The Joy of Museums

Finding Meaning in a Museum

The March to Valley Forge

Museum of the American Revolution - Joy of Museums 6

“The March to Valley Forge” by William B. T. Trego depicts George Washington and the veterans of his army limping into their winter encampment in Valley Forge. Valley Forge was the military camp 18 miles (29 km) northwest of Philadelphia where the American Continental Army spent the winter of 1777–78.

The winter at Valley Forge imbued into soldiers a strong will to persevere, endure, and triumph over obstacles and bring independence to the United States. Washington acknowledged that the perseverance gained by the soldiers at Valley Forge binded together the Continental Army and eventually helped it win the war. Disease, malnutrition and exposure killed more than 2,500 soldiers by the end of the winter encampment.

It was here, amid the struggles and trials, that Washington developed strong bonds of friendship with the much younger Lafayette. After the horrendous winter, the Continental Army found out that France was going to aid their cause by sending military and monetary donations to the army. A celebration of French alliance was organised at Valley Forge where the army repeatedly shouted:

“Long live France! Long live the friendly powers! Long live the American States!”

The army marched out of Valley Forge on June 19, 1778, exactly six months after they had arrived and retook Philadelphia.

This iconic image was painted a century after the event by William B. T. Trego. Trego suffered a debilitating illness as a child, that left him unable to move his fingers and hands. He painted with a brush jammed in his right hand while he guided it with his left.

Other Historical Items from the American Revolution include:

Essential Facts:

  • Title:                         The March to Valley Forge, December 19, 1977
  • Artist:                       William B. T. Trego
  • Date:                         1883 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
  • Material:                  Oil on Canvas
  • Museum:                  Museum of the American Revolution

Artist Essential Facts:

  • Name:                       William Brooke Thomas Trego
  • Born:                         1858 – Yardley, Pennsylvania
  • Died:                          1909 – North Wales, Pennsylvania
  • Nationality:              American
  • Famous Works:
    • Battery of Light Artillery en Route (1882)
    • The March to Valley Forge (1883)
    • Civil War Battle Scene, (1887)
    • The Color Guard, French dragoons (1888)

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“Be courteous to all, but intimate with few, and let those few be well tried before you give them your confidence.”
George Washington

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Photo Credit: 1) By GordonMakryllos (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons