Monday, June 23, 2008

Valley Forge National Historical Park

Sunday we visited Valley Forge, the site of George Washington’s winter encampment in 1777. The park is very large and offers several ways to see the buildings and memorials scattered over 3,500 acres. We chose the 10-mile driving tour which makes a loop beginning at the Visitor’s Center. There is a walking tour which is about 6 miles in length along a paved walkway. Bicyclist may use either the road or the paved path. For a fee there is a guided trolley tour. There are also horse and walking trails which meander through the park, but don’t connect directly to the sites.

Replicas of the huts used by the soldiers.
There are also various ways to know what you are seeing. We watched the short film at the visitor center before our tour. That gave us a good overview of what was happening here in the winter of 1777. We could have purchased a CD in the gift shop to play as we drove the loop. However, we used our cell phone to dial into recorded messages which explained each site in detail. This was free for us since we have unlimited minutes on weekends and no roaming charges. Know your calling plan before selecting this option. There are, of course, interpretive panels all along the way. At some of the stops there were living history interpreters dressed in period dress, answering questions. On this particular day, there were also storytellers at some of the sites. They are not here everyday. We got lucky.

Gen. Von Stueben

Inside Gen. Varnum's headquarters.

Washington's Headquarters
Along the tour we saw replicas of the huts the soldiers built for their living quarters, Washington’s Headquarters, Quarters of General James Varnum, statues and memorials to various soldiers, generals, and companies. Perhaps the most impressive was the National Memorial Arch in honor of the soldiers who wintered at Valley Forge. Also included in the tour, but not actually part of the park, was Washington Memorial Chapel.
Inside Gen Washington's Headquarters
Re-enactors gave demonstrations of how things were.
National Memorial Arch
Washington Memorial Chapel

We took our picnic, of course, and found a table under a shade tree for lunch. Gene commented that he would have liked to see many, many huts so that it would look more like it did in 1777. There were several huts scattered about, but certainly not the thousands which would have been required to house the army of 12,000 to 20,000. I liked it being a mostly open space. I could imagine the huts, the mud, the snow, but the open space somehow commanded more reverence for the men who fought for our country.

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