Home > Uncategorized > Week One: I Learn Something Really Interesting About Local History

Week One: I Learn Something Really Interesting About Local History

Well, I’ve vowed to do something different every week for 52 weeks so I thought I’d better get started. My first experience was a visit to the Pottstown Historical Society to hear society President Michael Snyder talk about an encampment during the American Revolutionary War called Camp Pottsgrove. I’ll say first that I have been to the Pottstown Historical Society twice before, but I’ve never attended a lecture there. Michael Snyder is an authority on local history, and he also writes regular history features for The Mercury. I decided to attend his presentation because I am working on putting together some information on regional Revolutionary War history for my job, and thought the Camp Pottsgrove topic might be helpful. In fact, it was fascinating. The gist of it is, in September 1777, George Washington’s army retreated following a defeat at the Battle of Brandywine and (there might be more to this. I’m doing this from memory at the moment) the American troops spent some time in the greater Pottstown area. First they marched west to Warwick, then turned back–the next day I think–and headed east along what is now Route 23. They came down Bethel Church Road, a road I’ve been on many times without ever knowing 9,000 Revolutionary War soldiers had traversed it before me. Then, they crossed the river at Parker Ford. I knew about the river crossing. What I didn’t know was that the river was in flood stage, so the water was chest deep and the men had to link arms and cross in groups. I can’t imagine how many times I’ve crossed the bridge in that area, and never knew that fact.

I also learned that the army set up camps throughout the area–in Lower Pottsgrove, Limerick Township and in New Hanover Township on what is now the Henry Antes Farm.  Snyder emphasized the fact that these camps had a major impact on farms and residents, because the army needed provisions and places to stay. In some cases, families were given a single room in their own homes, while soldiers took over the rest of the house. Cattle, wheat, flour and plenty of other provisions were taken as needed. An inn served as a hospital, its large table used for operating on wounded men. New Hanover Evangelical Lutheran Church also served as a hospital (I did know about that).  I further learned that the owner of Valley Forge (which was, in fact, a forge) wasn’t as lucky as you might think to have a piece of property that would one day become a National Historical Park. No, not at all. First the Americans stored weapons there, so the British engaged in some destruction of property. Then, Washington’s Army camped there throughout the famous winter of 1778, and while that was a good thing, ultimately, for our country, it wasn’t a good thing for the property owner. The trees he needed for his forge became lumber and firewood. And somewhere in there a lot of his buildings were destroyed too. Sorry, this isn’t a great history report. I’m just writing what I remember from the lecture.

Anyway, that was a great first experience for my first week of doing something different. And the best part? After the lecture, the Pottstown Historic Society put out some really great desserts! I may just go again sometime.

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