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Tea Party Winners: Carla Gade's winner is Becky Dempsey, Andrea Boeshaar's winner Caryl Kane, Gina Welborn's winner Jasmine A., Carrie Fancett Pagels' winners book copy -- Lynda Edwards, teacup and saucer -- Wendy Shoults

Friday, September 30, 2011

Tools of the Trade: On Site Research - Visiting Valley Forge


By: Laura Frantz

This past July I had the privilege of going on tour with The Providence Forum and experiencing historic Philadelphia. Since Valley Forge isn't far, we spent a day there, too. Growing up, my vision of Valley Forge was limited to this image of George Washington praying in the snow. Legend says that a Quaker was walking in the woods and found Washington on his knees. Since Quakers hold to truthfulness as one of their tenets, I tend to believe this did happen. George Washington was a Christian, not a deist, and America's winning of the Revolutionary War was no small miracle.



Washington and his troops stayed at Valley Forge during a very brutal winter. I was here on a scorching summer's day so it was hard to imagine the cold and suffering that took place in 1777-78. This is the actual place he walked, talked, and made critical decisions that affected the course of the war. But he refused to move into this sturdy house until all his men finished building the huts that housed them first. They numbered in the thousands.

Washington's bedchamber at Valley Forge.

Martha spent the winter here also, encouraging her husband and the aides and officers surrounding him, several of whom had their wives in residence. How they all fit into this small house is a mystery but it's said they wiled the winter away together trying to make merry and even danced!

Headquarters where Washington and his aides worked daily excepting
the Sabbath.  This is the room at the back of the house on the first floor.

A desk, quill, ink and other necessities of that busy winter.

The kitchen is reached through a breezeway and isn't connected to
the main house. Notice the little oven within the hearth itself,
sometimes called a beehive, for baking bread.

The officers' quarters upstairs. Everything is displayed as if the
officers had just stepped out of the room. So lifelike!

Officer's quarters, same bedchamber, another view.
Love the Revolutionary War uniforms!

 Officers' quarters, second bedchamber at the top of the stairs.

The front room downstairs, yet another place for
conducting the business of war.

Valley Forge, though a very famous historic spot, offers a lingering lesson for today. I found it so moving to hear that this was the very place Washington thought about giving up the fight and surrendering to the British. Several close friends, including a beloved pastor, advised the general to abandon a hopeless effort to win American freedom. Though no war was waged between soldiers at Valley Forge, a fierce inward struggle transpired here. It became a battle of doubt, discouragement, and near defeat. Washington trimuphed in the end but we'll never know what he suffered during his time here. I think about it often now when I'm tempted to give up or give in to something that's troubling me.


Can you name a historic spot that is moving to you or holds a lasting lesson for us today?

14 comments:

  1. Great post, Laura. Thanks so much for sharing this information and all the great pics!

    Because I live in Yorktown, not far from the battlefields, I am reminded daily of the lesson that God is in control and that much sacrifice is needed to keep us free. A sudden huge storm prevented Cornwallis from getting support from Gloucester, which is across the river (but not terribly wide.) And others (the French) came to our aid, including a very young Lafayette. Great inspiration for my colonial writing!

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  2. Carrie, As I was researching for The Colonel's Lady, I became amazed at how the Lord used the weather to help win that war:) That's one reason I created that foggy battlefield at book's end - it really did happen! Interesting that you're highlighting a favorite book about Valley Forge at Overcoming Through Time today. I can't wait to go over. BTW, Lafayette is a favorite of mine and not only General Washington's;) I've often thought Virginia would be the best place to live for colonial history, at least in my book!

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  3. What a wonderfully interesting post, Laura. I so loved the pics! Thank you for sharing them!

    I live a few minutes away from the Statehouse in Columbia where the holes can still be seen in the walls from artillery fire during the Civil War; when General Sherman's troops came through and burned down everything they could. The granite Statehouse survived and is still standing, as is the Confederate printing press building where the Confederate money was printed, and the building where the order to secede from the Union was signed is also standing. George Washington's statue is still standing just the way the union troops left it, with his sword broken off where a cannonball hit it. Thanks be to God that the whole statue wasn't destroyed.

    So much history here, and of course, I'm moved by all of it, because even though the South didn't win the war, many gave their lives to protect it, rebuild it, and make it what it is today.

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  4. Diana, So good to see you here! I'm soaking up the SC history - it's so rich and moving. Columbia is a treasure trove, I'm sure. Love reading what the specific sites mean to you. Shame on Sherman! He's such a villain. I've heard that Charleston is amazingly historic, too, as there was little money to rebuild after the war and so much of its history was preserved. Thank heavens for that!

    Beautiful ending to your comment above - I'm moved by your beautiful words. We'll never full know all that was sacrificed for us. You sum it up so well.

