Leading up to the December book launch for my novel, Becoming Valley Forge, I’m going to blog about some of the steps General George Washington and the Continental Army took in what’s called the Philadelphia Campaign on the road to Valley Forge. The road starts today, September 11, 1777. That’s when 13,000 British troops, led by General William Howe, engaged in battle with 11,000 patriot troops led by General Washington in Brandywine, Chester County, in what’s called the Battle of Brandywine. Washington’s troops suffered heavy losses with some 900 killed, 800 wounded and 400 captured. Losses might have been heavier if Washington had not been warned by Squire Thomas Cheyney that the British Army was gathering on the banks of the Brandywine Creek. Squire Cheyney owned the land where Cheyney University of Pennsylvania is located (and where I work as Chief of Staff and Deputy to the President), and he is buried across the street from the university in the Cheyney family cemetery. One unsung hero of the Battle of Brandywine was Ned Hector, an African American private in Col. Proctor’s 3rd Pennsylvania Artillery Regiment. As the British were overrunning the patriots, a call went out for the Patriots to retreat, save themselves, and leave their wagons and weapons on the battlefield. Hector refused, gathered his weapons and those that were left by his retreating colleagues before leaving the battlefield. After the war, he resided in Conshohocken, Pennsylvania, where Hector Street is named after him. After the battle, Washington’s army withdrew to Chester, Pa. For more information about Becoming Valley Forge, see http://www.theelevatorgroup.com. — Sheilah Vance
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 http://www.TheElevatorGroup.com.
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.