December 19, 2011 · 10:55 am
General George Washington at Valley Forge
Facts About Valley Forge
“To see men without clothes to cover their nakedness, without blankets to lie upon, without shoes … without a house or hut to cover them until those could be built, and submitting without a murmur, is a proof of patience and obedience which, in my opinion, can scarcely be paralleled.”
-George Washington at Valley Forge,
April 21, 1778
General Washington's headquarters
g the winter of of 1777-1778 the prospect of more fighting during the war for Independence, was not possible because of the weather, and the poor condition of Washington’s troops. They had fought their last battle of 1777 at White Marsh, and he had decided to rest his troops at a relatively safe and secure position at Valley Forge.
- Named for an iron forge on Valley Creek, the area was close enough to the British to keep their raiding and foraging parties out of the interior of Pennsylvania, yet far enough away to halt the threat of British surprise attacks.
- The poorly fed, ill-equipped army, weary from long marches, struggled into Valley Forge, and the winds blew cold, as the 12,000 Continentals prepared for winter’s fury.
- The first properly constructed hut appeared in three days. Within six weeks, more than a thousand huts were finished to provide shelter for the rag-tag army. But everything thing else, food, clothing, shoes, and medicines were left wanting.
- Because of the harsh conditions, and lack of supplies, it is hardly remembered that over 2000 men died, without a shot being fired.
- Disease at Valley Forge was rampant. Sanitary conditions in the 18th Century were very poor. Small pox, typhoid or typhus (known as putrid fever), pneumonia, and dysentery were some.
Valley Forge Arrival
Most of the troops were inoculated for small pox at Valley Forge, but these men were usually on an inactive status because they were quarantined.
- It is a little known fact, that more Americans died during this winter, than at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined.
- It is also a little known fact, that over 5000 Americans of African descent served in Washington’s army. African American men were active members on the battlefield, a mixture of freed and enslaved men who took up arms.
- After the war had ended, a resolution passed by Congress in 1779 decreed that any enslaved man serving with the Continental Army, upon the termination of their service, would be a freed man. And while a majority of men of African descent were freed, a large portion of them were not.
- Also not widely known is the fact that a great number of Native Americans from the Oneida Indian Nation in particular had a crucial impact during the Valley Forge encampment.
- Washington’s troops were the most racially integrated of any American army fielded, up until Vietnam.
- So severe were conditions at times that Washington despaired that the army might have to be disbanded, and every man let go to forage for himself. But with the help of men like General Christopher Ludwig, Friedich Von Steuben, Henry Knox, and a host of Camp followers that consisted of the families, wives, children, mothers, and sisters of the soldiers, who were continually trying to help and raise the morale of Washington’s men, the army survived.
Huts for the soldiers
On June 19 1778, after training all winter and their ordeal finally over, they left Valley Forge to pursue the British, and continue the war for Independence.
- One of Valley Forge’s first tourist attractions was the historic house now called Washington’s Headquarters, dedicated in 1879 by the Centennial and Memorial Association of Valley Forge.
- One of the earliest people to come as a tourist (and write about the experience) was John Fanning Watson who visited in 1828.
- The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania established its first state park at Valley Forge in 1893.
- Valley Forge became a National Park in 1976, for the Bicentennial.
Special thanks to authorsden.com and ushistory.org
Filed under Historical Events & Figures
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October 7, 2011 · 10:48 am
Apollo 11 - astronomical salute from the moon's surface
Fun Facts About the Apollo 11 Mission
Perils of Spaceflight, Part 1
A problem with a water filter afflicted the crew with excessive and “fragrant” flatulence throughout the entire mission.
Perils of Spaceflight, Part 2
Due to the unexpected presence of boulders, the Eagle had to fly for some distance beyond the intended landing site. The computer overloaded and they very nearly ran out of fuel. Since the Lunar Module was already below the altitude at which the astronauts could have ejected the landing stage and safely aborted, they were mere seconds away from a fatal crash when the touchdown light finally lit.
Lost in Space
Partially because of the change in landing place, no-one knew the LM‘s exact position on the Moon until afterwards, using the laser reflectors deployed during the moonwalk. Mike Collins in Columbia, the Command Module, was never able to spot Tranquility Base from lunar orbit.
Buzz Aldrin, during the moment of silence he called for to give thanks right after the landing, took Holy Communion in the form of a small wafer and wine from a tiny chalice.
Exit, Stage Right
Neil Armstrong went out first because the door only worked that way in the cramped confines of the LEM.
Armstrong’s historic statement actually sounded like “That’s one small step for man …ah… one giant leap for mankind.” Neil has always claimed he said “a man” but the “a” was lost in transmission. It didn’t sound that way, though he was right: the sound was recently found on the audio recording. Still pretty cool.
The plaque had a mistake on it too: the date read “JULY 1969, A.D.” It should have been “JULY, A.D. 1969”. President Nixon also had the wording changed from “WE COME IN PEACE FOR ALL MANKIND” to “WE CAME IN PEACE…” Nixon later scuttled the final Apollo missions.
Another Giant Leap
Armstrong may have been the first man to set foot on the Moon, but Aldrin was the first to pee there. He used the relief tube built into his spacesuit moments after stepping out, on live TV with millions of people watching.
As a traditional sign of peace, Buzz planned to leave on the Moon a small gold olive branch, along with an Apollo 1 patch and two Russian cosmonaut medallions in honor of those killed in the space race. He forgot until the last moment, and simply tossed them unceremoniously onto the surface on his way back up the ladder. The astronauts also chucked out their moonboots, backpacks, a sack of garbage and their urine bags.
When the astronauts took off their helmets inside the LM after their moonwalk, they noticed a strong odor. Neil described it as “wet ashes in a fireplace” and Buzz as “spent gunpowder”. It was the smell of moondust. NASA, by the way, had been worried that moondust might explode on contact with oxygen.
The astronauts had a lot of trouble planting the American flag in the hard lunar soil, afraid it might fall over on live TV. During the lift-off from the Moon, however, Buzz watched as the Stars and Stripes indeed “toppled into the dust”.
Your Papers, Please
The Apollo 11 crew, and all spacefaring crews ever since, had to fill out Customs forms on arriving back in the US.
The Final Cost
Whiling away the hours after the mission in quarantine in Houston, Buzz filled out a government expense account report for the journey. Total amount reimbursed: $33.31.
So Much for History
The high resolution tapes of the actual landing – far better than the grainy video shot off a screen that was actually broadcast — has been lost, thrown out, or reused.
Special thanks to www.weirdload.com
Filed under Historical Events & Figures, Science, Travel
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