DOINews: NPS-Valley Forge National Historical Park: Park Hosts Washington's Birthday Weekend Events

Last edited 09/05/2019

A reenactor portraying General Washington inspects his young volunteer troops.
A reenactor portraying General Washington inspects his young volunteer troops. Photo by NPS.

In the midst of several snow storms and ice storms unlike any the East Coast has seen in decades, Valley Forge National Historical Park hosted three commemorative events over the Washington's Birthday weekend that resulted in a perfect storm of celebration, education and inspiration.

On Feb. 14 and 15, the park co-hosted the 102nd consecutive annual Boy Scout Pilgrimage and Encampment at Valley Forge with the Scouts' Cradle of Liberty Council. Nearly seven hundred scouts applied what they learned about winter camping to create a community of tents snug in deep snow as their winter weekend residence.

Each troop had a large tent, or canopy, which served as camp kitchen and command center, while scouts slept in smaller tents cradled in straw and snow to weather the single digit wind chills. Hot oatmeal and hot chocolate fueled the scouts Saturday morning for the day ahead while beef stew and chicken with rice were among the dinner entrees prepared in camp at sunset.

On Saturday morning the scouts gathered for a pilgrimage opening ceremony honoring Capt. Light Horse Harry Lee of Washington's continental army and then hiked to eight learning stations around the park to learn about the history and significance of Valley Forge. The scouts learned from NPS staff, volunteers, and historical re-enactors about the colonial cavalry, the artillery and infantry of the Continental Army, the diversity of the continental troops, 18th century medical techniques, and about the women and children of the encampment, known as camp followers. Firing of muskets and canon were highlights of the day, the flash of black powder highlighted against the backdrop of snow covered fields.

On Sunday, the Second Pennsylvania Regiment hosted a historical reenactment for visitors and park neighbors at the Muhlenberg Brigade area, where soldier life was demonstrated on the training grounds and in the soldiers' and officers' huts. A ranger presentation focused on the legacy of General George Washington and the qualifications that earned him the assignment of commander-in chief by the Continental Congress. Interpretive ranger George Matlack summarized the general's challenges and successes through four phases of the Revolutionary War.

What better place to celebrate Presidents' Day on Monday, Feb. 17, than Valley Forge, and what better company to spend it with than George and Martha Washington? Children and their families dressed in colonial clothes, posed for pictures with the General and Mrs. Washington, joined in song and dance with the Colonial Revelers, crafted birthday cards and tri-corner hats, marched and drilled with wooden muskets, and cheered the teamwork of the troops with Martha and George Washington, “Hip, hip, huzzah.”

“Is it this fun every year?” a young mother asked as her children marveled at the general cutting his birthday cake with his ceremonial sword. Fun? Yes. Educational? Definitely. Inspirational? Without a doubt.

Today's young people gathered with iconic figures of American history on a historic landscape in climate conditions much like the encampment residents experienced in 1777. They celebrated with their families the contributions of national leaders and every day citizens to the founding of a nation. Scouts and soldiers, rangers and re-enactors, brought history alive at Valley Forge to honor the heritage of a country and its people.

Rhonda Buell Schier, chief of Interpretation and Education, Valley Forge NHP, NPS

Feb. 19, 2014

This story appears in the Feb. 19 edition of InsideNPS.

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