Monthly Archives: December 2011

Day 1, Dec. 13, 1777 — Washington’s Army at Rebel Hill

Rebel Hill and Gulph Mills

(This post was mistakenly put on another blog of mine yesterday.  So, I’m reposting it today! The Day 2 post is on its way…)

Late in the evening of December 12, 1777, in a blinding snowstorm, George Washington and his hungry, tired, and barely-clothed army, spent from a December 11 encounter with the British at Whitemarsh, started the march from Swedes Ford, in Norristown, to Gulph Mills. One soldier writes, “We are ordered to march over the river. It snows–I’m sick–eat nothing–no whiskey–no baggage–Lord-Lord-Lord–. Till sunrise crossing the river cold and uncomfortable.”

At 3 a.m. on December 13, 1777, George Washington and his army marched into Gulph Mills, where Rebel Hill is located. ”…at 3 a.m. encamped near the Gulph where we remained without tents or blankets in the midst of a severe snow storm.”

Several historians believe that Washington was going to make Gulph Mills the Continental Army’s winter headquarters because if he had decided on Valley Forge, it would have been easier to march his tired army straight to Valley Forge, rather than detour them several miles to Gulph Mills. Some of the letters from members of the army bear that out Soldier Timothy Pickering wrote, “the great difficulty is to fix a proper station for winter quarters. Nothing else prevents our going into them…it is a point not absolutely determined.”

Because of their elevation, Rebel Hill and the hills of Gulph Mills provided an advantageous view for miles around. The army could have easily seen the British advancing from Philadelphia to the east, where the British established winter headquarters. Also, Rebel Hill gave the army great access to the Schuylkill River, particularly the crossing points of Matson’s Ford and Swede’s Ford. Finally, Rebel Hill was friendly territory–it got its name because the people who lived there were definitely rebels and patriots supporting the Continental Army.

In any event, General Washington had to get his army, which had no tents to shield them from the elements, settled. He issued these orders:

GENERAL ORDERS December 13, 1777.

Head-Quarters, at the Gulph,

Parole Carlisle. Countersigns Potsgrove, White Marsh.

The officers are without delay to examine the arms and accoutrements of their men, and see that they are put in good order.

Provisions are to be drawn, and cooked for to morrow and next day. A gill of Whiskey is to be issued immediately to each officer, soldier, and waggoner.

The weather being likely to be fair, the tents are not to be pitched. But the axes in the waggons are to be sent for, without delay, that the men may make fires and hut themselves for the ensuing night in the most comfortable manner.

The army is to be ready to march precisely at four o’clock to morrow morning.

An officer from each regiment is to be sent forthwith to the encampment on the other side Schuylkill, to search that and the houses for all stragglers, and bring them up to their corps. All the waggons not yet over are also to be sent for and got over as soon as possible.

Mr. Archibald Read is appointed paymaster to the 8th. Pennsylvania regiment, and is to be respected as such.

On to Day 2…

Becoming Valley Forge

My next novel is called Becoming Valley Forge (August 2012).   In short, it’s about how people in the Valley Forge area reacted when the Revolutionary War came to their backyard.  It’s also about the different types of people who came together to become a part of and to support the Valley Forge encampment. The novel covers the period from September 11, 1777–the Battle of Brandywine, to the Paoli Massacre later in September, to the Battle of Germantown in October, to the Valley Forge Encampment, beginning in December, and to the Battle of Barren Hill, in May 1778.   Read more about it at

One of the reasons I became interested in writing this novel is because everywhere I’ve lived in Pennsylvania has a connection to Valley Forge and the Revolutionary War, particularly the activities leading up to it, called the Philadelphia campaign.

One of the places I’ve lived has special significance to me and to Valley Forge–it’s my home, where I grew up, a place called Rebel Hill.  Growing up, my Mom always told us that George Washington and his army were on Rebel Hill during the Revolutionary War and that the only reason they left the hill to go to Valley Forge was because Rebel Hill was too close to Philadelphia, where the British were.

As usual, Mom was right.  George Washington and his Continental Army came to Rebel Hill and the area surrounding it, called Gulph Mills, or “the Gulf” in Washington’s daily journal, on December 13, 1777.  They stayed there until the morning of December 19, when the army made it’s famous march to Valley Forge, as depicted in the famous painting below, The March to Valley Forge, by William Trego (now restored and on display at the Valley Forge National Park Visitor’s Center).

The army was cold, tired, and barely clothed when they got to Rebel Hill. They had just skirmished with the British at the Battle of Whitemarsh on December 11, and they were marching to the Rebel Hill area for what some historians thought were to be the army’s winter quarters.  But, while there, the decision was made to make Valley Forge the winter quarters.  Six days after their arrival on December 13, George Washington and his army were marching down Gulph Road, past the Hanging Rock, and on to Valley Forge.

To find out more about those six days, watch this space.  Coming tomorrow–Day One…

A blog of my own

This is the blog for Sheilah Vance, the author–one of my many hats.  Watch this space for information about my current novels, Chasing the 400, and Land Mines; my Christian inspirational book, Creativity for Christians:  How to Tell Your Story and Stories of Overcoming from One Special Church (with Rev. Felicia Howard); and my new novel coming in August 2012–Becoming Valley Forge.  You can read all about my creative pursuits at the website of my publishing company, The Elevator Group, at

Happy reading!