tv American Revolution 1760 to 1778 CSPAN July 6, 2017 6:00pm-7:01pm EDT
join "america history tv" on c-span3 tonight for a live program from the new museum of the american revolution in philadelphia. in one hour at 7:00 p.m. eastern, we'll be joined by top museum staff to learn about their artifacts and exhibits and they'll field your questions on the american revolution. next, scott stevenson, vice president of collections, takes us on a tour of the museum's core exhibition. >> i'm scott stevenson. i'm the vice president of collections and programming at the museum of the american revolution. we're standing on the second floor of the museum. this is where our core exhibitions, 16,000 square feet of exhibition space, kind of wraps around this court that i'm
standing in. we enter here on my left. and you wrap around through 16 galleries and theaters. pass behind the big painting that you see on the south end of the court all the way around and you actually exit just opposite of where we're standing here. you enter a subject of king george iii, when you leave you're a citizen of the american republic. we tell a story. the core narrative is about 1760 to 1790. but then we actually carry you through to the present day to explore the legacies of the american revolution. first we have to step back to 1776 and we actually start with the recreation of the moment on july 9th, 1776, when a group of soldiers and sailers in new york city first heard the words of the declaration of independence and gathered down at the bowling green which is now near the raging bull on wall street, a
landmark familiar to many viewers, and tore down an equestrian statue of king george iii. really marking the beginning of the war of independence. the beginning of the american revolution. and so this is really our first gallery displaying objects from the period. we call this gallery rule britannia. after you've been in that moment of 1776, we take you back 15 years really to the end of what was known as the seven years' war, the french and indian war, the accession of the new king george iii, the first british-born monarch in a century. this is the period in which britain wins this incredible victory in what winston
churchill called the first first world war. we know it as the french and indian war. this has vastly expanded britain's territories from india to africa to the west indies, and particularly north america. more than double the territory that britain laid claim over in north america. and so in the case behind us we have a collection of objects owned and used by colonial americans that speak to the presence of the king in everyday life. one of the great objects here, this is a cast iron fireback made in -- at oxford furnace in new jersey in 1746. this was essentially a big cast iron plate placed in the back of a fireplace that would radiate heat out into the room. as you can see it includes the arms, the royal arms of the king of england. we also have objects that
introduce you to british heroes. so in the upper right a tavern sign, this was on loan to us from the kecticonnecticut histo, a wonderful historical society with amazing collections, generously placed on loan to us. general wolf, a british general who died at the battle of quebec helping capture french canada for the british empire. he was celebrated by americans. this tavern sign hung in front of the tavern kept by israel putnam, who would later be famous as an american general in the revolutionary war, fought at the battle of bunker hill. so our second gallery retitled "the price of victory." more empire, more problems. so after the british victory in the seven years' war, with this
vastly expanded empire particularly in north america, britain faces the challenge, because of course everyone's very excited about having this larger empire. but there are now tens of thousands of new subjects that look to king george iii, of course, desiring him to act as their sovereign. or in the case of people who do not recognize him as the sovereign, like native americans, at least see him as a person they can ask for assistance with their problems. and so you have tens of thousands of native americans, you have more than 70,000 french catholic, and some former spanish colonists, who now are -- britain claims as its subjects. in addition, you have got 2.5 million british colonists, people like george washington, people like benjamin frankly and others, who have fought a war they believe to enjoy the fruits of that victory in the west.
