Front Matter Our Country Long Ago The Barbarous Indians The Mounds Where the Northmen Went The Northmen in America Queer Ideas Prince Henry the Navigator Youth of Columbus Columbus and the Queen "Land! Land!" Columbus and the Savages Home Again Columbus Ill-treated Death of Columbus How America Got its Name The Fountain of Youth "The Father of Waters" The French in Canada French and Spanish Quarrels The Sky City Around the World Nothing but Smoke Smith's Adventures The Jamestown Men Smith Wounded Pocahontas Visits England Hudson and the Indians The Mayflower Plymouth Rock The First Thanksgiving Snake Skin and Bullets The Beginning of Boston Stories of Two Ministers Williams and the Indians The Quakers The King-Killers King Phillip's War The Beginning of New York Penn and the Indians The Catholics in Maryland The Old Dominion Bacon's Rebellion A Journey Inland The Carolina Pirates Charter Oak Salem Witches Down the Mississippi La Salle's Adventures Indians on the Warpath Two Wars with the French Washington's Boyhood Washington's Journey Washington's First Battle Stories of Franklin Braddock's Defeat Wolfe at Quebec England and her Colonies The Stamp Tax The Anger of the Colonies The Boston Tea Party The Minutemen The Battle of Lexington Bunker Hill The Boston Boys The British leave Boston Declaration of Independence A Lady's Way of Helping Christmas Eve The Fight at Bennington Burgoyne's Surrender Winter at Valley Forge The Quaker Woman Putnam's Adventures Indian Cruelty Boone in Kentucky Famous Sea Fights The "Swamp Fox" The Poor Soldiers The Spy A Traitor's Death Two Unselfish Women Surrender of Cornwallis British Flag hauled down Washington's Farewell

Story of the Thirteen Colonies - Helene Guerber

The Poor Soldiers

In the meantime things were going very badly in the North. The winter spent at Valley Forge had, indeed, been hard to bear, but that which Washington spent at Morristown was in some respects even worse. Congress, in those days, had no power to tax the people to raise money, the states were in many cases too poor to supply much, and it was very difficult to borrow funds abroad, because it was quite evident that if the Americans were beaten their debts would never be paid.

Already in 1777 Congress began to issue paper money. Of course it had no real value of its own, like gold or silver, but was merely a promise that Congress would some day give the bearer the amount it called for in real money. As everybody knew that Congress did not have, and therefore could not give, gold or silver in exchange for these "continental bills," no one liked to take them in payment for food or clothing.

To make matters worse, the British printed ever so many bills just like those issued by Congress, and paper money soon became so nearly worthless as to give rise to the expression still used, "Not worth a continental." By this time there was two hundred millions' worth of this money in circulation, and people gave one hundred and fifty dollars in bills for a bushel of corn, and several thousand for a suit of clothes, when they had no silver or gold.

Many times during the Revolutionary War the soldiers, knowing their families were starving, clamored loudly for their money. As it was not paid to them, some of them rebelled, and it took all their love for Washington—the only person whom they really trusted—to hold the army together. Still, these soldiers were faithful to their country; for when British spies once came among them, offering gold if they would only desert, they nobly gave these spies up to their officers, saying that, while they wanted their dues, they were not traitors.

The British not only tried to win over the men, but also attempted to bribe American officers and statesmen. But they failed in this, too; and when they approached Joseph Reed, he proudly said: "I am not worth purchasing; but such as I am, the King of Great Britain is not rich enough to buy me."

Washington always supplied the needs of his men as far as he could; but as he had been away from Mount Vernon several years now, his fortune was much smaller than it had been, and as time went on he had less and less ready money. In despair at his men's sufferings, he wrote again and again to Congress. Finally he warned Robert Morris, who had charge of money matters, that it would be impossible to keep the army together if food, money, and clothing were not forthcoming right away.

This appeal proved successful. Morris not only gave all the money he had, but, going from door to door, begged from all his friends for the safety of the country. The Philadelphians nobly answered his appeal, and on New Year's Day. Washington could gladden the soldiers' hearts by giving them food and money. Shortly after, the Philadelphia ladies, wishing to help also, sent him twenty-two thousand shirts, which they had made for the almost naked soldiers, who were glad to get into warm and whole garments.