Revolutionary War: Washington Battles Supply Shortage at Valley Forge

The winter of 1777-78 at Valley Forge was rainy and moderate rather than snowy and cold, yet General George Washington’s colonial soldiers still suffered.

They were hungry. Provision shortages prompted Washington to write to the President of Congress, Henry Laurens, three days after their arrival at Valley Forge. His letter, dated December 22, 1777, reported alarming deficiencies in food supplies that, unless solved, must dissolve the army.

Incompetence in the Commissary and Quartermaster Department were partly to blame, though the practice of Purchase Commissaries working on percentages encouraged dishonesty.

William Buchanan served as Commissary General that winter. Washington asked Buchanan to rise to the challenge in a December 28th letter. He asked that at least a 30-day supply be stored near camp. Buchanan’s response wasn’t effective.

Nearby farmers, knowing the army’s great need, charged high prices. Local government passed legislation to fix prices to control this problem.

To supplement the food supply, Washington sent soldiers out to forage.

Members of the Continental Congress visited Valley Forge in mid-January. Washington reported the serious shortage.

In early February, Washington appealed to state governments for aid, who responded by sending droves of cattle to Valley Forge in March. One drove was captured by British soldiers.

The March 2nd appointment of Major General Nathanael Greene to Quartermaster General greatly improved the whole supply system along with the help of a new Commissary General, Colonel Jeremiah Wadsworth.

Greene and Wadsworth worked well together. Their previous commissary experience was a refreshing change and helped turn a bad situation around at Valley Forge.

-Sandra Merville Hart



“Provision Shortages at Valley Forge,”, 2018/03/20


“Ten Facts about Washington and the Revolutionary War,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 2018/03/11


Saratoga Letters by Elaine Marie Cooper

I enjoyed this novel!

This is an unusual story. It begins in the Revolutionary Battle of Saratoga. Abigail is patriotic to the colonies in 1777. The recent death of her father leaves her at the mercy of a cruel uncle who forces her to nurse wounded British soldiers.

William Carpenter is one of the British soldiers. The officer falls in love with his beautiful nurse who needs his protection.

The second half of the story is set 200 years later. Abby Carpenter travels to Saratoga for the 200th anniversary celebration of the battle where her ancestor fought.

Constable Ian Thacker has flown from his home in England to honor his ancestor who fought in the battle. Though the pair are historically on opposite sides, they find much in common. Abby finds she needs Ian’s protection from those who mean her harm.

I loved this story. The author has intricately woven the two stories together across the centuries in a fascinating way.


-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas  – Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!

Agnes Hopper’s Apple Nut Cake

Today’s post is written by fellow author, Carol Heilman. She’s in the midst of a move and has taken time to share a recipe from her newly released novel. Thanks, Carol, and welcome to Historical Nibbles!

This recipe was taken from an apple cookbook I picked up at the First Baptist Church annual garage sale. I found the book in a box of shoes and handbags and such. Tattered and torn, I never would have given it a second thought, but it was resting on top of a red purse that had caught my eye. Well sir, I tucked the book underneath one arm while I purchased that purse, which was genuine leather and soft as a baby’s behind, and the saleslady said I could have the cookbook for free.

Apple nut cake became my Charlie’s favorite, and he especially liked it warm, along with a cup of strong, black coffee. I hope you enjoy it as much as he did.

2 C Sugar

1 C Vegetable oil

3 eggs, beaten

3 C Flour, plain

1 teaspoon Baking soda

½ teaspoon Salt

6 Medium apples, peeled & diced. Granny Smith works well or any tart, firm cooking apple.

1 Cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts and toast them in the oven first)

2 teaspoon natural Vanilla.

Hint: Homemade vanilla is the best. All you need is a couple of vanilla beans, vodka, and a jar with a tight lid. A mason jar will do, but you have to plan ahead. It takes about two months for the vanilla to reach its peak. And remember to shake the jar every few days.


1 C brown sugar

½ C (1 stick) Butter

¼ C milk

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly oil or spray 9×13 baking pan or dish.
  2. Mix sugar, oil, & eggs in large bowl. Beat well.
  3. Add flour, baking soda, salt. (I mixed the dry ingredients together first.) Add apples, nuts, & vanilla & beat with large wooden spoon until combined thoroughly.
  4. Scrape batter into pan. Bake 1 hour. (Mine took 55 minutes.)
  5. TO MAKE TOPPING: Boil together, brown sugar, butter & milk for 2½ minutes, right before you take cake from oven.
  6. When cake is done, immediately poke long tines of a fork down through cake & pour topping over cake. Serve warm or let cool.
  7. Freezes well

-Carol Heilman

Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar, Book One

Recently widowed, Agnes Hopper’s small farmhouse burns to the ground. She, along with her pet pig, Miss Margaret, moves in with her daughter. After six months they agree they cannot possibly live together. Agnes then moves into a local retirement home, Sweetbriar Manor, but she soon realizes the administrator runs a tight ship for sinister reasons. Can Agnes find another place to call home? Or will she stay to become the voice for her new friends?

Agnes Hopper Bets On Murder, Book Two

Feisty Agnes has a spending addiction that could leave her penniless and homeless.