so the king all of a sudden has to face a challenge of how do i balance the interests of all these subjects? how do i on the one hand keep american indians happy so that they don't rise up and cause costly wars on the fran tier? at the same time, honor promises that i've made to people like george washington who think they fought this war in order to enjoy those lands what do i do about these french catholic citizens who --. the king kind of has to act as the arbiter of all these people. gallery two, "the price of victory," really sets up that problem for the crown of how does it try to balance all these different interests? what is the view from the interior? what is the view from the colonies? what is the view from britain about this problem of empire? so the objects in here and the
media piece really pull that story apart. for native people, for instance, in 1763, they're the first group of people to sort of rise up and push back against an increased british control of their lives and a rebellion known sometimes as pontiac's rebellion. and they pushed the crown to guarantee their sovereignty over their lands in the west. the british conclude that the best way to kind of get their arms around this new empire is to build forts and stations, more than 10,000 british regular troops in north america. not necessarily to oppress colonists but just to keep these various populations separated from one another. and that's a very expensive proposition. british taxpayers have funded this war. they've driven their national debt up very high. in parliament, of course, no one is thinking, well, we should just continue to tax british taxpayers to pay for this. american colonists have enjoyed
the benefits of this victory, we should ask them to contribute. so the idea comes up and is eventually passed through parliament of what becomes known as the stamp act. this is actually a depiction on the wall here of the design of that stamp. so this is not a stamp that you put on a letter, of course. this is a very old method of taxation, very familiar to british people, because it was essentially a stamp that was placed on paper. and you can see an original example here. this is a london newspaper and in the lower right-hand corner you see that design that's been stamped on that paper. that was a design that meant that a tax had been paid on that paper. and then the newspaper would be printed on it. this would also apply to parchment that you would use for legal documents. it was on playing cards. and so this was the design for the stamp that would have been
used in america to help pay for those british troops that were supposed to police the empire. now of course this was a challenge to colonial americans' view, because they view themselves, of course, as transplanted english men. they may not have had any english ancestry whatsoever, that was the remarkable thing about being british colonists, is whether you were swedish or dutch or german or came from any number of european backgrounds, once you had become a naturalized british citizen, you believed that you had these fundamental rights as english men. one of the most fundamental of those is the right not to be taxed without your own consent. and that would be given through elected representatives. in the colonies that was through assemblies. in philadelphia, visit independence hall, we know it as
independence hall because of something that happened in 1776. to people in the period that was the pennsylvania statehouse, the place where the colonial legislature met. if you go to colonial williamsburg in virginia, you'll see the house of burgesss. in boston, the old statehouse. these were the legislative assemblies where men met who had been elected and those were the people who were, in the view of colonists, could actually pass taxes. two visions of empire collide in this room. is this empire going to be managed locally by colonists? are colonists going to tax themselves and make the decisions about defense? or is that going to come from above in this case from parliament? that's what's represented by the tax stamp behind me here. of course it's very famously benjamin franklin, who's in london at the time, serving as a colonial agent for pennsylvania, recognizes that nobody likes
taxes. but does not anticipate the absolutely virulent reaction in the colonies. he even recommends some friends of his to become tax collectors then really has to sort of react and recover his reputation a little bit after the stamp act was passed. so the next room which we call res "resistance" is the decade stretching from the stamp act of 1765 to the outbreak of the revolutionary war in 1775. so this is a room that also introduces one of the exhibition technique wet use which is to create these immersive spaces to try to make you feel transported back in time. and so we've recreated here the elm tree that stood in boston in 1765 that became known as the liberty tree. and this was of course a phenomenon that spread through other towns, through other colony in the period, that it was a place where sons and
daughters of liberty gathered in a kind of open-air political meetings to talk about how they would react to these efforts by the british to impose taxes through parliament on them. we've actually embedded in the trunk of this tree a piece of wood from the last standing liberty tree. it was standing until 1999 on the grounds of st. john's college in annapolis, maryland. this is actually a piece of that tulip popular that was bleen down in a hurricane and some of the wood was salvaged. it's just wonderful to have kids in particular feel like they're touching a piece of history here. so this also is a gallery in which we explore some of the symbols of the resistance movement. forms of resistance. so nonimportation. the impulse to boycott goods that were manufactured in
britain. and replace them with locally made goods. we think nowadays, this buy local, buy american movement, is something we've invented. but this has roots going all the way back to the 1760s. save your money, save your country. that's actually a slogan from the newspaper in the period. we've also got a display of these wonderful objects that were used to express political sentiments in the period. ironically, these were all items made by british manufacturers, that of course most manufacturers, their politics followed their wallets. in this case these were made by english or in this case a chinese port lan ball here with arms of liberty printed on it. this mug in the lower left is an item from the collection here at the museum of the american revolution that says, success to the city of boston, liberty forever. again, made in england for the american market.
