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Valley Forge and stromboli

Valley Forge National Memorial Arch

"And here in this place of sacrifice in this vale of humiliation in this valley of the shadow of that death out of which the life of America rose regenerate and free. Let us believe with an abiding faith that to them union will seem as dear and liberty as sweet and progress as glorious as they were to our Fathers and are to you and me and that the institutions which have made us happy preserved by the virtue of our children shall bless the remotest generation of the time to come. --- Henry Armitt Brown"

-Inscription on the inside of the National Memorial Arch at Valley Forge National Historic Park, pictured here

Nathan, photographer, at Valley Forge

October 24, 2003

Last night, I stayed at Bonnie’s new apartment for some quality time. Today, Teresa gave us the options of either going to The Franklin Institute Science Museum or Valley Forge. The Franklin Institute, located in downtown Philadelphia, is a museum that serves to inspire passion for technology and learning, in the spirit of inquiry and discovery as exemplified by Benjamin Franklin. Valley Forge conveys the story of the encampment of the American Continental Army as they retreated to pass the winter of 1777 to 1778 in between battles of the American Revolutionary War. Our originally intended destination was the Franklin Institute. I was up early and ready to go. But Teresa did not come back to Pottstown until 1:00 pm or so. By this time it was a bit late to make the hour or so drive to Philadelphia and yet have time to take in the museum. Instead, we drove to Valley Forge, PA, which was just short of a half hour drive.

The United States was just over a year old when George Washington and his army started to look for a place to retreat for the winter of 1777 to 1778. The historical record tells us that this time was the beginning of the most tragic period in American history. Battles had been lost. The British were in control of Philadelphia. Congress was forced to retreat to safer ground. Conspirators were attempting to overthrow Washington. Much of the population was lukewarm concerning the causes of the Revolutionary War. Such was the setting in America as Washington was looking for a place to camp.

Out of several locations that were proposed, Washington chose Valley Forge, which he felt was the most secure location. The area was close enough to the British to keep them out of the interior of Pennsylvania, yet far enough away to virtually eliminate the threat of a surprise attack from the British. On December 18, 1777, Washington directed his men to set up camp.

“The Colonels, or commanding officers of regiments, with their Captains, are immediately to cause their men to be divided into squads of twelve, and see that each squad have their proportion of tools, and set about a hut for themselves: And as an encouragement to industry and art, the General promises to reward the party in each regiment, which finishes their hut in the quickest, and most workmanlike manner, with twelve dollars.”- General Orders by George Washington, Head Quarters, at the Gulph, December 18, 1777

So Washington and his men hunkered down in their camp for the winter. Due to inefficiencies, supplies of food, clothing and supplies for the army were reduced to almost nothing. Because of this, soldiers lacked necessary clothing and meals. Near starvation was experienced by the army. Soldiers were in danger of freezing to death due to lack of clothing and some had limbs amputated due to frostbite. Women, relatives of the men, provided services such as laundry and nursing. The army was ravaged by disease due to this lack of food and clothing and living in cramped quarters. The suffering was so intense that even today, the American public can’t help but empathize with those soldiers when contemplating this story.

Three months of hard winter were followed by three months of abundance. Military efficiencies, morale and discipline were upgraded. A new and refreshed army was born. Fighting capabilities improved to the point that they became capable of beating the British in open battle. Although the war would last another five years, a victory of will had been won. There is a lesson in this story for us today. No matter how dark and dreary our lives can get at times, there is real hope that our lives can turn around to be bright and upbeat.

Today, Valley Forge exists in the forms of a village and a national historical park. Teresa, Nathan and I paid a visit to the park and contemplated all that had happened. We saw the cabins that the soldiers called home and felt the hard wooden beds where the soldiers slept. We saw cooking facilities, cannons that stood guard at the camp, monuments and names of soldiers that camped there. I saw a list of soldier names from Massachusetts and wondered which of my ancestors actively participated in the war. Young Nathan found all of this fascinating and took pictures, reminding me of when I was his age and learning to use my camera. We saw many deer as we walked the fields that the soldiers walked. After this, we drove back to Pottstown to share in another dinner.

Map of Valley Forge area

George Washington at Valley Forge
"Naked and starving as they are we cannot enough admire the incomparable patience and fidelity of the soldiery."
General George Washington at Valley Forge

Valley Forge cabin
Soldiers' living quarters

Nathan sleeping in Valley Forge cabin
Nathan sleeping in soldiers' living quarters

Valley Forge cooking facilities
Soldiers' cooking facilities

Valley Forge cannon
Valley Forge cannon

Deer at Valley Forge
Valley Forge Wildlife

We ordered takeout from Argento’s Pizza, located around the corner from Bonnie’s Apartment at East High Street and South Hanover Street in Pottstown. They serve not only pizza, but also Philly cheesesteak sandwiches, calzones, stromboli and other Italian fare. We went in on the Pizza, Stromboli and Wings special for $16.99, which adequately filled up the 5 of us.

Pizza slicePizza slicePizza slice


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