Road Trip from Philadelphia - Exploring Valley Forge
Where did 12,000 U.S. soldiers make camp when the British occupied Philadelphia? Valley Forge National Park showcases how George Washington’s army transformed forests and fields to become a small city in the dead of winter. The best way to explore Valley Forge National Park is to do a self-guided driving tour. But, make sure to pick up a map at the visitor’s center, so you don't miss anything.
Explore Valley Forge
Valley Forge was a great strategic position for General George Washington. He could keep an eye out toward Philadelphia and know exactly when the British would arrive. Even with all of the preparation, the British attack never came.
These log cabins are representative of the army huts that the soldiers stayed in during the winter of 1777-78. These huts are at the site of General Muhlenberg’s brigade which was a part of the outer line defenses. You can catch a glimpse of how the soldier’s lived and where they worked. There is a redoubt a short walk from the huts. And before you ask, a redoubt is a fortification of earth used to keep an eye out for intruders.
There are plenty more stops along this drive around the encampment that I did not stop at. Most of these were statues and memorials to the soldiers’ perseverance through that harsh winter. Since Kayla and I were driving back to Michigan from Philly, we wanted to make this stop a quick one. I did stop at Washington’s Headquarters, though. This was my favorite part of the National Park. I spent some time walking around the headquarters and the guard huts. These cabins seemed more realistic, set up against the trees.
George Washington’s Headquarters is a decent size stone house that George and Martha stayed in with several of his officers. You can imagine George’s and his officer’s tables covered with maps showing troop movements and war strategies. Walking through the house, you can visualize it filled with soldiers trying to figure out how to win the war and try to stay warm by the fireplaces.
Upstairs you can see the rooms where George and Martha slept and the officers’ rooms as well. The canopy beds seem so formal during wartime but, I’m sure it was a nice sense of normality for the Washington’s. And definitely, a far cry from the huts the soldiers stayed in outside.
The kitchen is typical during this period. I can see the cook having to run back and forth from the kitchen to the offices working in the study frequently during the day. Good thing the kitchen is directly attached to the house on the same floor. I also love how they try to hide the kitchen fireplace on the side of the house.
Valley Forge National Park is a half-hour away from Philadelphia. I would budget a couple of hours here to see everything. If you want to participate in the tours or go on the trails, budget at least a half-day. The ranger programs also deliver expert knowledge of the Revolutionary War soldiers that suffered the hardships during the winter of 1777-78.
Now, if you have plans to visit all the National Parks as I do someday, Valley Forge is a quick one to check off your list. It is also less than two hours to Gettysburg. You can experience over 100 years in one day. Not too shabby for a historical road trip that encompasses the Revolutionary and Civil War!
Have you been to Valley Forge National Park? What was your favorite part of the encampment?