The Prayer At Valley Forge
Valley Forge
and the Yanceys That Served our Country There

 

 

 

At least one member of theYancey Family is known to have served at Valley Forge - one Ludwell Yancey of Culpeper County, Virginia..  It seems possible though that various could possibly have been at Valley Forge - and various Yanceys are known to have had some distant connections with General Washington. Keep in mind the entire military force of the military from the colony of Virginia was only in the thousands.  Meeting or seeing General Washington by those who served would not have been that uncommon.  For a complete list of Yanceys who served in the Revolutionary Cause - see this site.  Go to the bottom of this page to read more about Ludwell Yancey.

Of all the places associated with America's War for Independence, none conveys more the impression of suffering, sacrifice, and ultimate triumph than Valley Forge. No battles were fought here, no bayonet charges or artillery bombardments took place, but during the winter of 1777-78 approximately 2,000 soldiers died at hospitals in the surrounding area nonetheless. Valley Forge is the story of an army's epic struggle to survive against terrible odds, against hunger, disease, and the unrelenting forces of nature.

The campaign that resulted in the Valley Forge encampment began in late August 1777 when Sir William Howe, commander in chief of British forces in North America, landed his veteran army at the upper end of Chesapeake Bay. His objective was Philadelphia, the patriot capital. The American commander, George Washington, maneuvered the Continental Army into position to defend the city. Howe's skillful tactics, combined with errors made by Washington's army, led to a British victory at the Brandywine; the flight of the Continental Congress to York, Pa.; the British occupation of Philadelphia; and a defeat at Germantown.

With the winter setting in, the prospects for further campaigning were greatly diminished, and Washington sought quarters for his men. Though several locations were proposed, he selected Valley Forge, 18 miles northwest of Philadelphia. It proved to be an excellent choice. 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 high ground of Mount Joy and Mount Misery, combined with the Schuylkill River to the north, made the area easily defensible.

On December 19, 1777, when Washington's poorly fed, ill-equipped army, weary from long marches, struggled into Valley Forge, winds blew as the 12,000 Continentals prepared for winter's fury. Grounds for brigade encampments were selected, and defense lines were planned and begun. Within days of the army's arrival, the Schuylkill River was covered with ice. Snow was six inches deep. Though construction of more than 1,000 huts provided shelter, it did little to offset the critical shortages that continually plagued the army.

Soldiers received irregular supplies of meat and bread, some getting their only nourishment from "firecake,"" a tasteless mixture of flour and water. So severe were conditions at times that Washington despaired "that unless some great and capital change suddenly takes place ... this Army must inevitably ... Starve, dissolve, or disperse, in order to obtain subsistence in the best manner they can." Animals fared no better. Gen. Henry Knox, Washington's Chief of Artillery, wrote that hundreds of horses either starved to death or died of exhaustion.

Clothing, too, was wholly inadequate. Long marches had destroyed shoes. Blankets were scarce. Tattered garments were seldom replaced. At one point these shortages caused nearly 4,000 men to be listed as unfit for duty.

Undernourished and poorly clothed, living in crowded, damp quarters, the army was ravaged by sickness and disease. Typhus, typhoid, dysentery, and pneumonia were among the killers that felled as many as 2,000 men that winter. Although Washington repeatedly petitioned for relief, the Congress was unable to provide it, and the soldiers continued to suffer. Women, relatives of enlisted men, alleviated some of the suffering by providing valuable services such as laundry and nursing that the army desperately needed.

Upgrading military efficiency, morale, and discipline were as vital to the army's well-being as was its source of supply. The army had been handicapped in battle because unit training was administered from a variety of field manuals, making coordinated battle movements awkward and difficult. The soldiers were trained, but not uniformly. The task of developing and carrying out an effective training program fell to Baron Friedrich von Steuben. This skilled Prussian drillmaster, recently arrived from Europe, tirelessly drilled and scolded the regiments into an effective fighting force. Intensive daily training, coupled with von Steuben's forceful manner, instilled in the men renewed confidence in themselves and their ability to succeed.

The passing weeks of winter saw the army, under Washington's inspirational leadership, undergo a dramatic transformation. Slowly but steadily the endurance, bravery, and sacrifice of the soldiers began to tell. Increasing amounts of supplies and equipment came into camp. New troops arrived. Spring brought word of the French alliance with its guarantees of military support. Now a strong, dependable force, well-trained and hopeful of success, drilled on the Grand Parade.

Soon word of the British departure from Philadelphia brought a frenzied activity to the ranks of the Continental Army. On June 19, 1778, six months after its arrival, the army marched away from Valley Forge in pursuit of the British who were moving toward New York. An ordeal had ended. The war would last for another five years, but for Washington, his men, and the nation to which they sought to give birth, a decisive victory had been won -- a victory not of weapons but of will. The spirit of Valley Forge was now a part of the army and because of it the prospects for final victory were considerably brighter.