When she visits the cemetery to talk with her husband, Charlie, she discovers the dead body of his best friend. The local sheriff declares the man died of natural causes, but Agnes promises Charlie, she will uncover the truth. She becomes a senior sleuth while she and her friends try to save Sweetbriar Manor from being sold and turned into a halfway house.

Can Agnes curtail her spending and stop the sale while looking for a murderer?

Or will the murderer stop her first?

Author Bio

Carol Heilman, a coal miner’s daughter, married her high school sweetheart, a farmer’s son. She began writing family stories for newspapers and magazines. One day her mother said, “We don’t have any secrets anymore!”


Carol’s book series, Agnes Hopper Shakes Up Sweetbriar and Agnes Hopper Bets on Murder, was inspired by her mother’s spunky spirit and her dad’s humor.

Buy her book at Amazon

Revolutionary War: The Fate of Unborn Millions

When the Continental Army drove British troops out of Boston, the English soldiers headed to New York City.

General George Washington knew the importance of the city. He told his troops that “the fate of unborn millions” depended on their courage and on God.

Over the next few weeks, more British troops arrived in New York as the colonial soldiers prepared for battle. The British, under the command of Lieutenant General William Howe, attacked on August 27, 1776. The Continental soldiers fought bravely but were losing the fight.

A heavy storm halted the fighting the next day. It continued until the afternoon of August 29th. Howe decided to postpone the attack for the next day. Washington decided to evacuate while he could. The storm had left behind a thick fog.

Washington, at noon, ordered the quartermaster to impress boats with sails or oars. He needed them by dark.

Oars were wrapped with cloths to muffle the sound. Soldiers loaded horses, supplies, cannons, and ammunition as silently as possible for the first river crossing. Soldiers from a Massachusetts regiment—peacetime fishermen and sailors—served as boat crews.

In the misty fog, the wounded soldiers were transported next and then the rest of the Continental soldiers began to fill the rowboats, canoes, and barges.

Under General Washington’s orders, rearguard kept fires burning to keep the British army from detecting their retreat.

The last troops crossed safely at 6 am.

They had done it. Washington’s plan saved around 9,000 soldiers and most of their horses and supplies. They had slipped away without the enemy’s knowledge.

Even in defeat, Washington proved to be skillful leader.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Goldstein, Norman. “Escape from New York,” HistoryNet, 2018/03/11

“Ten Facts about Washington and the Revolutionary War,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 2018/03/11


Five Brides by Eva Marie Everson

Five women share an apartment to save expenses in the 1950s. They are each so busy that they barely know each other—that makes the rare treat of a free Saturday all the more special.

The roommates enjoy a fun day together. Little do they know that one spontaneous decision they all make that day will bind them for life.

The five independent women are very different from each other. They choose different paths yet all want to—eventually—find the man of their dreams.

I was delighted to discover in the “A Note from the Author” that one of the girl’s stories was basically true with parts fictionalized.

Knowing that, I leave it to you, the next reader, to try to figure out which romance is based on truth. Read the story and then read the author’s note.

This novel is a page-turner!

-Sandra Merville Hart

1841 Seasonings for White Sauces, Fricassees, and Ragout

I found a Seasoning recipe for white sauces, ragouts, and fricassees in an 1841 cookbook.

Ragouts are highly-seasoned meat stews. White sauce, made from white roux and milk, is the base of other sauces. Fricassees are stewed meats or vegetables that are served in a white sauce.

Select a small mixing bowl.

1 tablespoon white pepper

1 tablespoon nutmeg

1 tablespoon mace

1 tablespoon dried lemon peel

Mix ingredients together.

Store in closed container until needed in white sauces, fricassees, and ragouts.

To try out the seasoning blend, I made baked macaroni and cheese using the Basic White Sauce Recipe from Taste of Home. I prepared the sauce as directed and then added cheese. I added about ¼ teaspoon of the seasoning mixture to the sauce and baked as usual.

The extra flavors changed the dish enough that it did not taste like macaroni and cheese to me, but wasn’t bad.

It’s also worth a try in stews, which often benefit from extra flavor.

I’d love to hear if you try this recipe in your cooking.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Gelzer, Lois. Taste of Home, 2018/01/21

Hale, Sarah Josepha. Early American Cookery: “The Good Housekeeper” 1841, Dover Publications, Inc., 1996.


Revolutionary War: Washington Fights a Smallpox Epidemic

General George Washington had a problem—besides his British enemy. This time it was a silent killer—a disease known as smallpox.

Washington was no stranger to the disease. While in Barbados in November, 1751, he’d suffered through a bout with the disease. After he recovered, he was immune to smallpox.

Variola—the smallpox virus—was brought in by British and German soldiers. The virus caused about 17% of deaths in the Continental Army. The disease also scared off potential recruits.

The practice of inoculations was widespread in Europe. Fearing contamination from the inoculation process, the Continental Congress prohibited army surgeons from doing them. Besides, soldiers would be too ill to fight for about a month after receiving a less-potent form of smallpox.

Yet soldiers were dying. Washington had to do something.

