Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to that arrogant oligarchy who merely happen to be walking around. — G. K. Chesterton

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.


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