September 5, 2007 8358 8:15 We are headed back into Pennsylvania today and of course as we hit the bridge there is a toll of $1200 for the RV and car. I just wanted to cross the river, not buy the bridge.
Our first stop today is the Valley Forge National Historic Site. We stop at the Visitor Center and watch the movie on the encampment at Valley Forge the winter of 1777-1778. Due to the size of the park there is a self guided driving tour and so we head back to the RV and head out on the tour.
If I were to mention Valley Forge your first thought would be of Washington and his troops enduring a bitter winter ill-clothed and ill-fed. This is true but in reality it was "suffering as usual". The winter was not the worse and the troops had to scrounge for food and clothing just as they had been doing for months.
But, to get a better understanding of the significance of Valley Forge we need to go back to an earlier time.
America had signed the Declaration of Independence but was still fighting the British for complete independence.
In December, George Washington had crossed the Delaware River into Trenton, NY in the dead of night defeating a Hessian Army of 3,500. The Continental Army then continued on and took Princeton and most of New Jersey back. In October of 1777 the Continental Army lost battles at Brandywine and Germantown and the British then burned Philadelphia, the nation's capital.
Washington began looking for a place to winter his troops that was close to Philadelphia, he chose Valley Forge. Valley Forge was only 20 miles northwest of Philadelphia, close enough to pressure the British and far enough to prevent a surprise attack.
The troops were not well supplied but their spirits were high. They entered the camp on December 19, 1777 and by December 21; the first log cabin was built. Within just a few weeks all the troops were housed inside a city of 2,000 plus huts, with fires but with little food or clothing. Many of the men were barefoot and without blankets or jackets.
It was disease, not the cold or starvation, that caused the most deaths in the camp. Nearly two-thirds of the 2,000 men who died were from disease in March, April and May after supplies were more abundant.
It was also during this time that Washington utilized the skills of a former Prussian army officer, Baron Friedrich Wilhelm Augustus von Steuben with a hand-on training program. Through his help within just a few months Washington's army was much better equipped, trained and ready to meet the enemy. The next battles had the British on the run and even though the war continued on for three more years the Continental Army was a force to be reckoned with.
We are off the main road again and heading off into the hinterlands. We are on a back state road in a beautiful hardwood forest. The road twists and winds through here but it is awesome.