Manuscripts Division William L. Clements Library University of Michigan
Finding aid for Valley Forge Headquarters Orderly Book, 1778
Finding aid created by Philip Heslip, June 2010
Title: Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book Creator: United States. Continental Army Inclusive dates: 1778 Extent: 55 pages (1 volume) Abstract:
The Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book (55 pages) contains the general orders and brigade orders issued by Continental Army headquarters at Valley Forge during winter encampment, from January 20-February 22, 1778.
Language: The material is in English Repository: William L. Clements Library, University of Michigan
909 S. University Ave. The University of Michigan Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1190 Phone: 734-764-2347 Web Site: www.clements.umich.edu
Access and Use
The collection is open for research.
Copyright status is unknown
Cataloging funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the "We the People" project.
Valley Forge Headquarters Orderly Book, William L. Clements Library, The University of Michigan
In December of 1777, after the Battle of White Marsh (or Edge Hill), the Continental Army, under General George Washington, encamped at Valley Forge, 20 miles north of Philadelphia. The army setup headquarters, defenses, and temporary troop barracks, in what was then commonly referred to as the "Great Valley." They stayed at Valley Forge from December 19, 1777, to June 19, 1778, and suffered a harsh winter, during which the army and the civilians in the area experienced food and clothing shortages. During the long winter, over 4,000 men became sick and as many as 2,000 died from disease and exposure. Because the Continental Congress refused to send more supplies to the camp, the soldiers relied on family and friends (mostly women) to provide nursing care, and to help clean and mend the troops' uniforms. While the Continental Army did not engage the British over the winter, the officers maintained their administrative duties (including disciplinary actions) and the troops practiced drills and battle formations. This orderly book documents their activities from January to February 1778.
Collection Scope and Content Note
The Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book (55 pages) contains the general orders and brigade orders issued from Continental Army headquarters at Valley Forge during winter encampment of January 20-February 22, 1778. An anonymous American officer, stationed at the "Head Quarters, Great Valley," recorded the orders. Each entry provides the signal, the names the field officers on duty, and the brigade major on duty. Later, the author made grammatical corrections to the volume.
Entries primarily concern disciplinary actions and courts-martial decisions for soldiers in Continental Army regiments. The most common crimes were stealing, drunken fights, and desertion attempts. The Commander-in-Chief, George Washington, is mentioned frequently, and on page 47 the author refers to General Washington by name. Orders also concern parade duty, officers' meetings, and rations and supplies. Brigade orders deal almost exclusively with alcohol use.
Two notable entries describe the role of women at Valley Forge:
"A report having circulated that Mr. Jones [D.C: of I. Jones] had granted a pass to a woman to carry 3 [lbs] of Butter Philadelphia, the Matter has been inquired into, and appears to be without foundation" (February 3, 1778).
"The most Pernicious consequences having arisen from persons, women in particular being allowed to pass & repass from Philadelphia to camp, under pretense of coming out to visit their friends in the army, & returning with necessities for their families, but, really, with an intent to intice the soldiers to desert...[officers must forbid] the soldiers, under the severest penalties, from having any communication with such persons" (February 4, 1778).
This volume holds a loose fragment containing brigade orders for August 23, 1777, and a list of men found guilty by a court-martial (located between pages 1-2).
Courts-martial and courts of inquiry--United States.
Military discipline--United States.
Valley Forge (Pa.)
United States. Army. Regulations for the order and discipline of the troops of the United States.
United States. Continental Army--Order-books.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Desertions.
United States--History--Revolution, 1775-1783--Women.
Valley Forge Headquarters orderly book, 1778 [series]
January 20, 1778: Courts-martial for a "breach of duties."
January 24, 1778: Provisions and rations for the troops.
January 25, 1778: Orders that "No officer is subject to be tried by a Brigade of Division Court Martial unless he consents thereto..." The entry also contains details on a court-martial for Captain Zane of the 15th Virginia Regiment "for acting in a cowardly manner when sent on a scouting party by ordering his men to retreat, when he had a considerable advantage over the enemy..."
