“The March to Valley Forge” by William B. T. Trego
“The March to Valley Forge” by William B. T. Trego depicts George Washington and his army veterans 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 the American Continental Army’s soldiers the will to persevere, endure, and triumph over obstacles that eventually brought independence to the United States.
Washington acknowledged that the soldiers’ perseverance at Valley Forge was fortified and bound together with the Continental Army and ultimately helped win the war.
Disease, malnutrition, and exposure killed more than 2,500 soldiers by the end of the winter encampment.
During the struggles and trials, it was here that Washington developed strong bonds of friendship with the younger Lafayette.
After the horrendous winter, the Continental Army found out that France would aid their cause by sending military and monetary donations to the army.
A celebration of the French alliance was organized 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 had 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. Trego’s inspiration was a passage from Washington Irving’s Life of Washington:
“Sad and dreary was the march to Valley Forge,
uncheered by the recollection of any recent triumph…
Hungry and cold were the poor fellows
who had so long been keeping the field…
provisions were scant, clothing was worn out,
and so badly were they off for shoes,
that the footsteps of many might be tracked in blood.”
In 1976, Trego’s “The March to Valley Forge” had become such an iconic image that it was reproduced as a souvenir postage sheet issued by the United States Postal Service as part of the observance of the United States Bicentennial.
After losing control of the Delaware River to the British, Washington marched his army to its winter quarters at Valley Forge in December 1777.
Washington chose Valley Forge because it was close enough to monitor British army movements and protected rich farmlands to the west from the enemy’s foraging expeditions.
Washington’s army stayed at Valley Forge for six months. Over the winter, approximately 2,500–3,000 out of 11,000 men died from disease and exposure.
The army’s difficulties were exacerbated by a quartermaster’s department that had been badly mismanaged by one of Washington’s political opponents.
Nevertheless, Washington introduced a full-scale training program during the winter, and Washington’s army emerged in the spring of 1778, a much more disciplined force.
Washington himself had to face discontent at his leadership from a variety of sources. However, Washington demonstrated that he was a strategic political infighter who maintained his temper and dignity while his opponents schemed.
The March to Valley Forge
- Title: The March to Valley Forge, December 19, 1977
- Artist: William B. T. Trego
- Painted: 1883 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania
- Material: Oil on Canvas
- Type: History Painting, American Painting
- Museum: Museum of the American Revolution
The March to Valley Forge by William Trego
William B. T. Trego
William Brooke Thomas Trego (1858 – 1909) was an American painter best known for his historical military subjects, particularly scenes of the American Revolution and Civil War.
During his lifetime, Trego had painted over 200 historical and military paintings. These pictures became widely published after his death in many American History books.
William Brooke Thomas Trego
- Name: William Brooke Thomas Trego
- Born: 1858 – Yardley, Pennsylvania
- Died: 1909 – North Wales, Pennsylvania
- Nationality: American
- Notable Works:
Valley Forge: The Revolutionary War
A Tour of the Museum of the American Revolution
- George Washington’s War Tent
- “The March to Valley Forge” by William Brooke Thomas Trego
- Proclamation of Rebellion, August 23, 1775
- Proclamation by William Howe, General, and Commander-in-Chief
- “Common Sense” by Thomas Paine
- “Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral” by Phillis Wheatley
- Inn Sign from The “General Wolfe” Tavern
- British Newspaper with a Tax Stamp
Valley Forge, 1777
A Virtual Tour of American Artists You Should Know
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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
Photo Credit: 1) William B. T. Trego, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons.