The year was 1777 and the American Revolution was underway. The British now occupied New York and in the spring began a campaign to take Philadelphia, a feat which they would accomplish in September.Â
Earlier that year, General George Washington had made history with the first inoculation of American Troops as he called for his men in their winter headquarters that year at Morristown, New Jersey, to be immunized. In the experimental treatment, live smallpox was applied to the skin, causing painful lesions and blisters. The inoculation was successful as both the sick rate and death rate from smallpox dropped significantly.
A major turning point in the war came that year with the defeat of General John Burgoyne and his army at Saratoga, New York.Â The Americans were led by General Horatio Gates and one of the most noted heroes of the battle was none other than Brigadier General Benedict Arnold.
Another highlight for the Americans was marked in 1777 with the arrival of the Marquis de Lafayette (and if all the family tall tales are true, with a rather large contingent of family historiansâ€™ ancestors).Â Upon arrival he befriended General George Washington, and he spent that first winter in America with Washingtonâ€™s troops in brutal conditions at Valley Forge.
At Valley Forge that winter, about eighteen miles from Philadelphia, approximately 2,000 American soldiers would perish without a shot being fired. Short of food, clothing, blankets, and other vital supplies, the American troops were plagued by disease, but continued to train under the leadership of Prussian Baron Friedrich von Steuben. The surviving troops came out of the winter ordeal, well trained and ready to take on the British again.Â
Image from Library of Congress Photo Collection at Ancestry. Washington and Lafayette at Valley Forge/painting by Dunsmore.
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