Valley Forge National Historical Park

Audio Available:

Quick Overview

This is the audio-only described version of Valley Forge National Historical Park’s official brochure. Measuring 16 and a half inches by 23 and a half inches, the park’s print brochure helps introduce and orient visitors to the park. The front side contains a large illustrated drawing of what a snapshot of a day in the life of the encampment could look like. Below that is text explaining both the general background of the encampment and what happened to the land afterward. 

The back side contains the park map to show the various points of interest and boundaries of Valley Forge National Historical Park. Above the map are detailed images of the various tour stops along the Encampment Tour highlighted on the park map. 

Below the map, the brochure shares how the National Park Service with help from visitors preserves the landscape as well as how visitors can plan their visit.

↑ back to top

Illustration: 1777-78 Winter Encampment

Illustration:  1777-78 Winter Encampment section image

Illustration caption: On December 19, 1777, 12,000 soldiers and 400 women and children marched into Valley Forge and began to build what would become the fourth largest city in America, with 1,500 log huts and two miles of fortifications. Lasting six months, the encampment was as diverse as any city, with people who were free and enslaved, wealthy and impoverished, speakers of several languages, and followers of several religions.

Illustration description: Covering three-quarters of the front of the park brochure, this colorfully illustrated drawing captures the daily life of the encampment at Valley Forge National Historical Park. This enormous scene captures the layout of the encampment with defensive walls and cannon platforms. Two groups of log huts, each hut 16 feet by 12 feet, are divided by muddy company roads, rutted out by wagon tracks that grids the encampment. Traces of snow can be found in pockets that have yet to be trounced over. A large bake oven dug out from the ground serves as a kitchen.

Soldiers are kept busy mending the defenses, cooking, loading barrels on an oxen-pulled cart, chopping wood, fixing huts, and standing guard.

The scene also captures the stark diversity of those who were at the encampment. Men depicted as White, African-American, and American Indian soldiers work together. Women, serving as camp followers also work. They carry buckets, cook, and do laundry.

Along with the diversity of the people, the artist reflects the diversity in the apparel soldiers and civilians wore. In the foreground, a soldier wears the standard continental uniform with the black tri-corner hat, blue coat with red facings, white trousers, and black shoes. Soldiers wore what they could, which the artist shows with the various colored frock coats, hats, breeches, and shoes. The American Indian depicted soldier wears a red blanket over his clothing. The women wear white mop caps and different color dresses.

In the top right, soldiers lining up in formation show the drilling and instruction that went on at Valley Forge for the Continental Army to be a well-trained, disciplined fighting force.

Illustration credit: NPS / Keith Rocco

↑ back to top

Valley Forge: A Brief History

Quotation: “We were determined to persevere.” Private Joseph Plumb Martin, shown in the illustration with his journal, wrote these words exemplifying the resolve of the Continental Army.  In this third winter of the eight-year American Revolutionary War, soldiers continued to face hunger, sickness, and hardship.  Their tenacity and triumph in the face of this adversity forms the inspiring story of Valley Forge.

In late 1777, the British occupied the patriot capital of Philadelphia.  The Continental Congress fled to York, Pennsylvania, leaving General George Washington,  leader of the new country's army, to keep alive the hope of independence. Washington decided to have his troops winter at Valley Forge, a day's march from Philadelphia. They could train and recoup from the years battles while winter weather, impassable roads, and scant supplies stopped the fighting. Even when Congress was in the capital, the leaders had difficulty supporting the war effort. They were unable to fully supply the army, which had been plagued by inadequate food, clothing, and equipment since war broke out. Conditions reached their worst at Valley Forge. As Private Martin wrote, “We are now in a truly forlorn condition, no clothing, no provision and as disheartened as can be.” Concentrating the soldiers in one vast camp made sense strategically because they could protect the countryside and be better able to resist a British attack. But it became costly when diseases like influenza and typhoid spread through the camp. Disease killed nearly 2,000 people during the encampment. As tenacious as his men, Washington inspired them through his own resilience and sense of duty. He persuaded Congress to reform the supply system and end the crippling shortages. He attracted experienced officers to the cause, including former Prussian officer Baron von Steuben, who was given the job of training the troops. Von Steuben taught the soldiers new military skills and to fight as a more unified army. These reforms in supply systems and fighting tactics, along with reforms in military hygiene and army organization, became the foundation of the modern United States Army. In May, word came to General Washington that the long-sought alliance with France was secured. The British soon evacuated Philadelphia and headed north to defend their stronghold in New York City. On June 19, 1778, Washington's troops marched out in pursuit. The Continental Army departed camp as a unified army capable of defeating the British and winning American independence. The war would last five more years, but Valley Forge was a key turning point. Private Martin explained why: “We had engaged in the defense of our injured country and were willing, nay, we were determined to persevere.”

