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January 6, 2015: Nancy K. Loane

Officers’ Letters from the Valley Forge Encampment
Nancy Loane talk

It snowed most of the day of January 6, 2015, and the night air was cold, crisp, and blustery. Nevertheless, Washington Memorial Chapel was filled with hearty patriots eager to hear Nancy Loane’s latest findings on the Valley Forge encampment, the soldiers and officers at camp, and their wives at home. A spirited question and answer session followed Nancy’s talk, followed by an elegant reception.

Some points from Dr. Loane’s talk:

  • Mail traveled through the postal service, by private courier, or was carried by people going in the necessary direction.
  • Letters did not always reach their designated destination; they were lost or stolen by the enemy.
  • Almost all officers wrote to their wives about what was happening at camp.
  • It is no surprise that most wives received expressions of love and affection in the letters from their husbands.
  • Less than 1/4 of the officers’ letters home asked about what was happening on the home front.
  • Few officers sent anything home to their wives from camp.
  • Lucy Knox, soon after her marriage, informed Gen. Henry Knox that she hoped he would not consider himself to be commander in chief of his own home but be convinced there is such a thing as equal command.
  • General Lafayette left for America without informing his wife that he was sailing off.
  • Col. Israel Shreve’s home in New Jersey was torched by the British, as were his crops.
  • Peggy Cropper was described as a “keen ground razor” by her husband, John Cropper, Jr.
  • Joseph Hodgkins’ Valley Forge letters from his wife, Sarah, were filled with desperation. She wanted him home!

At the end of her presentation, Nancy invited everyone to experience the Valley Forge encampment for themselves by taking off their shoes and walking barefoot to their cars.