Revolution, 1753-1783

Author: Albigence Waldo  | Date: [Not given]

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Washington at Valley Forge—Conditions Described by Doctor Albigence Waldo

A BRIDGE of wagons made across the Schuylkill last night consisting of 36 wagons, with a bridge of rails be tween each. Some skirmishing over the river. Militia and dragoons brought into camp several prisoners. Sunset. We are ordered to march over the river. It snows. I’m sick; eat nothing—no whiskey—no baggage—Lord—Lord—Lord! The army was until sun rise crossing the river—some at the wagon bridge, and some at the raft bridge below. Cold and uncomfortable.

Dec. 13th.—The army marched three miles from the west side of the river and encamped hear a place called the Gulf, and not an improper name either; for this Gulf seems well adapted by its situation to keep us from the pleasure and enjoyments of this world, or being conversant with anybody in it. It is an excellent place to raise the ideas of a philosopher beyond the glutted thoughts and reflections of an Epicurean. His reflections will be as different from the common reflections of mankind as if he were unconnected with the world, and only conversant with material beings. It cannot be that our superiors are about to hold consultation with Spirits infinitely be neath their Order—by bringing us into these utmost regions of the terraqueous sphere. No—it is, upon consideration, for many good purposes since we are to winter here—1st. There is plenty of wood and water. 2dly. There are but few families for the soldiery to steal from—though far be it from a soldier to steal—3rdly. There are warm sides of hills to erect huts on. 4thly. They will be heavenly minded like Jonah when in the belly of a great fish. 6thly. They will not become homesick as is sometimes the case when men live in the open world—since the reflections which must naturally arise from their present habitation, will lead them to the more noble thoughts of employing their leisure hours in filling their knapsacks with such materials as may be necessary on the journey to another home.

Dec. 14th.—Prisoners and deserters are continually coming in. The army who have been surprisingly healthy hitherto—now begin to grow sickly from the continued fatigues they have suffered this campaign. Yet they still show spirit of alacrity and contentment not to be expected from so young troops. I am sick—discontented—and out of humor. Poor food—hard lodging—cold weather—fatigue—nasty clothes—nasty cookery—vomit half my time—smoked out of my senses—the Devil’s in’t—I can’t endure it—Why are we sent here to starve and freeze—What sweet felicities have I left at home;—A charming wife—pretty children—good beds—good food—good cookery—all agreeable—all harmonious. Here, all confusion—smoke cold—hunger and filthiness. A pox on my bad luck! Here comes a bowl of beef soup—full of burnt leaves and dirt, sickish enough to make a Hector spew. Away with it, boys—I’ll live like the chameleon upon air. Poh! Poh! cries patience within me—you talk like a fool. Your being sick covers your mind with a melancholic gloom, which makes everything about you appear gloomy. See the poor soldier, when in health—with what cheerfulness he meets his foes and encounters every hardship—if barefoot—he labors through the mud and cold with a song in his mouth extolling War and Washington—if his food be bad—he eats it notwithstanding with seeming content—blesses God for a good stomach—and whistles it into digestion. But harkee patience—a moment—There comes a soldier—his bare feet are seen through his worn out shoes—his legs nearly naked from the tattered remains of an only pair of stockings—his breeches not sufficient to cover his nakedness—his shirt hanging in strings—his hair disheveled—his face meager—his whole appearance pictures a person forsaken and discouraged. He comes, and cries with an air of wretchedness and despair, "I am sick, my feet lame, my legs are sore, my body covered with this tormenting itch, my clothes are worn out, my constitution is broken, my former activity is exhausted by fatigue, hunger and cold. I fail fast, I shall soon be no more! and all the reward I shall get will be, "Poor Will is dead."…

Dec. 18th.—Universal Thanksgiving—a roasted pig at night. God be thanked for my health which I have pretty well recovered. How much better should I feel, were I assured my family were in health. But the same good Being who graciously preserves me is able to preserve them—and bring me to the ardently wished for enjoyment of them again.

Rank and precedence make a good deal of disturbance and confusion in the American army. The army are poorly supplied with provision, occasioned, it is said, by the neglect of the Commissary of Purchases. Much talk among officers about discharges. Money has become of too little consequence….

Dec. 21st.—Preparations made for huts. Provision scarce. Mr. Ellis went homeward—sent a letter to my wife. Heartily wish myself at home—my skin and eyes are almost spoiled with continual smoke.

A general cry through the camp this evening among the soldiers—"No Meat!—No Meat!"—the distant vales echoed back the melancholy sound—"No Meat! No Meat!" Imitating the noise of crows and owls, also, made a part of the confused music.

What have you for our dinners, boys? "Nothing but fire cake and water, Sir." At night—"Gentle men, the supper is ready." What is your supper, Lads? "Fire cake and water, Sir."

Dec. 22d.—Lay excessive cold and uncomfortable last night—my eyes are started out from their orbits like a rabbit’s eyes, occasioned by a great cold—and smoke.

What have you got for breakfast, lads? "Fire cake and water, Sir." The Lord send that our Commissary of Purchases may live on fire cake and water….

Our Division is under marching orders this morning. I am ashamed to say it, but I am tempted to steal fowls if I could find them—or even a whole hog—for I feel as if I could eat one. But the impoverished country about us, affords but little matter to employ a thief—or keep a clever fellow in good humor. But why do I talk of hunger and hard usage, when so many in the world have not even fire cake and water to eat….

23d.—The party that went out last evening has not returned to-day. This evening an excellent player on the violin in that soft kind of music which is so finely adapted to stir up the tender passions, while he was playing in the next tent to mine these kind soft airs it immediately called up in remembrance all the endearing expressions—the tender sentiments—the sympathetic friendship that has given so much satisfaction and sensible pleasure to me from the first time I gained the heart and affections of the tenderest of the fair….

