We had one heck of a time finding our way into this park. It’s huge, spread out over many roads, and there was never a sign directing us to the visitor’s center. Of course, Google Maps wanted to send us to the local casino! We were only 14 miles from our campground, but drove 37 miles before we stumbled upon it – built into the side of a hill. Grr.
I will have to say the extra mileage was worth it. I remembered Valley Forge as being the place where the Union camped for the winter of 1777-78, but it was so much more. General George Washington chose it because it was close enough to Philly to keep on eye on the British, but far enough away to “be safe.” It was spread over hills, with a main valley, so they were able to fortify their position. (They were never attacked.)
The living conditions were deplorable, and over 2,000 people died. They didn’t have enough warm clothing or food, and it was not sanitary. Disease was so rampant that Washington made them move across the road in the spring. He was there that winter, as was his wife Martha. They referenced a few other “camp followers” – families and slaves – who did the main cooking.
It is considered a turning point for the Union because a general from France, Von Baron, came and taught the Union how to fight. He had years of experience, and trained the men on how to fight hand to hand, and with heavy cannons and artillery. When spring came, they were ready to fight and won the battle of Yorktown. They finally had the confidence that Washington sought, and he’s quoted numerous times as saying that the winter made all the difference.
The visitor center was good, but not spectacular. They did have an interesting computer program that showed the “roll call” of who camped there in 1777-78, and there were 9 Watermans. I didn’t have time to look up other names because people were in line behind me! The gift shop was as big as the museum area. The movie was well done, so we were glad we’d persevered in finding the visitor center.
As we drove out of the park, we pulled into the beautiful Epsicopal Church. It had tons of stained glass, huge stone walls, a bell carillon to rival any large church, and a sweet sanctuary. The history of the building was described in detail through the flags and plaques on the walls. It was amazing! Love finding places like this. Wish we’d had more time. The bell below is a reproduction of the Liberty Bell – each state has one.