↑ back to top

Why Valley Forge?

Map caption: Why Valley Forge? It was near the patriot capital of Philadelphia, which was occupied by the British that winter, but far enough away to be safe from surprise attack. The terrain formed a triangle of defense, which the army strengthened by constructing defensive lines. In the end, the British did not attack. 

Map description: The Valley Forge encampment terrain map shows the location of units and defensive lines during the encampment. The map covers a three-mile wide and two-mile long area and is oriented with North pointing up. The map outlines the encampment that was set up around and to the east of The Valley Forge. Historic roads running through the encampment include Gulph Road coming from the bottom right up towards the center. Landscape features are presented, like the Schuylkill River curving down from the top left and then curving across the top cutting east through the landscape. Valley Creek flows north to south from the Schuylkill River past The Valley Forge. Washington's Headquarters is in the northwestern portion of the map near the meeting of Valley Creek and Schuylkill River.

Two lines of defense, labeled as the Outer Line Defenses, show the defensive strategy and are drawn on either side of Gulph Road within the southeastern portion of the map and park. These defensive lines are presented at a diagonal, running southeasterly. The units of Generals Muhlenberg, Weedon, Patterson, Learned, Glover, and Poor are encamped on the northern outer line above Gulph Road. General Wayne, the 1st and 2nd Pennsylvania regiments, and General Scott are encamped on the south side of Gulph Road.

West of the Outer Line Defenses and running north to south are the Inner Line Defenses, currently separated by an unnamed road. The furthest points north are protected by Redoubts One and Four. Redoubt Three is in the middle of the southern Inner Line Defenses. The units of Generals Woodford, Maxell, Conway, and Huntington are encamped along the Inner Line Defenses.

Map credit: NPS

↑ back to top

Out of Many, One (E Pluribus Unum)

Text: The new country did not have a standing army when the revolution began, so General Washington had to organize one while fighting the war itself. Part of his challenge was to shift soldiers’ allegiance from their home states to the United States. Another challenge was to train the entire army to use the same fighting tactics, which allowed the officers to organize a more unified fighting force. 

The intertwined letters of the uniform button symbolize these transformations, as does the motto "Out of Many, One.” In 1776, American leaders started thinking about using its Latin translation, E pluribus unum, as the new country's motto. It still appears on the Great Seal of the United States, and remains a motto worthy of soldiers’ perseverance at Valley Forge.

Photo description: A worn lead round button has the raised letters U S A interwoven together in the center. The edge around the button face has a ribbed pattern.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

Recovery and Honor

After the winter encampment, General Jedediah Huntington called the valley “a starved country.” 

The encampment left behind a ruined land. Soldiers had cleared forests from many miles around for wood to construct their huts and to build fires for warmth and cooking. They also had requisitioned farm animals and supplies from local farmers, leaving some families with little food for themselves or to sell. Winter's constant rains and the activity of thousands of people turned the fields into deep mud. The fields were so spoiled that no crops could be planted that summer. Soon after the army left, farmers quickly dismantled the huts and reclaimed the wood. They also plowed down most of the defensive earthworks that soldiers had so laboriously built. By the next summer, farmers were growing crops again where the encampment had once stood. General Washington returned to the site in 1787. A farmer himself, he noted with pleasure that agriculture had recovered from the occupation. A century later, citizens began the continuing work of preserving the land where the encampment had stood. The commemorative landscape you see today embodies the peace that the Continental Army earned for us, and honors their sacrifice and triumph at Valley Forge.