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  5. Charleston is such an amazing historical town; you're so right, Laura! I want to go there as soon as I get well, as it's been so long since I've been there. I'm am so looking forward to ML Tyndall's book Veil of Pearls, that takes place on a plantation in Charleston! My kind of setting to be sure!

    Hubby will be very interested in your post, Laura, which I will guide him to tonight after he gets off of work.:)

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  6. Oh Laura, I loved your pics! The house reminds me of a smaller-version of Mount Vernon, which was one of my favorite historical locations to visit. I could literally feel the difference in the spirit there than at Monticello. God was there, and abided with George Washington, I think.

    You MUST go to Charleston! It reminded me so much of Boston as far as the architecture and the time period in which it was "born!"

    Love to read your blogs, Laura - no matter WHERE they are! :) Miss you already!

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  7. Diana, Prayers with you for your health and that you get to Charleston soon!! Like you, I love MaryLu's books and think the cover for Veil of Pearls is a real keeper - plus the title is so intriguing:) Glad hubs is a history lover, too. I wish you could see how very small this Valley Forge house actually is. Only 2 rooms downstairs and 3 upstairs and then a small garret where tall officers were said to bump their heads. No wonder the kitchen isn't attached. No room! But it is so beautiful still - and remarkable that it's the very same house and not a replica. Sigh. I could move in tomorrow!!

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  8. Regina, I'll always remember your comments about visiting Monticello and Mt. Vernon - they meant so much to me at the time and still do. You are so very astute about the feeling of both places! It fits so beautifully with what we know of Jefferson's and Washington's character. One was ungodly and the other was devout. Jefferson had a brilliant mind but was morally so fallible. Washington had a terrible temper and other flaws but the Holy Spirit helped him master them.

    Love seeing you here, Regina. Wishing we could sit down for another meal together like in St. Lou!!

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  9. Laura, this post is not only informative, but beautiful with the great pictures, and inspiring as well. I enjoyed learning about the struggles that Washington went through as he made the important decisions that affected us all. No wonder he was on his knees, the struggle must have been spiritual as well.

    Thanks so much for this wonderful post. It must have been so much fun for you on that tour. We are so glad you shared it with us!

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  10. Carla, Thanks so much for taking time out of your busy deadline to stop and read this! I do think it was a hugely spiritual battle as ours always are. Washington's calls for prayer and fasting in the colonies certainly helped. Can you imagine a president or leader doing that today? The image of him on his knees is so key to what won that war - humility.

    I think the best part of writing - well, one of them - is research trips!!

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  11. Research trips to VA. are always a great idea, Laura!

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  12. Laura, love the post and the photos! They really bring home how crowded that house must have been! I agree with your comment about the weather. In my series I describe several terrible storms that arose at critical times during the Revolution to change the course of history--and I don't think they were coincidences. It's very moving to study Washington and all the struggles he went through, and yet how faithful he remained to the charge he was given. What an inspiration for us today!

    A place I visited a few years ago that still speaks to me is Washington's Crossing in PA, where the ragged rebel army crossed the frozen Delaware in a violent nor'easter, and then marched 9 miles to reach Trenton, leaving the bloody traces of their footprints in the snow. The descriptions of their suffering are beyond imagining, and the triumph God gave them encourages me immeasurably whenever I struggle with circumstances so much lighter than what they faced.

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  13. Joan, So glad you stopped by as I know this is some of your favorite history which is mirrored in your beautiful books! I'd love to see the crossing, too, and hope it's well marked. Those bloody footprints are so moving and a reminder to me that we have become so puny in this day and age, like you've mentioned, and haven't suffered the overwhelming hardships they did.

    Love the weather-related wins you speak of:) God really, really moved with the weather! On a lighter note (or a smellier one), I kept thinking while in that small stone house at Valley Forge, of all the bodies stuffed within, many unwashed and layered in a multitude of clothes. Thankfully, everything I've come across says Washington was fastidious about cleanliness and required it of his officers and men, etc. It's the only part of 18th-century culture I can't stomach - the poor hygiene. But I'd best save that for another post;)

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  14. Laura, what beautiful photos and a heartfelt post. I love visiting homes of that era, though my visits are few and far between. I woke up thinking of such homes this morning, as a matter of fact, with their particular smell in mind. Strange. Or not so strange, since I'm often "in" such a place in mind if not in body. Thanks for sharing some of your wonderful (and enviable!) trip to PA.

    I'm amazed at how small that house was. When I've read accounts of that winter I always picture it at least twice that big.

    And I second what others have said about Charleston. I was able to tour it, informally, with my cousin a few years back, who lives near there. Then he took us to a nearby archaeological dig going on at an early colonial site, and I even got to sift through the dirt with screens for bits of fired brick, old nails, pottery and pipe stems. Sigh. In another life I could have been an archaeologist.

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