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General Orders, 20 December 1777

General Orders

Head Quarters, at the Valley-Forge, Decr 20th 1777.1

Parole Haverhill.C. Signs Concord. Cambridge.

Genl McIntosh is appointed to the command of the North Carolina brigade.2

The Major Generals accompanied by the Engineers are to view the ground attentively, and fix upon the proper spot and mode for hutting so as to render the camp as strong and inaccessible as possible—The Engineers after this are to mark the ground out, and direct the field Officers appointed to superintend the buildings for each brigade where they are placed.

The soldiers in cutting their firewood, are to save such parts of each tree, as will do for building, reserving sixteen or eighteen feet of the trunk, for logs to rear their huts with—In doing this each regiment is to reap the benefit of their own labour.

All those, who in consequence of the orders of the 18th instant, have turned their thoughts to an easy, and expeditious method of covering the huts, are requested to communicate their plans to Major Generals Sullivan, Greene or Lord Stirling, who will cause experiments to be made, and assign the profer’d reward to the best projector.

The Quarter Master General is to delay no time, but use his utmost exertions, to procure large quantities of straw, either for covering the huts, if it should be found necessary, or for beds for the soldiers—He is to assure the farmers that unless they get their grain out immediately, the straw will be taken with the grain in it, and paid for as straw only.3

The Quarter Master General is to collect, as soon as possible, all the tents not now used by the troops, and as soon as they are hutted, all the residue of the tents, and have them washed and well dried, and then laid up in store, such as are good for the next campaign, the others for the uses which shall be directed—The whole are to be carefully preserved—The Colonels and Officers commanding regiments are forthwith to make return to the Qr Mr General, of every tent belonging to their corps.

The army being now come to a fixed station, the Brigadiers and officers commanding brigades, are immediately to take effectual measures, to collect, and bring to camp, all the officers and soldiers at present scattered about the country.

All officers are enjoined to see that their men do not wantonly or needlessly burn and destroy rails, and never fire their sheds, or huts when they leave them.

Varick transcript, DLC:GW.

Muhlenberg’s orderly book begins with an order that is omitted in the Varick transcript: “The Guards to parade at ½ past 3 o’clock this afternoon near the Park” (“Muhlenberg’s Orderly Book,” description begins “Orderly Book of Gen. John Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg, March 26–December 20, 1777.” Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 33 (1909): 257–78, 454–74; 34 (1910): 21–40, 166–89, 336–60, 438–77; 35 (1911): 59–89, 156–87, 290–303. description ends 35:302). Weedon’s orderly book begins with a similar order: “The Guards to parade near the Park” (Weedon’s Orderly Book description begins Valley Forge Orderly Book of General George Weedon of the Continental Army under Command of Genl George Washington, in the Campaign of 1777–8: Describing the Events of the Battles of Brandywine, Warren Tavern, Germantown, and Whitemarsh, and of the Camps at Neshaminy, Wilmington, Pennypacker’s Mills, Skippack, Whitemarsh, & Valley Forge. New York, 1902. description ends , 160).

1For all the hardships associated with the encampment at Valley Forge, Pa., which was located on the Schuylkill River about twenty miles northwest of Philadelphia in Chester and Philadelphia (now Montgomery) counties, it provided the Continental army with an adequate defensive position to guard against a British surprise attack, the ability to limit the extent of British depredations in the state of Pennsylvania, and a base to cover both Lancaster and York, where the Pennsylvania state government and the Continental Congress, respectively, had moved after the evacuation of Philadelphia. GW reputedly headquartered at a stone millhouse near the mouth of Valley Creek in Philadelphia County that was owned by Isaac Potts and was occupied at this time by his aunt Deborah Pyewell Potts Hewes, the widow of Thomas Potts II and the wife of Caleb Hewes. At GW’s quarters, Timothy Pickering wrote to his wife Rebecca White Pickering on 30 Dec., they were “exceedingly pinched for room” (Pickering and Upham, Life of Pickering description begins Octavius Pickering and Charles W. Upham. The Life of Timothy Pickering. 4 vols. Boston, 1867–73. description ends , 1:199). The headquarters house is shown on an early plan of the Valley Forge encampment drawn by the French engineer Brigadier General Duportail (see fig. 6). The Continental army remained at Valley Forge until 19 June 1778.

2An invitation to Lachlan McIntosh in Tench Tilghman’s writing, which is dated only “Monday,” may have been written around this time: “General Washington presents his Compliments to Genl McIntosh and requests the favor of his Company at dinner tomorrow at 4 OClock” (NIC). The twentieth of December was a Saturday.

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