↑ back to top

President Ford's Reflections of Valley Forge

Side two of the print brochure begins with the following quotation: "Grateful Americans will come to this shrine of quiet valor; this forge of our Republic's iron core." President Gerald R. Ford at Valley Forge, July 4, 1976.
↑ back to top

Explore Valley Forge and the Self-Guiding Encampment Tour

Across the entire top of side two of the brochure are ten color photographs with associated text of a self-guided tour. Each tour stop text and photo description are presented under their own heading starting with the first photo and tour stop on the left of the brochure and then going to the right. Underneath these photos and text is a large map that indicates where each stop is. This map is also described in more detail under its own heading. 

↑ back to top

1. Visitor Center

Text: Begin at the Valley Forge Visitor Center to view exhibits and a film, and to visit the store, which has books, souvenirs, and snacks. Open daily except Thanksgiving Day, December 25, and January 1.

Photo description: Through golden fall leaves, in the distance sits the Valley Forge Visitor Center. The park’s name and the National Park Service Arrowhead are presented on a red background across the top of the building’s entrance. Below the sign, the shape of the entrance area is in the form of a “V.” The Visitor Center looks like it has been dug out of the small grassy hill. Two brick facings or curved walls flank the depressed bowl-like entrance. A concrete walkway starts in the center of the image and weaves away towards the top right corner of the photo. Small bushes dot the two planting areas between the path leading up to the entrance. An asphalt road cuts the scene in two, running parallel to the sidewalk.

Photo caption: Visitor Center

Photo credit: NPS / Rhonda Schier

↑ back to top

2. Muhlenberg Brigade

Text: Reconstructed army huts on the site of General Muhlenberg's brigade provide glimpses into soldiers’ lives. A nearby redoubt (a type of defensive earthwork) highlights the importance of camp security.

Photo Description: This stylized photograph looks like a painting of Continental Soldiers in front of two snow-capped, log huts during the winter. A senior officer in a blue cloak and large black hat looks over a line of six enlisted soldiers clothed in various light and dark uniform coats with their muskets held against their left shoulders. Two junior officers in black cloaks stand between the senior officer and line of soldiers. The snow has been cleared and piled behind the soldiers exposing bare dirt ground.

Photo caption: Muhlenberg Brigade

Photo credit: The Friends of Valley Forge Park / MJ Ticcino

↑ back to top

3. National Memorial Arch

Text: Dedicated in 1917, the National Memorial Arch honors the soldiers’ perseverance and expresses hope for future generations. Take time to read the inscriptions and contemplate the classical symbols...

Photo description: On a slight hill blanketed with fall-colored leaves, the National Memorial Arch stands in the center behind some trees and branches that frame either side and the forefront of the photo. This memorial is modeled after the Triumphal Arch of Titus in Rome. It is a massive angular granite block structure with an arch-shaped opening in the center. The sun helps to brighten up the light granite stone. Several decorative details include rounded columns on either side of the arch’s opening and trim that wraps around the bottom and lower parts of each side of the arch as well as above the arched opening and at the very top of the structure. A light blue sky provides a backdrop along with a grove of fall-colored trees behind the arch.

Photo caption: National Memorial Arch

Photo credit: The Friends of Valley Forge Park / MJ Ticcino

↑ back to top

4. Wayne Statue

Text: This statue stands near the site of a camp of Pennsylvania soldiers who were commanded by General Anthony Wayne. The general seems to look toward his home, Waynesboro, five miles away.

Photo description: This bronze equestrian statue of General Anthony Wayne sits high on a pedestal of layered, cream-colored granite blocks. The 20-foot tall monument shines in the sun with the tree line just behind it providing a backdrop of green from the leaves. The greenish, worn statue has the general facing to the southwest as the horse faces southeast standing tall. 

