- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 18, 2002

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. (AP) No battles were fought at Valley Forge. No one really knows whether bootless soldiers left bloody footprints in the snow. Many historians also consider the famous story of George Washington praying alone in the woods a myth.

No matter.

Valley Forge is one of the most beloved Revolutionary War sites, visited by millions who walk, jog and bike its rolling green hills and tranquil woodlands and take in its monuments and historic buildings.

Tomorrow night, Valley Forge National Historical Park will celebrate the 225th anniversary of the encampment with guided lantern tours, Revolutionary War re-enactors and 18th-century music.

On that day in 1777, Washington's 11,000-strong Continental Army marched to Valley Forge and set up its winter encampment, the soldiers battle-weary and malnourished, their warm-weather uniforms in tatters.

The army's six-month stay would become the stuff of legend. Generations of schoolchildren learned that an undisciplined but courageous band of citizen-soldiers braved a miserable winter, and that a Prussian military officer molded them into an effective fighting force.

Urged on by the Continental Congress and state legislators, Washington agreed to spend the winter at Valley Forge, where soldiers could keep an eye on British Gen. William Howe's forces wintering in Philadelphia 20 miles to the east.

The encampment was troubled from the start. Meat was scarce, especially for about 10 days in December and another 10 in February, and soldiers subsisted on bread and water. Nearly 3,000 men were unfit for duty because they lacked mittens, a hat, a heavy overcoat.

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