by Maria King
As the celebrations for July 4th come to an end, I am struck by the feeling that it is always such a fun holiday. While family and friends gather to commemorate this occasion, I often wonder how many people know exactly what the July 4th holiday represents. It plays out in my mind like Jay Leno “Jay Walking” segment where he asks people general knowledge questions about history, geography or current events. It seems like the people he asks are “knowledge challenged” judging by some of the answers that they provide. It is my fervent hope that he edits out quite a few correct answers before keeping only those that will elicit audience laughter. Otherwise we are doomed. I can almost hear him asking, “What is the reason for the July 4th holiday?” and some of the answers might be, “To give us a work day off in the middle of summer, “Because that’s when Columbus discovered America”, “So car dealers can have their annual Carbeque sale!” Sigh.
Maybe it’s not their fault really because the heart and soul of this nation cannot be understood with hot-dogs or parades. Contrary to what some may think, July 4th is NOT the celebration of the invention of fireworks. So even though the holiday is over why not clear the air for next year? Enlighten the confused around us and revisit the truths for those in the know. In that vein, this week I highlighted places for finding out the basic history of the Independence of these United States. (Yes it is a good idea, isn’t it?) This is a list of some fascinating places to go and experience history in a way that will leave you educated, engaged and most certainly humbled. You will be front and center to discover how a simple collection of colonists with nothing more than a desire for freedom, took on one of the most powerful nations in the world and did the impossible. These ideas showcase a different facet of our searches besides our usual events, which is our attractions. They feature battlefields, museums, National Parks, historic homes and more. It is a teachable moment for all who are interested in history or just eager to learn from it.
As I say every week, if there isn’t anything on this list near you, try to use the search and find some historical attractions in your area. It doesn’t have to be something from the Revolutionary War time, anything relating to US history will be a wonderful way to get out and see something special this week. Grab the kids, the neighbors and the sunscreen and head on out to a historical site this week. I assure you that every member of your family will be in awe, no matter what their age. Oh and by the way just so you know, the real reason we celebrate July 4th is because it is the day of the annual Nathans Hot Dog eating contest and the commemoration of the invention of mustard. Don’t believe me? Well pay a visit to a historical site and verify (or debunk) everything I just told you. I am betting you will have a great time proving me wrong!
Philadelphia, PA 19102
The National Constitution Center is the first and only nonprofit, nonpartisan institution devoted to the most powerful vision of freedom ever expressed: the U.S. Constitution. Located on Independence Mall in Historic Philadelphia, the birthplace of American freedom, the Center illuminates constitutional ideals and inspires active citizenship through a state-of-the-art museum experience, including hundreds of interactive exhibits, films and rare artifacts; must-see feature exhibitions; the internationally acclaimed, 360-degree theatrical production Freedom Rising; and the iconic Signers’ Hall, where visitors can sign the Constitution alongside 42 life-size, bronze statues of the Founding Fathers. As America’s forum for constitutional dialogue, the Center engages diverse, distinguished leaders of government, public policy, journalism and scholarship in timely public discussions and debates. The Center also houses the Annenberg Center for Education and Outreach, the national hub for constitutional education, which offers cutting-edge civic learning resources both onsite and online.
Washington Crossing, PA 18977
From this site, General George Washington and men of the Continental Army and militia crossed the Delaware River on Christmas night 1776 and marched to Trenton, New Jersey. There they attacked and defeated Hessian troops quartered in and around the village. This surprise attack and victory set the stage for Washington’s subsequent victories at the Second Battle of Trenton and Princeton. The Crossing and the Trenton/Princeton campaign have become known as the Ten Crucial Days — a campaign that saved Washington’s army from defeat, allowing them to fight another day and achieve ultimate victory.
