The information available concerning the location of the General’s Quarters needs a lot of interpretation. A number of the assignments are based on oral history. The textual information that is available can be split into two categories: primary sources provided by people who actually participated in the encampment, and secondary sources which are reports based on information from participants. The primary sources are potentially more reliable than the secondary sources should be given more weight in interpreting the evidence.
Primary sources can also be split into two types. Firstly, those written at the time of the encampment and, secondly, those written from memory at a later date. Clearly the later could suffer from the frailty of human memory. There are many writings from the encampment. Unfortunately although there are a number of references to General’s Quarters in these writings no information about locations has been identified.
One of the most valuable primary sources is General Weedon’s orderly book which is a unique record of the activities in the encampment. He mentions topics such as court martials but his most systematic records are of the officers of the day. These posts rotated between the generals so if a general is not on the list it is unlikely have participated significantly in the encampment. Initially both a major-general and a brigadier-general were assigned each day. After the 26th March only a brigadier-general was assigned as officer of the day. Weedon resigned before the end of the encampment and the last entry in his orderly book is dated the 7th May. The original orderly book is located at the American Philosophical Society. The book was published in 1902 and is available on Google Books.
The earliest record of the location of Quarters is the William Davis map. It was not drawn at the time of the encampment but rather at a later date. William Davis participated in the encampment and later lived in one of the General’s Quarters.
The primary secondary source is Henry Woodman’s articles from 1850 which were later published in book form as The History of Valley Forge (available online at Google Books). Woodman’s father, Edward Woodman, served in the Continental Army and later lived in the encampment area as did Henry. Woodman’s articles are mainly based on his memories of stories told to him by relatives and neighbors.
The material provided by Woodman is invaluable but it has to be remembered that it is a secondary source and it shows the sort of issues you would expect from such a source including contradictions and dubious statements.
There are also many secondary sources such as Frank H. Taylor, Valley Forge: A Chronicle of American Heroism, Published by James W. Nagle, 1905; available on Google Books; Valley Forge Park: An Historical Record and Guide Book by the Valley Forge Park Commission (1950); and Valley Forge Landmarks by A.J. & H.T. MacNeill, Stephen Moylan Press (1958). Many of these sources give no references and must be considered of questionable quality.
There is another type of primary information source, county records, including tax returns and deeds. These have been analyzed to produce a map showing the ownership and boundaries of the properties in Tredyffrin Township in 1777. The properties containing General’s Quarters can be colored in on this map and on similar maps that are available for Upper Merion (see General’s Quarters distribution). It is clear from this analysis that every house within the encampment area (as defined by the picket line) was occupied by a General. This was not a haphazardous selection of Quarters but a systematic choice of the available housing. The quarters of Generals Scott, Woodford and Muhlenberg were outside the picket line.
The generals did not come alone. They had an entourage of staff officers. We know that Wayne had a staff of 3, and Von Steuben 2 or 3. There were also probably bodyguards with the generals. The major-generals likely had more staff than brigadier-generals, such as Wayne. So the impact on the residents of the Quarters must have been substantial.
There are a number of other generals who have been listed as being part of the encampment but were not officers of the day. These included Armstrong, Glover, Learned, and Smallwood. Ebenezer Learned was ill during the early part of the encampment and resigned due to his illness in March 1778. Smallwood was reassigned to the Southern Army, probably before the start of the Valley Forge encampment.