DescriptionAn Early Letter From Valley Forge Francis Barber (1751-1783) Autograph Letter Signed "F. Barber", two pages, 8" x 13", "Camp Valley Forge", January 6, 1778 to Colonel Jonathan Dayton. Barber served as a Colonel in the Continental Army, was wounded at Germantown and Monmouth; he led a battalion in the final assault on Yorktown. Barber was tragically killed by a falling tree at the close of the war. An excellent letter describing a brief foray out of camp. He writes in part: "...I informed you of the enemy's being at Derber [Darby?]with their main body foraging. As soon as the Account of it arrived at Head Quarters, it was determined to send down small Detachments from each Brigade in the Line, which should act either independent of or in conjunction with each other, as Circumstances presented. Sir L having just come out of a warm Room & from a Brimer[?], was more ready for action than the poor fellows under his command who at that time were beginning to build themselves Huts. He earnestly solicited the Liberty of moving his Division upon the Enemy and this was granted. Orders were immediately issued. We started - God be thanked, we were not within march of them that day, or we must have fought at all Events the British Amy. Next day being more sensible of his Strength, which at most did not exceed 500 men & many of them Bare foot - he detached 300 of them under command of Colo[nel] Malionee, my self and Major Harmer with orders to be close to one of their Flanks. The Division continued at the Lines until the Enemy retired. We returned, & found the rest of the Army rested. We received Thanks for the General & were laughed at by the rest of the Army. I heard yesterday that the General intends sending Troops to Jersey; but am notwithstanding fearful, we shall not go & press & use these. If Jersey Troops are sent, a Jersey General should command them. but a J[ersey]. General will scarcely be trusted. they also object to us - that were we in jersey we should be constantly running home & no service done. This may be depended on, that unless the Preference be given to us, we shall marked a d--l of a Noise -- No News today --- We go on finely with our Huts, several are already completed, a few days will compleat [sic] the rest. When they are finished we shall be more easy about the matter..."
It was an auspicious beginning to what would become one of most tragic winters for the Continental Army. While the weather remained relatively mild for that time of year, with the spring rains, disaster struck. The huts were often built into the ground (to save time of wood cutting) and soon became flooded. The fleas and rats soon followed to create a disease-ridden town of 12,000 starving, hungry soldiers. Nearly 2,000 men died that winter. On the positive side, the winter at Valley Forge was the scene of a transformation: from undisciplined, green troops, to a tightly skilled, effective fighting army. Silked, usual folds and a few minor marginal tears, a few soiled spots obscure several words including part of the signature, else very good condition. A fine content letter illustrating the somewhat lighter side of camp life. From the Henry E. Luhrs Collection. Accompanied by LOA from PSA/DNA.
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