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Valley Forge National Park

Valley Forge National Park. Although the 1777–78 winter encampment at Valley Forge is a familiar metaphor for the sufferings of the Continental army during the Revolutionary War and a part of the nation's folklore, other winter ordeals were probably worse. Valley Forge's reputation for misery arose because Gen. George Washington, hoping for greater support, stressed the Continentals' sufferings there in his correspondence with Congress. However, during that same winter, the army made significant progress in discipline under Friedrick Wilhelm von Steuben's tutelage, and Nathanael Greene greatly improved its logistics system. In this sense, the encampment marked a turning point for the army; more broadly, its popular importance remains symbolic of endurance in adversity.

Pennsylvania created the Valley Forge State Park on 30 May 1893. It remained a state institution until the mid‐1970s, when individuals and citizens' groups, fearing deterioration, urged its transfer to the U.S. Park Service. This was accomplished when President Gerald Ford signed the legislation creating Valley Forge National Historical Park on 4 July 1976, emphasizing the site's mythic character by making it a focus for bicentennial observances. With the new focus on social history, Park Service interpreters now treat the site less as a shrine to democracy than as a venue for describing the daily life of Revolutionary‐era soldiers to the approximately 4 million people who visit the park annually.
[See also Revolutionary War: Military and Diplomatic Course.]

Bibliography

Lorett Treese , Valley Forge: Making and Remaking a National Symbol, 1995.

Thomas A. Thomas

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