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Friends Speaker Series

Sponsored by the Sherrin H. and Bruce A. Baky Foundation

As part of the Friends mission to provide interesting and compelling programming for the public, the annual Speaker Series is held in cooperation with the Washington Memorial Chapel. This series, which runs from October through May, gathers an array of historians, scientists, authors, archeologists, actors and performers to share with the public their multiple points of view on history, the natural world and the ongoing commemoration of Valley Forge.

Presentations are held at Washington Memorial Chapel, on Route 23 in Valley Forge, on Tuesdays at 7 pm. Free and open to the public. A reception follows each talk.

For directions to the Chapel, visit

Tuesday, January 6
“My Dear”: Officers’ Letters from
the Valley Forge Encampment

While at the Valley Forge encampment the Continental Army officers often picked up their quill pens to write letters home, on many subjects. Most officers wrote to their wives about conditions at camp – although, in truth, this information should not have been shared. Many officers also wrote of their devotion to their wives and concern about the children. Few officers, however, wrote home about such things as postal challenges or even personal finances. It is also clear from the correspondence that, in an age when wives were considered to be property, some women were loved and cherished. Major Samuel Ward penned passionate letters to his “Dearest Phebe” from Valley Forge. (Ward had been married for only a month when he arrived at camp.) It seems, however, that Lt. Col. John Cropper was less enamored with his own wife, pronouncing Peggy to be a “keen ground razor.”

The officers’ letters to their wives from Valley Forge – and the letters from the wives to the officers – give us an up-close-and-personal view of 18th century marriage and a fresh look at the Valley Forge encampment itself. These were not cookie-cutter soldiers, but flesh-and-blood men who were dedicated to fighting for their country’s freedom until, as one officer wrote his wife, “death part us.”

About the Speaker

Nancy Loane

Nancy Loane is the author of Following the Drum: Women at the Valley Forge Encampment (recipient of the American Revolution Round Table of Philadelphia’s “Book of the Year Award”), as well as several articles about the Valley Forge encampment. A popular speaker, she has given almost 200 presentations throughout the country (including at the Library of Congress and Colonial Williamsburg) on the letters from the soldiers at Valley Forge, Martha Washington, the women at camp, and the Valley Forge encampment itself. Her second book, Beneath the Snow: Myths and Realities of the 1777-78 Valley Forge Encampment is forthcoming – hopefully soon.

A former seasonal park ranger at Valley Forge National Historical Park, Nancy currently serves as a volunteer costumed interpreter at the park. She is a board member of The Friends of Valley Forge Park, an honorary life-time member of the Society of the Descendants of Washington’s Army at Valley Forge, and a member of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR). A former Pennsylvania Commonwealth Speaker (2006–07), Nancy has appeared on several radio shows and cable network shows, including Pennsylvania Cable Network and C-Span. Nancy was featured in C-Span’s program on Martha Washington in their series on the First Ladies (2013).

February 3
Scott Randolph
The Battle of Crooked Billet
Scott Randolph, the director and producer of the award-winning film “The Battle of the Crooked Billet,” discusses this little-known Bucks County battle.
March 3
Jesse West-Rosenthal
Archaeology at Valley Forge
Archaeologist Jesse West-Rosenthal presents a history of archaeology at Valley Forge, details of recent excavations, and a show-and-tell of selected artifacts from the encampment.
April 7
Joel T. Fry
The Bartram Family: Plant Collectors in the 18th century
Joel T. Fry, the curator of Bartram Gardens, shares the story of the careers and travels of John and William Bartram, famed natural scientists and plant men, and the family garden.
May 5
to be announced