Photo caption: National Memorial Arch

Photo credit:  Fen Tamulonis

↑ back to top

5. Washington's Headquarters and Office

Text: Begin at the 1911 Valley Forge Station to view exhibits about the headquarters and Washington's leadership. Then visit the original stone house that served as residence and office for Washington and his staff. Stroll around the grounds to see displays about the old iron-works and Washington's guard, and an impressive statue of the general himself.

Photo description: This description is of two photos. The left one captures the asymmetrical exterior of the house, which is built from field stones. The house has two stories with a large attic and white-painted wood trim around the door and windows. A brick chimney peeks out from behind the far side of the house. Three stone steps lead to the opening where the front door is. There is an overhang above it. There are two windows next to the door on the first floor of this side of the house. Each window has multiple panes and white, open shutters. Above the windows and door on the second floor are three multiple-paned windows without shutters.

The second photo captures a portion of a desk and chair in the office Washington and his aides used inside the house. The green cloth on top of the desk is covered with assorted ink wells and quill pens, parchment paper, and a book. Sun from a multi-paned window filters through and creates a pattern on the tablecloth.

Photo caption: Washington's Headquarters and office

Photo credit: NPS / C. Duckworth

↑ back to top

6. Redoubt 3

Text: As you drive to Redoubt 3, look for trenches built for defense on the left of Inner Line Drive. The redoubt anchored the south end of the inner, or second, line of defense.

Photo description: This winter scene shows a lone soldier in a black tri-cornered hat with white trim and a white blanket wrapped around him. He stands in the snow between two cannons looking out as the ground starts to slope down. Bare trees stand in the distance masking the sky.

Photo caption: Redoubt 3

Photo credit: The Friends of Valley Forge Park / MJ Ticcino

↑ back to top

7. Artillery Park

Text: General Henry Knox kept most of the cannon here so they could be moved quickly to any threatened area of the encampment. Artillery repair shops were located here too.

Photo description: Two rows of cannons are centered in this winter landscape. Three cannons are seen in the front row and in the distant back row. Snow covers the ground around the brass cannons on blue carriages. The open, brown meadow is visible behind the cannons with a tree line left with bare branches in the distance. A light blue sky covers the scene.

Photo caption: Artillery Park

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

8. Varnum's Quarters

Text: General James Varnum shared this house with its owners during part of the encampment. His brigade included many African American soldiers, both free and enslaved.

Photo description: This simple symmetrical field stone, two-story house stands in the center of this landscape photo on green grass. A simple, small shingle overhang divides the first and second floors while providing cover over the front door. There is a window on either side of the door. When facing the house, the window to the right is larger than the one to the left. The same sized windows are placed exactly above on the second floor. The wood-painted trim on the door and windows is medium beige. The roof has a high pitch. Barely seen through overhanging trees with green foliage on either side of the house are two brick chimneys at each end of the house. A short stone wall runs across the front of the house dividing the grass on either side.

Photo caption: Varnum's Quarters

Photo credit: NPS / Jeff Oates


↑ back to top

9. Washington Memorial Chapel

Text: This chapel, an active Episcopal parish, honors soldiers of the American Revolution. The Chapel Cabin Shop behind the church sells souvenirs and serves lunch.

Photo description: The large chapel made of beige stone dominates this photo. The chapel fills the left and center portions of the photo. The front of the chapel is in the shape of a rectangular base with a triangular top. White-trimmed large, double stained-glass windows are visible on the front face of the chapel. Similar, but smaller single stained-glass windows can be seen lining the right side of the chapel. Towering to the left of the chapel on the right-hand side of the photo is the chapel’s tall and rectangular carillon bell tower. It is topped off with an American flag. The heavy blue sky capping the scene is streaked with light, white clouds.

