Valley Forge's "French Connection"
French Alliance celebration commemorates
partnership that spurred American victory
KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. Thunderous musket and cannon fire echoed across Valley Forge in May of 1778, but instead of signaling vicious combat, it represented joyous celebration of a young America's strategic and fruitful alliance with France.
To celebrate the 232nd anniversary of that pivotal partnership, representatives of and re-enactors from America's oldest allies will gather at Valley Forge National Historical Park on Saturday, May 1, and Sunday, May 2.
fledgling nation's first allies, the Oneida Indians, carried corn 300
miles to nourish General Washington's starving men at Valley Forge and
fought in the battles of Oriskany and Saratoga. Accordingly, they'll
begin the celebration on Saturday, May 1, from
11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Members of the Oneida Indian Nation will encamp at the Muhlenberg Brigade area of the Park and, with Continental Army re-enactors, talk about their ancestors' experiences at Valley Forge and the significance of the French Alliance to the war for independence.
"It was extremely important," said Interpretive Park Ranger Marc Brier. "The troops and ships France sent eventually secured the victory over Cornwallis at Yorktown, signaling the end of the war."
Although the ravaged soldiers of General Washington's army fought valiantly to wrest independence from a powerful Britain, they desperately needed help. Reeling from crushing losses in the battles at Germantown and Brandywine, they limped into Valley Forge in December, 1777. During the winter encampment, the Prussian Baron Friedrich von Steuben trained them rigorously, transforming them into a credible fighting force by spring. When news of the French Alliance reached Valley Forge in May, 1778, some 10,000 cheering soldiers fired their muskets in a "feu de joie" (fire of joy).
Saturday's events also include opportunities for kids to make tri-cornered hats and French flags at the Park's Visitor Center and, on Sunday, May 2, at 2 p.m., a religious service at Washington Memorial Chapel will commemorate the Alliance and honor French and American soldiers who fell to the British.
A special wreath-laying ceremony will follow at 3 p.m. at the Waterman Monument in front of the chapel. French Ambassador Pierre Vimont and Michael Scullin, the Honorary Consul of France in Philadelphia, are expected to attend. The 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment and a detachment of The First Troop, Philadelphia City Cavalry - the oldest mounted unit in the U.S. Army and one of the oldest units in the Army National Guard - will also be present at the service and ceremony.
All events are free and open to the public. For more information, contact the Valley Forge National Historical Park Visitor Center at 610-783-1099 or visit www.nps.gov/vafo. For information on other area attractions and affordable hotel accommodations, visit www.valleyforge.org.
The Valley Forge Convention and Visitors Bureau, Ltd. is a nonprofit, membership-based sales and marketing organization that aggressively promotes the Valley Forge area and Montgomery County as a convention site and leisure visitor destination by encouraging patronage of its 500-plus member hotels, restaurants, attractions and services. The Bureau's Web site, at www.valleyforge.org, serves visitors, meeting planners, tour operators and residents.
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