America's Best History Spotlight
On this page we're going to Spotlight the lesser known historic sites and attractions that dot the history landscape across the USA and are worth a visit if you're in their area. And while they may be lesser known, some are very unique, and will be that rare find. You'll be, at times, on the ground floor, or maybe even know something others don't. It'll be fun. Visit them.
Battle of Valley Forge, Pennsylvania
When you visit Valley Forge National Historical Park, rangers often begin their talks with one predominantly true fact, that the large park in suburban Philadelphia is not a battlefield. It's an encampment where the Continental Army and George Washington spent a bad winter. But what they will say, if pressed, is that a Battle did occur here prior to the camp, one that almost cost the United States a very important current fact and event celebrated historically and on Broadway. It almost cost America a musical. Oh, no!!!! Yes, at the Battle of Valley Forge, Alexander Hamilton almost did not make it. And although the Battle of Valley Forge is little known and not that big or important, it almost cost America sold out shows and a rebound for history, theater style. Let's find out how. Photo above: Village of Valley Forge with Schuylkill River in front, 1890. Courtesy Library of Congress. Although the 1777 footprint of the village was different, the approximate landing area where Hamilton was located and nearly shot during the battle can be seen.
Info, What's There Now, History Nearby
Battle of Valley Forge
The British had sailed down to the Chesapeake Bay and were attempting to take Philadelphia from the south. They had won the Battle of Brandywine and were winning the Battle of the Clouds ten miles west of Valley Forge when a tropical storm hit, dispersing both forces. George Washington had moved his main force west to the forges of Warwick and Reading, but left one quarter of his troops under General Wayne near Paoli. The British under General Howe were camped three miles south of Valley Forge. That location, Valley Forge, is where a Continental Army magazine, a military storehouse for munitions and grain, had been commanded to be built in the summer of 1777, prior to the British move. Stored there by these September battles were four thousand barrels of wheat and flour, plus iron equipment such as axes, shovels, horse shoes, and more.
The British thought the forge and supplies had been completely abandoned. Washington thought it a good idea if he sent someone there to gather the supplies and transport them west toward his position where they would be safe. If they could not transport them, they were to be destroyed. General Washington chose two of his trusted commanders and aides, Captain Harry Lighthorse Lee and Lt. Colonel Alexander Hamilton to travel to Valley Forge and gather the important food and munitions. They would each have eight men with them. On September 18, 1777, both arrived at Valley Forge. The British had the same idea.
Photo above: Alexander Hamilton, 1915, John Trumbull. Courtesy Library of Congress.
Where Is It
The Battle of Valley Forge in what is now Valley Forge National Historical Park was combated near the headquarters where Washington would stay the winter from December 1777 to the next June. A small village of buildings were there at the time, including a landing on the Schulykill River, the forge itself, and the military storehouse four hundred yards south of the landing. Valley Forge Historical Park is located about twenty miles west of Philadelphia.
What is There Now
The site of the forge is there, but most of the period buildings of the village and the magazine at the time of the Battle of Valley Forge are gone. Washington's headquarters, a period building itself, and some other structures, plus the important Valley Creek and Schuylkill River are there. The site of the village surrounds the headquarters area on both sides of Valley Creek, as well as on the opposite side of Route 23, a historic road, where the current Horseshoe Trail begins. Valley Forge Historical Park is a thirty-five hundred acre park which celebrates the subsequent winter encampment in the winter to spring of 1777 and 1778.
When is Valley Forge open and How Much to Visit?
The national park is open year round, with facilities closed on several major holidays. The site of the Battle of Valley Forge is open every day to explore, although access to the river landing area which played an important part has now been breached by the railroad and not accessible to the public. The park is free to visit.
Prices subject to change without notice.
Valley Forge National Historical Park
The attractions of the Philadelphia Campaign of the American Revolution, including Valley Forge, span all compass points around Philadelphia. They include many historic sites that don't get as much notice, but should, about the American Revolution itself. These include the battlefields of Brandywine, Battle of the Clouds, the Paoli Massacre, Camp Pottsgrove, Battle of Germantown, Fort Mifflin, Red Bank, and the Battle of Whitemarsh.