At Valley Forge
We stand today on ground hallowed by the unspeakable suffering of as true a band of patriots as ever lived. We are assembled here to pay tardy tribute to the deeds of the portion of the brave men who made us free. The story of Valley Forge is one of the most heroic and beyond all question the most pathetic chapter in the history of the American army. It required more courage and fortitude to freeze and starve in the [encampments here] during the awful winter of 1777 and 1778, than it did to charge the British regulars in the open field, or to assault them in the redoubts of Yorktown. Here in the winter of discontent, our fortunes sank to the lowest point. But from this place, Washington went forth conquering, and to conquer, and to become the foremost man of all the world.
By one of those strange accidents which puzzled even the philosophers, one of the best and most appreciative histories of the American Revolution ever written is by Sir George Otto Trevelyan, an Englishman, the nephew and biographer of Lord McCawlay. Describing Washington's encampment here he says: "That little village, Valley Forge, clustered at the bottom of a deep ravine, gave a name to what, as time goes on, did [aspire] to be the most celebrated encampment in the world's history." His prophecy has come true. It is the most famous encampment on the surface of the globe.
It is said that republics are ungrateful, but by erecting this magnificent memorial arch to Washington and his soldiers, the Congress demonstrates to all the world that we hold in most grateful recollection the men who suffered and died here one hundred and thirty-nine years ago in order that our feeble, infant republic might live. How amazingly she has grown -- God be praised. Grown from a narrow strip along the Atlantic to continental proportions. Grown from being the weakest among the nations into the richest and most powerful. The free institutions which have enabled us to grow into what we are, we owe to Washington and the patriots of '76. The spirit which animated them animates their descendants today wherever old glory floats. They created this mighty republic. Our most solemn duty, our profoundest pleasure, our highest ambition, is to serve it faithfully and to transmit it unimpaired to our children and our children's children to the remotest generations.