During the “Valley Forge” Period, General Hooker had the men eating good food, wearing new uniforms and boots, drilling, and showing pride in their units. The Union Army’s “Valley Forge” ended on April 27, 1863 with the beginning of the Chancellorsville Campaign (battles of Second Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Salem Church). Although again ending in defeat, the Army of the Potomac had turned toward victory during its strategic pause in Stafford County. (Above picture of Battle of Chancellorsville by Kurz and Allison.)
The army returned to its Stafford camps, where it made new preparations, honed its marksmanship and watched as Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia shifted to the west and concentrated in Culpeper County. A probe by the Cavalry Corps at Brandy Station in June surprised the Confederates and led to the largest cavalry battle of the war to that point. Detecting Lee’s northward movement, the entire Army of the Potomac moved north, shielding the capital, into Maryland and Pennsylvania. Securing the dominant terrain and most advantageous position at Gettysburg allowed the resurgent Federal force to finally secure a decisive victory and the battlefield turning point in the war in the East. The victory at Gettysburg validated everything that had been accomplished in Stafford the previous winter.