this is also a gallery in which you talk about the evolving language of liberty. you see a lot of writings and articulation of these new ideas about -- not just about british liberty being restored but this increasing idea that perhaps there is something called american liberty that maybe is even distinct from that of britain's. and as all of this lofty, soaring language is rising, we also want to always confront that with the reality that this idea of liberty did not apply to everyone. so in this panel here, which we entitle "liberty for all," we explore the experience of slavery for people of african descent. this incredible object has survived, is the original printing of the poems of phyllis wheatley, an enslaved woman who lived in massachusetts. she'd been taken into can't different as a child during the
french and indian war, actually, from africa. and eventually learned to read and write and published this book of poems in 1773 that actually has signed the flyleaf here. we actually see the signature of phyllis wheatley. this is an incredible privilege to be able to display this and share this with our visitors. it's actually on the left a -- an image of her he produced from the frontispiece of that book which gives an idea of what she may have looked like. so this gallery concludes the kind of timeline of events from the boston tea party in december of 1773, through the opening shots of the revolution war in 1775, and we of course explore some of the symbols of the mounting american resistance here. and one of the ones that's a
favorite, we've reproduced from a written description this flag that stood on top of a very tall flagpole in tauton, massachusetts, in the fall of 1774. a red emblem, the type of flag that flew over british ships and ports. it has what we would call the union jack today in the upper canton. it's a good reminder that this -- these were not yet people who were fighting for independence. they were not trying to found an independent republic. they were trying to restore their rights within the british empire. and the presence of that union on their flags of protest, it says "liberty and union" on there. so it is expressing the sentiments of people resisting what they consider british tyranny. but they are still appealing to king george iii. their quarrel is with parliament. it is with ministers. it is not yet with the king. and that flag is going to continue to evolve over the next couple of years, but it will
eventually turn into what we know as the stars and stripes. so there are several steps in that evolution. in this next gallery that we step into, we basically take you out of that decade of resistance as americans are gradually finding themselves more and more alienated from britain. and both sides are hardening in their attitudes toward one another by the fall of 1774, king george feels that they crossed the rubicon, that it is really going to be a matter of military showdowns to determine whether americans, he feels, are actually trying to found an independent nation, will be able to succeed or not. and so it's like they're living on a powder keg and the sparks come in the spring of 1775. on april 18th, the night of april 18th, 1775 when a secret expedition of british troops marches out of burst, marching toward concord, massachusetts, where the spies have revealed
that the americans have been gathering arms for this military confrontation. and the british troops, of course, the alarm goes out, this is the famous ride of paul revere. he was one of dozens of riders. he didn't even get as far as many of the others did. but they managed to alarm the countryside. and there's a confrontation that takes place at lexington, massachusetts, and then a few hours later, at the old northbridge in concord. and that's the scene that you see playing out behind us here. we've actually animated a period engraving of that fighting at concord bridge. and that's, again, a place -- concord, massachusetts -- that every american should visit at some point. you can stand on this ground today. you can see the house that stands up on the berry farm up above the river that still stands there today. and these are all objects which are witness objects to that fighting. whether it's a piece of wood that literally is one of the diagonal braces from the bridge
over the river. on april 19th, 1775. that actually came out of the river in the 1950s. it was right there where the bridge stood. there was only one bridge made of oak that was -- that ever stood on that site. the river kind of changed course and they moved the bridge to a different location. and so, you know, it matches perfectly. the location description of the bridge. and objects through the generosity of the concord museum in concord, massachusetts, which has placed a number of these items on display, supplemented pieces from our own collection. you're able to see all witness items that were there at the fighting on april 19th, 1775. so the mirror is really fascinating. again this has been in the collection of the concord museum in massachusetts for well over a century. this mirror was in the home that's actually visible on the far left of the scene here in
the background of the fighting. and that house belonged to captain david brown. this was actually the fouling piece or musket that he carried in the fighting on april 19th. this mirror was on the wall of the house and morning of april 19th, british soldiers had marched across that bridge and went into the house. one of them took that mirror off the wall and threw it out the door. smashing it in the yard outside. only one piece of glass was left in it and it was kept as a memento of april 19th and british barbarity by the family, until it was donated to the museum. so it's incredible to be able to actually bring together the mirror and the fouling piece which probably had been separated since captain david brown's death in the early 1800s. and so we're having a little bit of a family reunion here for the summer of 2017. so that fighting then brings
soldiers from up and down the east coast together. you think about that gallery that centers on the liberty tree for about a decade colonial americans had been forming a kind of imagined community. they had started to feel empathy for one another. such that when the coercive acts are passed and britain is bottled up and -- britain bottles up the -- boston and shuts the port down, humble farmers in places like pennsylvania and new jersey will put flour on a wagon and send to the beleaguered subjects who are living in boston. they started to imagine themselves as americans and have this kind of empathy for one another. but what happens is because the fighting sparks and men from all these colonies stream together, they find that they have a ways to go before they see themselves as fellow americans. so this gallery is about the beginning of that quest for unity.
flying over the scene is kind of the next revolution of that flag. you recognize the british canton. this is still a fight to restore our rights of the englishmen, but now the 13 alternating red and white stripes representing the 13 colonies who have joined in union here. the scene, and we refer to this as a tableau, these are actually life-cast figures. we've pulled molds off of faces and hands and bodies and very carefully researched and hand-sewn all of this clothing to sort of compensate for the lack of photographs from the 18th century. but the scene is based on a pension deposition of a man named israel traft. 1775, he was this 10-year-old boy in the red coat whose father had brought him to war. he was a massachusetts boy. there was yankee fishermen who were in a regiment from the north shore north of boston.
