Thursday night was a night of little sleep. The good news is that we knew that it was going to be that way, going into this mini vacation. It was not intended to be a restful break, rather… a memory making time with our sweet girl. As a result we had planned a lot of experiences for those short 48 hours we would be away from the other kids.
Thursday evening, after Gracie’s National Honor Society induction ceremony, we surprised her by taking her to see a movie. She has been eagerly waiting for the release of the next movie in one of her favorite book series, “Insurgent.” Toby and I were also excited to see it and so we took advantage of the fact we didn’t have the two little boys with us (who were too young to see it) and went to watch it in 3D. The movie began at 10:00 and we left the theatre at midnight.
Friday morning we woke early so Gracie could log onto her early morning seminary class. She takes an online scripture study class through church that involves daily lessons online and a live online class, where she meets with her teacher and other students, every Friday morning. She logged on at 6:00am and when she was done we went down to the lobby to enjoy the hotel’s free continental breakfast. It was an impressive spread. Toby was especially pleased to see the “all you can eat” bacon. 😉
Before we left for home we decided to squeeze in a bit more sightseeing and visit Valley Forge, which was only about 20 minutes away. It was neat for Gracie to get more personally acquainted with this piece of history that she has only studied in books. There was something so poignant about stepping onto the land where history was created and walking around that valley, where such sacrifices were made for the freedom we enjoy. It was powerful.
We began at the visitor’s center where we watched a short 18 minute video about the background and history of Valley Forge. It was a wonderful way to begin our visit and set the scene for our understanding of the valley and what we would see.
• The Story of Valley Forge •
As told by Ron Avery
“The images are heartrending, dramatic and so powerful that they are embedded in the nation’s historical consciousness:
Bloody footprints in the snow left by bootless men. Near naked soldiers wrapped in thin blankets huddled around a smoky fire of green wood. The plaintive chant from the starving: “We want meat! We want meat!”
These are the indelible images of suffering and endurance associated with Valley Forge in the winter of 1777-78.
“An army of skeletons appeared before our eyes naked, starved, sick and discouraged,” wrote New York’s Gouverneur Morris of the Continental Congress.
The Marquis de Lafayette wrote: “The unfortunate soldiers were in want of everything; they had neither coats nor hats, nor shirts, nor shoes. Their feet and their legs froze until they were black, and it was often necessary to amputate them.”
A bitter George Washington — whose first concern was always his soldiers — would accuse the Congress of “little feeling for the naked and distressed soldiers. I feel superabundantly for them, and from my soul pity those miseries, which it is neither in my power to relieve or prevent.”
The suffering and sacrifices of the American soldiers at Valley Forge are familiar, iconic images, but there is another side of the picture. Valley Forge was where a new, confident, professional American army was born.
Three months of shortage and hardship were followed by three months of relative abundance that led to wonderful changes in the morale and fighting capabilities of the Continental Army.
France would enter the war on the side of the new nation. Valuable foreign volunteers and fresh replacements would trickle into camp.
Most important, it was at Valley Forge that a vigorous, systematic training regime transformed ragged amateur troops into a confident 18th century military organization capable of beating the Red Coats in the open field of battle.”
We then were given this sheet. It was a cell phone tour of the park.
You dial the number on the paper and then as you drive around to the various sites and monuments you punch in the corresponding number and hear a short history lesson. It was a wonderful and informative way to see this historic site.
Some of our stops included:
The Muhlenberg Brigade Log City where reconstructed Army huts provided a glimpse into the soldiers’ lives.
The National Memorial Arch:
“Dedicated in 1917, the National Memorial Arch honors the soldiers’ perseverance and expresses hope for future generations.”
As well as Washington’s headquarters:
“This original stone house served as residence and office for Washington and his staff.”
Here we were able to walk into the home and see what it might have looked like as it was being occupied by George and Martha.
The handrail of the staircase was original and it was amazing to think that our hands were touching the same spot where such a historic hero stood.
We were only able to stay for an hour and a half before we had to get back on the road. It was an amazing visit and I hope we have the opportunity to go again someday, take the other kids, and spend some more time.