Reading about the Revolutionary War and the troop movements around Pennsylvania, two things surprised me. First, that most of the locals in and around Philadelphia didn’t support Washington’s armies. Not with food, clothing, shelter, or medical care. In fact the locals sold food and clothing to the British troops. The history in my school books implied that the colonists joined together in unison to fight the British. In actually it was a small portion of the total population, maybe 20%, who supported the rebellion.
Second, the Continental army officers used corporal punishment to keep the soldiers from deserting. I was always under the impression that while the soldiers suffered from lack of uniforms and supplies, they still served loyally and were eager to fight. However Washington himself writes in letters and journals about the number of men he had to lash each day as punishment for trying to leave. Soldiers often left to go back to their farms and families.
These surprises about the Revolutionary War makes me wonder what else about history was exaggerated or simplified? If it wasn’t for Washington’s writings, we might not know the truth of what happened and have only the school book version.
The book is Valley Forge, by Bob Drury and Tom Clavin. Photo hosted on the National Park Service Valley Forge site here.