What Happened in May 1778 at Valley Forge
Following from pp.112-114 Winter Quarters, George Washington and the Continental Army at Valley Forge by Noel E. Busch (New York, 1975). [Bold face and bracketed remarks added for this display]
" Copies of the Treaty of Alliance with France [signed in Paris, 6 February 1778] were brought to York [Pennsylvania] for Congressional signature by Simeon Deane, Silas Dean's brother, who sailed on March 8 in the fast French frigate, La Sensible, which docked at Falmouth, Massachusetts, on April 13. News of the alliance reached Washington in a letter from Deane on the afternoon of the thirtieth, and his reaction was set forth with eloquent brevity in a letter to Congress the next morning: 'I believe no event was ever received with more heartfelt joy'.
Far too cautious to let himself dwell on the rumored possibilities of a French alliance in the preceding months, the commander in chief knew far better than anyone else what the news signified. In a single stroke it transformed the position of the colonies from that of underdog in the fight to almost sure winner. What had started as a helterskelter rebellion of thirteen ill-assorted overseas settlements against their legitimate master had now suddenly become a world war in which the united colonies had found an ally in the second most powerful nation in the world. With French sea power to engage the British fleet and bring the colonies not only fresh troops, but also all the armaments and supplies they needed, the result of the war, theretofore doubtful at best, should be assured. There would be serious fighting in the months or years to come, but there need no longer be any serious doubt as to the final outcome.
The commander in chief's sudden exuberance was expressed for all the camp to see on the afternoon of May fourth when he lightheartedly joined a group of privates for a game of wickets. The next day [5 May], he issued a proclamation calling for an expression of joy by the whole camp in the appropriate form of a Grand Review.
At nine o'clock on the morning of the sixth, the various brigades would assemble on the parade ground to hear the news of the treaty and discourses on its significance by their chaplains. The latter were to be terminated by a cannon shot after the time limit of half an hour. An inspection of the regiments and their arms and a formation on the parade ground would follow in which, as a special honor to their nationality, Lafayette would command the left of the first line and De Kalb the right of the second. This was to be succeeded by a salute of thirteen guns and then a feu de joie.
The feu de joie -- a ceremony to be simulated on festive occasions for future generations by firecrackers tied in strings so as to explode in rapid succession -- was a conventional but difficult exercise. As formally executed by troops lined up in double ranks on the parade ground, it consisted of a running fire of blank cartridges starting at the extreme right of the front rank and proceeding until itreached the end of the line, when it passed to the extreme left of the rank behind. ...
After the feu de joie, the troops raised a cheer: 'Long live the King of France'. The huzzah was followed by a second salute, a second feu de joie, and a second cheer: 'And long live the friendly European powers'. Then, after the same preliminaries once more, came a cheer: 'To the American States'. The soldiers, each wearing a festive sprig of green in his cap, marched off the field and were issued a gill of rum apiece as a reward for their exertions.
Washington, his 'family', and a few carefully chosen guests watched the proceedings from a specially constructed arbor opposite the center of the parade ground. When they ended, the commissioned officers linked arms in lines of thirteen and marched to a tent where they enjoyed a 'profusion of fat meat, strong wine and other liquors', at which wives of several generals and a few local ladies were also present."

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