‘Among His Troops’ Exhibit Now Open at the Museum of the American Revolution
A newly discovered Pierre L'Enfant painting is the focus of this five-week-long exhibit.
The Museum of the American Revolution has just unveiled a special exhibit highlighting a newly discovered 235-year-old 7-foot panoramic painting by Pierre L’Enfant that depicts a rare eyewitness view of the Continental Army.
The exhibit — “Among His Troops: Washington’s War Tent in a Newly Discovered Watercolor” — runs from January 13 to February 19, and will feature this amazingly detailed painting as well as a schedule of hands-on activities for families, gallery talks, and a series of public lectures to complement the piece.
The painting is the only known representation of General George Washington’s headquarters tent — the museum’s most prized artifact. Here’s what you and the little history buffs in your family can look forward to at this five-week exhibit on view in the Patriot Gallery.
Learn About Life in a Continental Army Encampment
Kids can look the part after a visit to the dress-up corner, then crawl into kid-sized soldier tents and a larger replica of a baggage tent where they can and put together a bed and sit at a writing stool like one Washington would have had in his own tent. They can also learn to roll a cartridge and pretend to cook a meal with replicas of Revolutionary tools.
Meet a Continental Soldier (and Take a Picture!)
Through the exhibit’s opening weekend (January 13 — 15), costumed historical interpreters will share the stories of soldiers who served with Washington during the Revolutionary War. In honor of Martin Luther King Jr. Day, they will focus on African American service in the Revolutionary War and highlight the story of William Lee, Washington’s enslaved valet, who lived alongside him in his tent.
To close out the exhibit, and celebrate Presidents Day weekend (February 17—19), costumed historical interpreters will return to focus on the Commander in Chief’s Guard, a unit of the Army that protected Washington during the war.
Build your very own paper replica of Washington’s tent to take home. You can look at the meticulous one-sixth scale reproduction in the Patriot Gallery for inspiration. You can also design and color your own interpretation of Washington’s Diamond Eagle medal, which is also on special display upstairs through March 4.
On Tuesday, January 16, you can attend “History After Hours,” and participate in hands-on activities like stitching a tent in the style of Washington’s field tents, and painting watercolors like L’Enfant’s central work in the exhibit. (There will also be happy hour specials in the Cross Keys Café for all the grownups in attendance!)
Celebrate Washington’s Birthday
The exhibit closes out on Presidents Day weekend, so there are plenty of surprises planned for our nation’s first commander-in-chief. That weekend, you can sign a giant birthday card for Washington, and on Saturday, February 17, enjoy some birthday cake at 1 pm. Then on Sunday, February 18, the museum will host a special breakfast with Washington, with a costumed historical interpreter on site as Washington for meet-and-greets while guests dine.
Learn About the Detective Work of Being a Historian
For older kids (and adults) with a passion for history or art, the story of how this painting was discovered and acquired is fascinating in its own right. The painting had descended through a Maryland family and found its way to auction, where the museum’s curators found it two weeks after the Museum of the American Revolution opened.
“The one piece that was always missing was an eye-witness image of Washington’s tent,” explained R. Scott Stephenson, the museum’s vice president of collections, exhibitions, and programming.
The painting was without explanation or signature indicating who had created it, but the curators immediately recognized similarities to a different watercolor created by L’Enfant that sat in the Library of Congress. From clandestine auction bidding to painstaking comparisons down to the brushstroke, you can learn all about how the museum acquired the painting.
“Among His Troops: Washington’s War Tent in a Newly Discovered Watercolor” runs from January 13—February 19, and is included with regular admission to the museum. The Museum of the American Revolution is at 101 S. Third St., Philadelphia. Tickets are $19 for adults and $12 for kids ages 6 — 17 (kids 5 and under are free).
Photographs by Laura Swartz.