Boston, MA 02113
On the night of April 18, 1775, silversmith Paul Revere left his small wooden home in Boston’s North End and set out on a journey that would make him into a legend. Today that home is still standing at 19 North Square and has become a national historic landmark. It is downtown Boston’s oldest building and one of the few remaining from an early era in the history of colonial America.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
The well-known and loved story of Betsy Ross sewing the first Stars and Stripes is tightly woven into the colorful fabric of America’s rich history. The Betsy Ross House, the birthplace of the American flag, is alive with the sights and sounds of the 18th century. Tour the house and then stay a while longer to learn more about Betsy and her exciting life and times through our interactive, historical programming.
Gaffney, SC 29341
Brigadier General Daniel Morgan, won a decisive Revolutionary War victory here over British Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton on January 17, 1781. The Battle of Cowpens took place in the latter part of the Southern Campaign of the American Revolution and of the Revolution itself. It became known as the turning point of the war in the South, part of a chain of events leading to Patriot victory at Yorktown,The Cowpens victory was won over a crack British regular army and brought together strong armies and leaders who made their mark on history.
Philadelphia, PA 19106
During the blistering summer of 1776, 56 courageous men gathered at the Pennsylvania State House and defied the King of England. Eleven years later, representatives from 12 states gathered to shape the U.S. Constitution, finally creating one unified nation. The guided tour of Independence Hall, led by National Park rangers, begins in the courtroom where lawyers from opposing sides shared tables and law books. George Washington’s “rising sun” chair dominates the Assembly Room which is arranged as it was during the Constitutional Convention. In the adjacent West Wing, the original inkstand used to sign the Declaration and an original draft of the Constitution are displayed. Home to Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell this park also includes structures and sites in central Philadelphia associated with the American Revolution and the founding and growth of the United States- Congress Hall, Old City Hall, the First and Second Banks of the U.S., Franklin Court, and others.
Currie, NC 28435
The battle on February 27, 1776, between North Carolina Patriots and Loyalists, is commemorated here. The Patriot victory notably advanced the revolutionary cause in the South.”King George and Broadswords!” Loyalists were unaware of what they would encounter as they charged across a partially dismantled Moores Creek Bridge on February 27, 1776. Just beyond the bridge nearly 1,000 North Carolina patriots waited quietly with cannons and muskets poised to fire. This dramatic victory ended British rule in the colony forever. Walk our history, nature, and Tar Heel trail to discover all Moores.
Yorktown, VA 23690
Next to the battlefield where allied American and French forces won the decisive battle of the American Revolution in 1781, the Yorktown Victory Center chronicles the entire Revolutionary period, from colonial unrest to the formation of the new nation. At this museum of the American Revolution, indoor exhibition galleries portray the Declaration of Independence as a revolutionary document that attracted international attention, recount the war’s impact on 10 ordinary men and women who left a record of their experiences, highlight the roles of different nationalities at the Siege of Yorktown, and explore the story of the Betsy and other British ships lost in the York River during the siege. Exhibits also describe how people from many different cultures shaped a new society and the development of a new government with the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Outdoors, visitors can explore a re-created Continental Army encampment, where historical interpreters describe and depict daily life of American soldiers at the end of the war. A re-created 1780s farm, complete with a house, kitchen, tobacco barn, crop fields, and herb and vegetable garden, shows how many Americans lived during the Revolutionary era.
Williamsburg, VA 23185
History is an adventure at Jamestown Settlement and the Yorktown Victory Center. Experience the story of America’s beginnings – from the founding of America’s first permanent English colony in 1607 to the Revolution and the establishment of a new nation almost two centuries later. Explore the museums’ exhibition galleries and learn about life in the 17th and 18th centuries in the outdoor living-history areas.
Elmira, NY 14901
The battle of Newtown was the decisive clash in one of the largest offensive campaigns of the American Revolution. This expedition, known as the Sullivan-Clinton Campaign, had been regarded as punishment to several tribes among the Six Nations of the Iroquois Confederacy who had sided with the British in the war and had attacked frontier settlements. A stone monument was dedicated at the top of the hill on August 29, 1879, the centennial of the Battle of Newtown.
