Valley Forge National Historical Park | GENERAL JAMES VARNUM’S QUARTERS

Varnum's Quarters at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Varnum’s Quarters at Valley Forge National Historical Park

VALLEY FORGE ENCAMPMENT TOUR STOP 8

General James Varnum’s Quarters

The Varnum’s Quarters stop on the Valley Forge Encampment Tour has a number of attractions. First and foremost is the home occupied by General James Varnum during the Continental Army’s 1777-78 winter encampment at Valley Forge. The house, which is thought to have been built around 1711, belonged to David and Elizabeth Stephens, and they remained in the house during Varnum’s stay. Varnum supposedly moved out to join his Rhode Island and Connecticut troops when his log cabin was completed in February 1778.

Nobody knows what the Stephens House looked like during the American Revolution. It was modified many times over the years. What you see today is what historians believe the house looked liked based on typical homes of the time. Additions deemed to have been added after the war were removed.

There is also an outbuilding on the property. I am not sure what it is, but it looks like some sort of storage shed or spring house. Between 1893 when Valley Forge became a Pennsylvania state park and 1976 when it became a National Park, most structures that were not around in 1777 were torn down. Since it is still standing, most likely this building was part of the original Stephens homestead.

Outbuilding on the David Stephens' property at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Outbuilding on the David Stephens’ property at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Varnum’s Quarters is typically open on weekends only from mid-June through the end of October. If stepping inside the house is imperative to your visit to Valley Forge National Historical Park, be sure to get the latest schedule on the National Park Service’s Operating Hours and Seasons web page. Plan to spend 10 to 20 minutes at the Varnum’s Quarters tour stop depending on whether the house is open.

Also at this stop is a statue of General Friedrich Wilhelm Baron von Steuben, one of many European mercenaries who came to America to fight for the Patriot cause (you won’t hear them referred to as mercenaries, but that’s really what they were). Since European soldiers typically had much more combat experience, they were usually welcome, and usually granted a rank similar to what they held in Europe. Von Steuben joined Washington at Valley Forge and was quickly appointed the temporary Inspector General. By the time the Continental Army departed on June 19, 1778, von Steuben was the full time Inspector General of the Army with the rank of major general. Von Steuben was from Prussia (Germany today) and is now remembered as the man who whipped the Continental Army into a cohesive fighting unit by unifying training and combat tactics. His Regulations for the Order and Discipline of the Troops of the United States, written between 1778 and 1779, became the army’s drill manual up until the end of the War of 1812, and concepts from it are still used today. He also overhauled the way camps were laid out, making them more hygienic. Approximately 2,000 men died at Valley Forge, many of them from diseases spread through unsanitary practices.

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben statue at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Friedrich Wilhelm von Steuben statue at Valley Forge National Historical Park

If you plan to hike the Grand Parade Trail, Varnum’s Quarters is the best place to start. The trail circles the area used as the main parade ground during the Valley Forge encampment. The parade ground was where troops trained, had inspections, and engaged in recreational activities. It is a nice hike, and one of the few at Valley Forge National Historical Park that passes through open meadows instead of the forest.

Overlook of the Grand Parade Grounds at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Overlook of the Grand Parade Grounds at Valley Forge National Historical Park

Across the street from the Varnum’s Quarters parking lot is Varnum’s Picnic Area. Along with tables is a modern restroom facility.

For those doing the Valley Forge Encampment Tour on bike or foot by following the Joseph Plumb Martin Trail, the trail passes right by Varnum’s Headquarters.


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Last updated on August 3, 2022
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