After dropping of Grace, Molly, and Rusty at their cyber school to paint with the mural club, we decided to head over to Valley Forge to kill a few hours with the remaining members of the Hudak clan.
Located only 14 miles away from the school building, and free to the public, we thought it would be a fun way to pass time while waiting for the big kids to finish their mural.
Ozzie was excited to check out this historical site he had studied in his American History class. Tyler wasn’t as excited to go. He felt we should all find a stream and going fishing for trout while waiting on the mural club members to finish.
But once we arrived and he was able to explore the Visitor’s Center and see the exhibits he was as engaged and fascinated as Ozzie.
As we walked around and explored the visitor’s center we learned more about what happened on this plot of land and why the suffering and sacrifices made at this encampment were so significant to our nation’s history.
• 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.”
After spending time in the Visitor’s Center we got back in our cars to drive around the park, stopping at significant historical spots along the way. At that point we only had an hour left before we had to leave and pick up the other kids but we were able to see some of this historical national site.
Some of our stops included:
The Muhlenberg Brigade Log City where reconstructed Army huts provided a glimpse into the soldiers’ lives.
And the National Memorial Arch:
“Dedicated in 1917, the National Memorial Arch honors the soldiers’ perseverance and expresses hope for future generations.”
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.
Oh, how far we have fallen as a nation.
Oh, how far we have moved away from our humble and honorable beginning.