“While the six-month encampment of the Continental Army at Valley Forge in 1777-1778 has been part of America’s folklore for generations,” author Joseph Boyle writes in his Introduction, “most of the men who served there have remained anonymous. The names of over 30,000 men of all ranks appear on the surviving monthly muster and payroll records. This compilation is the initial effort to recognize some of these heroes of the Revolutionary War.”
We are pleased to report that Mr. Boyle has been more than up to the task he has set for himself, for, in a carefully constructed Introduction, he strips away legend from fact in recounting the dreadful encampment of Washington’s army at Valley Forge that began in December 1777 and ended in June of the following year. It is here that we learn how fate conspired to move a number of Connecticut regiments from the Hudson Highlands of New York to the environs of Philadelphia, as well as what would become of them after Valley Forge. The heart of the volume, of course, consists of an alphabetical list of some 4,000 Connecticut soldiers abstracted from Revolutionary War muster and pay rolls at the National Archives. Each patriot is identified by name, rank, date and term of enlistment or commission, name of regiment and company, and a variety of supporting details, such as date of furlough or discharge, when wounded, when and where promoted, etc. In support of the abstracts the author has prepared a detailed glossary of terms found in the rosters, an explanatory list of locations referred to in the entries, and a lengthy, up-to-date bibliography on the topic.
Fire Cake and Water promises to add immeasurably to our understanding of one of the most fateful moments in U.S. history.