We spent some serious time this fall chasing ourselves around the northeast. From Michigan to New Jersey to Pennsylvania to North Carolina to Michigan and finally returning to Florida for the winter.
Family needs beckoned so we met the needs.
But along the way and in between, we managed to reacquaint ourselves with America’s unbeatable parks – specifically Valley Forge and Gettysburg. We’re big history buffs so these parks were delightful.
And very educational. Washington’s beleaguered army suffered as much from an incompetent general assigned to the logistics challenge of supplies as he did from the weather conditions. In late winter, he replaced that general with one who saw the responsibility as an honor – and within a month the troops were well supplied and getting stronger.
The training during that Valley Forge winter by the German Baron von Stueben made all the difference in the Continental Army eventually defeating the Brits and their Hessian colleagues.
If it weren’t for the generous, sacrificial assistance from so many foreigners – like Stueben and Lafayette – it is likely Washington’s army would have suffered defeat. Our currency would be pounds, not dollars. And our allegiance would be to a queen, not to the bureaucrats in D.C. (Ugh – hate to think our diets would mirror those of Great Britain!)
On the Gettysburg battlefields, it becomes crystal clear that the pre-ordained defeat of southern forces was sealed at the horrible decision to make Pickett’s charge. It was a hopeless undertaking – and the gray coats almost pulled it off. But in the end, they did not stand a chance. It was a slaughter, and not only was Gettysburg lost that day, but the whole southern cause went down to defeat as well.
The war’s best general, Robert E. Lee, lost the entire war with this single bad decision. He regretted it till his dying day.
Our hearts sang as we toured these parks, read the materials, viewed the buildings, the sights, the towns, the battlefields and the monuments. Talk about being rejuvenated.
We left with plenty of reasons to return. The Gettysburg National Military Park has a superb cyclorama presentation that we did not have time for. And we’d like to spend another day or two exploring the major battlefields in more detail. We’re also thinking that Valley Forge in the winter would be a wonderful experience if there is plenty of snow. Standing inside the rebuilt cabins that housed many of the troops would reveal their discomfort in 2o degree weather on a very personal level.
This is also beautiful countryside, skirting Amish communities, rolling hills and – on our visit – harvested fields. The obvious bounty this part of Pennsylvania produces so close to major metropolitan areas is a wonder in itself.
If history resonates at all, spending the better part of a week at these two parks would prove very rewarding. Even more so if camping out in a fifth wheel or an RV.
The parks still call. Stronger than ever.
Here’s a short video of our visit to Valley Forge and Gettysburg: