Thursday, April 27, 2017

Valley Forge Historic Trail

After visiting the Visitor Center, we got in our car and followed the audio trail at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania. The first stop was at the Muhlenberg Brigade encampment, which also has a nearby redoubt (a defensive embankment). This area faces Philadelphia twenty miles away, so the soldiers quartered here would be the first to see the British approach (if they ever had).

I think that little lump is the redoubt

Muhlenberg reconstructed huts

The huts typically housed twelve soldiers or a few officers. The huts were built from nearby trees, so much of the area was deforested for the cabins and for firewood. The dwellings are simple, with just bunks and a fireplace.

Reconstructed hut

Two of my children playing in the fireplace

Most of the huts do not have bunks set up, but they do have the frames to give visitors an idea of the conditions. I would not have liked to be in one of the middle bunks.

Daughter poses by the bunks

Climbing the bunks

A more comfortable bed?

The officers had more space and typically a desk or other work area.

An officer's hut

The fireplaces were just for warmth. Cooking was done just behind the huts in open pits or ovens in an embankment. The soldiers were not allowed to eat in their huts to prevent vermin (who often brought diseases) in the huts.

A fire pit

Oven for baking bread

Back of the huts

The trail has several markers along the way describing which militias or troops were in which areas. The marker below says the Major General Nathaniel Greene's Pennsylvania and Virginia regiments were encamped here.

Greene's Division marker

The next stop we drove by slowly. It was the National Memorial Arch, dedicated in 1917 and modeled after the Arch of Titus in Rome. We thought the kids would not be too interested so we just took pictures from the road.

National Memorial Arch

Further down the road were the Pennsylvania Columns, which are not a stop on the tour. We slowed down as we drove through--luckily no one was behind us.

Pennsylvania Columns

The next stop was another drive-by shooting for us. This statue is of General Anthony Wayne (he has a lot of stuff named after him, including a town I once lived in). The figure on the statue appears to be looking towards Waynesboro, the general's home.

General Anthony Wayne

Further down the road is a covered bridge built in 1865 that is not part of the tour but is still cool (but not cool enough for us to stop or even drive through).

Covered bridge

About three-quarters of a mile down the road from the covered bridge is what remains of the town of Valley Forge. The town is on the Schuylkill River (the same river that goes through Philadelphia) and has a train station that was built in 1911.

Valley Forge Train Station

The rebuilt town looks suspiciously like the encampment huts, if you ask me.

Daughter walking into Valley Forge

The town has a statue of George Washington. He stands with a gentleman's walking cane rather than a sword. A sheath of thirteen sticks (symbolizing the thirteen colonies) is under his other arm.

George Washington

One building has the history of the town. The big industry there was iron works, so the "forge" name is entirely appropriate. It was a natural sport for a forge with the local river (the Valley River, so there's the rest of the name) for power, limestone for processing iron ore, and timber for charcoal to fuel the furnace. One of the buildings in the town was a storehouse for Revolutionary supplies. It was raided by the British before the 1777-1778 encampment.

Forge-related history

One stone building remains--the one used by General Washington as a residence and headquarters. The house belonged to Isaac Potts who moved out when the army requested the use of the house. Potts was reimbursed by the army. He moved to another home in Pottstown for the duration. Martha Washington came to live in the house for part of the encampment.

Washington HQ

The front door

Office inside

Upstairs bedroom

More casual bedroom

Even more casual bedroom

Attic room for storage and servants

Like many fine homes of the time, the kitchen was in a separate building, both to keep the heat from the kitchen out of the house in summer and to avoid burning down the whole house if a kitchen fire ever happened.


Kitchen storage

Kitchen house just about attached to the main house

View from the train station staircase

We skipped a whole loop of the trail that led to a redoubt and the artillery park where General Knox kept the cannons. We went straight to the Washington Memorial Chapel. It is an active Episcopal church and the bell tower is in regular use. Behind the chapel is a shop that sells souvenirs and lunch items, including local favorite shoo-fly pie. We did not visit the church since the children were so hungry. Maybe next time.

Washington Memorial Chapel

Proof that the bells are in regular use--parking for the carillonneur!

Shoo-fly pie!

After lunch, we headed back to the hotel so the toddler could get his nap in. The tour is well worth doing and perhaps we'll go back some day to see the parts that we missed.

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