Question & Story 5th Day Christmas Past

Posted by on Dec 16, 2013 in Christmas Past 2013 | 10 comments

PrintQuestion 5th Day Christmas Past:  Which founding father spent a bleak Christmas at Valley Forge?

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On December 19 in 1777, commander of the Continental Army George Washington, the future first president of the United States, leads his beleaguered troops into winter quarters at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania.

Things could hardly have looked bleaker for Washington and the Continental Army as 1777 came to a close. The British had successfully occupied Philadelphia, leading some members of Congress to question Washington’s leadership abilities. No one knew better than Washington that the army was on the brink of collapse–in fact, he had defied Congress’ demand that he launch a mid-winter attack against the British at Philadelphia and instead fell back to Valley Forge to rest and refit his troops. Though he had hoped to provide his weary men with more nutritious food and badly needed winter clothing, Congress had been unable to provide money for fresh supplies. That Christmas Eve, the troops dined on a meal of rice and vinegar, and were forced to bind their bleeding frost-bitten feet with rags. “We have experienced little less than a famine in camp,” Washington wrote to Patrick Henry the following February.

Desperate to keep the army intact, Washington tried to stem desertion by resorting to lashings as punishment and then threatening to shoot deserters on sight. For those soldiers who remained with him, Washington expressed deep gratitude and awe. He described men marching without clothes, blankets or shoes–leaving bloody trails in the snow–who displayed “patience and obedience which in my opinion can scarce be paralel’d.”

Meanwhile Washington faced the displeasure of Congress and rumors of plots to replace him with his typical stoicism and composure. On December 31, he wrote to the Marquis de Lafayette that he would continue “to observe one steady and uniform conduct, which I shall invariably pursue, while I have the honour to command, regardless of the Tongue of slander or the powers of detraction.” Furthermore, he told the press that if Congress could find someone better suited to lead the army that he would be more than happy to resign and return to private life at his Mount Vernon estate.

Now today, in a quiet grove at Valley Forge, there is a heroicsized monument to Washington. He is depicted not astride a charging horse nor overlooking a battlefield of glory, but kneeling in humble prayer, calling upon the God of Heaven for divine help. To gaze upon the statue prompts the mind to remember the oft-heard expression, “A man stands tallest when upon his knees.”

Taken from:
Thomas S. Monson, Be Your Best Self [Salt Lake City: Deseret Book Co., 1979], 24
http://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/washington-leads-troops-into-winter-quarters-at-valley-forge

    10 Comments

  1. George Washington lead our troops to Valley Forge Winter Quarters on December 19, 1777. Bless all those who fought for our country from the beginning and those who continue to fight for our country now.

  2. George Washington spent Christmas at Valley Forge. Humility and a recognition of his dependence on God were marks of a true leader.

  3. George Washington spent Christmas of 1777 at Valley Forge. This account reminds us that many great leaders of not only the church but the nation as well have suffered in behalf of the people. But, importantly, they have turned to God for His help.

  4. Commander of the Continental Army and the future first president of the United State, George Washington spent the Christmas of 1777 at Valley Forge. While facing a bleak and hard winter/Christmas Washington faced the displeasure of Congress and rumors of plots to replace him with his typical stoicism and composure.

  5. George Washington and things could hardly have looked bleaker for Washington and the Continental Army as 1777 came to a close. The British had successfully occupied Philadelphia and no one knew better than Washington that the army was on the brink of collapse. He had even defied Congress’ demand that he launch a mid-winter attack against the British at Philadelphia. He instead fell back to Valley Forge to rest and refit his troops. Though he had hoped to provide his weary men with more nutritious food and badly needed winter clothing, Congress had been unable to provide money for fresh supplies. That Christmas Eve, the troops dined on a meal of rice and vinegar, and were forced to bind their bleeding frost-bitten feet with rags. He knew that some would leave, die, etc.. and he felt great pains in knowing this.

  6. George Washington

  7. George Washington was the founding father that spent a bleak Christmas in Valley Forge. The British had successfully occupied Philadelphia. He had defied Congress’ demand that he launch a mid-winter attack against the British at Philadelphia and instead fell back to Valley Forge to rest and refit his troops.

  8. George Washington Commander and future President of the USA !!

  9. I believe that Washington was a truly great man raised up by God for a special purpose.

  10. I really liked the part where it says “A man stands tallest when he is up on his knees. It would be nice if all presidents would call up on the lord for divine help. May then our Country would not be in the shape it is right now.

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