I too am a friend of both Abraham Lincoln and George Washington. Actually at this point I am more like a groupie of the latter. In recent months I have visited the home where he located his headquarters in the final months of the Revolutionary War (http://bit.ly/2tkEtq3).
I have also traced the steps of the Revolutionary War in my own backyard. In Brooklyn there is the Old Stone House (http://bit.ly/2tbFanc) as well as celebrating the Battle of Brooklyn (http://bit.ly/2tKX4ii). In NYC Fraunces Tavern (http://bit.ly/2rfucts) is where George Washington gave his farewell address is the most cherished of these spots for me.
But now I think the brand new museum in Philadelphia might have these all beat.
Back in March of this year I was lucky enough to attend a press event celebrating the Museum of the American Revolution, which would open a month later in April of 2017.
At this event I got to see the model of the museum as well as hear from many of those who have been apart of the labor of love that created it. All of this just confirmed much of what I already knew, I heart Philly (http://bit.ly/2trzunJ), the first capital of our country.
The anniversary of the revolution that established our independence from Britain was this week. It is never lost on me how many brave men and women sacrificed so much of their lives and loved ones in order to create our country which was pretty much a leap of faith. It is a marvel of the mind that after over six years of war America was finally victorious.
One of the greatest aspects of this museum is that it does not tell the story from any one point of view. They include information from all sides including but not limited too: American Indians, Women, Slaves, British, as well as the Patriots. There are no judgments, rather the museum wants visitors to draw their own conclusions. To quote my mother’s favorite saying: “don’t tell me how to feel”. I promise they won’t.
When I walked through the doors I realized this was the first time I had ever visited a museum that was brand new. In fact you could still smell the fresh paint and varnish. It was had new car smell, but for buildings. Ahhhhh I was breathing it all in.
On the first floor there is a gift shop, cafe, and the Patriots Gallery. I walked in that room expecting to see exhibits but what I found was much more interesting. It was a room full of period costumes, miniature tents, and all kinds of interactive spaces for children to learn about the birth of our country. I thought it was really remarkable and well laid out. I wish I had a place like this to visit when I was a kid. It inspires me to dress up as Betsy Ross or Abigail Adams……. for Halloween.
The second floor is where the main attractions are. Your entrance takes through the entire Revolutionary process from beginning to end. The exhibits are in chronological order, which is very much the way I prefer to see them. From the battles at Lexington and Concord, to the women left behind to care for their families, the different ways the North and the South dealt with war time activities, all the way until our official flag was created, you walk through each moment of that critical time.
There are so many special items on display they are impossible to list all at once. So I will do my best to share those that produced a euphoric feeling in my heart.
First up was being able to touch what remains of the Liberty Tree. This piece was placed within an eighteen foot fake tree with a sampling of the signage that would have been displayed. The Liberty Tree was the place where the first words about revolting were mentioned. For me it was a very moving piece of history.
Similarly were two relics (aside from the big one discussed below) from the main man himself, George Washington. The first was a piece of cloth from his uniform that now resides behind glass. The second was the so-called “Rising Sun Chair” where Washington sat during the Constitutional Convention prior to it's signing on September 17, 1787, in Philadelphia.
When I arrived at a portion dedicated to NYC and how they reacted to the war, I stumbled upon a replica of a statute of King George III, who ruled Britain at this time. The original statute was torn down on the streets of NYC with the remnants held in the glass case below the replica.
Speaking of statutes there are a great many of them throughout the museum. They depict all scenes and parties involved with the war and fight for independence. They are very realistic and put human faces of those we were learning about face-to-face with our own.
I pleasant surprise was the seemingly ordinary painting depicting the “shot heard round the world” that much to my surprise came to life. There was loud voices from both the British and Patriots and actual cannons firing! It was so cool I had to Snapchat it. The “shot heard round the world” was the official start of the Revolutionary War when the first shot by the British on July 29th, 1775 in Lexington, Massachusetts.
As you walk through the exhibits there are a number of films on varying aspects of the war. They were all interesting but one literally blew me away, the Battlefield Theater. This is was to provide us with an interactive experience of what the soldiers were dealing with. You step into a small room and the doors close behind you. While you remain standing you hear the voices of soldiers, breathe in the gunpowder you see being fired, and feel the horses they rode on underneath your feet. This might have been the most exciting five minutes of my tour!!!
The next time I visit Pennsylvania I will HAVE to go to Valley Forge. At that luncheon there was a representative from Valley Forge National Historic Park who gave a great speech. It only made me that much more eager to visit.
I am also super eager to visit Gettysburg. While I realize that battle was apart of the Civil War not the Revolutionary War, it is still in Pennsylvania and the other top National Park related to an infamous battle that I have longed to visit.
The last exhibit was by far the best and most powerful. After watching a short film about George Washington the most special artifact the museum has it revealed: his tent.
The tale of how this tent survived to present times is almost as impressing as the mere fact that it exists at all. George Washington and his relics from this time period were passed down to his step-son George Washington Parke Curtis and from there to his daughter Mary Anna. Mary Anna was the wife of General Robert Lee, prior to his becoming head of the Confederate Army during the Civil War. Mary Anna and Robert Lee lived in a mansion in Virginia that is now home to Arlington Cemetery. Their home had been seized during that war and those historic relics remained with the slaves who continued to remain at that dwelling.
During the late 1860s they were placed at the Smithsonian for safe keeping. It was eventually returned to the Lee family in 1901 by declaration from President McKinley but the Mary Anna ended up selling the tent to provide for Confederate widows. In 1909 the tent was purchased by Reverend Herbert Burk for five thousand dollars, who created the Valley Forge Historical Society. The Historical Society gave it to this new museum.
I think the hardest, most bittersweet moment was also my favorite of the day. It was the moment the original tent, once home and office to General George Washington was finally revealed to us. I was weeping on the inside. The thought that at the beginning of this war General George Washington was only twenty-three years old yet had the wisdom and courage to stay beside his men to fight for freedoms we did not yet have, stuns me.
When I think of the man that currently occupies the office Washington would be the first to hold, I am appalled, sickened, and glad he isn't here to bear witness to it. I like many others am still reeling from the results of this past Election Day (http://bit.ly/2tbASw5). But seeing living proof right in front of my eyes of the kind of men this country use to breed was almost too much to bear. If ever I felt compelled to revolt it was at that very moment.
For More Information: