Valley Forge: Diary of Albigence Waldo (1777-1778)
Albigence Waldo was an army surgeon at Valley Forge. Disease, especially smallpox, was one of the most dangerous enemies for Washington’s army. John Adams noted, “Disease has destroyed Ten Men for Us, where the Sword of the Enemy has killed one.” Of the 11,000 soldiers encamped at Valley Forge, over 2000 died from disease, cold and starvation. Albigence Waldo described some of the extreme difficulties of army life. Here are a few entries from his diary.
December 14 “There comes a Soldier, his bare feet are seen thro' his worn out Shoes, his legs nearly naked from the tattered remains of an only pair of stockings, his Breeches not sufficient to cover his nakedness, his Shirt hanging in Strings, his hair disheveled, his face meager; his whole appearance pictures a person forsaken & discouraged. He comes, and cries… ‘I am Sick, my feet lame, my legs are sore, my body covered with this tormenting Itch… exhausted by fatigue, hunger & Cold, I fail fast [and] I shall soon be no more!’”
December 21 “A general cry thro' the Camp this Evening among the Soldiers, ‘No Meat! No Meat!’”
December 24 “… I don't know of anything that vexes a man's Soul more than hot smoke continually blowing into his Eyes, & when he attempts to avoid it, is met by a cold and piercing Wind.”
December 28 “When the Officer has been fatiguing thro' wet & cold and returns to his tent where he finds a letter directed to him from his Wife, filled with the most heart aching tender Complaints… Acquainting him with the incredible difficulty with which she procures a little Bread for herself & Children… What man is there — who has the least regard for his family — whose soul would not shrink within him? Who would not be disheartened from persevering in the best of Causes — the Cause of his Country, — when such discouragements as these lie in his way?”
James Still (Jan 2018), RetraceOurSteps.com
“I am ashamed to say it, but I am tempted to steal Fowls if I could find them, or even a whole Hog, for I feel as if I could eat one… But why do I talk of hunger & hard usage, when so many in the World have not even fire Cake & Water to eat.”Albigence Waldo, Diary Entry, Dec 22, 1777