As many of you know, I spent the last weekend in PA for History Camp Valley Forge. The Saturday History Camp event was fantastic, and it was so lovely to see old friends and meet new ones! On Friday and Sunday, I had the opportunity to visit some historic sites.
The sites I visited were:
Washington's Crossing, both the PA and NJ side
Bowman's Hill Tower
Old Barracks Museum
Most of these locations do not need much in the way of a history lesson, but I will add more in-depth information for some of them.
Of course, this does not need much introduction as we know Washington and some of his men crossed the Delaware River on December 25, 1776, before the first Battle of Trenton on December 26. I remain amazed at how many things went right in the wake of how many things went wrong. First, I want to note that when Washington and his men arrived in Trenton, they did not find a bunch of drunk Hessians—a myth that grew legs and continues to wander around. Most historians believe Washington managed to keep the element of surprise despite arriving in Trenton much later than intended due to an earlier raid. Unbeknownst to Washington, a group of about 50 Continentals had conducted a raid, under the command of Stephen, on the Hessian outpost in Trenton. Many speculate that the British commander Johann Rall, who was warned of a possible attack at Trenton, mistook that raid as the "attack," resulting in his men being tired and unprepared.
The PA side of Washington's Crossing has a view of the river, a small museum, and living historians. The NJ side has a relatively small museum and many hiking trails but no river views. They have admission fees if you do a tour, but you don't need to pay to walk the grounds.
Worth seeing if you are in the area, but not worth going to as your only stop.
Bowman's Hill Tower:
The tower is 3 miles from Washington's Crossing on the PA side. While it may seem like it has anything to do with the Crossing, it does not. Built sometime in the mid-20th century, it commemorates the Crossing.
Since it is only 3 miles, it is worth stopping if the weather is good. The view is fantastic, but no sense in going up the tower if it is a cloudy day and the view is obstructed. There are 157 steps and no working elevator, so do not attempt if the stairs are challenging. It does cost $7 to go up it.
Old Barracks Museum:
The barracks are located in Trenton, NJ, a short drive from the PA side of the Delaware River. The barracks date back to 1758 and were occupied by British and American forces during the Rev War. Leading up to December 26, 1776, it was used by the British and became a hospital after the Americans took Trenton.
The barracks are now a small museum with a video and a tour. Admission is $10. I did not stay for the tour as I was running out of time, but it was a neat place to visit. Given its proximity to the Crossing, it is worth that extra stop.
This area is off Market Street in Philly and a short walk from the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. While Franklin's home is no longer standing, they have constructed large frames on the footprint in the shape of his house. The Ben Franklin Museum and the NPS print shop are also located here. IMPORTANT note, the print shop located here was NOT there when Franklin lived there, nor was the post office. The print shop, however, provides excellent information on printing during the 18th century.
It must stop when touring this area of Philly. Great to see the footprint of his houses and learn a little more about Franklin.
This is a prominent stop, but I will remind you that the Declaration was not signed on July 4 but on August 2, and John Adams thought we would celebrate on July 2 when they voted for Independence!
Pro Tip: Get your tickets in advance; do not assume you can get them the day of. Time slots sell out quickly, and you are not getting in if you do not have a time ticket. You must also go through a metal detector, so don't be dumb.