A Fictional Story
This is a fictional account of the heroic effort of the Continental Army at Valley Forge and the American Revolutionary War. It should be read on every Fourth of July to remind us of what a great Blessing it is to be an American Citizen.
During the Revolutionary War, General George Washington and his men were bogged down in Valley Forge Pennsylvania during the horrific winter of 1777 and 1778. General Washington and his Continental Army suffered through several months of bitter cold.
Conditions At Valley Forge
After his defeats in Philadelphia and Germantown Pennsylvania, Washington led his troops to Valley Forge Pennsylvania. His soldiers hardly had enough clothing to protect themselves from the terrible cold and just a little food to eat. The army of approximately 11,000 lived in simple log huts that they had to build themselves.
This terrible winter claimed the lives of more than 3,000 soldiers. Many others were too tired or too sick to fight, and a smallpox epidemic broke out. The British were comfortable in nearby Philadelphia, and the American Citizens around Valley Forge were enjoying life in a rich countryside. The American soldiers found the area around the camp quite unfriendly.
John Wilkes Smith
The chilling winter at Valley Forge challenged the loyalty of the American soldiers. One soldier who was fiercely loyal was John Wilkes Smith. The soldiers loved him and called him Wilkie. John grew up in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania and is named after John Wilkes, the British Member of Parliament in London. Wilkes risked his life and career by supporting the American Colonies against his own government. Wilkes wanted to give the American Colonies their freedom and independence from the British Empire.
Wilkie was the most loyal and dedicated soldier in the camp, and represented the independent, irrepressible Spirit of America. Wilkie always volunteered for extra duty, spent his free time building the log huts and doing extra guard duty. He was always the last in line at meal time and would not eat until he was sure everyone had something to eat.
One day, General Washington asked Wilkie to go on a patrol mission and walk five miles toward Philadelphia, to see if the British were planning a sneak attack. Wilkie was exhausted from working so hard, but gladly agreed to the assignment.
Wilkie was very tired so he walked a couple of miles and took a rest. He fell asleep and the next thing he knew the sun was rising and it was the morning of the next day. Wilkie realized that he had failed in his mission.
General George Washington
He ran back to camp and told General Washington what had happened. General Washington put Wilkie under arrest in a makeshift prison. General Washington had no choice as Wilkie had disobeyed his orders and risked the lives of the soldiers. The penalty was death by a firing squad. General Washington assembled a firing squad and scheduled Wilkie’s execution.
Washington was upset with this choice. Wilkie represented the Spirit of America that kept the soldiers together and gave them hope. If he killed Wilkie the Continental Army might fall apart and the war would be lost.
Washington came up with an idea. Five minutes before the execution, Washington told the soldiers to shoot over Wilkie’s head. Of course, this is exactly what happened and Wilkie survived his execution unharmed. The soldiers rallied around Wilkie and General Washington and survived the miserable winter together. The Spirit of America with its rugged individualism, and love of freedom and independence, kept the Army together at Valley Forge and paved the way to victory in the Revolutionary War. That same Spirit of America guides our country today.
Source: World Book Encyclopedia, Volume 19, 1964.