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Posts Tagged ‘American Revolution’

 

George Washington's Headguarters, Valley Forge

 

Almost every historical site we visit challenges something I thought I knew.  Mention Valley Forge, and I envision starving and freezing men in Washington’s army, dying in tattered rags during their winter encampment here.

Not so much.  Disease killed more men than cold or starvation.  And two-thirds of the men who died, did so during the warmer months of March, April and May.  That would be influenza, typhus, typhoid and dysentery.

I also thought of them as a pretty ragtag lot.  Nope, they’re a surprisingly skilled bunch of men.  Under brutal conditions, they built their own housing, foraged for food, constructed trenches, forts, patrolled and defended the camp and took care of each other. It’s reported that some of the sick and dying preferred to stay with their fellow soldiers rather than be moved to nearby hospitals.

It turns out one of the most significant things about the encampment at Valley Forge was that the army was whipped into shape by Baron Von Steuben, a former Prussian army officer.  Washington’s Continental Army didn’t just waste time here – they gained skill and confidence,  and became an army to contend with.

Thank you, boys.  We’re forever indebted.

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We walk into the theatre for the orientation film at the Visitor Center, and before it even starts I’m totally captivated and intrigued.  There is a regular projection screen on the right, but the rest of the place has the look of a theatrical stage, a tavern scene on the left, with real table, chairs, mugs, fireplace, etc. (and a door that will later reveal a filmed character narrator) dimly- lit painted scenes of a town and country-side on either side of us, parts of which will come to life (“one if by land, two if by sea” lanterns, etc.) and various windows, fences and other props that feature in the telling of the “shot heard round the world” and how the opening battle of the American Revolution came to pass.

In an opening talk, a National Park Ranger told us about how large groups of bored and rowdy school children visit frequently.  And become silent and enthralled as the lights dim and the story of this pivotal point in our nation’s history unfolds. I haven’t been bored or rowdy for awhile now, but it definitely had the same effect on me.

Then off to Lexington to see where the British first fired on the militiamen.

 

Lexington Village Green

Lexington Village Green

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And Buckman Tavern, where Lexington Militia met on April 19, before shots were fired on the village green and history changed forever.

 

Buckman Tavern, Lexington MA

Buckman Tavern, Lexington MA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Minute Man National Historical Park is very linear – marking important sites along the way.  We stopped to see  Hartwell Tavern, where people watched the British soldiers marched proudly by on their way to Concord, but returned, panicked and disorganized on their way back to Boston.

 

Hartwell Tavern on Battle Road

Hartwell Tavern on Battle Road

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Musket firing demonstration, Hartwell Tavern

Musket firing demonstration, Hartwell Tavern

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Then it’s off to literary heaven for me.  The Wayside, home of Louisa May Alcott (Little Women) and Nathaniel Hawthorne, and Margaret Sidney (Five Little Peppers books), among so many other famous residents and guests – so much literary, political and philosophical activity going on there, if the walls could talk we’d be deaf in a minute.

The Wayside, Home of Authors - Concord MA

The Wayside, Home of Authors - Concord MA

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