they encountered a group of virginia rifle men who had come in their fringed hunting shirts trying to appear like american indians. they'd come together in the -- around the college buildings at harvard college at the time, now harvard university, and a fight breaks out among these men from these two different regions. israel traft in 1845 remembers that george washington rode into the scene, broke up the soldiers' fights. this is just a moment in which washington is writing home to his brother in virginia, talking about the challenges that he was facing of trying to get men for whom their colony was their country, to think of themselves as americans. so we think this is sort of a wonderful storytelling device to point out how long that journey would be. perhaps a journey that's not even finished yet today. for us all to see ourselves as americans despite our twedivers.
each one of the cases in this gallery explores one of the three big participants in this tableau. new englanders, southern riflemen, george washington himself. so in this case these are items that reflect the military traditions of new englanders in the period. and the red coat in the back which is on loan to us from a private collector is one of the few surviving garments from an american participant in the revolutionary war. that was worn by a man who fought at the battle of bunker hill. and of course some people say, a red coat, isn't that british? remember, they're all british at this point. this is not yet a fight for american independence. right beside him, this leatherbound book is a bible that was carried by another soldier from -- in this case from ipswich, massachusetts. francis merryfield, who had that in his pocket during the battle of bunker hill. that night when they were
treated, he sat down and wrote a short account of the fighting at bunker hill. he thanked god for preserving his life, dedicated his life to the glory of god for having saved his life in this terrible battle at bunker hill. so it's amazing stuff. so what about the riflemen from the south? this is a great group of objects. the southern military tradition, men from pennsylvania, maryland, and virginia, from the back country, this is one of only a handful of fringed rifle shirts that have survived. there's only three or four of these that have survived from the revolutionary era. this is one from the collection of the museum of american revolution here in philadelphia. the rifle is the earliest signed and dated american rifle from colonial america, 1761, made in reading, pennsylvania. which is a very distinctive type, a very accurate firearm
used by these riflemen from the southern colonies to try to use the great accuracy of these firearms to compensate for not having as many men as the british army had. finally, a tombstone that actually stood in the church yard, a trinity church yard, near ground zero in new york city, in memory of michael cressup, who was the captain of a rifle regiment who was raised in western maryland, he died in new york in 1775, having marched to boston then contracted fever fever. it's a great object that remembers michael cressup. then finally, george washington himself, again through the courtesy of two institutions very generously lending these objects, we've brought together, we think for the first time since 1776, a portrait of george washington painted here in philadelphia in the summer of
1776. this was commissioned by john hancock, painted by charles wilson peele, and as you see over the shoulder of general washington that blue ribbon. wide blue ribbon. this was a mark that washington purchased in boston in 1775 to distinguish himself. of course this is primarily a new england army that this virginian has been appointed to command. nobody knows who's in charge. so the first thing he does is purchase this rib been to really mark him as the commander in chief. here below the portrait is the actual original ribbon which washington gave to the painter charles wilson peele later during the revolutionary war, which descended and is now in the collection of harvard's peabody museum. this gallery sort of then takes you through the end of 1775. and it's now january of 1776. and our next gallery which we title "revolution," everything changed in 1776.
