The Bicentennial Edition is a special issue of 14 features commemorating the American Revolution Bicentennial in Pennsylvania, published June 1976.

Pennsylvania is unusually rich in historic sites associated with the American Struggle for nationhood two centuries ago. The Bicentennial observance under­scores the importance of this treasury of the state’s historic heritage.

The deep involvement of Pennsylvania people and land in the Revolutionary War is reflected by these historic sites maintained by government as well as organizations in­terested in historic preservation. The sites also offer testimony that Pennsylvanians have respected and preserved these reminders of their heritage.

Pennsylvania historic sites are so representative of the parallel political and military actions of the Revolution that it is possible for those interested in history to gain a meaningful, nearly total, Bicentennial experience by just visiting those sites within the Commonwealth.

Important actions ranged from the Declaration of Independence, as the formal political break with the mother country, to many military and other activities that gave meaning and substance to that daring declaration by an upstart, young nation at Philadelphia’s Independence Hall.

Those interested in history even could come away with a fairly broad experience by restricting their Bicentennial pilgrimage only to the eight historic sites associated with the Revolutionary war that are maintained by the Commonwealth through the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC).

While Pennsylvania historic sites offer unusual oppor­tunities for bridging time and getting a “feel” for the Revolution, no suggestion is offered Bicentennial pilgrims that they restrict their travels to this state or to sites op­erated by the PHMC. Emphasis is strongly intended, how­ever, that Pennsylvanians do not neglect visiting in this Bicentennial period their “backyard” historic sites asso­ciated with the Revolution. Should they do so, they will be poorer for the oversight.

The eight PHMC sites also remind Bicentennial pilgrims of the many activities that made a Revolution … the total and long, hard struggle to independence.

An effective Army had to be forged and a cause preserved (Valley Forge State Park) … battles had to be fought (Brandywine Battlefield State Park) and troops moved to strategic areas with imagination and stealth (Washington Crossing State Park) … blood was shed and the wounded and sick had to be cared for in makeshift hospitals (Ephrata Cloister) … war materiel, though primi­tive, had to be produced (Cornwall Furnace) … talented families had to send sons as Washington’s lieutenants (Pottsgrove Mansion) … and even then spies had to come in out of the cold as intelligence and other necessary acts of war had to be carried out against the enemy (Hope Lodge).

The Revolutionary War association for each of eight PHMC historic sites is summarized:

Valley Forge State Park represents for our nation and the world the sacrifice, endurance and devotion of the soldier for the cause of freedom in the American Revolu­tion. Here in a critical six months beginning on Dec. 19, 1777, the patriots’ cause and their nation were preserved, a mob was turned into an army, and France came to the aid of America. Many Americans consider this ground sacred to freedom’s cause.

Washington Crossing State Park was the point from which on Christmas Night, Dec. 25, 1776, Washington and his forces launched a successful surprise attack on the Hessians at Trenton. This action, plus the brilliant stroke at Princeton on Jan. 3, 1777, possibly changed the course of the war which the enemy and all but a few Americans had decided was virtually over. Trenton was just the morale-builder that Washington … and America … had to have for survival, and Washington and his men delivered.

Brandywine Battlefield State Park, Chadds Ford, was the scene on Sept. 1, 1777, of an action in which General Washington and his men tasted bitter defeat. It was the first engagement in the campaign during which the American army attempted to prevent the British and Hessians, under Gen. William Howe, from advancing from their landing place at what is now Elkton, Md., to occupy the American capital, Philadelphia.

Cornwall Furnace, near Lebanon, was so important to the American cause that protecting its forge from the British occupying Philadelphia helped to dictate the choice of Valley Forge as a Continental Army encampment. Can­non important to the Revolution’s cause as well as cannon balls and other ammunition were produced at this important industry established in 1742 by Peter Grubb. Legend has it that General Washington, with General Lafayette, inspected the operation during the Valley Forge encamp­ment.

Ephrata Cloister, near Lancaster, served the sick and wounded following the Battle of Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777, brought to this monastic Seventh Day Adventist religious community for treatment. Later, the sick from Valley Forge were brought for treatment of diseases induced by exposure and malnutrition. The soldiers who died there are buried and memorialized in Mt. Zion Cemetery on the grounds. A special historical drama marking the Cloisters’ role in the Revolution is presented on Saturday nights during the summer months each year.

Fort Pitt Museum, Pittsburgh, is primarily identified with the earlier French and Indian War (1775-60) and the Pontiac War (1763), but it was important as a base during the Revolution for the protection of the Western Pennsyl­vania frontier against Tory-led Indian raids.

Also preserved on this site is the Fort Pitt Blockhouse, owned and operated by the Fort Pitt Society, Daughter of the American Revolution. This is the original building erected by Col. Henry Bouquet in 1764, and is the oldest authentic structure in Western Pennsylvania.

Hope Lodge, Ft. Washington, is believed to have been built in 1723 by Samuel Morris, a Quaker. This Colonial mansion of the Georgian tradition, was purchased by William West as a refuge from the British occupation of Philadelphia during the winter of 1777-78. To this house came the new owner’s nephew, William West, Jr., a paroled prisoner-of-war of the British. Even though he was a paroled prisoner, the evidence suggests that while here young West worked as a spy in Washington’s network of espionage. The property was the center of defense positions taken in Nov. 1777, by Washington after the Battle of Germantown, but, while Gen. William Howe’s forces probed the American positions, they did not attack.

Pottsgrove Mansion, Pottstown, is a fine mansion of distinctive Georgian architecture built in 1752 by John Potts. The large family of Potts and his wife included: Thomas, a Revolutionary War colonel; Jonathan, who as director general of hospitals, was on Washington’s staff, and Isaac, whose summer home at Valley Forge became Washington’s Headquarters. Ironically, the Potts’ son, John, on the other hand, joined the British forces.

George and Martha Washington, according to family tradition, made several visits to Pottsgrove during the war, including the period of the Valley Forge encampment.

 

George Dowdell is Public Information Officer for the PHMC.