Friday, June 12, 2020

Photo of the Day: National Memorial Arch, Valley Forge, PA

As the 1777-78 winter encampment of the Continental Army, Valley Forge has come to symbolize crises and what Thomas Paine called “the times that try men’s souls” in American history. I have visited the National Historic Park commemorating this legendary period in American life twice, most recently in October 2012.

I was so impressed by the site’s National Memorial Arch that I took the accompanying photo. The arch's style is firmly in the tradition of Roman architecture meant to honor emperors—with the inspiration for this one hailing Emperor Titus’ 70 A.D. capture of Jerusalem. 

But Paul Philippe Cret’s design was motivated by a republican rather than imperial instinct. It honored not a leader who conquered, but one who endured—George Washington—and the polyglot force that faithfully followed him despite privation and a hard winter. 

Dedication ceremonies for this arch were conducted on June 19, 1917. More than a bit symbolically, it was held two months after Woodrow Wilson had persuaded Congress to declare war on Germany and its allies—coming to the aid of, among other countries, France, a nation that had given hope to the Continentals with the news, late in the encampment, that it would ally with the U.S. against England.

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