really focuses then on the independence movement. and the big change now from appealing to the king to try to resolve these differences, to deciding that the king was the enemy and that the only solution was to declare independence. so one of the things we try to do in this gallery is to sort of invert the narrative that many of us were taught in school. which was viewing the declaration of independence as this document sprung from the mind of thomas jefferson, shared with members of congress, passed and then announced to all of us, the citizens of america. we're trying to point out that as jefferson himself said, the declaration of independencell o america. we're trying to point out that as jefferson himself said, the declaration of independence was an expression of the american mind. in the early part of the gallery here we try to look at all the other declarations of independence that preceded the
declaration of independence of july 1776. we do this through this touch screen interactive where you can scroll through the months from january through to july. as you can see, as i do that, the colonies are populated with these little blue circles. and what those are showing you is in each one of the colonies, local declarations of independence, in this case representatives from charlotte county voting to support independence, april 23rd, 1776. in south carolina, for instance, a grand jury voting to support independence. these are often actions by courts. a grand jury voting to support independence in april. you go to pennsylvania, for instance. massachusetts itself, which really puts the question of independence to all the towns,
these are all towns that voted to support independence and sent instructions to their delegates. so it's really extraordinary. you can also explore the opinions of cloolonial american. here, flora mcdonald who is a loyalist and her sentiments on this question. not everyone was in support of independence. there are those who felt this was a leap in the dark. one of them literally describes it as a leap in the dark. and why on earth would you declare independence from the greatest empire in the world? they were behind the resistance movement but there were those who said they could not go and actually handling gimagine decl independence, that that was an act of treason too horrible to imagine. we explore this story also through original objects. these are some works on paper, an actual original precipitating of the proclamation by king george iii for suppressing
rebellions and seditions, this was passed in august of 1775. the news of this and king george's speech to parliament delivered in october of 1975 which declared the colonists in rebellion. all arrive in philadelphia in january of 1776. the same week as a pamphlet is published just a block from where we're standing here at the museum of the american revolution by thomas paine, who's a failed english cabinetmaker, had tried to be a tax collector, had really not found his way until he realized he could make an amazing career for himself writing. he wrote a pamphlet called "common sense." which in plain, everyday language here -- and this is an english reprinting of that philadelphia pamphlet, "common sense" dreaddressed to the inha tants of america, called for an
interest nation to be created. that all the states should become republics. rejects monarchy as a system of government. now the king is being cast as an enemy rather than a protector of the people. so this is when this becomes an american revolution. in this gallery we unpack the declaration of independence. we have a theater that explores the process of drafting and passing the declaration of independence. we rotate on display printings of the declaration. we're all familiar with the engrossed copy on parchment that you can see in washington, d.c. at the national archives. but other than members of congress, very few people ever saw that document. certainly in the 18th century. most people encountered the texts of the declaration, either from newspaper broadside printings or having it read out loud in their various
communities. so we rotate on display different printings of the declaration. right now we have one of the rarest, actually, is a german language precipitating here in the center. there are only two copies of this july 1776 printing of the declaration in german that have survived. and this has been shared with us by gettysburg college in pennsylvania. then it's side by side with a salem, massachusetts, printing of the declaration. we also explore the promise of equality. so this notion that all men are created equal, endowed by their creators with certain unalienable rights, that language that of course has to be -- each person has to decide, does that apply to me? so the people who wrote those words maybe didn't actually recognize the revolutionary potential in them. and actually some people, like john adams, who probably did realize that when you declare all men are created equal,
people might say, what about women? what about enslaved people? we try to explore that story through this wall here where we look at the status of laboring men, of enslaved people, of women, including abigail adams. we also explore the foundations of religious freedom through a group of objects representing different communities of faith in the colonies. so these on the left, these are known as renomim, these were very highly decorated fineals to cover the ends of a torah used by jewish community here, built as an act of community in philadelphia. they have a weather vane from one of the first lutheran churches in trapp, pennsylvania, 1743. even represents the presence of islam in america. very difficult to document
through material culture. but a very small charm, this is a little copper charm with an inscription from the koran that was excavated in pennsylvania from archeological site dating to the mid-18th century. perhaps owned by enslaved african africans who was muslim. so it's really tremendous to be able to have this tradition represented through an object in the museum. when you get to this point in the galleries you then encounter the statue of king george iii. we bring you back to that moment when we started, when that declaration of independence was being read in new york in 1776, july 9th. we have a sailor offering a rope, throwing down to try to invite you to consider, where would you have stood at this point in the story? you've heard what the loyalist critique is. you've seen people who are trying to remain neutral.
