37 pages 1 hour read

Joseph J. Ellis

American Creation

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 2007

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Chapter 2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 2 Summary: “The Winter”

George Washington and the Continental Army spent the winter of 1777-1778 camped at Valley Forge. Washington had lost several battles to General Howe earlier in the war, and Howe and his troops were now waiting out the winter in Philadelphia. The Continental Army spread out in a semicircle to the northwest of the city, in some of the most fertile farmland in all the colonies.

Nevertheless, that winter they nearly starved. Farmers in the countryside preferred to sell their crops to the British, who paid in valuable British pounds, rather than to the Americans, who paid in worthless certificates. In addition, the quartermaster department of the Continental Army virtually collapsed when a new appointee failed miserably, leaving soldiers without necessary provisions. Washington appointed the very capable Nathanael Greene to the position, but turning things around took time—the hard winter left the Americans largely without.

More challenging than the supply problems was the length of the war, then nearing its third year. Everyone had expected a quick victory, and the colonists’ patience wore thin as the fighting ground on. In a protracted war, the British had the upper hand with a far greater war chest, for, as Greene put it, “money is the sinews of war” (66).