One of the best preserved sites from the American Revolution is located practically in my backyard at Valley Forge. Much like the Gettysburg battlefield, which is my stomping grounds, the Valley Forge National Historic Park comprises 3,500 acres of picturesque, rolling hills.

When I visited during the summer months, the landscape was so green and peaceful, it was hard to imagine that General George Washington forged his Continental Army into a fighting force during the winter encampment there in December of  1777 to June 1778.

Although I categorized this post under “Battlefields,” no battles were actually fought on the grounds. Nonetheless, some 2,000 soldiers died here. To put that into perspective, that is more Americans than were killed at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown combined. The enemies the soldiers faced were hunger, disease, and an unusually brutal winter.

Today at the Park, Washington’s original stone headquarters is restored and furnished, and log soldier huts have been reconstructed.

valley forge soldiers cabins

The stone house pictured at the top of this post is where Washington located his headquarters in the village of Valley Forge. The General and his military staff worked and lived in the house throughout the winter, making it the Pentagon of its time.

Mrs. Washington also joined him there for several months of the winter encampment. (Their marriage is quite a love story). According to reports, up to 25 people resided or worked there at one time.

The house looks bigger on the inside than it does on the outside, but would still be crowded with that many people! The small, attached building to the left is the kitchen, built somewhat away from the main building in case of fire.

The first floor has basically two rooms besides the kitchen. One was set up as an office, and the other was not open, but would probably be a parlor or dining room.

office at valley forge

Upstairs there were three bedrooms, with another floor above that for additional sleeping space. The rooms were laid out as they assume they might have been, but there are no records from the original home to tell exactly what was located where.

valley forge office

Crowded as it was, I would imagine it was still more comfortable than the huts that the men slept in.

The house itself is believed to have been constructed in 1773 for Isaac Potts, operator of the family grist mill, although some sources place the construction date as early as 1759. In 1777-78 the property was owned by Isaac but rented to his aunt, the widow Deborah Hewes, who sublet it to Washington.

Valley Forge was actually named for an iron forge on Valley Creek that was burned by the British in September of 1777.

The area was chosen because it was close enough to the British to keep their raiding and foraging parties out of the interior of Pennsylvania, yet far enough away to halt the threat of British surprise attacks.

The densely forested plateau of Mount Joy and the adjoining two-mile long plateau of Mount Misery combined with the Schuylkill River to the north, made the area easily defensible. It also provided abundant forests of timber that would later be used to construct the thousands of log huts in the camp.

It’s hard to picture the snow and freezing temperatures the soldiers endured during that winter. Only about one in three of the soldiers had shoes, and many of their feet left bloody footprints from marching.

As you can see from the picture, the huts provided some shelter, but certainly didn’t offer much in the way of comfort.

valley forge soldiers quarters

My absolute favorite statue at Valley Forge is that of General Anthony Wayne, sometimes known as Mad Anthony for his quick temper. He is seated on horseback, and is staring toward his home, not far away, in Paoli.

mad anthony wayne

Valley Forge is a wonderful place to walk, ride bikes or just take a drive through the scenic landscape while soaking up history and learning about those who built this nation through their unyielding courage and sacrifice.

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