Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Valley Forge National Historical Park

One of the cool things about heading out East is the amount of history that is compressed in a relatively narrow area.  After Brandywine, we decided to head over to Valley Forge.  I'd never been to Brandywine before and it has been about 30 years since I've been to Valley Forge.  I didn't expect the park to look all that different but still.

Pretty much every American is aware of what happened at Valley Forge.  1777 was not a particularly good year to the American cause.  The Continental Army was pretty much on the run and needed a rest in order to regroup, rearm and re-equip.  The winter of 1777 provided that opportunity and Valley Forge provided the spot.

Valley Forge was named for an iron forge on Valley Creek and provided an easily defendible spot for the Continental Army.  It was positioned well to prevent further British raids on the interior of Pennsylvania but close enough to Philadelphia that they could keep on eye on the British Army.  It was still far enough out that there wouldn't be any surprise attacks.

The area itself was higher than the surrounding area and provided good visibility while itself was bordered by a River and a pair of mountains, giving the British only one way into the camp.
 Because of this, it was easy for the Continental Army to set up defensive positions.  I tried to take a picture of some of those but they didn't look so great.  So I will use a cannon instead.
 The soldiers stayed in huts that were very similar to this recreated hut.
 Some of the local flora.
 This would have been the typical encampment.  The area was fairly wooded before the Army arrived there which is one of the reasons why it was chosen.
 On the other side of the cabin was a rack of bunks similar to this one.  I couldn't imagine living in something this small for the winter, let alone with other people.  The men suffered from many ravages.  About 2,500 of them died that winter.  Eventually living conditions got better for the men.
 The National Memorial Arch which was erected in 1910 and is dedicated to the officers and private soldiers of the Continental Army.  It is modeled after the Titus Arch in Rome and the principal architect was Paul Phillipe Cret.
 I think this is a slightly better picture of the Arch.  The only problem was that I was shooting almost directly into the sun but I kind of like how it brought out some of the highlights.
 Looking up at the dedication message on the arch.  I'd have to say this is a pretty ornate memorial.
 Some of the details of the arch.
 This looks more like a Roman soldier.  I almost think it should have a tri-corner.
 Backed away a little bit to give some details of the arch.
 The other side of the arch.  I was trying to get the flag flying almost straight.  The inscription was from some guy named Washington.
 Some of the flowers.  I tried to get a picture of the arch through these but it didn't work too well.
 An oblique angle of the arch.  Unfortunately, there was a fairly constant stream of people.
 Another Roman Soldier.
 Looking up at the Arch.  I kind of liked the pattern.
 The cobblestone road in front of the Arch.
 And the shot I was looking for.
 General Anthony Wayne.  During Valley Forge he was in charge of gathering beef for the soldiers.  He was so successful that he was called the drover of Valley Forge.  He also has a Michigan connection in that he is the person Wayne County is named after.  Fort Wayne in Detroit is also named after him.
 After the War, he was responsible for bringing the areas that are now Michigan and Ohio under United States control.  He negotiated a treaty with the Native Americans that pretty much cleared out the land.
 A train station at Valley Forge.  With this supplying the Army would be easy...if it had existed back then.
 General Washington's Headquarters at Valley Forge.
 Another angle of the headquarters and what I presume was the flag at the time.
 As I was heading back to the car, a train passed by.  I missed the engine by about a minute.
 Another angle of Washington's Headquarters.
 Probably the most common depiction of a soldier at Valley Forge.  Cold and probably starving.
 A group of cannons.
 Looking at the cannon.
 Trying to get an idea of the lay of the land.
 Another one of the cabins.  This one seemed bigger than the others.
 A statue depicting Baron von Steuben.  He was a Colonel in the Prussian Army that found himself out of a job.  So he helped drill the American soldiers.  He created many of the manuals that would be used by the Continental Army.  He was also a decent drill instructor.
His strict drilling helped instill discipline in the American Army.

Valley Forge became a Pennsylvania State Park in 1893 and was later turned into a Federal Park in 1976.  In June of 1778, the American Army received word that the British were pulling out of Philadelphia and this caused the American Army to vacate Valley Forge but the time there provided the training to improve its chances in the War.

The Revolutionary War would end in 1783 with an American victory.  As a result, we still spoke English but weren't a British Colony anymore.

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