January 26, 1778: On the price and distribution of liquors (peach brandy, whiskey, apple brandy, cider, strong beer, common beer, and vinegar).
January 27, 1778: Ammunition to be deposited into the hands of the troops.
January 28, 1778: Details on "extraordinary and unaccountable waste of ammunition." Also details on a courts-martial for: William MacIntosh, from the 7th Pennsylvania Battalion for robbing a load of wheat from Colonel Spencer's waggoners; for William Dearlove of the 4th Pennsylvania Regiment for stealing money, and for a man from the 8th Virginia Regiment who was a drummer in Colonel Lamb's Battalion.
January 29, 1778: Cleanliness inspection.
January 30, 1778: Courts-martial of the 12th Pennsylvania Regiment for theft and desertion. Also a plea for clemency for corporal punishment fo a prisoner because he "sustained good character." The entry also contains a brigade order concerning liquor purchasing.
January 31, 1778: Calls for parade duty.
February 1, 1778: Calls for a quartermaster's meeting. The entry also contains a Congress resolution from June 10, 1777 concerning military arrests.
February 2, 1778: A systematic collection of broken and worn-out axes.
February 3, 1778: A report circulating that a Mr. Jones had granted a pass to a woman who carried 3 pounds of butter into Philadelphia.
February 4, 1778: Court-martial for a soldier in the 1st New Jersey Regiment for desertion and enlisting again as a substitute. Also: "The most Pernicious consequences having arisen from persons, women in particular being allowed to pass & repass from Philadelphia to camp, under pretense of coming out to visit their friends in the army, & returning with necessities for their families, but, really, with an intent to intice the soldiers to desert...[officers must forbid] the soldiers, under the severest penalties, from having any communication with such persons."
February 5, 1778: A resolution from Congress ( June 10, 1777) concerning accounts for rations.
February 6, 1778: Court-martial for officer William Williams of the 13th Virginia Regiment, for buying a soldier's shoes ("and thereby rendering the soldier unfit for service'), for messing and sleeping with the soldiers, and for taking bread from soldiers without paying them for it. Brigade order: concerning the resale of liquor.
February 7, 1778: Accounting for the morning guard duty.
February 8, 1778: A call for an officer meeting concerning rations, also detailing marching orders, and a number of courts-martial for theft, carrying food to Philadelphia, supplying intelligence to the enemy, attempting to drive cattle to the enemy, steeling sheep and selling them to a butcher in Philadelphia.
February 9, 1778: Punishments were postponed because of weather.
February 10, 1778: Joseph Ogden was appointed clerk to the market.
February 11, 1778: Court-martial for Israel Davis of Colonel Wigglesworth's regiment for defrauding the army of extra pay.
February 12, 1778: Court-martial for Captain Lane, for ordering a retreat in a cowardly manner while scouting; and calls for a parade.
February 13, 1778: Request for a meeting between Colonel Byard and Mr. Jones, in front of General Wayne's division.
February 14, 1778: Ebenezer Smith appointed as paymaster.
February 15, 1778: A call for officers to meet at General Sullivan's quarters and other management information.
February 16, 1778: Organization of a grand Parade in Lancaster, acquittal by a court-martial for General Glover in General Patterson's Brigade.
February 18, 1778: Court-martial of John Rust of the 10th Virginia Regiment for acting drunk and aggravating Lieutenant Brandwater by striking him and for beating a fellow officer on the Sabbath. Brigade order for mustering in the morning.
February 19, 1778: Liquor regulations.
February 20, 1778: Consideration of the promotion of Michael Ryan in the 10th Pennsylvania Regiment to the rank of major.
February 21, 1778: No orders.
February 22, 1778: Supply of rice and "Indian meal" for the camp; instructions for keeping supply and ration returns for every month, and details of courts-martial for desertions to the enemy, and for striking a corporal while drunk.
February 23, 1778: No orders.
Additional Descriptive Data
Below is a selection of notable items related to Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge:
The Josiah Harmar Papers contain a copy of Baron Friedrich von Steuben's instructions to the American Army at Valley Forge (March 23, 1778).