Food: local aid at Valley Forge
Q.Why didn't the farmers give the soldiers food?
Kevin Doyle, Lynchburg,V.A.
A.The Continental Army at Valley Forge tried to utilize the local farmland for food during the winter encampment. Farmers were trying to make a living themselves, so just giving their food away was not usually the way things went. In some cases, this may have happened. However, Washington would usually send "procurement parties" out to pay for any supplies that were needed. Many farmers didn't want to sell to the Army because they were paying with Continental money (or the promise of money)...the British paid in gold. Some farmers were not patriots, but rather loyalists and didn't want to support the Army. Others were Quakers and didn't believe in war.
Washington set up a meeting for January 20, 1778 (which for some reason was postponed until the 24th) in regards to setting up a public market for local farmers to sell their goods. Records show and announcement for a market to be set up at "the Stone Chimney Picket" with specified prices for goods on February 9, 1778. The market moved around the camp regularly to various areas.
The army had been in the vicinity prior to the encampment, and with the weather turning colder, the number of men foraging — both British and American — the supplies of the area were nearly exhausted.
Another problem was the fact that the state of the army was kept concealed for the most part. Being so close to Philadelphia — the British were staying there — it was important they NOT realize how the army was faring. If they realized their weakness, the war could have ended during the winter! The cost of concealing the facts from the enemy meant the area at large had no clue what was actually happening.
SAS, Courtesy The Valley Forge Historical Society