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May 28, 2004 7:13 pm

How Cold Was It Inside the Huts at Valley Forge?

From the Newsletter of the American Revolution Roundtable (June 2004):

Recently some enterprising Park Service rangers at Valley Forge asked themselves: how cold was it, really, inside the wood and clay"hutts" that the soldiers built for themselves? Ranger Mark Brier gathered several volunteers and spent from Jan. 27 to Feb 1. inside one of the (reconstruced) huts dotted about the park. When they began, the temperature outside was 31 degrees. After several hours of throwing logs into the fireplace, the thermometer in the cabin read 64 degrees and 70 in front of the fire. However, it was 47 degrees at the opposite end of the 16 foot cabin, suggesting that strenuous effort was needed to keep things toasty. In fact, the bunk farthest from the fire never got above 30 degrees. Nevertheless, Brier maintains that the troops were not quite as cold as some historians have portrayed them. In fact, he argues that things were fairly civilized. He cites an officer who said one wall of his cabin was lined with books. But Mr. Brier says nothing about another large problem at Valley Forge -- the astonishing lack of clothing among the enlisted men -- and blankets. With nothing to wear but a shirt, and no blanket, that 30 degree bunk must have seemed mighty cold.

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