Six years ago, our family took a Revolutionary tour of Valley Forge, Yorktown and Philadelphia. We learned many fascinating facts during our time there. I thought it would be appropriate this week to share parts of it with you. Our first stop was Independence Hall, where all our founding documents were deliberated and signed.
We learned Ben Franklin would stare at the back of John Hancock's chair (below) during their sessions, and wonder if the carved motif at the top was a setting or rising sun. After signing the Declaration of Independence, Franklin announced, "Now I know that it is a rising and not a setting sun!" Could we say God's light and blessing is shining down upon our country today?
Of course, we couldn't visit Philadelphia without the customary photo of the Liberty Bell.
Mt. Vernon! What words can encompass the essence of George and Martha Washington? God fearing, honest, humble, determined, loyal, hospitable; all those and more. Yes, I realize there is controversy surrounding our symbol of Independence., but what leader is blameless? He reflected the essence of our country's raison d'etre.
George was a surveyor, farmer, supreme military commander, and the first president of the United States. The people would have crowned him king. But he refused, and went home after his first term as president to be what he enjoyed most: a visionary farmer. "I hope someday or another, we shall become a storehouse and granary for the world." -George Washington to the Marquis de Lafayette, June 19th, 1788
The back porch of Mt. Vernon and view from it, looking across the Potomac River. The large tree below is the original from the time of Washington.
The wash house and kitchen area above. When the weather was inclement, the clothes would be hung on a frame called a horse, thus the term, "clothes horse".
We were not allowed to photograph the inside of their home, but, it was quite plain. The kelly green walls and trim in the dining room were a bit gaudy in my estimation, but popular back then. Green supposedly helped the digestive process.
Towards the end of his life, the practice of slavery troubled Washington, so on his deathbed, he wrote in his will to free them as soon as his wife died (two years later). Martha (formerly a widow with two children) was so devoted to George that the day he died, she locked their bedroom door, never to return.
Martha accompanied him all six winters during the war, helping where needed, and nursing the soldiers back to health. Her marble tomb rests beside Washington's with the inscription, "Martha Washington, consort of President George Washington. Consort means "spouse of a reigning monarch, a companion or partner." Verb form? To agree or harmonize. I like that!
It's extremely difficult to summarize all we've learned. But, two things are evident. We should not be celebrating the declaration of our independence on July 4th, 1776, but the victory at Yorktown on October 19th, 1781!
And secondly, two tactical naval blunders by the British, the timely arrival of the entire French fleet from the West Indies, and two inclement weather patterns which aided the Americans, all point to the providence of God. The decisive battle that turned the tide for America's Independence was the naval "Battle of the Capes", between the French and English. Not a single American was involved!
Yorktown...the decisive victory that brought about our Liberty!
The war of independence had been going on for seven years by this time, and moral was low. Washington knew something had to be done soon, or there would be mutiny. The British had captured New York and Charleston, and were now stationed at Yorktown, a perfect location for their troops and fleet. So, they had constructed "redoubts", earthwork barriers or fortifications on land, to protect themselves from enemy fire. These were overlooking the York River, to defend the town and waterways. The British never guessed the French fleet would come to America's rescue!
Washington had changed his tactics, and marched his men from NY towards Yorktown, eventually arriving a mile from the British redoubts which were near the shore. French and American troops both constructed a redoubt or mound of earth facing the British and waterways, under cover of darkness IN ONE NIGHT, without notice, because God had sent rain and fog to provide cover, soften the dirt, and muffle the sound...amazing! This provided protection, so days later, the French and Americans took British redoubts 9 and 10. In one night!!
Cornwallis and his army tried to escape across York River, but a storm destroyed their boats, allowing only 1,000 men to reach shore. Since the French fleet now controlled the waters, and realizing their predicament, the British surrendered, and the rest is history!
Here are a few photos from Valley Forge, known for the harsh winter the soldiers battled with little provisions, including shoes and coats. That's what I call perseverance. All soldiers need it to survive.
How about you? What part of American History are you drawn to? Which sites and museums have you visited? Let me know in the comments below . . .
And if you like what you see, please sign up for my newsletter for inspiration from Life, Literature and Travel. I promise not to bombard you with emails. Once or twice a month, plus weekly blogposts. Let's connect!
My MG Biblical fiction "The Heart Changer" debuted in 2019 with Ambassador International.