Photo caption: Washington Memorial Chapel

Photo credit: Michelle Alton

↑ back to top

Map: Valley Forge National Historical Park

Map description: This map shows the entire thirty-five hundred acre park with roads, trails, unpaved roads, railroad tracks, picnic areas, restrooms (which are wheelchair accessible), food service locations, and other wheelchair accessible areas. The orientation has North at the top. The park is an uneven rectangular shape with housing surrounding it. The park Visitor Center on the east end of the park sits near the intersection of P.A. 23/Valley Forge Park Road and North Gulph Road. From here a blue colored route highlights the encampment tour, which is located in most of the southern half of the park. The previous numbered images correspond to stops along the encampment route.

Tour stop one is the Visitor Center. The route then travels southwest along North Outer Line Drive past tour stop number two and the Muhlenberg Brigade huts. Crossing Gulph Road, the tour loops on South Outer Line Drive past tour stop three and the National Memorial Arch. Text on the map notes that “Washington’s troops arrived December 19, 1777, over Gulph Road from Gulph Mills, southeast of Valley Forge.

Continuing on the tour route, the road makes a right bend and starts an incline past Wayne's Woods picnic area and restrooms up to the Wayne Statue, stop number 4. The road then bends again and curves its way to meet with Valley Creek Road / P.A. 252.

Passing Knox's Quarters and Knox's parking lot and trailhead to the south, Valley Creek Road / P.A. 252 turns north and winds between areas identified as Mount Joy and Mount Misery, which parallel Valley Creek. After a mile, the road meets a T-junction with Valley Forge Park Road, P.A 23. The route continues east on P.A. 23. After traveling for a quarter mile, a left turn onto River Road takes you towards Washington’s Headquarters. There, you will find a parking lot and trail to the Valley Forge Train Station (wheelchair accessible) and Washington’s Headquarters (not wheelchair accessible). Restrooms are also available in this area.

Follow River Road back to Valley Forge Park Road / P.A. 23 to pick up the tour route, which will bear right and onto West Inner Line Drive, heading south. The drive takes you through Mount Joy again and past tour stop 6, Redoubt number 3 as well as Artillery Park, stop 7 where restrooms are available. The inner line road loops back north and up to Valley Forge Park Road / P.A. 23 meeting at the parking lot for tour stop 8, Varnum’s Quarters, and the Von Steuben statue.

Making a right back on Valley Forge Park Road / P.A. 23, head east back towards the Visitor Center. Just after making the turn, Varnum's Picnic area and restrooms are on the left-hand side. Half a mile down, also on the left, is the Washington Memorial Chapel and Cabin shop. The cabin shop sells food.

The Schuylkill River cuts through the top third of the park and divides it from the rest of the park where this tour route is located. Pawlings Road runs along the northern boundary and provides access to the River Trail Parking Area and the Pawling’s farm area. Text on the map notes that Pawling Farm was one of the Continental Army commissaries and the major campsite of the army after the troops shifted to outlying locations on June 9, 1778.

Betzwood Picnic area is located near the Schuylkill River close to the northeastern border of the park. Bathrooms are also in this area. Additional text on the map reads: “Trails shown (on the map) are only a few of the park’s 26 miles of trails. Please pick up a full trail map at the visitor center or on the park website.”

Map credit: NPS

↑ back to top

Preserving Valley Forge for the Future

Text: Citizens joined together in the 1870s to preserve the inspirational story of Valley Forge—a story that continues to inspire us today. The park landscape you see now, with its vistas and monuments, was created to honor the soldiers’ perseverance. The tradition of citizen involvement continues as volunteers and partners help with the ongoing work of preservation and interpretation. Thousands of volunteers like these trail workers invest their time in the park. They share the vision of Valley Forge National Historical Park as a place of commemoration, inspiration, refuge, and pleasure.

↑ back to top

Photo of Trail Workers

Photo description: A multiracial group of volunteers, consisting of two women, a teenager and two boys stand on a trail in a dense, green forest. They wear gloves and use rakes to grade the trail.

