Valley Forge to present multimedia living history event

This powder horn and flask are two of the items visitors will get a look at during Valley Forge’s “Patience & Fidelity” living history event next weekend. Photo by Matthew D'Ippolito
A Valley Forge curator displays a powder horn. Soldiers at Valley Forge would carve images on their powder horns that reminded them of home. One of the activity papers for students at “Patience & Fidelity” focuses on these objects. Photo by Matthew D'Ippolito

Valley Forge National Historical Park is going to bring the lives of a Continental Army company to life in the park and beyond in a multimedia experience next weekend.

The park will present “Incomparable Patience & Fidelity: A unique living history reenactment” March 29 and 30 beginning at 8 a.m. each day at the Muhlenberg Brigade Huts. The event is free.

The event is based on the “model company” idea, according to Dan Center, a history major at Villanova and Living History volunteer at Valley Forge. The idea is for 50 dedicated Living History volunteers to heavily research the day-to-day lives of a particular regiment and then to visit a site where that regiment served to bring the individuals of one its companies to life.

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For “Patience & Fidelity,” Center and his colleagues chose the Fourth Connecticut Regiment. The initial event was planned for Valley Forge, but was then moved to a site in Connecticut. Now the team has decided to bring it back to Valley Forge.

“Finally, we decided that we wanted to do something at Valley Forge because Valley Forge is such a legendary site in terms of the history of the American Revolution,” Center said. “It really is considered the birthplace of the Continental Army. Although the army was born in 1775, physically, they really organized here.”

There was some debate over which regiment to choose because there are so many options, he added, but they settled on the Fourth Connecticut because there was already a wealth of research by volunteers and professionals available, supplies and uniforms readily available for use and the team believed this regiment had the most to present to the public.

Had they gone with another regiment, like a Pennsylvania regiment that was considered, they “kind of would have had to start from scratch” because primary sources are scant, said Marc Brier, a park ranger at Valley Forge. A lot of documents from New England have been better preserved, he added.

But the event won’t be limited to the confines of the park – it will extend beyond the park and directly into classrooms and homes.

During the event, staff and volunteers will be creating activity papers and mini-lessons to post online, as well as 15 second videos that will be pushed out live through the park’s Twitter and Instagram accounts.

“The goal is to have a lot of educational content coming out throughout the entire experience,” Rhonda Schier, Chief of Interpretation and Education for the park, said. “So the idea is we’ll have a bigger reach to a wider audience than just the people who are here on site.”

The lesson plans will also include actual quotes from primary sources and statistics and information based off of first-hand accounts.

“So we’re trying to combine the best of everything through historical artifacts, primary evidence, historical demonstrations and conversations to really get the experience way out there besides just here in the park,” Schier said.

The event doesn’t just look at soldiers – it also features the integral roles played by women and soldiers’ families who followed the army at Valley Forge. Demonstrations range from musket and marching demonstrations to cooking, clothing and army provisions, and even include cleanliness and sanitation problems at the camp, demonstrating the hard reality soldiers faced in a unique way.

“We’re also going to focus on the aspects of these lives that people today can relate to,” Center said. “These were normal people who were now caught up in this war for independence. Valley Forge is a perfect demonstration of the perseverance these individuals were able to show for the cause.”

The event is really a cross-section of the camp rather than a large-scale, general demonstration, and Center said that will make the weekend a much more personal experience for attendees.

“We’re going to incorporate the voices of these actual people who experienced these actual events into our programming for the weekend,” he said. “That’s something that’s not often done with these living history events.”

Between the real accounts presented and the images of life the event will provide, Brier said “Incomparable Patience & Fidelity” will be a powerful learning experience.

“Visitors may not and probably don’t know the difference between this article of clothing or this piece of material culture or whatever, but when you see it, when you see all of these guys portraying it, it will kind of pop,” he said. “I think they’ll be impressed.”

Those interested in following the weekend’s events through social media can follow the park on Twitter and Instagram @ValleyForgeNHP and access the lesson plans and activity pages on the teacher’s page on the park’s website, www.nps.gov/vafo.