On January 6, 1777, General Washington ordered Dr. William Shippen, Jr. to inoculate all soldiers that came through Philadelphia. He wrote that he feared the disease more than “the Sword of the Enemy.”

Washington then ordered a mass inoculation on February 5, 1777. Though he did this in secret so the enemy wouldn’t know that his soldiers were incapacitated for a time, he did inform Congress of his decision.

Some reports state that deaths from smallpox dropped to 1% in the Continental Army. Isolated infections occurred in the southern campaign but were not the overwhelming problem as had occurred early in the war.

Washington’s decisive actions had saved the army.

-Sandra Merville Hart


“George Washington and the First Mass Military Inoculation,” The Library of Congress, 2018/03/11

“Ten Facts about Washington and the Revolutionary War,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 2018/03/11

Thompson, Mary V. “Smallpox,” George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 2018/03/11



Ain’t Misbehavin’ by Jennifer Lamont Leo

This novel captured my interest immediately.

Dot Rodgers’ desire for a singing career previously led her to a job in a speakeasy where she dated the owner. Since she narrowly escaped jail, Dot doesn’t want that life anymore. She’s been dating her roommate’s brother, Charlie, but he doesn’t like her friends.

Charlie loves Dot yet a party with her friends shows him how stodgy and boring she must view him when compared to the glamorous crowd.

Neither feels worthy of the other, leading to twists and turns that are realistic to life and to the Roaring Twenties.

This novel is a page turner. I loved learning more about the time period. The characters are real with honest struggles and heartaches. It tugged at my heart.

This is the second book in a series. I also read and enjoyed the first novel,  You’re the Cream in My Coffee.


-Sandra Merville Hart

Lighthouse Publishing of the Carolinas   – Use coupon code SandraMHart for a 20% discount on Lighthouse Publishing books!


1841 Cider Vinegar Recipe

Sarah Josepha Hale, the author of an 1841 cookbook, wrote that vinegar was “perpetually wanted” by families yet was expensive to purchase. Frugal housekeepers prepared their own vinegar.

There were several varieties of vinegars used by early cooks including celery vinegar, horseradish vinegar, and cucumber vinegar.

They also used cider vinegar, as we do today. It is surprisingly easy to prepare.

Add a cup of white sugar into a half gallon of apple cider. Stir well.

This liquid needs to ferment for 4 months. I am storing mine in the original plastic container.

I will update this post at the end of that time. I’m uncertain whether buying refrigerated cider affects the fermentation process, but I’ll let you know if I have cider vinegar in 4 months.

Stay tuned!

-Sandra Merville Hart


Hale, Sarah Josepha. Early American Cookery: “The Good Housekeeper” 1841, Dover Publications, Inc., 1996.


Revolutionary War: Battle of Blue Licks

Groups of militiamen came to the aid of Bryan’s Station, Kentucky, upon learning of an attack by British and Indian forces. The Revolutionary War had ended the year before, yet fighting in the frontiers continued.

Lt. Col. Stephen Trigg arrived with 130 men and Lt. Col. Daniel Boone brought around 45 men. They knew Colonel Benjamin Logan was bringing 400 men, but Colonel John Todd, went against fellow officer, Major McGary’s advice, and decided not to wait for them.

These troops, known as Long Knives, pursued the British and Indian forces under British commander William Caldwell’s leadership.

When in retreat, Native Americans hid their trails. Yet these tracks were easily followed, alarming Daniel Boone, who warned his fellow officers of a trap. They dismissed his advice.

Two days later on August 19, 1782, militiamen approached Upper Blue Licks and saw 2 warriors on a hilltop over the Licking River. Boone warned that the crest of the hill—which he knew well—was large enough to hide the retreating army. He advised his fellow officers to wait for Logan’s reinforcements.

Colonel Todd agreed.

Major McGary mounted his horse. Yelling, “Them that ain’t cowards, follow me,” he splashed into the Licking River.

The men followed and then formed into 3 columns on the other side of the river. They climbed the hill on foot. When Todd’s men reached the crest, warriors attacked.

McGary galloped over to Boone with news of a retreat. By then, there was hand-to-hand combat beside the river—where the horses waited.

Boone’s column was now under attack. With men falling around him, he ordered his troops into the dense woods to recross the Licking River further downstream. Boone stayed behind to cover them and ordered his son, Israel, to run.

Israel refused. While stopping to shoot at the enemy, he was shot in the neck. Daniel realized his son was dying. He carried him to a cave before mounting a horse and leading his men across the river.

The militiamen lost about 70 men in a battle that lasted minutes. Kentucky lost prominent leaders when Todd and Trigg both died in battle.

Daniel Boone later called Israel’s death his hardest blow.

-Sandra Merville Hart


Graves, James. “Battle of Blue Licks,” HistoryNet, 2018/02/25

“Blue Licks Battlefield History,” Kentucky State Parks, 2018/02/25

“Blue Licks Battlefield State Resort Park Historic Pocket Brochure Text,” Kentucky State Parks, 2018/02/25!userfiles/aParkBrochures/pocket-brochures/BlueLickspktbrochtext.pdf.