Saturday, October 22, 2011

Valley Forge - a reminder

kw: history, historic sites

Valley Forge is less than an hour up the road. We visited today with several friends, a group of 14 all told. Most were not born in this country, so we did a lot of explaining about what the Continental Army was doing here in the winter of 1777-8, and why July 4, 1776 had been the beginning, not the end, of the war for independence.

The highlight for me was visiting the headquarters building that George Washington used over that winter. It is the building in the right half of the panorama below. Though he and a few officers were better housed than the soldiers under their command, the quarters were cramped and quite spartan. We have heard much of the sufferings of the soldiers at Valley Forge. Most of them were poorly supplied by their home colonies (not yet states), and subsisted by raiding supply trains meant for the British. Though no pitched battle was waged here, there were continual skirmishes all winter long, some triggered by supply raids, and others just probing of defenses. The army was actually fortunate that the winter was comparatively moderate, not the norm for the "Little Ice Age" that was just beginning to loose its grip but lasted until the 1840s.

An equally moving, but sadder view was the arch erected in 1901 to honor the men who suffered here.

This plaque inside the arch is particularly poignant, because the liberties for which these men fought are being eroded daily under the present administration. Will the coming generation look upon this plaque with reverence, awe and gratitude for the freedoms so sorely gained, or with puzzlement and incomprehension? For those who have trouble reading the photo:

And here in this place of sacrifice
In this vale of humiliation
In this valley of the shadow of that death
Out of which the life of America rose regenerate and free
Let us believe with an abiding faith
That to them Union will seem as dear
And Liberty as sweet and progress as glorious
As they were to our fathers
And are to you and me
And that the institutions which have made us happy
Preserved by the virtue of our children
Shall bless the remotest generation
Of the time to come [Henry Arnett Brown]

To which I say, "Amen!"

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