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The American Revolution: Saratoga to Valley Forge


One class period



U.S. History

Beth Lemberger, a history teacher at Owen Brown Middle School in Rockville, Maryland.


Students will understand the following:

1. Those who direct and fight wars are real people who make observations and have feelings.

2. The conditions under which the American Revolution was fought during the period 1777 until July 1778 were indeed harsh.


For this lesson, you will need:

Textbooks, trade books, and reference books detailing battles of 1777 and 1778
Access to the Internet

1. Help students appreciate the difficulty enlisted men and generals, on either side, faced during the Revolutionary War in keeping track of their experiences. In those preelectronic and preelectric days, even diaries and writing implements were hard to come by on the war front. Ask students to assume that they are at a battle site or in a camp and somehow have secured paper or parchment and a pen and ink. Their assignment is for each to write a diary entry that tells about the writer's experiences on a significant day of the war during 1777 and up until July 1778.

2. To focus this assignment as much as possible, tell students that they must write from the point of view of one of the following men:


On the American side



von Steuben


On the British side




3. In addition, the writer of each diary entry must begin the entry with a specific date (anytime in 1777 until July 1778) and the name of the place where he or she is composing it. Students should choose one of the following locations:


Brooklyn Heights

Fort Ticonderoga


Harlem Heights

Monmouth Courthouse





Valley Forge

White Plains


Adaptations for Older Students:

Ask students to write at least two entries: one in anticipation of the event; one after the event.

1. Discuss whether fighting on American soil gave the Americans an advantage over the British. Use examples from the program.
2. Defend or criticize General Burgoyne for his persistence and unwillingness to surrender earlier in the war.
3. Discuss what France could gain or lose by joining forces with the Americans against the British.
4. Compare the physical and mental condition of General Washington's soldiers before and after the arrival of "Baron General" Friedrich Von Steuben.
5. Debate Von Steuben's promotion to Major General despite the fact that he lied about his background and credentials.
6. Analyze the strength of the Franco-American alliance after the battle for Rhode Island.

You can evaluate your students' diary entries using the following three-point rubric:

Three points:inclusion of date and place; three pieces of verifiable information and three pieces of invented information (as outlined in Procedures); totally coherent and unified paragraphs; error-free grammar, usage, and mechanics


Two points:inclusion of date and place; two pieces of verifiable information and two pieces of invented information; mostly coherent and unified paragraphs; some errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics


One point:inclusion of date and place; lacking at least two pieces of verifiable information and two pieces of invented information; paragraphs lacking coherence and unity; many errors in grammar, usage, and mechanics

The American Revolution: Saratoga to Valley Forge

Who Were the Hessians?

Have students research the role of Hessian soldiers. Who were they, where did they come from, and whom did they help and why? Have students prepare a brief written report.

Historical Marker

Ask students to choose a battle between the British and the Americans. Direct them to create a historical marker for the battle site so that others may learn about what happened there. The minimum information that students should include on the plaque is name of the place, number of dead, names of leaders, and results of the battle.

"Turnaround at Saratoga"

Thomas Fleming, Boys' Life, November 1997

This four-page article, geared toward the junior high school reader level, offers a recapitulation of the major battles of the Revolutionary War and features the Battle of Saratoga. Map included.
Revolutionary Citizens: African-Americans 1776-1804

Daniel C. Littlefield, Oxford University Press, 1997

A highly favorable review from the School Library Journal(January 1998 issue) indicates that this third volume of the Young Oxford History of African-Americans series "explores the role of African-Americans immediately before, during, and after the war of 1776. The book concludes with an account of the ways in which the revolutionary spirit begun in America spread to France and ultimately influenced blacks in Haiti to rebel against the ruling French." The work includes a chronology and further readings.

Historic Valley Forge

This site tells the story of the six-month (December 19, 1777 to June 19, 1778) encampment of the Continental army under the command of General George Washington.

The Avalon Project—18th Century Documents

From the Articles of Confederation to the Annapolis Convention, from state constitutions to The Federalist Papers, this site contains all the relevant documents of the 18th century. Find them either alphabetically or chronologically.

Oneida Indian Nation

Begin at the home page of the Oneida Indian Nation, then click on “1777: The Oneidas and the Birth of the American Nation” for an exhibit about the extraordinary contributions of the Oneida to the success of the American Revolution.

Washington at War

Although only a few items are featured in this National Museum of American History exhibit, it can be the basis for a closer examination of the artifacts of the American Revolution. The site includes a time line and exhibits which are always changing.



Amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion.


The American army was weak in numbers, dispirited, and with little ammunition. The country was in the deepest consternation.


Placed in a strong defensive position.


Washington entrenched his army at Brandywine Creek across Howe's path of advance to Philadelphia.


An association to further the common interests of the members.


The French government agreed to enter into an alliance with the Americans so long as the war took place against the British.


Characterized by racial desegregation.


By 1778, one in twenty of Washington's soldiers was black. This was the last integrated American army until the Korean War.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:

U.S. history


Understands the impact of the American Revolution on politics, economy, and society.


Understands how the ideals of the American Revolution influenced the goals of various groups of people during and after the war.

Grade Level:


Subject Area:



Understands how geography is used to interpret the past.


Knows how physical and human geographic factors have influenced major historic events and movements (e.g., the course and outcome of battles and wars, the forced transport of Africans to North and South America because of the need for cheap labor, the profitability of the triangle trade and the locations of prevailing wind and ocean currents, the effects of different land-survey systems used in the United States).

Grade Level:

6-8, 9-12

Subject Area:

U.S. history


Understands the causes of the American Revolution, the ideas and interests involved in shaping the revolutionary movement, and reasons for the American victory.


Understands the strategic elements of the Revolutionary War.

Understands the impact of European countries and individual Europeans on the American victory.

Understands the major political and strategic factors that led to the American victory in the Revolutionary War.

Understands contributions of European nations during the American Revolution and how their involvement influenced the outcome and aftermath.

Copyright 2001 Discovery.com.

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