Since it was already winter when they arrived, it was critical that they construct the huts quickly. Therefore, General Washington offered a prize of twelve dollars to the group in each regiment who finished their hut first.
Their instructions were to build huts "fourteen feet by sixteen each; the sides, ends, and roofs made with logs; the roofs made tight with split slabs, or some other way; the sides made tight with clay; a fireplace made of wood and secured with clay on the inside, eighteen inches thick; this fireplace to be in the rear of the hut; the door to be in the end next to the street; the doors to be made of split oak slabs, unless boards can be procured; the side walls to be six feet and a half high."
Chimneys also were not required, but the fireplaces were made from fieldstones and the cracks were filled with mud. There were no windows just a single door. Twelve bunks were built into the sides of the walls. When the spring finally arrived, Washington ordered the chinking in the logs removed to increase the air circulation within the huts.
Although precise recommendations had been given as to how and what to use for building materials, with 12,000 men needing housing quickly, they were forced to use whatever was the most convenient. Also, the carpentry expertise of the men in the individual regiments varied greatly. As a result, some soldiers fared better than others. The northern regiments tended to be more skilled in building huts that were more effective in keeping out the wind and the cold. The southern soldiers were not aware of what to expect from a northern winter!
Overall, the living conditions were poor for everyone in the huts. This situation was due to many factors. With or without chimneys many of the fireplaces did not work well and filled the huts with choking smoke. Adding to the smoke problem was the fact that much of the firewood was green and difficult to burn. Dismal sanitary conditions existed. Latrines (toilets) had been built, but were not used effectively. Thus filth continuously increased in the huts. As a result, disease was everywhere. Approximately three thousand men died that winter. Most of these died from diseases contracted in camp.
Lord, Phil. “Research and Documentation.” Valley Forge Hut Model, 12 Sept. 2015, www.living-in-the-past.com/hut.html.
Nardini, Marge, and Cheryl Pulkowski. “Valley Forge Huts.” The American Revolution, The Wayback Machine Rovi Corporation, Nov. 2000, web.archive.org/web
Valley Forge National Historical Park General Management Plan. “Overview of History and Significance.” National Parks Service, U.S. Department of the Interior,