Wednesday, October 25, 2023

Thomas Stephens was at Valley Forge

My ancestor, Thomas Stephens, who lived in Fentress County, Tennessee, was a Corporal in the Virginia Continental Line during the American Revolution. He served at Valley Forge and is noted on their muster roll.

Valley Forge was the location of the 1777-1778 winter encampment of the Continental Army under General George Washington. The British were occupying Philadelphia and Valley Forge was only a day’s march away and it was where the Army could train and recoup from the year’s battles and keep an eye on the British and prevent them from foraging in the countryside for the food they needed. On the down side, while the winter weather stopped the fighting, it proved to be a great trial for the 11,000 American soldiers stationed there.

As Washington's men camped in crude log cabins and endured the cold conditions, the Redcoats warmed themselves in colonial homes. There were shortages of everything from food to clothing to medicine. Hundreds died from scurvy, smallpox and dysentery.

It was written that one out of every six soldiers that marched into Valley Forge in December did not march back out in June, but the suffering troops that remained were held together by loyalty to the Patriot cause and to General Washington, who refused to leave his men.

That winter camp provided the foundation for what would later become the modern United States Army. While no battle was fought there, it was considered the turning point of the Revolutionary War. By June of 1778, the weary troops emerged with a rejuvenated spirit and confidence as a well-trained fighting force.

Thomas Stephens was my 5th great-grandfather through his daughter, Jennetta, wife of Jesse Cobb. Then through his grandson, David Smith, his daughter, Deborah, wife of George Boles, then Hige and on down to me. Thomas was born between 1745 and 1750, possibly in Richmond County, VA. By 1833, he was living in Fentress County, where he died in 1850, He and his wife, Sarah, are buried at Albertson Cemetery near where Glenoby Road and Livingston Highway meet in Fentress County, Tennessee. Note the Revolutionary War medallion on his grave marker.

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