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Season of Independence: Instructions by the Virginia Convention to Their Delegates in Congress, May 15, 1776

This newspaper from Boston, Massachusetts includes a printing of the instructions from Virginia’s assembly to their delegates at the Second Continental Congress. Most notably, the instructions tell Virginia delegates to not simply vote in favor of independence, but to propose it themselves. The instructions reference King George III’s “Proclamation of Rebellion” as one of several justifications for taking this step.

Courtesy of Massachusetts Historical Society

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Randolph Household Inventory

Following Peyton Randolph’s death in 1775, York County, Virginia, officials recorded this inventory of his possessions. The names and values (in pounds) of the enslaved people he owned are recorded on pages four through ten of the inventory. Eve’s name is listed on page five of the inventory, while her son George’s name is listed on page four. Eve and another woman named Betty were assigned values of 100 pounds each, the highest values among the enslaved women recorded in the inventory. These high values suggest that Eve and Betty worked in the Randolph home. Eve’s status may have changed following her attempt to escape from the Randolph family with her son in search of freedom. At least two handwritten copies of this inventory survive. The other copy includes the notation “gone to the enemy” next to the names of Eve and George, referring to when they first ran away from the Randolph family in search of their freedom in late-1775 or early-1776.

This historical record is dedicated to the Museum of the American Revolution by the York County-Poquoson Circuit Court, Authorized by the Honorable Kristen N. Nelson, Clerk

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Finding Freedom: Andrew - “Soldiers in Uniform”

This French officer’s depiction of American soldiers at the Siege of Yorktown shows a soldier of African descent from the Rhode Island Regiment of the Continental Army. During the Revolutionary War, Black and White soldiers fought alongside one another on both sides of the conflict. Historians estimate that between 4,000 and 8,000 men of African descent served in the Continental Army. In 1778, Rhode Island offered freedom to enslaved men in exchange for service. It created a regiment with privates of African and Native American ancestry, officered by White men. In 1781, the Rhode Island line was collapsed from two regiments into one integrated unit with segregated companies.

Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University Library

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Finding Freedom: Eve - Bruton & Middleton Parish Register, page 83

This page from the record book for Bruton Parish Church in Williamsburg, Virginia, lists the baptism of Eve’s infant son George on July 6, 1766. The names of George and Eve can be found near the middle of the page. When Eve and George first ran away from the Randolph family in search of their freedom in late-1775 or early-1776, George was about 10 years old.

Courtesy of Bruton Parish Church

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Picturing Washington's Army: Verplanck’s Point | Rhode Island Regiment

Take a closer look at the anchor-decorated colonnade of the Rhode Island Regiment. The Rhode Islanders’ tents were set up between the Massachusetts and Connecticut brigades. An officer’s marquee tent is visible in the foreground of this section of the painting. 

Image: Museum of the American Revolution, Gift of the Landenberger Family Foundation 

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The Davenport Letters: August 26, 1780

By August 1780, James Davenport was encamped at Hackensack, New Jersey, north of New York City. That summer, the Continental Army was engaging in regular movements, marches, and active skirmishing with British parties that ventured out of the city. As James endured these marches, he was also reflecting on the larger strategic shifts of the war. Since February 1778, the French had been in a formal alliance with the United States, but many people remained skeptical both of the French and of their long-term commitment to the cause. A second copy of this letter, on different paper and with slightly different spelling, survives in the Davenport family papers.

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Among His Troops: Pierre Charles L’Enfant

In 1782, Pierre “Peter” Charles L’Enfant, a French-born Continental Army engineer, created the panoramic watercolor views of the army’s encampments at Verplanck’s Point and West Point. The son of an artist, L’Enfant studied at the Royal Academy of Painting and Sculpture in Paris. He crossed the ocean to volunteer for America. In 1778, during the Valley Forge winter, he received a commission as captain of engineers. Unsatisfied with such a technical role, L’Enfant went south in hopes of distinguishing himself in combat. In 1779, he fought at Savannah, Georgia and was badly wounded in the leg. He rejoined the army in 1780, and fought while leaning on a crutch during the Siege of Charleston, South Carolina. Taken prisoner with the rest of the Charleston garrison in 1780, L’Enfant missed the Siege of Yorktown in 1781. When he painted these watercolors in 1782, he was still nursing hurt feelings that he had missed the chance for glory and promotion at Yorktown. After the siege of Yorktown, L’Enfant returned to the Continental Army, and wrote to Washington from Philadelphia on February 18, 1782, asking for a promotion. He then moved with the army from Philadelphia to the Hudson Highlands in the spring of 1782.
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Among His Troops: Continental Army Along the Hudson

George Washington called the Hudson River the “Key of America.” With the Mohawk River to the West and Lake George and Lake Champlain to the North, the Hudson was part of a system of waterways that reached from the Great Lakes, to Canada, and down to New York City. During the Revolutionary War, Americans clustered their Hudson River fortifications around three narrows– West Point in the North, the Popolopen Creek in the middle, and King’s Ferry to the South. These posts were between 45 and 60 miles from New York City. In 1781, French troops and a portion of the Continental Army crossed the Hudson River at King’s Ferry on their way to Yorktown, Virginia, a crossing that is now recognized as part of the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route National Historic Trail. By the summer of 1782, the American Army had secured its control of this region. Along the 15-mile stretch of the Hudson River, Washington maintained a force of over 11,000 soldiers. At the same time, 13,000 British troops occupied New York City. West Point was the Continental Army’s strongest fortification. Verplanck’s Point and Stony Point, on either side of King’s Ferry, were the front line against the British to the south.


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Meet the Figures: Oneida Nation Theater: Wale

Mary Hanonwayele, also known as Wale (possibly the Oneida pronunciation of “Mary”), was a member of the Oneida Bear Clan. Her brother, Thomas Sinavis, was one of the Oneida warriors at Valley Forge and was killed at the Battle of Barren Hill on May 20, 1778. Unfortunately, Revolutionary commissioners overlooked her in distributing condolence gifts. In 1794, she finally received a small sum for this purpose as part of larger treaty negotiations between the United States and native groups. She lived until at least 1800.

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Finding Freedom: Deborah - “Muster Book of Free Black Settlement of Birchtown,” Page 40

When Deborah arrived in Nova Scotia in 1783, she was one of many newly freed people of African descent who helped settle Birchtown, a town named for British Brigadier General Samuel Birch. This page from a 1784 census, or list of residents, documents the men and women who lived in Birchtown the year after the town’s founding. Deborah’s name, recorded as Deborah Lynch, can be found near the bottom of the page on the left side. Harry, her husband listed in the 1783 “Inspection Roll of Negroes,” is not included in this census. He may have died due to the harsh conditions and bad weather that the settlers faced. Deborah likely took the last name Lynch because Harry had been owned by a Loyalist named Lynch, whom Deborah also lived with for a short time. In this document, Deborah is listed as a member of the household of a man named Neil Robinson. No other details about their relationship status are currently known.

“Muster Book of Free Black Settlement of Birchtown,” 1784, Library and Archives Canada, MG 9 B9-14, item 1292

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