 


Pictures of the Uniforms worn by American Revolutionary Soldiers
In 1775 the Continental Congress adopted brown as the official color for uniforms in 1775 but there was a shortage of brown cloth, so some regiments dressed their soldiers in blue and gray. Congress did not adopt a Continental uniform until 1779 but the American Revolutionary Soldiers attempted to have clothing similar to the others in the company or regiment. The militia, including the Minutemen, had no uniform at all. Instead, they dressed in hunting shirts. Consequently the pictures and paintings of the American Revolutionary Soldiers came in a variety of colors, shades and different styles as can be seen in the following pictures.

 

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American Revolutionary Soldiers - Hunting shirts worn by the Militia
The militia, including the Minutemen, had no uniform at all but wore hunting shirts. The hunting shirts were either made of buckskin or from homespun linen. They were styles as a long loose over shirt or as a loose wraparound jacket, both allowed ease of movement. Hunting shirts generally had rows of distinctive fringes and were comfortable to wear. The American Revolutionary Soldiers wore leggings or breeches and stockings with the hunting shirts. Other members of the militia wore the clothes that they would use at home. The following pictures show typical clothes worn by the American Revolutionary Soldiers of the militia.

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Stats and Facts about the American Revolutionary Soldiers
Despite the many disadvantages of the American Revolutionary Soldiers the War of Independence was won. There were 36 major battles in the war but the smaller conflicts and battles took the number to over 100. A total of 35,000 American Revolutionary Soldiers served in the Continental Army backed by 44,500 militia. Details of many of these battles can be found in Revolutionary Battles. But, as in all wars, victory came at a price.

  • 25,000 men died during the war

    • 8000 died in battle

    • 17,000 died of sickness, missing in action and other causes

  • 9000 soldiers suffered serious wounds and injuries

  • 40% - 45% of American colonists supported the revolution

  • 15% - 20% of American colonists were loyalists

  • The remaining colonists took a neutral stance


 

The Military Service of Ludwell Yancey – American Patriot

 Ludwell Yancey was born about 1757, probably in Culpeper County, Virginia – the son of John & Mary Layton Yancey.  On July 4th 1776 the American colonies declared their independence from the Mother Country of England and not too much later - at the age of about 20 years, Ludwell enlisted for three years military service on January 15th  1777.  He began his service as a private under Capt John Gillison’s Co. in the 10th Continental Virginia Regiment commanded by Col. Edward Stevens.   On November 1st 1777 the company muster roll lists Capt John Gillison’s Company commanded by Col. Edward Stevens.  On January 1st 1778 command passed to  Samuel Hays and on April 1st 1778 to Col. John Green.  On August 1st  1778 the unit was transferred to the 6th Virginia Regiment  and on December 1st 1779 command passed to Col. John Green under whom he served until his service ended.   He served the entire time under Capt. John Gillison.

 Ludwell’s military records shows that he spent the months of July and August , 1777 in the hospital and the month of October 1777  under remarks its says “On Comd” .  For the month of June 1778 he was again on “command” and July 1778 he is recorded as a “waggoner”, and is usually listed as “commander waggoner” most of the time thereafter.  He was “on guard” the month of March 1779 and thereafter designated as a “waggoner”. He was at Valley Forge until July 1778 when he was transferred to Camp White Plains  Sept. 1778, Camp Robinsons Oct 1778 and Camp Middlebrook until May 1779 when they moved to Camp Smith’s clove.  In July 1779 he was at Camp Ramipan until Oct 1779 when they moved to Camp Haverstown.  The last monthly record on file was for Nov 1779 at which time his name was on the Company Muster Roll and he received his monthly pay  of $5 & 2/3.  The total pay shown on the records for three years service as $73 & 1/3 and on May 21 1783 he appeared in a book under the heading: “A list of soldiers of the Virginia Line on Continental Establishment who have received certificates for the balance of their full pay agreeable to an Act of the Assembly  passed November Session 1781.  On May 21 1783 General Stevens received for Ludwell Yancey his balance due him.

A few years after the war Ludwell married Elizabeth Jeffries the 15th of November 1792 in his native county of Culpeper.  This same year – Kentucky became a newly created frontier state west of Virginia where many new settlers were establishing new farm land.  At some point after the war he had been granted 100 acres of land for his service to the country.  A few years later he was also sold land on the Kentucky frontier in Mason County along the Ohio River, by his distant relative, Charles Yancey of Louisa County Virginia. Ludwell and his wife raised their family in Mason County Kentucky. Here he apparently farmed property inland from the Ohio River which bordered the Northern side of the county.  Ludwell died the 8th of September 1821 leaving behind his wife and four children.  He and his wife, who later died in 1840, were seemingly buried on the family property.  In 1970, however, their graves were moved to the Mays Lick Cemetery where their grave markers now show their final resting place. Ludwell and Elizabeth appear to have had four children that grew to adulthood 

  A Quite Interesting Document for Ludwell Yancey Signed by Thomas Jefferson

ludwell yancey

Valley Forge Muster Roll

Findagrave Memmorial for Ludwell Yancey and wife

 Other Yanceys that served in the Revolutionary War

An Account of John Yancey serving with General Washington

Additonal info on Ludwell's son Harlow