Photo credit: NPS / Melissa Cross

↑ back to top

National Treasures

The park also protects remarkable natural features. Valley Creek is a spring-fed stream that supports a healthy trout population despite its urban location. Upstream neighbors and towns and passionate citizens work hard to keep it healthy. The parks tall-grass meadows are the most extensive in the region. Forests and wetlands also support a wide range of plants and animals.
↑ back to top

Photo: Valley Creek

Photo description: A blond-haired woman and boy in light-colored canvas hats with rims and green waders stand on rocks in the waters of Valley Creek. They look at the contents in a fishing net attached to a long pole that the woman holds. Trees line both shores and provide shade but peeks of sunlight can be seen in the creek.

Photo credit: NPS

↑ back to top

Across the River

The quiet north side of the park, across the Schuylkill River, was not so quiet during the encampment. The army used the area to receive and store supplies, pasture animals, and operate a farmers market that added fresh food to soldiers’ rations. To bring supplies to the main camp, General Sullivan supervised construction of a wooden bridge across the river. Near the end of the encampment, as the south side became increasingly foul, General Washington ordered the army to move across the river to “good air and good water.” Here, they completed their preparations for a new military campaign. After the encampment, farmers returned and prospered, especially once a canal and railroad were built in the 1800s. But over the years, the river became polluted by upstream coal mines. By the 1940s, it had turned black. Cleanup included building immense stone embankments to help filter the water. They remain, now protecting ponds that help make the parks north side a natural treasure. Today you can walk quiet trails, watch wildlife, and enjoy access to the river.
↑ back to top

Photo: Schuylkill River

Photo description: This daytime landscape picture shows the bank of the Schuylkill River looking upstream. The water gently flows along the left side of the image against the smoothed stones along the water’s edge to the right. Several trees stand out along the back in full, green bloom. The trees provide shade along the water, but peeks of sunlight illuminate parts of the river and shore.

Photo credit: The Friends of Valley Forge Park / MJ Ticcino

↑ back to top

Plan Your Visit

Valley Forge National Historical Park has miles of paved trails linking the encampment sites, monuments, and other features. Enjoy exploring the park on your own or with a park ranger or other guide.

  1. Trails: Valley Forge has 26 miles of trails, including the paved Joseph Plumb Martin Trail. Exhibits and historic plaques explain aspects of park history. Pick up trail maps and guides at the visitor center and trailheads, or view them on the park website. 
  2. Auto tour: Follow the 10-mile Encampment Tour (described above and shown on the map). The Encampment Store in the visitor center sells an audio version of the tour. 
  3. Cell phone tour: Hear the stories of Valley Forge and learn about its natural history too. Pick up a guide at the visitor center or online, then call 484-396-1018 to reach the tour menu.
  4.  Ranger tours: At the visitor center, ask about the ranger-led tours, offered seasonally. On the ranger-led walk to the Muhlenberg Brigade camp, you will hear about camp life and the war, and tour the huts and defensive earthworks known as redoubts. Rangers are often present at the Washington Headquarters area. 
  5. Trolley tour: Available seasonally, an open-air trolley tour gives you a comfortable way to learn about the park. Tours leave from the visitor center and make extended stops at the Muhlenberg Brigade and Washington's Headquarters. 90 minutes; fee. Tickets available at the Encampment Store in the visitor center. 
  6.  Picnicking: The picnic areas at Varnum's, Wayne’s Woods, and Betzwood are first-come, first-served. Groups of 30 and over must have a permit; see park website for information. Open fires are prohibited, but Betzwood has grills for charcoal fires. 
  7. Accessibility: We strive to make our facilities, services, and programs accessible to all. For information go to the visitor center, ask a ranger, call, or check our website.
↑ back to top

Photo: Trail Recreation

Photo description: This photo is of a fall scene along the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail near Wayne's Woods. Visitors are on the trail. In the forefront, are two cyclists wearing helmets. Behind them are several joggers traveling in the same direction. The paved aspault trail is boarded by a split rail wood fence and tree line. Leaves cover the trail with the colors of fall: yellow, orange, red, and some lingering green.

Photo credit: Scott Mabry

↑ back to top

More Information

↑ back to top