(American, late nineteenth-early twentieth century)

George Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge (as it appeared c. 1861)

Oil on prepared board, 15 x 19 ½ inches

Signed at lower right: “J. A. Hackenberg”

Label (typewritten) on frame verso: “Peter Hackenberg/Ensign Pennsylvania Militia/was a prisoner in 1780/from Hiteman: ‘Historical/Register of Officers/of the Continental Army/1775-83’/This must be ancestor of artist/of G W Headquarters at Valley/Forge”

Note: A second version of this painting is in a Pennsylvania private collection.

A photograph (c. 1861) in the collection of Valley Forge National Historical Park presents a view of Washington’s Headquarters at Valley Forge that is identical to this painting, down to such small details as the saplings growing in front of the lean-to section of the building at the left of the painting. The artist must have been familiar with the earlier image in some form. A label attached to the painting suggests that the artist had a Revolutionary ancestor who served at Valley Forge.

After losing the Battles of the Brandywine and Germantown in the autumn of 1777, Washington sought to regroup at Valley Forge, where the privations of his troops in their winter encampment became legendary. Dangerously short of provisions, they were poorly nourished, clothed, and sheltered. One in ten died from disease, but the training they received there, particularly the drilling of Baron von Steuben, reshaped the army, and that winter is considered both the low point and the turning point of the War.

The stone house that Washington used as his headquarters may have been built as a summer residence as late as 1773. It was subsequently used as a farmhouse and looked like this eighty-three years later. The Valley Forge Centennial and Memorial Association was formed in 1878 to preserve the house, and today it is open to the public, as part of Valley Forge National Historical Park.

About the Artist

(American, late nineteenth-early twentieth century)