distressing lack of supplies for the thousands of soldiers stationed at Valley Forge. Hamilton wrote to George Clinton, the Governor of his home state of New York, pleading for him to send more supplies and expressing the dire nature of the situation at Valley Forge.

Hamilton also had the important job of working with Prussian General Friedrich von Steuben who had been tasked with getting the Continental Army into shape and preparing them to fight in the battles to come. While von Steuben was an incredibly talented military drillmaster, he was impeded by the fact that he could not speak English. Von Steuben was however fluent in French, as was Hamilton and other officers. Therefore, von Steuben wrote his infantry manual in French and Hamilton was among those who assisted in the translation of the manual into English and further helped von Steuben translate instructions to soldiers into English.

While a difficult period, Hamilton's time at Valley Forge allowed him the opportunity to further distinguish himself which eventually led to him serving as a field commander at the Battle of Yorktown, the pivotal Battle of the Revolutionary War, and set the stage for his further rise to power as an influential politician.

Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge, where Hamilton spent much of his time

 

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