Greetings from Philadelphia–the city where our nation was founded! If your Independence Day weekend plans bring you to the new Museum of the American Revolution here for some Revolutionary War Realness, make sure you stop by the gift shop and pick up a copy of Sheilah Vance’s award-winning novel, Becoming Valley Forge. We’re honored to have Sheilah’s book reviewed, approved, and now available in this groundbreaking and important museum dedicated to the Revolutionary War. The painting that is the cover of Becoming Valley Forge– William Trego’s The March to Valley Forge is on exhibit at the Museum. Stop in and learn more about our country’s birth and its birthplace.
Happy Fourth of July!
Today is the day that the Continental Army left Valley Forge–June 19, 1778.
The army left Valley Forge more disciplined and as a better fighting force than when they marched in on December 19, 1777. Unfortunately, some 2,000 died during the Valley Forge encampment. Yet, the army persevered.
When the army left Valley Forge, they headed towards the British army, which left their winter quarters in Philadelphia towards New York. The Continental Army caught up with the British army at Monmouth, New Jersey where they showed their new mettle as a better fighting force in the Battle of Monmouth..
The sacrifice of the Continental Army, George Washington and his generals, and all of those who supported them at Valley Forge is legendary. It is one of the things that inspired me to write my novel, Becoming Valley Forge. In walking through the Valley Forge National Park one day in 2010 with a friend, I was overcome with the feeling and the sacrifice of those six months. As we walked for miles, we came across commemorative markers from various groups like the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution, local historical societies and counties, and groups such as Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, with their Patriots of African Descent in the Revolutionary War monument. We stopped at the striking statue of General Anthony Wayne, on whose land my home in Paoli is located, and when I returned home, I felt spirit of General Wayne and those who fought in and lived through the Paoli Massacre.
At every spot, honoring this regiment or that, I wondered–what was it like for the people in those regiments? What was it like for the people who lived here when those regiments descended on this area during the Philadelphia Campaign and its battles–Brandywine, Germantown, Paoli, Barren Hill–and its encampments, like Rebel Hill and Gulph Mills, where I grew up? What happens when 11,000 soldiers come to your backyard? What happens when you are in the midst of a war when you are just a farmer or a businesswoman just trying to make a living? What happens when the British army descends on your town, bringing their repression straight to your front door, stealing your food, harming your family?
These were the questions that all made up the sum and substance of that fiction writer’s question–what if? What if the war came to your backyard? What would that be like? So, I tried to answer those questions in Becoming Valley Forge through the eyes of a family of patriot farmers, spies and soldiers from Paoli; a blacksmith, then soldier, patriot from Rebel Hill; a blacksmith, then soldier, former slave from Rebel Hill who purchased his freedom and sees the war as a means to an end to purchase his fiancée’s freedom from a nearby plantation; a brothel owner in Germantown who was disowned by her Paoli family and who services the chief commander of the British Army during their occupation of Philadelphia; the Oneida Indians who come to Valley Forge to assist their friend, General Washington; and others.
Becoming Valley Forge is my homage to the Revolutionary War and those who fought in and supported it. I appreciate their sacrifices for our freedom. And, as an African American woman, I had to keep it real and address the dichotomy of people who fought for the freedom of their country while so many African Americans who lived there were not free. I wanted to honor the contributions of the Oneida Indians and all of the different types of people who “became Valley Forge”–not just the white male soldier who most of us learned about in history class.
I thank God for those with whom my novel has resonated with positive reviews from the Midwest Book Review (read full review here, too) and the Historical Novel Society and with winning the Regional Fiction category in the Next Generation Indie Book Awards. And I thank all of my readers who took the time and spent the money to read this novel.
My novel will be in the gift shop at the new Museum of the American Revolution in Philadelphia in the next few days, and it should be in the Valley Forge National Park Encampment Store. (If you don’t see the book at either store, please ask for it–they are probably out!)
So, as the Continental Army moved out of Valley Forge and on to other things, I’m going to do the same. I’ll blog here occassionally about Becoming Valley Forge, but I won’t blog regularly until we get closer to September 11–when, in 1777, the Continental Army began the Philadelphia Campaign with the Battle of Brandywine, and when Becoming Valley Forge begins.
Please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
I’m looking forward to speaking about “Becoming Valley Forge” to the Upper Moreland Historical Society on Tuesday, March 28, 2017 at 7:30 p.m., Upper Moreland Township Building, 117 Park Avenue, Willow Grove, PA 19090. Please come out and join me for some Revolutionary War Realness!
See you on the 28th!
The Museum of the American Revolution opens next month in Philadelphia. One of its exhibits is called “The Darkest Hour”, and it covers the period of late fall 1776 to 1778. This includes that part of the war known as the Philadelphia Campaign, from the Battle of Brandywine on 9/11/1777 to the march out from the Valley Forge encampment on 6/19/1778. See the link below for a description of the exhibit, which includes Revolutionary War weapons, stories of women, a feature on the Oneida Indians who were so helpful during the Battle of Barren Hill, stories from soldier Joseph Plumb Martin–a/k/a Private Yankee Doodle, and, of course, the Valley Forge Encampment itself. I cover The Philadelphia Campaign in my novel, Becoming Valley Forge, which will also be on sale at the Museum’s gift shop.
Check it out and learn about this important time in our nation’s history.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I’m going to rerun a post that I ran last year about Phyllis Wheatley, the first African American woman to publish a book in these United States. Next month, you’ll be able to see an original, signed first edition of Wheathley’s book at the new Museum of the American Revolution when it opens in Philadelphia on April 18. But, in the meantime, please enjoy the pictures above from a preview party I attended last year with my friend and Elevator Group author Dr. Marion Lane, and learn about the history of this fascinating woman and her book below.