A 2023 BGES Revolutionary War Field University Program
Presented by Gary Ecelbarger
December 5-9, 2023; from Princeton, NJ
As we approach the 250th Anniversary of the Revolutionary War, this landmark period in our history is already in the midst of a renaissance with a renewed dedication to “The Cause” expressed in literature as well as in the arts. Fresh attempts during the Digital Age to address the history of the revolution and the war that it spawned have produced new discoveries and intriguing interpretations of traditional sources. More fortuitously, lands and properties have become more accessible today than they were even at the turn of the 20th century. For interpretive history programs, this renaissance has produced the most accurate and exciting results imaginable; in some instances, an up-to-date tour of the battlefields and other sites related to a military campaign has rendered obsolete similarly themed programs even a generation ago. This is particularly true for Valley Forge (1777-1778) and the Monmouth Campaign (1778).
BGES continues this updated, Revolutionary War program with its final installment of a three-part series that chronologically covers all three campaigns. In December 2023, we go back to December 1777 and then proceed through seven dramatic months of our history.
Our tour leader for this series is historian Gary Ecelbarger, a 20-year veteran of touring this campaign who is nearing completion of the manuscript of his 10th book, George Washington Between the Fourths—a single-year campaign biography of His Excellency and his headquarters, July 4, 1777, to July 4, 1778. This perfect pairing of guide and history theme assures another top-notch offering by BGES.
Tuesday, December 5, 2023
6:00 PM: Meet at the Holiday Inn Express Scudders Mill Road, Plainsboro, New Jersey, to greet all the members of the program as well as pick up your nametags and handout packets. Gary Ecelbarger will present an introduction to the events leading to the winter of 1777-1778 and follow up with an overview of the program, including a Q & A session. Dinner and hotel are on your own.
Wednesday, December 6, 2023
8:00 AM: Our program opens on the winter road to an iconic encampment. We stop first at Rebel Hill and then George Washington’s headquarters, both near Gulph Mill, a region intended only for an overnight stop but which instead turned into an eight-day endurance contest for 24,000 soldiers, most without tents for the first half of the odyssey. Washington learns of the depth and extent of the “Cabal” organized against him by the Board of War. All of this occurs within the backdrop of a Day of Thanksgiving.
The rest of our day will drill deep into the six-month winter and spring encampment at Valley Forge. Here we will take advantage of the upgraded visitor center focusing on updated scholarship—including new work from our guide—to present the story of Valley Forge as it has never been revealed. Sites within the National Park, such as Washington’s Headquarters, the facsimile log huts, and the Parade Ground, will be freshly presented based on newly analyzed source material.
Included in our adventure will be a visit to nearby Moore Hall, where George Washington often met with delegates from Congress, as well as a short trip to a Revolutionary War Hospital, where most of the 2,000+ tallied deaths at Valley Forge perished. Back to the hotel. Lunch is included and dinner will be on your own.
Thursday, December 7, 2023
8:00 AM: We dedicate the earliest part of the tour day to two small battles that transpired during the spring 1778 encampment at Valley Forge. The first is Crooked Billet, where on April 30, John Simcoe’s Queen’s Rangers surprised and defeated Pennsylvania militia commanded by Gen. James Potter. From there we head to Barren Hill for a small limited engagement, where General Marquis de Lafayette encountered the Crown Forces commanded personally by top British military leaders—Generals Howe and Clinton—and how he barely escaped the trap they set for him.
After viewing these engagements, we time travel to the third week of June 1778 and follow George Washington’s army as it departs Valley Forge and attempts to chase down and engage General Clinton’s British, Hessians, and Loyalists before they reach the safety of New York City. We will proceed to Coryell’s Ferry for another Crossing of the Delaware; after this, we’ll take a short jaunt to the Jacob Holcombe house, used as Continental army headquarters for the second time in a year.
After lunch, we proceed through “The Jerseys” by following the British route toward New York after they departed Philadelphia via Coopers Ferry. This includes an engagement against Continentals and militia at Crosswicks, where damage from the artillery duel of June 23-24 can still be viewed today. We also will walk through the one-street town of Historic Walnford to view General Knyphausen’s HQ and the mill where the Continentals made a concerted effort to slow the advance of the Crown Forces.
After a brief view of Allentown, we go back to Washington’s side of the line. We will view his army encampment at the John Hart homestead (a signer of the Declaration of Independence). Our final stop of the day will be near Washington’s headquarters in Hopewell, where an all-important council of war was held to detail plans to thwart Clinton’s escape and battle him into submission. Back to our hotel. Lunch is included, but dinner is on your own.
Friday, December 8, 2023
8:00 AM: Day #3 of the tour will be entirely dedicated to June 28, 1778, the prelude to and the epic Battle of Monmouth. We will cover this battle blow by blow, beginning with Maj. Gen. Charles Lee’s 5,000-man American advance at Englishtown, the opening hours-long action that ultimately led to Lee’s controversial decision to fall back in retreat. We will then pick up with Washington’s Monmouth moment, when he dressed Lee down and inspired the retreaters to become attackers once again. Now reinforced to nearly 12,000 men, Washington led his army in a stand-up fight during a grueling 100-degree heatwave. We will visit the key sites of this prolonged afternoon fight, including the famous “Molly Pitcher” moment. Return to the hotel. Lunch and dinner are included.
Saturday, December 9, 2023
8:00 AM: Our final morning will pick up the aftermath of the Battle of Monmouth and trace the footsteps of Washington and his army along the Raritan River, across from New Brunswick. There we will discuss the court martial of Charles Lee and the 4th of July Parade at Washington’s HQ. Lunch is provided, but dinner is on your own.
About the Faculty
Gary Ecelbarger is an award-winning author of nine books relating to 19th-century personalities and events, as well as more than three dozen monographs, essays, and articles on Revolutionary War and Civil War-era topics. As a historian, symposium speaker, and tour guide for the past 25 years, he has led his audiences through complex campaigns and prides himself on crafting well-researched, thought-provoking programs that maintain an intriguing, chronological flow and feature off-the-beaten-path historical sites.
This program will be headquartered at the Holiday Inn Express Princeton Southeast, 870 Scudders Mill Road, Plainsboro, New Jersey 08536 (609-936-6600). We have a group rate of $119 per night plus 14.625% taxes. The Blue and Gray Education block expires on November 14. After that, higher rates may apply.
The servicing airports are Philadelphia (PHL), Trenton (TTN), and Newark (EWR). All will likely require a rental car to reach the hotel.
You will receive maps and a reading book that will meet your onsite requirements. The following books are suggested to enhance your readiness for the program. These books are available online:
- Wayne K. Bodle: Valley Forge Historical Research Project
- Robert Dunkerly: An Explorer’s Guide to America’s Revolutionary War
- Michael C. Harris and Gary Ecelbarger: A Reconsideration of Continental Army Numerical Strength at Valley Forge
- Mark Lender: Fatal Sunday: George Washington, the Monmouth Campaign, and the Politics of Battle
This program includes the services of your historian, a tour director, four lunches, one dinner, maps, appropriate transportation for the registration, and light refreshments and snacks.
Register for this program using a secure PayPal link
To register by mail or fax, download this printable registration form: Between the Fourths, Part 3: Valley Forge to Monmouth Courthouse
Questions? Need more information? Please contact us.