ERW Weekender: Museum of the American Revolution

On April 19, 2017, symbolic in American Revolutionary War history, the Museum of the American Revolution opened in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The weekend before, I had the chance, to get a “sneak peak” of the new museum.

Museum of the American Revolution

I left thoroughly impressed as the museum fills in a critical need for telling this utmost important era in our nation’s history. Yet, the development of exhibits along with the myriad of learning styles and technology underscores the need in this 21st century to be approachable and inclusive to reach various levels of interest that the visitor may have.

Greeting visitors as they approach are a few murals depicting well-known scenes of the American Revolution–including the symbolic “Crossing of the Delaware” and the “Signing of the Declaration of the Declaration.” Along with one of the most important sections of the Declaration of Independence.IMG_1651 (1)

After entering the museum the exhibit area is on the second floor, beginning with the build-up to the war and ending with a nod to the upholding of the revolutionary ideals. Broken up into four segments, the exhibits cover the period of the “Road to Independence” from 1760-1775, “The Darkest Hour” 1776-1778, “A Revolutionary War” 1778-1783, and ending with “A New Nation” 1783 to present-day. A must-see is the short 15-minute film that is centered on George Washington’s command tent, which is shown behind the screen at the conclusion of the film.

Yet, do not shirk the exhibits, which include the a portion of the last remaining “Liberty Tree” from Annapolis, Maryland that fell during a hurricane a few years back. Small movie theaters dot the exhibit area depicting different aspects of the war and history. The Oneida Native Americans, the first allies of the United States are also prominently–and rightfully–highlighted as to their contributions.

IMG_1661Another of the interesting components of the museum is the use of interpretive questions, including “Why were they called Hessians?” with an accompanying multi-dimensional map that shows the different German principalities that contributed troops to the British war effort. Another interesting panel discusses the first use of acronym “USA.”

The museum’s display collection of artifacts is also truly amazing. From a few of the first flags carried by units in the war, to the aforementioned “Liberty Tree”, to a portion of the famous North Bridge, in Concord, Massachusetts.

Combined with the interactive displays, the chance to walk onto a privateer ship, and the assortment of artifacts on display, the museum exhibit area caters to all levels of enthusiasts and can definitely absorb a few hours of your time.

North Bridge segment

With the museum main attractions situated on the second floor, the first floor of the museum is free to house the orientation film, a cafe, and the gift shop. If you have never been to Philadelphia, the museum is another highlight to add to your bucket list itinerary. If you have ventured to the “City of Brotherly Love” before, the museum provides an excellent reason to journey back.

For information on the museum, including programs, exhibits, and the admission fee, click here.

Christmas, 1776

On Christmas, 1776, George Washington took the greatest gamble of the American Revolution, up to that date. On that cold and snowy night, with an ice-clogged river, and an army teetering on the verge of disintegration, the American commander led his command toward a signature, morale-improving, improbable victory.

He defeated Hessian soldiers, in the service of the British, at Trenton, New Jersey. The call sign –used to enter and exit the American camp– leading up to the offensive movement was “victory or death.”

That was quite an accurate statement to summarize the dire straits the American cause of independence had become by winter 1776. The heroics of that night lent itself to the painting by Emanuel Leutze in 1851 that is chock full of historical inaccuracies. But the painting conjured up images of that noble band of American patriots that followed George Washington across the frozen waterway in 1776.

Emmanuel Leutze's painting, 1851
Emanuel Leutze’s painting, 1851

[Did you know that James Monroe, who would be wounded at the Battle of Trenton, is painted in holding the flag? There is no primary account that puts both men in the same boat that night, though.]

Luckily, famous historical artist Mort Kunstler, took a look at Leutze’s famous painting and decided to make it more historically accurate. Although initially reluctant to tackle the project given the popularity of the previous work, Kunstler studied, tackled history books, and diligently sought such information like the type of boats that would have been used, in the process of creating a more historically accurate depiction.

He succeeded.

Mort Kunstler painting of the "Crossing of the Delaware"
Mort Kunstler painting of the “Crossing of the Delaware”

So, as you celebrate the holidays, you now need a little more space on the wall for a second painting of Washington and his army crossing the Delaware.

Whether you have the space or not on your wall for two paintings, one thing these great illustrations have in common is showing the fortitude of the American soldier.

That fortitude is still on display to this very date. On Christmas Day 2015 thousands of men and women, in the service of America, will serve around the world, where the call sign of “victory or death” is not a mere anecdote from years past, unfortunately.

Thank you to all the men who crossed that icy river many cold nights ago to help win our independence and to the men and women who keep watch tonight on another cold night around the world.

To the readers of Emerging Revolutionary War, I wish you a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. Thank you for reading!



*Great article on Kunstler and the painting can be found here.

**Link to Mort Kunstler’s website can be found here.