Manalapan, NJ 07726
One of the largest battles of the American Revolution took place in the fields and forests that now make up Monmouth Battlefield State Park. The park preserves a splendid rural 18th-century landscape of hilly farmland and hedgerows that encompasses miles of hiking and horseback riding trails, picnic areas, a restored Revolutionary War farmhouse and a visitors center.
Princeton, NJ 08540
On January 3, 1777, the peaceful winter fields and woods of Princeton Battlefield were transformed into the site of what is considered to be the fiercest fight of its size during the American Revolution. During this desperate battle, American troops under General George Washington surprised and defeated a force of British Regulars. Coming at the end of “The Ten Crucial Days” which saw the well-known night crossing of the Delaware River and two battles in Trenton, the Battle of Princeton gave Washington his first victory against the British Regulars on the field. The battle extended over a mile away to the College of New Jersey (now Princeton University). The famous Mercer Oak, once stood in the middle of the battlefield, not far from the spot where General Hugh Mercer fell during the Battle of Princeton. The Clarke House, built by Thomas Clarke in 1772, witnessed the fierce fighting and served as sanctuary for General Mercer, who died there nine days later. The house contains period furniture and Revolutionary War exhibits.
Titusville, NJ 08560
Originally preserved for its historical significance commemorating the historic crossing of the Delaware River by George Washington. The park is also well known for its trails and wildlife habitat. A wide variety of migrating birds use the stream and ravine as a resting place and for nesting. Many bird species winter in the park, creating a perfect location for bird observation year round. The park supports an interesting assortment of plants including mixed hardwoods, red cedar forests, plantings of Eastern white pine, Japanese larch, Norway spruce and red pine. A splendid variety of spring and summer wildflowers can be found throughout the park. Among the most notable species of wildlife are whitetail deer, fox, raccoon, great-horned owl, screech owl, red-tailed hawk, red-shouldered hawk and Eastern bluebird. The park also is popular for picnicking and, in the winter, for cross-country skiing on existing hiking trails.
Williamsburg, VA 23187
This is one of the world’s largest living history museums—the restored 18th-century capital of Britain’s largest, wealthiest, and most populous outpost of empire in the New World. In Colonial Williamsburg’s 301-acre Historic Area stand hundreds of restored, reconstructed, and historically furnished buildings. Costumed interpreters tell the stories of the men and women of the 18th-century city—black, white, and native American, slave, indentured, and free—and the challenges they faced. In this historic place, we help the future learn from the past.
Oriskany, NY 13424
Considered to be a significant turning point in the War of Independence, the Battle of Oriskany, fought on August 6, 1777, has been described as one of the bloodiest battles of the war. A monument was dedicated on August 6, 1884, to serve as a memorial to those who fought so bravely and tenaciously to preserve freedom. Oriskany Battlefied was designated a New York State historic site in 1927. In recognition of the site’s exceptional historic value, the battlefield was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. Today, visitors to the battlefield can walk the site, read a series of interpretive signs, and visit a historic encampment during special events.In August 1777, while the British were attacking Fort Stanwix, Brigadier General Nicholas Herkimer assembled 800 militiamen, supported by 60 allied Oneida warriors, and marched from Fort Dayton to aid against the seige. Upon hearing of Herkimer’s advance, British and Loyalist troops under Sir John Johnson and Col. John Butler, and Indian forces led by Mohawk Joseph Brant, set a trap in a boggy ravine west of Oriskany Creek. As the unsuspecting American troops crossed the swampy bottom and marched up the ravine, the British attacked. The patriots fought in brutal hand-to-hand combat, and in spite of heavy losses, caused the Seneca and the Mohawks, followed by the British and Loyalists to retreat. It was in this battle that General Herkimer received the wound to his leg which led to his death ten days later.
Savannah, GA 31401
Battlefield Park presents visitors with a memorial to the hundreds who fought and died for freedom. On October 9, 1779, more than 8,000 troops of three armies fought during the Revolutionary War Battle of Savannah. Battlefield Park commemorates the second bloodiest battle of the war, and marks where approximately 800 troops died or were wounded.
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