| This Country of Ours|
|by H. E. Marshall|
|Stories from the history of the United States beginning with a full account of exploration and settlement and ending with the presidency of Woodrow Wilson. The 99 chapters are grouped under 7 headings: Stories of Explorers and Pioneers, Stories of Virginia, Stories of New England, Stories of the Middle and Southern Colonies, Stories of the French in America, Stories of the Struggle for Liberty, and Stories of the United States under the Constitution. Ages 10-14 |
 WASHINGTON spent the winter of 1776-7 at Morristown. In May he once
more led his army out, and while the forces in the north, under
Schuyler and then Gates, were defeating Burgoyne, he was holding
his own against Howe's far more formidable army further south.
Howe had spent the winter at New York, which from the time of its
capture to the end of the war, remained the British headquarters.
In the spring he determined to capture Philadelphia, the "rebel
capital," and began to march through New Jersey. But in every move
he made he found himself checked by Washington. It was like a game
of chess. Washington's army was only about half the size of Howe's,
so he refused to be drawn into an open battle, but harried and
harassed his foe at every turn, and at length drove Howe back to
Having failed to get to Philadelphia by land, Howe now decided to
go by sea, and, sailing up Chesapeake Bay, he landed in Maryland
in the end of August. But there again he found Washington waiting
for him. And now, although his army was still much smaller than
Howe's, Washington determined to risk a battle rather than give up
Philadelphia without a blow.
With his usual care and genius Washington chose his position well,
on the banks of the Brandywine, a little river which falls into the
Delaware at Wilmington about twenty-six miles from Philadelphia.
On both sides the battle was well fought. But the British army was
 equipped, and better drilled, and they gained the
This defeat made the fate of Philadelphia certain, and Congress
fled once more, this time to Lancaster. Yet for a fortnight longer
Washington held back the enemy, and only on the 26th of September
did the British march into the city. But before they had time to
settle into their comfortable quarters Washington gave battle again,
at Germantown, on the outskirts of Philadelphia.
It was a well contested battle, and at one time it seemed as if it
might end in victory for the Americans. But Washington's plan of
battle was rather a hard one for inexperienced troops to carry out.
They were as brave as any men who ever carried rifles, but they
were so ignorant of drill that they could not even form into column
or wheel to right or left in soldierly fashion. A thick fog, too,
which hung over the field from early morning, made it difficult to
distinguish friend from foe, and at one time two divisions of the
Americans, each mistaking the other for the enemy, fired upon each
But although the battle of Germantown was a defeat for the Americans
it by no means spelled disaster. Another two months of frays and
skirmishes followed. Then the British settled down to comfortable
winter quarters in Philadelphia, and Washington marched his war-worn
patriots to Valley Forge, about twenty miles away.
While the Americans had been busy losing and winning battles, Pitt
in England was still struggling for peace and kindly understanding
between Britain and her colonies. "You can never conquer the
Americans," he cried. "If I were an American, as I am an Englishman,
while a foreign troop was landed in my country I would never lay
down my arms,—never, never, never!"
But Pitt talked in vain. For the King was deaf to all the great
minister's pleadings. In his eyes the Americans
 were rebels who
must be crushed, and Pitt was but the "trumpet of sedition."
But meanwhile all Europe had been watching the struggle of these
same rebels, watching it, too, with keen interest and admiration.
And now soldiers from many countries came to offer help to the
Americans. Among them the best known perhaps are Kosciuszko, who
later fought so bravely for his own land, Poland; and Lafayette,
who took a large share in the French Revolution.
Lafayette was at this time only nineteen. He had an immense admiration
for Washington, and after they met, in spite of the difference in
their ages, they became lifelong friends, and Lafayette named
his eldest son after Washington.
But the Americans owed more perhaps to Baron von Steuben than to
any other foreigner. Von Steuben was a German, and had fought under
Frederick the Great.
Washington had taken up winter quarters at Valley Forge, which is
a beautiful little valley. But that winter it was a scene of misery
and desolation. The cold was terrible, and the army was ragged and
hungry. The men had neither coats, shirts, nor shoes, and often
their feet and hands froze so that they had to be amputated. For
days at a time they had but one poor meal a day. Even Washington
saw no hope of help. "I am now convinced beyond a doubt," he wrote,
"that unless some great and capital change takes place this army
must inevitably be reduced to one or other of these three things:
starve, dissolve, or disperse."
Much of this misery was due to the neglect and folly of Congress.
It had sadly changed from the brave days of the Declaration of
Independence. It was filled now with politicians who cared about
their own advancement rather than with patriots who sought their
country's good. They refused to see that money, and still more
 needed to keep a properly equipped army in the field.
They harassed Washington with petty interference with his plans.
They gave promotion to useless officers against his wishes and
better judgment. There was plenty of food in the country, stores
of clothing were ready for the army's use, but they lay by the
wayside, rotting, because there was no money to pay men to bring
it to the army. Washington wore himself out in fruitless efforts
to awaken Congress to a sense of its duty. And at length, utterly
despairing of any support, weary of seeing his men suffer and
dwindle day by day under the miseries of Valley Forge, he wrote out
his resignation as Commander-in-Chief of the army. And it needed
all the persuasions of his officers to make him tear it up.
It was to this camp of misery at Valley Forge that Baron von Steuben
came. And the ragged, hungry, perishing army he drilled. To these
men, brave enough, but all unused to discipline, he taught what
At first it was by no means easy. For the Baron knew little English
and the men he tried to teach knew not a word of French or German.
So misunderstandings were many, and when one day a young American
officer named Walker, who knew French, came to von Steuben and offered
to act as interpreter he was overjoyed. "Had I seen an angel from
heaven," he cried, "I could not have been more glad."
But even then, between his own mistakes and the men's mistakes,
the Baron was often driven distracted, and lost his temper. Once,
it is said, utterly worn out, he turned the troops over to Walker.
"Come, my friend," he cried, "take them; I can curse them no longer."
But in spite of all hindrances and failings, both men and officers
learned so much from von Steuben that when the terrible winter was
over the army went forth again to fight far more fit to face the
foe than before.
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