Sometimes you need to stop and remember what this is all about. This country didn’t come about without hard work and sacrifice. Like the men who endured a harsh winter at Valley Forge in Pennsylvania.
Not only did they have to fight the harsh northeast winter. They also had to survive tough living conditions. So many men crammed into huts smaller than some peoples bathrooms.
Walking through the encampment set up really gives you a feel for how tough it might have been. We could only imagine.
I spent a few months in Kuwait and Iraq in 03. While I found the living conditions tight. It doesn’t compare to what was going at Valley Forge. We had 20 plus Marines in large tents in Kuwait (can’t remember how big or how many). Plus in Iraq my unit had two man tents with only one of us in each. Sure it was unbelievable hot. But I’d deal with the 100 plus degree over freezing cold any day.
I think that those of us that served can really get a feel for the conditions the Continental Army went through in the Winter of 1777-78. Even those that didn’t serve still get that sense of awe. My daughter who’s only 8 had a lot of questions.
Like did I have to stay here when I was in? No sweetheart way before my time. Did your bunks look like this? Sadly on ship they did, just not made of wood.
When you come for a visit start off at the visitor center. Right now it’s in a temporary building as they are building what looks to be a very nice visitor center. I personally can’t wait to check that out when it’s completed (spring2020). While in the visitor center take a look around and get your National Parks passport stamped. Also pick up anything you may want. The tour around the park is on a one way road. Once you finish the tour you won’t need to head back to the visitor center.
The visitor center has some pretty neat stuff in the gift shop area. Mugs, water bottles, shirts, candy and so much more. They even have some toys that would have been like the ones kids played with back in 1777.
When you start off on the driving tour (you could walk to most sites but it’s a lot of walking) you will come up to Muhlenberg Brigade. This is one of the best spots to get a feel for how the encampments felt. The closeness the soldiers would have felt. Put a dozen tourists in one and you quickly feel the lack of space. Now just imagine nobody showered for weeks and add the cold, snowy winter.
Also take a look around and imagine hundreds of these filling the landscape. About 12,000 troops would have been encamped here from December 1777 until June 1778. While you look around you will see an interesting looking defensive position when looking towards where the visitor center is.
This structure is called a redoubt. There are a couple of them recreated with in the park. I can say they look a little safer than my fox hole in Iraq. Well at least the first ones we did in the middle of a sandstorm.
Continue driving along the road and you will come up to another cabin. Find a spot and take a walk right past that cabin. You will find an outline of a few more of the cabins. While the cabins themselves don’t feel very big when you are in them. When you look at the outline of them you can really see just how small they really are. They don’t have a big foot print at all.
NATIONAL MEMORIAL ARCH
The next stop on the tour is the National Memorial Arch. You can see this way before you even get close to it. This memorial is massive. It’s construction was finished in 1917 and was restored back in 1997.
It really draws you in. Just be aware of some of the “creepy” faces carved into the memorial. You will also find a quote from General George Washington inscribed on the National Memorial Arch.
Naked and starving as they are
We cannot enough admire
The incomparable Patience and Fidelity
of the SoldieryGeneral Washington
Not much to say about this area. It is a blink and you will miss it kind of spot. There is only parking for a few cars but the view of the surrounding area is pretty spectacular.
GENERAL WASHINGTON’S HEADQUARTERS
Stop number 5 on the self guided tour is of General Washington’s Headquarters. This is where you will most likely be spending most of your time. If you are short on time this would be the only stop I would make.
This area is pretty amazing with a few of the troops log cabins recreated here. A stable to walk through and look at different artifacts. The old train station is now an information center.
Of course the area you want to check out the most is the colonial house used by Washington when his army was encamped here. While he had more room than his soldiers, it was still small for the amount of Officers that worked out of the house. This is also the most picturesque areas in all of Valley Forge.
REDOUBT 3 & ARTILLERY PARK
If you want a more unique photo head over to stops 6 and 7. Stop seven is at Artillery Park. Here you will find several cannons looking out over the terrain. I personally am looking forward to coming back and visiting this area after a fresh snowfall. I think you could get a pretty epic shot with a fresh blanket of snow.
VARNUM’S QUARTERS & WASHINGTON MEMORIAL CHAPEL
This are the last to stops on your self guided tour. Varnum’s quarters are only open on weekends in the Summer months. So when I visited in November there was no chance of seeing inside. The inside of the building has been restored and made to look like it did when General Varnum stayed there during the encampment.
The Washington Memorial Chapel was also closed the day I came to visit. However they are usually open everyday from 10am-5pm. This is one of those spots I would love to get a photo from the inside. This whole building is pretty impressive. This chapel was built as a tribute to George Washington. The chapel wasn’t built till almost 150 years after Washington and his Troops stayed here. Today it is still a functioning Episcopal Church.
That right there pretty much ends your tour. You could head back to the visitor center or hit the road and visit one of the largest malls in America (King of Prussia Mall). You really can spend as much or as little time as you want. Valley Forge National Historical Park has miles upon miles of trials that you can hike or bike. Plenty of open fields to sit down and soak up the sun while having a nice picnic style lunch. The choice is up to you.
Let us know if you have ever visited Valley Forge National Historical Park before in the comments below. Did you even know they had a Historical Park all about Valley Forge? Did you even remember about Valley Forge from back when you were in school? Let us know below.
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