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Save Our History: Valley Forge
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Of all places associated with the Revolutionary War perhaps none is more revered than Valley Forge Pennsylvania. For it was here over two centuries ago that America faced its darkest hour and its greatest challenge. Yet no military battles were fought here. During the winter of 1777-78 thousands of soldiers died in the snowy encampment. Today more than 4-million people visit the Valley Forge National Historical Park. We examine the archaeological excavations and building preservation.
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There's an analogy of comparing Valley Forge as the darkest time for the American Revolution and tying that into our own lives. It could have done more on the History end but it was somewhat good overall.
OVERALL GRADE: B minus.
Valley Forge is where the American Dream of freedom almost died; instead, it was rekindled and went on to victory over England five years later at Yorktown.
Prior to marching into Valley Forge, the Continental Army had lost two important battles (Brandywine and Germantown), and the troops were dispirited. The cold, poor food, and their worn-out clothing didn't help. Washington, however, was an inspirational leader - one of his first acts was to put his men to making shelters (1,000 huts, with 12 men each), and then inviting representatives of the Continental Congress to see the troops' plight (eg. sentries without shoes, men thin as rails).
Washington's pleas brought help, and monies became available, though still quite limited. Sanitation was a major concern, and disease was abetted by the limited food. (An estimated 2,000 men died that winter.) Martha Washington joined her husband and spent her days with the sick.
Another major problem was that Washington's army was that in name only - basically a collection of state militias that lacked common commands or fighting skills. Luckily, Benjamin Franklin had met Baron von Steuben from Frederick the Great's staff. He arrived at Valley Forge in Feb., 1978, asked to review the troops, and convinced Washington of his value through Steuben's subsequent observations. Washington appointed von Steuben a general and put him in charge of training. Von Steuben proceeded to build both morale and fighting skills.
Not until the 1820s did Americans show interest in the Valley Forge site. In 1977, administration was transferred to the National Park Service. Archeology efforts continue on the site.