you've seen fervent revolutionaries. we want you to also feel like you would have had a choice and that the outcome was still quite uncertain. we actually have on display, on loan to us from the new york historical society, are fragments of the original statue that stood there at the bowling green. it was composed of a gilt lead. there was about 4,000 pounds of lead in large sheets. that was broken apart into pieces and melted down into 42,000 musket balls which were turned into ammunition for the continental army. the musket balls were referred to in one newspaper article as melted majesty. they were to be issued out to the continental army and fired back at the ministerial troops as they called them. there's only a few fragments of that statue that have actually survived. but it's a great story. so at this point we ask visitors in that very first gallery four
big questions to kind of frame their journey through the galleries. the first of the questions is, how do people become revolutionaries? when they come back to the statue of king george iii, they should be able to answer that question of how people become revolutionaries. the second question we asked is, how did the revolution survive its darkest hour? because of course while all this lofty language about liberty and rights and creating constitutions and remember the ladies is going on, the largest overseas expedition in european history is headed towards new york. and so the mural that you see beside me here is an eyewitness depiction which we've blown up as a mural showing five british warships and about 6,000 british and hessian troops in landing boats about to land on manhattan
island, kit's bay, september 15th, 1776. at this time, one of the soldiers whose name was daniel mac curtin saw these ships gathering in new york harbor and later said, i thought all london was afloat. so it was one thing to declare independence, to tear down the king, to declare that you were now living in the american revolution. but to actually achieve american independence was going to be an effort of many, many more years of struggle. and the first thing americans had to do was just survive the onslaught that was coming in the form of the british army. we go through a series of galleries which take you on a kind of chronological march through the early years of the revolutionary war. exploring as you go different communities of people who are affected or who participate in that fighting. the first, of course, is the british army. we bring back another one of our life cast figures here who's
representing a young soldier in his 20s, william burke, irish recruit in the british army who served in the new york campaign. he had enlisted just shortly before being sent to north america. and then objects and weapons that reflect those forces that participated in the fighting and the campaign of 1776. and then we move on. we introduce another character. this is joseph plum martin. probably one of the most famous american common soldiers of the revolutionary war. he wrote a narrative of his life when he was an old man that was published in the 1830s. it's known to many people today when it was reprinted as "private yankee doodle." he enlisted as a young teenager in connecticut. we're depicting him here during the battle of kit's bay. he was one of the new england soldiers on shore when those
ships and those landing boats were anchored off of kit's bay. the new englanders there along the shore were completely overawed by this show of force and ran. they really did not stand and put up much of a resistance and were driven across manhattan. and that was really the story of 1776, that campaign that was documented so well in david mccullough's book "1776," where just fighting and nearly a dozen actions from long island, around manhattan, eventually being driven across new jersey, washington's army is in full retreat by the beginning of december 1776. and these are some objects that we pulled together from our collection and from other lenders that illustrate the american forces that were fighting in 1776. this portrait is by relatively up known at the time artist,
very famous today in charles wilson peele. peele had been born in maryland and was part of a large family. he was orphaned when he was relatively young. apprenticed as a saddlemaker. but showed real promise as a painter. and received a patronage of some wealthier, more influential people in maryland. and eventually in the early 1770s had painted a virginia colonel named george washington and was starting to get a reputation as a very good painter. this is a portrait of a philadelphian named ben yeah 9 flower, depicted in his uniform as an officer in the continental artillery. he was one of the philadelphia associaters, the voluntary militia that lived in philadelphia and really marched to washington's assistance as his army was starting to fall apart after that new york campaign. they'd been driving through new jersey and by the first week of
december 17 fist 76, crossing the delaware from trenton into pennsylvania. not washington's crossing that you're used to seeing in the paine metropolitan museum but crossing east to west. this is really one of the lowest moments of the revolutionary war. congress is fleeing philadelphia. there's a sense that this revolutionary effort is over. and that basically the men who signed that document were all going to end up being hauled off to the tower of london. and so charles wilson peele is part of the group of philadelphia soldiers who march up to reinforce washington's army. one of the men that's been with washington through that whole summer is his brother, james peele, who was serving with the maryland forces. they had fought very hard at the battle of long island in august of 1776. they'd lost many men, all of their baggage, they were really starving, nearly naked men.
you have them barefoot as they crossed into pennsylvania. on the night of december 18th, 1776, a man came staggering out of a crowd of soldiers, came up to charles wilson peele, and he didn't recognize his own brother james. and that's the scene that we've recreated with this tableau here. it's based on charles wilson peele's own diaries that he wrote at the time. he wrote a more expanded memoir of it later in life. he actually did a painting that he called "the crossing of the delaware." it has not survived. but he described it in a series of letters to thomas jefferson in 1818. and he noted that for him this was the lowest moment of the revolution. he wanted to do a painting that captured the suffering of the soldiers as they were coming up out of the river. and included the presence of women and children also. he wanted to acknowledge their presence as camp followers and the fact that they were along in
the army and sharing the suffering and sacrifice of those who helped to win independence. so as you pass the peele brothers, of course that scene is taking place as thomas paine, who we know of course as the author of "common sense," is with the army. he's penning an essay which he publishes just a week or two later called "the american crisis number one." that is when he writes those immortal words, "these are the times that try men's souls, the summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis shrink from the service of his country." he expands it now, most deserved and beloved thanks of man and woman. so that's the scene that he's really seeing in front of him as he's writing that reportedly on the head of a drum. so as we move into the next gallery, then, we come from that low moment that really is by mid-december 1976, things are looking bad.
