British delay Washington’s march to Valley Forge - HISTORY
Year
1777

British delay Washington’s march to Valley Forge

On this day in 1777, General George Washington begins marching 12,000 soldiers of his Continental Army from Whitemarsh to Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, for the winter. As Washington’s men began crossing the Schuylkill River, they were surprised by a regiment of several thousand British troops led by General Charles Cornwallis. Cornwallis came across the continental forces by chance as he followed General William Howe’s orders to forage for supplies in the hills outside Philadelphia.

Upon spotting General Cornwallis and the British troops, General Washington ordered his soldiers to retreat across the Schuylkill River, where they destroyed the bridge to prevent the British from pursuing them. After engaging the British for a short time from the opposite side of the river, Washington and the Continental Army retreated back to Whitemarsh, delaying their march to Valley Forge for several days.

The Continental Army finally arrived safely at Valley Forge on December 19, where they would face a winter of starvation, disease and death. While they suffered, the Prussian military advisor Frederich Wilhelm Augustus Steuben, also known as Baron von Steuben, drilled the miserable men in proper military discipline. Von Steuben joined the French-born Marquis de Lafayette and Baron Johann de Kalb as well as Thaddeus Kosciuszko and Count Casimir Pulaski from Poland in the effort to turn the rag-tag rebels into a well-trained regiment. Come spring, Washington would have a professional army with which to fight the British.

General Howe chose to enjoy the comparative luxury and civility of winter in Philadelphia instead of engaging Washington’s forces at Valley Forge, despite their weakened and ill-defended state. His decision to cease fire during the winter months combined with the shocking news of America’s new alliance with France led to his recall. General Henry Clinton took over command of the British army with orders to leave Philadelphia immediately for New York and the British reworked their strategy to confront a transatlantic war with France.

ALSO ON THIS DAY

Billionaire conman Bernard Madoff arrested

On this day in 2008, financier Bernard Madoff is arrested at his New York City apartment and charged with masterminding a long-running Ponzi scheme later estimated to involve around $65 billion, making it one of the biggest investment frauds in Wall Street history.Madoff, who was ...read more

UNICEF founded

In the aftermath of World War II, the General Assembly of the United Nations votes to establish the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), an organization to help provide relief and support to children living in countries devastated by the war.After the ...read more

Edward VIII abdicates

After ruling for less than one year, Edward VIII becomes the first English monarch to voluntarily abdicate the throne. He chose to abdicate after the British government, public, and the Church of England condemned his decision to marry the American divorcée Wallis Warfield ...read more

Germany declares war on the United States

On this day, Adolf Hitler declares war on the United States, bringing America, which had been neutral, into the European conflict.The bombing of Pearl Harbor surprised even Germany. Although Hitler had made an oral agreement with his Axis partner Japan that Germany would join a ...read more

Paratroopers depart South Vietnam

Paratroopers from the U.S. Third Brigade, 82nd Airborne Division, depart from Vietnam.The unit was sent to Vietnam in February 1968 as an emergency measure in response to the Communist 1968 Tet Offensive. Landing at Chu Lai, the unit was attached to the 101st Airborne Division ...read more

Muhammad Ali vs. Trevor Berbick

On this day in 1981, the Jamaican boxer Trevor Berbick beat former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali in a unanimous 10-round decision, before a crowd of 10,000 at the Queen Elizabeth Sports Centre in Nassau, the Bahamas.At the age of 39, Ali (born Cassius Clay) was attempting his ...read more

Alexander Solzhenitsyn is born

On this day in 1918, Alexander Solzhenitsyn is born in the Caucasus Mountains in Russia.Solzhenitsyn’s father, an artillery officer on the German front in World War I, died before Solzhenitsyn was born, and he was raised by his mother, a typist. He began writing as a child but ...read more

Tootsie actress Teri Garr born

On this day in 1944, the actress Teri Garr, who will rise to fame in Hollywood in the 1970s with such hit films as Oh, God! and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, is born in Lakewood, Ohio.Garr was born into a show business family: Her father was a vaudeville performer and her ...read more

Toronto endures record snowstorm

The city of Toronto, Canada, is battered with its worst-ever snowfall on this day in 1944. Twenty-one people died as a result of the record storm, in which nearly 20 inches of snow fell in a single day.The storm began hundreds of miles to the south near the Gulf of Mexico; it ...read more

Federals occupy Fredericksburg

On this day in 1862, the Union Army of the Potomac occupies Fredericksburg, Virginia, as General Ambrose Burnside continues to execute his plan to capture the Confederate capital at Richmond, Virginia.However, the occupation did not happen until three weeks after Burnside’s army ...read more

Yuan Shih-kai accepts Chinese throne

With war raging in Europe, conflict also reigns in the Far East between two traditional enemies, Japan and an internally-divided China. On December 11, 1915, the first president of the new Chinese republic, Yuan Shih-kai, who had come to power in the wake of revolution in 1911 ...read more