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This Day in History: The Battle of Matson’s Ford & the March to Valley Forge

On this day in 1777, the British engage the Continental Army in the Battle of Matson’s Ford. The engagement occurred just as the Americans were in the process of entering their winter encampment at Valley Forge.


The battle is little noted by historians, but maybe we can find a lesson hiding in that very fact?


Our American Revolution was more than just the big battles discussed in school classrooms. Yes, we won the Revolution because of the British surrender at Yorktown, but the reality is that the Revolution lasted for years and years. There were big, important battles, but there were also many, many little skirmishes—little battles that you don’t hear about. This little battle is just one of the many (almost) forgotten ones.

Indeed, in Douglas Southall Freeman’s seven-volume biography of George Washington’s life, this particular battle merits only a footnote. One footnote! A book such as the Historical Dictionary of the American Revolution dutifully lists the incident but calls it a “minor accidental clash” that is “noted for delaying the American arrival at Valley Forge and little else.”


No offense to the many historians who work so hard to chronicle the many long years of the American Revolution, but I’m thinking that these types of little skirmishes didn’t feel like a footnote to the men engaged in them. Our ancestors risked their lives in these little battles, just as they did in the major engagements. And through ALL of these small battles, the army—but especially George Washington—persevered.


Indeed, perseverance and determination are the characteristics that have made America great—right from the beginning!


This particular battle was mostly a coincidence. Washington was headed toward winter quarters at Valley Forge. The British were on a foraging expedition outside of Philadelphia. The two happened to collide. After the battle, the Continental Army stalled, but eventually continued on to Valley Forge. The British spent the winter in Philadelphia.


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