Washington Creates, Trains, and Fights an Elite Army Itinerary

A 2019 BGES Revolutionary War Field University Program

January 26, 2019

In December of 1777, George Washington and his army limped and straggled into their winter encampment at Valley Forge. A force that had failed to withstand the force of the King’s army twice in battle–first at Brandywine, and then at Germantown two months earlier. Not only was Washington forced to give up the colonial capital of Philadelphia to the British, his own leadership had come under question in the high ranks of the new American government and its armies. The men and boys whom Washington had led were out of Trenton-like surprises; they were too few in numbers and combat power for Washington to attempt to use them in a stand-up, toe-to-toe fight with the British infantry and dragoons wintering in Philadelphia.

Yet six months later, in June 1778, Washington adeptly had vanquished the whispering campaign to oust him from the helm of the Continental Army, and he was convinced that he had a newly revitalized force that could contend on the open field against that same British army. The test of Washington’s convictions came in New Jersey on June 28, 1778, near Monmouth Court House. The resulting battle was one of the war’s largest, and the British withdrew into New York City not to challenge Washington again. Their focus had turned to the south. Washington would next see Cornwallis in Virginia at Yorktown.


Wednesday, September 4, 2019

6:00 PM. Meet at the headquarters hotel in Princeton to pick up your name tag and reading books. You will also meet the other members of your cohort. Our opening night discussion will bring you Scott and Gary recapping the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777 to set the stage for the upcoming winter and reorganization in the Revolutionary ranks. Dinner is on your own.

Thursday, September 5, 2019

8:15 AM. We will head to Philadelphia to pick up the trail of the bedraggled Continental Army on December 19, 1777, as it leaves a trail of bloody footprints on the snow-covered Gulph Road into Valley Forge. We will spend the entire day examining the famous six-month winter encampment of George Washington and the Continental Army. We will focus on the army’s transformation during the winter months of 1777–1778 and will step onto the famous field where “Baron” Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben trained the army into a force that believed it could win on the battlefield. We will visit General Washington’s headquarters and thoroughly investigate the Conway Cabal, the unsuccessful movement to upend and replace Washington. Lunch is included, but dinner is on your own.

Friday, September 6, 2019

8:15 AM. Today we return to Valley Forge, and from there we will head out 12 miles to Barren Hill, the May 20, 1778, scene of action where young, new Maj. Gen. Marquis de Lafayette and a force of 2,200 (including Oneida Indians) artfully escaped a converging British trap. From there we head to Philadelphia to visit key sites and discuss the life of the city during the nine-month occupation by the King’s forces, including an important assumption of command command by Sir Henry Clinton. The rest of the afternoon will follow Washington’s pursuit of Clinton’s army eastward from Philadelphia into New Jersey. Our final stop of the day will be near Washington’s headquarters in Hopewell, where a council of war was held to detail plans to thwart Clinton’s escape and battle him into submission. Lunch provided, and dinner is on your own.

Saturday, September 7, 2019

8:15 AM. Today will be dedicated to June 28, 1778, the prelude to the epic Battle of Monmouth Court House. We will cover this battle blow by blow, beginning at Maj. Gen. Charles Lee’s position with the 5,000-man American advance at Englishtown, the opening hours-long action that ultimately led to Lee’s controversial decision to fall back in retreat. We will then pick up with Washington’s “Monmouth Moment,” when he dressed Lee down and inspired the retreaters to become attackers once again. With nearly 12,000 men whom he had prepared for six months, Washington led his men into a stand-up fight on a grueling, 100-degree afternoon. We will visit the key sites of this prolonged afternoon fight, including the famous “Molly Pitcher” moment. Lunch is included, as well as a farewell dinner.

Sunday September 8, 2019

9:00 AM: This morning we will pick up the aftermath of the Battle of Monmouth and trace the footsteps of Washington and his army along the Raritan River, across from New Brunswick. There we will cover the court martial of Charles Lee and also the 4th of July Parade at Washington’s HQ. We then will retire for lunch and a return to the hotel, where the program will end by 2 PM. Lunch is included.

About the Faculty

Gary Ecelbarger has developed a reputation for enthusiastic presentations and excellent history. Although he refers to himself as an “amateur historian,” Gary’s books are well researched, well written, and extremely well received. Constantly pushing the envelope by asking new questions and finding new answers, he has tackled a wide variety of America’s wars and is highly sought in the touring community. Gary’s fascination with the Revolutionary War matches his Civil War focus–a voracious student of history. You could not have a better scholar or educator.

Scott Patchan is at the top of a very short list of historians of any type who understand and can present northern Virginia and the Shenandoah Valley. He has begun to develop the same reputation in the Revolutionary War. He and Gary have worked together for a number of years now, and they present a very cogent story that is firmly based on extensive research and a “Boots on the Ground” prep style. Neither Scott nor Gary are so-called “academic” historians, but, you ignore them at risk of missing a very well-done program.

Hotel Information

This program will be based in Princeton, NJ. The hotel will be posted on this site. The headquarters hotel room block will likely be in the $125 a night range plus tax. We will seek a hotel with shuttle services to and from the airport. We will notify you of the hotel selected and the date open for reservations.


Princeton is east of I-95. The servicing airports are Philadelphia International (PHL), which is 55 miles from Princeton, and Newark Liberty (EWR), which is 40 miles distant. If you fly you will surely need to rent a car or arrange a limo. If you drive to the program, we recommend you time your arrival between noon and 3 PM, as the commuter traffic crawls between 3 and 7 PM. Our Sunday afternoon finish should allow you a crisis-free getaway.

Recommended Reading

You will be provided with a reading book and maps upon arrival. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. Amazon.com has a program to support non-profits IF YOU SIGN UP to support Blue and Gray Education Society (EIN 54-1720582) at AmazonSmile. When you sign up there rather than the normal Amazon site, one-half of one percent of your purchase price will be provided to BGES as a donation from Amazon. This will apply not only on this purchase but others you may make at other times.

Joe Bilby: Monmouth Court House: The Battle that Made the American Army
Thomas Fleming: Washington’s Secret War: The Hidden History of Valley Forge
Russell Freedman: Washington at Valley Forge
Paul Lockhart: The Drillmaster of Valley Forge: The Baron de Steuben and the Making of the American Army
Philip Papas: Renegade Revolutionary: The Life of General Charles Lee

Register for this program using a secure PayPal link

Registration Type

To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Washington Creates, Trains, and Fights an Elite Army: December 1777 to June 1778