Triumph of Freedom, 1775-1783

By John C. Miller | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIII
Valley Forge

THE loss of Philadelphia was undoubtedly a heavy blow to the American cause, yet among the patriot leaders there was no sign of weakening of resolution. Indeed, in putting a good face upon this disaster, some patriots pictured the loss of Philadelphia as a positive advantage. Sam Adams exclaimed that the British were welcome to this "sink of Toryism"; and John Adams took comfort in the reflection that "this town has been a dead weight upon us. It would be a dead weight upon the enemy." These puritanical patriots found it easy to believe that the British troops would be so enervated by the soft life they led in Philadelphia that they would soon be rendered impotent for war. In this hopeful spirit, Benjamin Franklin observed that "instead of saying Sir William Howe had taken Philadelphia, it would be more proper to say, Philadelphia has taken Sir William Howe." And while British virility declined, Americans, it was expected, would become more vigorous and warlike. John Adams predicted that, bereft of Philadelphia, Americans would be cured of "their vicious and luxurious and effeminate appetites, passions, and habits, a more dangerous enemy to American liberty than Mr. Howe's army. . . . The spirit of economy would be more terrible to Great Britain than anything else, and would make us respectable in the eyes of all Europe." In any event, it seemed proper that Pennsylvanians should experience the horrors of war--"possibly Heaven permits it in vengeance for their defection," said a patriot.

After the abortive encounter at Whitemarsh the American commander was confronted with the problem of finding winter quarters for his army. Some of his generals advocated moving the troops into the interior of the country where supplies were plentiful and where there was no danger of attack from Howe. Disregarding these counsels of caution, Washington

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