we lift up another one of these communities, in this case the hessian soldiers, those german soldiers who have been hired to supplement the british army in america by king george iii. another teenager here. this is johannes roiberg, 17 years old when he arrived in new york in 1776, was captured at the battle of trenton which of course is the surprise reversal that takes place on christmas night when washington crosses the delaware in a desperate attempt to try to deliver some kind of blow against the british to keep them from marching on and capturing philadelphia. and we digitized here, we've blown up a period map that shows the location of all of this fighting and what became known as the ten crucial days. so the first action, the crossing of the delaware, the battle of trenton, you can see washington crossing, the army, washington's army then dividing, marching down from the west,
attacking these green dots representing the hessians at trenton a trenton, and that fighting taking place. then in a series of actions over the next ten days, crossing and recrossing the delaware, culminating in the january 3rd, 1777, battle of princeton. and this is when washington, who's been attacked by a large -- much larger superior british force during a little-remembered battle called the second battle of trenton, in the middle of the night manages to slip off, leaving the british here, marching cross country and attacking the rear of the british line at princeton. this was within sight of where princeton university stands today. and that fighting takes place again on january 3rd of 1776. it was in that action that a scottish immigrant named hugh mercer, who had served with
washington during the french and indian war and was a very old friend of his, had been moved to fredericksburg, virginia, after the war where he set up as a medical doctor. so he knew washington very well. in the early revolutionary period he became involved in the independence movement. he became a british commander, was a general commanding the lead elements of that american force at the battle of princeton. when the british counterattacked, mercer was knocked from his horse. and apparently these british troops thought that they had actually captured general washington. and demanded that he surrender. but mercer defended himself with a sword. and this is actually the original silver-hilted sword that mercer had in his hand, you see in the background the depiction from john trumbel, the painting of the death of mercer, with a bayonet from the british regiment that attacked the americans at princeton.
these blades may well have crossed one another as mercer lay on the ground fighting off a circle of british soldiers. he was repeatedly stabbed with bayonets, mortally wounded. he lingered for nine days afterwards and became a kind of martyr for the american cause. when he eventually died, he was -- his body was brought here to philadelphia, was placed on public exhibition so that americans could see these horrible wounds he had suffered, then he was buried at christchurch here in philadelphia. fast forward to 1784. charles wilson peele, our painter back there, is commissioned by princeton university to do a full-length portrait of general washington to hang in nassau hall, which still stands today at princeton. and behind you right here, this is a reproduction of that painting which you can actually see in the princeton university art gallery. you'll notice here is nassau hall, very recognizable to anyone who's been to princeton
before with the fighting going on in the background. of course charles and james were participants in this battle. so they knew well and actually charles went and sketched the battlefield, got all the details right. here at general washington's feet you see the dying general mercer. and then in probably the first photobomb in american history, you'll see charles and james peele has been painted into the background of the scene. so it's a nice way to kind of bring their story full circle here from seeing them in that horrible condition on the banks of the delaware to that victorious moment at the battle of princeton. chronologically we're now in early 1777. and this is where our story moves to consider another group of people who had to make a choice about what they would do in the midst of this anglo american civil war that's going on, the american revolution. and that's native people. and here we focus on the experience of the oneida indian
nation located now in what's central new york. they were part of that iroquois confederacy of six nations that stretch from the central new york. they were part of the iroquois. through an immersive media experience we are actually in the middle of a group of men and women in the nation as they debate how can they preserve their sovereignty and independence when the british and the continental congress are saying you have to make a choice and fight for one side or the other. so they reflect on what are the consequences of choosing one side or the other or trying to remain neutral. for most of the six nations, they felt the best choice was to side with the british. they felt that expanding the american colonies were much more of a threat to their sovereignty
than the british would be. for the oneida, they felt that siding with the continental congress was the best way forward for them. so that ancient confederacy of the nations was pulled apart, a civil war within their confederacy that echos the larger civil war between the colonies and the british. >> the oneida are allies of the united states. we will share with them, buried in the same graves. >> and so later in 1777 the campaign and series of battles known as saratoga take place in upstate new york. and we tried to use the saratoga campaign as a way to explore the experience of war for noncombatants. so we used the baroness here. this was a german woman married
to the commander of the german troops fighting with the british. these were brunswickers. her memoir, based on her diary that she kept through the campaign is remarkable and is a great reminder of the deep psychological trauma that can come from experiencing war. now we often, because we look at those wonderful dramatic paintings, we think of the 18th century as a kind of glorious era, you know, with heroic soldiers, with flags flying. it's not the same kind of gritty view of conflict like we have for the american civil war, for instance, because of those tremendous photographs. and so the baroness and her diary give us an opportunity to explore the experience of war through a noncombatant who was there marching along with the army. she cared for wounded.