Dec. 24th.—Party of the 22d returned. Huts go on slowly—cold and smoke make us fret. But man kind are always fretting, even if they have more than their proportion of the blessings of life. We are never easy—always repining at the Providence of an All wise and Benevolent Being—blaming our country—or faulting our friends. But I don’t know of anything that vexes a man’s soul more than hot smoke continually blowing into his eyes, and when he attempts to avoid it, is met by a cold and piercing wind….

Dec. 25th, Christmas.—We are still in tents—when we ought to be in huts—the poor sick suffer much in tents this cold weather—But we now treat them differently from what they used to be at home, under the inspection of old women and Dr. Bolus Linctus. We give them mutton and grog—and a capital medicine once in a while—to start the disease from its foundation at once. We avoid—piddling pills, powders, bolus’s linctus’s, cordials, and all such in significant matters whose powers are only rendered important by causing the patient to vomit up his money instead of his disease. But very few of the sick men die.

Dec. 26th.—Party of the 22d not returned. The enemy have been some days the west Schuylkill from opposite the city to Derby—Their intentions are not yet known. The city is at present pretty clear of them. Why don’t his Excellency rush in and retake the city, in which he will doubtless find much plunder?—Because he knows better than to leave his post and be caught like a . . . fool cooped up in the city. He has always acted wisely hitherto. His conduct when closely scrutinized is uncensurable. Were his inferior Generals as skillful as himself, we should have the grandest choir of officers ever God made….

Dec. 28th.—Yesterday upwards of fifty officers in Gen. Greene’s Division resigned their commissions; six or seven of our regiment are doing the like to-day. All this is occasioned by officers’ families being so much neglected at home on account of provisions. Their wages will not buy considerable, purchase a few trifling comfortables here in camp, and maintain their families at home, while such extravagant prices are demanded for the common necessaries of life, what then have they to purchase clothes and other necessaries with? It is a melancholy reflection that what is of the most universal importance, is most universally neglected—I mean keeping up the credit of money.

The present circumstances of the soldier is better by far than the officer, for the family of the soldier is provided for at the public expense if the articles they want are above the common price; but the officer’s family are obliged not only to beg in the most humble manner for the necessaries of life but also to pay for them afterwards at the most exorbitant rates—and even in this manner, many of them who depend entirely on their money, cannot procure half the material comforts that are wanted in a family. This produces continual letters of complaint from home….

Dec. 31st.—Adjutant Selden learned me how to darn stockings—to make them look like knit work—first work the thread in a parallel manner, then catch these over and over as above….

1778. January 1st.—New Year. I am alive. I am well.

Huts go on briskly and our camp begins to appear like a spacious city….

Bought an embroidered jacket.

How much we affect to appear of consequence by a superfluous dress,—and yet custom—(that law which none may fight against) has rendered this absolutely necessary and commendable. An officer frequently fails of being duly noticed, merely from the want of a genteel dress….

Sunday, Jan. 4th.—Properly accoutered I went to work at masonry.—None of my Mess were to dictate me, and before night (being found with mortar and stone) I almost completed a genteel chimney to my magnificent hut—however, as we had short allowance of food and no grog—my back ached before night.

I was called to relieve a soldier thought to be dying—he expired before I reached the hut. He was an Indian—an excellent soldier—and an obedient good natured fellow….

8th.—Unexpectedly got a furlough. Set out for home. The very worst of riding—mud and mire.

We had gone through inoculation before this furlough.

Lodged at—Porters £0 12 0

Breakfasted at Weaver Jan. 9th just by

Bartholomews 0 5

Grog 0 4

Hyelyars Tavern 3 1/2 from Caryls, dined 0 5 10

Shocking riding!

Lodged at a private house three miles this

side Delaware in Jersey and Breakfasted 0 6 0

Treat Serj. Palmer with Baggage . . . 0 5 2

Mattersons Tavern 13 m De War . . . 0 4 0

Mattersons 0 2 0

Conarts Tavern 10 M 0 5 0

Sharps or McCurdys, 4 M 13 0

Capt. Porter’s Cross Road 2 M. from McCurdy’s

Lodged—5 Dol. 1 Sixth . . 1 10

Breakfasted at the pretty Cottagers Jan.

11th 0 5 6

1 M. from Porters—Horses…. 0 0

Lodgings &c 0 11 0

Bullions Tavern (Vealtown)…. 0 5 0

Morristown Dined 0 5 0

Poquonnack 10 M. from N. Y. at Jennings

Tavern and a narrow bed—Lodged

here. Landlady with toothache—

Children keep a squalling 0 19

Roome’s or Romer’s Tavern—Good

tavern—11 Mile from Jennings . . . 0 20 0

For 2 bowls Grog and Rum Vaulk’s

house— £0 10 0

Honey and Bread and Oats 0 12

Good old squeaking Widow Ann Hopper,

26 M. from Jenning’s, fine living, for

horse, Supper, Lodged, Breakfasted. 0 12 0

Satyr Tavern—Lodged and Supped…. 0 9 6

Judge Coe’s, 9 M. from King’s Ferry Dinner,

Oats 0 6 0


£8 19 6


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Chicago: Albigence Waldo, "Washington at Valley Forge," Revolution, 1753-1783 in America, Vol.3, Pp.235-243 Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Waldo, Albigence. "Washington at Valley Forge." Revolution, 1753-1783, in America, Vol.3, Pp.235-243, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Waldo, A, 'Washington at Valley Forge' in Revolution, 1753-1783. cited in , America, Vol.3, Pp.235-243. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from