Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Valley Forge

This life sized statue of General Washington is in the National Park's Visitors Center
While we were walking around Philadelphia and looking at historic maps of the area we were happy to discover how close Valley Forge is to where we are staying.
Turns out it is a short 30 mile drive to the west.
The timing was perfect. We had just visited Independence Hall and relearned it's history of British Occupation in 1777.
We had to make the trip to Valley Forge to walk in the steps of George Washington and his Continental Army in the place that they retreated to after failing to stop the British Forces.
Cannons in position at the first Redoubt
Valley Forge National Park is beautiful. It is on high ground with views of rolling hills below and mountains in the distance. There are many mature trees now but with a little imagination you can picture the bare landscape that it must of been as the approximately 10,000 troops used them to build shelter and fires to keep themselves warm.
Huts like these were constructed for shelter. Each 12x12 structure was meant to hold 12 enlisted men or 4 officers.

Winter itself must have been difficult on a hilltop with nothing to break the blowing wind. Add to that the lack of food and provisions and it made for miserable conditions. There was no battle fought at Valley Forge yet 2000 soldiers died there from disease, exposure to the elements and starvation.

The house occupied by General Washington and his family was Camp Headquarters as well.

Those conditions could have been the end of the Continental Army, yet in the 6 months of the Valley Forge Encampment only 42 soldiers were tried for desertion.  Battling the harsh conditions and surviving made them a cohesive group.  Prussian officer Baron Friedrich von Steuben began to train the soldiers in precision fighting and military marching. He also instituted sanitation practices in the encampment to fight disease.
Officer Nathanael Greene took over the job of procurement and successfully negotiated supplies for the weary troops by March.

Statue of George Washington representing peacetime years after the War.
The Army left their Winter Encampment in May a force to be reckoned with. Soldiers from 13 States had transferred their allegiance from home States to a united Continental Army.

The National Memorial Arch
Inscribed across the top of the arch is a quote from General Washington, "Naked and starving as
they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable Patience and Fidelity of the Soldiery."

Valley Forge National Park offers 27 miles of trails for hiking and bike riding. There is a 10 mile road that winds through the park with stops at various monuments and places of historic significance. Along the trail are monuments erected to honor the Free Mason's, the Patriots of African Descent and  the soldiers of the original colonies.

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