Thursday, 5 November 2009

Visiting Valley Forge, Part 1

On a recent business trip to Pennsylvania I headed toward Valley Forge NHP, seeing as I had a spare day I decided to allow the main part of the day walking and driving around the park.
Having seen photo’s of the “Valley Forge Huts” and having recently purchased two of the Grand Manner version of the huts (40mm models AMC40-04) I wanted to see them in the flesh for some painting inspiration.

The park is quite large probably on a scale of Saratoga which I visited some years ago, my first stop was the visitor centre (Stop 1) so I could get orientated and pick up a park guide, the visitor centre located near the park entrance has items on display, to be honest I felt a little disappointed as I thought we may a have seen a model of how Washington’s Valley Forge encampment may have been and what it looked like. After spending some time here and watching the film I set off to follow the road round the park stopping off at the various points identified on the tour map.

You never get to feel the lye of the land until you visit these places, to be honest I was surprised on how hilly and undulating the ground is, obviously the scene from “Revolution” although cinematic did not reflect the actual ground, in defence of this it did suggest how bare the land was and how it would have been when Washington’s Army marched into the area and stripped the land of materials to build the earth works and huts for the winter.

This caption was on one of the information panels which are dotted around Valley Forge.

Just 20 miles outside Philidelphia, Valley Forge was close enough to monitor the British Army activities but far enough away to prevent a surprise attack. Washingtom used this hilly country to his advantage, building defensive lines on ridges over looking Philidelphia to the east and nestling the camp against the Schuylkill River to prevent an attack from the north. From here he could protect the outlying regions, including York where the Continental Congress had fled. The area had abundant fresh water, trees for shelter and firewood, food and forage from local farms.

Stop 2, was the first set of huts located at where Mulhenberg's continental brigade of Virginia regiments formed part of the outer defenses and anchored the army. Here are the first of some of the recreated Valley Forge huts, on the day I visited there were some historical interpreters on hand to chat and answer questions, to the right of the position is redoubt no2, but on the old handout it is identified as “Ft Greene”. To the front of here are the reconstructed mounds with a field gun facing out towards the SE and Philadelphia.

I followed the road along to Stop 3, taking in the various markers of what and which brigade fell in along this outer line, behind the crest of the hill is what was the grand parade, the area is quite wooded and the ground commands the area towards where the British Army would have been, visiting in the fall made for a more pleasurable visit what with the varying tree colours.

Stop 3, this is the National Memorial Arch commemorating the American Soldier of the time, leaving here you head down hill to follow the road which rises up towards the position where the Pennsylvanian Regiments camped under the command of Anthony Wayne, stop 4 is the Wayne statue. This is the Southern outer defensive Line; again the hill falls away with the ground commanding what would have been a good view.

Leaving Stop 4 the roadway drops away towards Valley Creek and where General Knox commandeered quarters, Valley Creek runs between Mount Misery and Mount Joy, this deep ravine is a natural defensive feature, the roadway brings you out to where Washington had his headquarters at the “Isaac Potts House” Stop 5, this is right next to the Schuylkill River which was in the armies rear, the Schuylkill was crossed with a bridge constructed by General Sullivan as an escape route should the British attack, there was no way a surprise attack of any size would be reported on and seen.

The Isaac Potts house is a pleasant looking stone house, I have a fondness for historical buildings and this one is now one of my favorites, there was a park ranger here who conducted a tour and answered questions, the old Valley Forge rail station is where you should start off with first.

There is an information panel here that details the raid conducted by British Forces on September 18th 1777 when they swept through and raised the Forge, Saw Mill and Grist Mill to the ground; this was the only time there was any conflict in the area.

You leave the car park and head indirectly across the road following the winding road up Mount Joy and what was the inner defensive line, this natural feature when clear would command the area, heading down halfway you find the where redoubt No3 would have been and the remains of this and some of the inner line, there is an information panel here and another field gun marking this point.

The base of the hill opens up into the “Grand Parade” and the “Artillery Park” (Stop 8) where there are yellow barreled field guns! These look good from a distance but are very messy when viewed close up. Stop 9 is Varnums Quarter’s another old stone building, close by is a statue of Von Stueban who over look the Grand Parade, it was here in the June of 1778 that there was a grand review of Washington’s Army after it had had Stuebans simplified training in a new form of fighting in line.

Across the road from Stop 9 is redoubt No1, this was manned by Rhode Islanders, it was a star redoubt and I would expect it was quite a heavy fieldworks as it was there to guard the “Sullivan Bridge” spanning the Schuylkill River, all in all a pleasant time spent in a nice piece of countryside considering the urbanization of the area around Valley Forge NHP.


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