at one point she spent several days in the basement of a house being bombarded by the americans who didn't realize that they were wounded there. they thought this was a command post. so using her diary, using objects associated with people that she encountered, even archaeological items from one of the prisoner of war camps that she lived in later in the war. because of course she and the soldiers from the army were captured and treated as prisoners of war. were able we're able to tell her story. this is an english port pistol that belonged to major henry harnage who served in the 62nd regiment, one of the british regiments. he was badly wounded in the battle of freeman's farm, which took place during this series of actions around saratoga. and after the battle the
baroness chaired for harnage and called him by name. a witness object. and he did recover from his wounds and became a prisoner of war along with the baroness through the rest of the conflict. we alhave also in this gallery display that we call arms of independence. and this is a tremendous collection of nearly 50 weapons that were carried by american forces during the revolutionary war and a depiction in the center. this is a painting of the battle of princeton. so you can see general washington brandishing his sword on the left. in the distance, in the middle you see a fallen white horse and a soldier who is helping general mercer. what's remarkable about this painting, the original after which this is a copy, the original was by james peel. but this is a copy that was done
by general mercer's son william who was orphaned by the death of his father at the battle of princeton who was apprenticed to the peel brothers to learn a trade, to become a painter and actually executed this copy in the early 1780s that included a depiction of the death of his father. so again a reminder of the, you know, human dimension of the revolutionary war which is often missing from most museum displays about this period. out behind us here, this is an area when the museum is open and operating, we line soldiers up here, visitors as soldiers, the doors open and you're able to march in and actually experience a 4-d immersive battlefield experience being at the battle of brandywine. and we tell the story of that
largest land battle of the american reeve lugs. which is ultimately an american defeat. and it's followed up about an week and a half later by the british army marching into philadelphia and capturing the revolutionary capital. this is a year following the declaration of independence when philadelphia falls and will be occupied by the british for nine months. and so british troops who, on september 26, 1777, marched down chestnut street, march up to what we now know as independence hall and they turn that building where the declaration of independence was adopted and signed into a prison for american soldiers. and that's the scene that we depict here. american, wounded american officer being brought into independence hall, we've recreated the interior, very exact in here. we know about this particular scene through the diary of a quaker woman.
and we depict two quaker women who was part of a delegation that came to see these prisoners being brought in to offer assistance in caring for the wounded. this allows us to talk about another community of people, those who are passivists. who is their experience of living in an occupied city here, in this case philadelphia. while all of this is taking pli place ehere in the neighborhood washington's army has marched into a desolate piece of ground called valley forge and this becomes the scene of a six-month winter encampment of the continental army and probably the most famous image of the march into valley forge is this collection from the museum of the american revolution. this is the march to valley forge, depicting soldiers on the
19th of december 1777 marching into this desolate area where they have to build their own log city by cutting down trees, building log huts and getting themselves undercover in the harshest of weather. so a case with objects that have been arch logically recovered from some of the soldier's huts, personal items. some of the ax that were probably used to build those huts. they were really undersupplied with tools and shoveling and spades. you know, all part of the gear that they were using. we've also recreated the view, because of course most people think of snow when they think of valley forge. but the army did not march out f their encampment until june 19th of 1778. they spent six full months in camp. we tried to show the appearance of the grandpa ra parade in the center of the encampment. all of the different kinds of people you would have
encountered, troops in the background undergoing the drill of the inspector general, the oppression officer who becomes very important, inspector general of the continental army, forming training ak ticks and maneuvers. the troops are encamped at valley forge when the news comes that france has finally signed a treaty of alliance with the united states. and this really is the end of that question of how the revolution survived its darkest hour. because having declare independence in 1776 and then really gone it alone through 1777 into 1778, finally there's the prospect of foreign assistance, foreign aid. and there's a real rise in american confidence that they're going to be able to achieve their independence. and they go into that year with
a lot more confidence than they had up until this point. philadelphia's newest museum is in the heart of the city just two blocks from independence hall. and it tells the story of the country's road to independence. the museum of the american revolution opened in april. tonight we take you inside. it was a decade before that shot heard around the world in concord and lexington that america's battle for freedom really begins. and joining us inside the museum is its president and ceo michael quinn. thanks for being with us and for allowing c-span inside the museum. >> it's a pleasure to be with you and we're honored to have c-span in the museum. you with are welcome anytime as