Friday, December 5, 2014

Top 10 Highlights of Patriots Day at Brandywine Battlefield November 29



Had it not been for a chance meeting of John the carpenter in the visitor's center parking lot, we may have never ventured up the hill to the Gilpin House. Take the drive.


John the carpenter was stationed up the hill and he gave demonstrations and explanations of colonial time tools.

Right angle try squares combo plumb bob can set up a true vertical line and the right angle would help to measure.


The saw blade had teeth that went in different directions.


A steel nut that looked like a screw created a bead to make a groove in a piece of wood.

 The Blacksmith demonstrated different horseshoes.  Horses shoes were replaced often and there were two styles. The rim kind is what I will call them, were installed around the edge of the horses foot. It is the one most of us can identify. The second one has a piece of iron that curves in and protects the center, tender part of the horses foot. Nails were made by women and children. Houses were sometimes dismantled and nails taken with families as they moved on. Nails could be made for personal use but the crown did not allow the colonist to sell them. Nails held much value because of this.




The Gilpin House was the home of Gideon Gilpin during the Battle of Brandywine and after Lafayette was wounded in the leg he was taken inside to address his wounds.  Years later when Lafayette returned to America he went to visit Gideon Gilpin to express his gratitude.




The "Significant Tree" is also known as the Lafayette Tree.  Lafayette is said to have been carried here after being wounded in battle. It still stands outside the Gilpin House. Correction: There has been no specific documentation stating that Lafayette was carried here after he was wounded.  There is said to be a marker near the Dilworthtown Inn marking the general area in which Lafayette was said to be be wounded. The tree does date back to the time of the signing of our Constitution and would have been there in 1825 when Lafayette returned to the Brandywine area. Perhaps Lafayette stood under that tree at that time.




To get an idea of the Gilpin House and the size of the surviving significant tree next to each other I offer this photograph.


The Gilpin House is not open for public tours but you can peer in the windows. This is what you might see inside. At the time, I did not know the significance of the Gilpin House and no one told me.  We mentioned to John the carpenter that it was not open and he said you can sometimes look in the window and see some things and we said, we had.  He asked, see any ghosts? I laughed but if I knew then what I know now I would have looked deeper.  Correction: The Gilpin House was not the headquarters for Lafayette during the Battle at Brandywine. Layfayette most likely stayed in the Headquarters with Washington. I have seen this disputed on the Internet saying 19 year old Lafayette was not a leader yet so he wouldn't have a headquarters. I should have asked his boss, General Washington, had I known at the time. No ghosts in the picture but that second picture seems to have one of those orbs I have seen in the ghost hunter shows and the third picture, look closely.  I see a strange woman in white reflecting in the window. Wait a minute that is me. It is not the first time I have been called scary.






The Brandywine Baptist Church that is located near the Brandywine Battlefield was not the same building there during the battle and I have to return to get a better picture of the sign.  I believe it may say that graves in the cemetery date back to the time of the Battle at Brandywine. I am also returning because I saw no marker indicating that the Gilpin House was the headquarters for Lafayette but a link on the Internet says there was one on a rock.  I either missed it or it is not there anymore.


George Washington was scheduled to speak at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. We were there in time for the 2 p.m. presentation but the General was no where to be found.  So the organizer had some of the soldiers come in and speak.  A captain, identified by the gold medallion around his neck spoke about the uniforms, equipment the soldiers carried and their weapons. One soldier showed us details of his long rifle, the lock, stock and barrel.



Washington walked in from the back of the room and began his explanation, "I thought I was speaking outside", he said.



Demeanor:  General George Washington, His Excellency, the carpenter told us to address him as, was a pacer.  He traveled from one side of the room to the next as he spoke, in a little over an hour, his words covered a lot of territory. It was hard to capture a still picture of him.  He was always on the move.


He said it was highly unusual for him to address a crowd or even his men and give long speeches.  He kept his opinions to himself, rarely did anyone know what he thought about things or even certain people. He did compare himself in contrast to John Adams, who always had something to say. He also mentioned the Continental Congress, all they did was argue with each other, none of them got along. Interesting how things have not changed, he noted. He was a quiet man of few words, he listened. His most trusted confidante was his wife Martha  I have heard other rumors when I visited Mount Vernon, he was very fond of Marquis Lafayette, he trusted him.

He talked about unalienable rights.  I remember the words, but I didn't really know what they meant.  Unalienable rights are rights given to all human beings by their Creator, such as life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

He took issue with a question a young lady once asked him, "Who gave you the right to start a revolution?" He asked the young lady if she ever read the Declaration of Independence, and she said, "no". He said, "read it".  I have to admit like that young lady, I know some of the words but I never sat down and read it. He also remarked about the translation of the words.  He said it should be interpreted by what the words meant back in colonial times. He mentioned the word bald.  We all know what bald means correct?  Back in colonial times, he would have been considered bald.  Washington had a full head of hair, bald meant "white hair" like the bald eagle.

Inventions of George Washington He had a patent for a barrel seeded drill plow and he cross bred a horse and a jack (jackass) and created the mule.  Mules had more endurance and they ate less, thus a good employee to have for a thriving business. He also claims to be responsible for breeding the fox hound.  He loved fox hunting.

His take on war was it is about the cause, not the war that you fight for. Pride in winning the war was not something he carried around like a badge of honor.  He felt winning the war was the result of Divine Providence. Martha Washington lost her only surviving son aged 25 during the Revolutionary War at Yorktown. She did not want her son to become mixed up in the war. It was the war that her husband started.  She never blamed him, "quite a woman", Washington commented. Washington lost more battles than he won but he did win the war. A person in attendance asked him if we would have won the war without France.  His answer was contemplative and he said, no. France had the navy and that helped very much.

He proposed marriage to Martha Washington the twenty-six year old widow of Daniel Parke Custis and mother of four children, after spending 10 hours in her company.  He told her she could think about it and let him know when he returned.  She decided right then to marry him, according to Washington.  The Mount Vernon website only mentions that within months of meeting both parties started to plan a future together. Not that I doubted His Excellency's word, I was merely trying to verify from a credible source. Martha was a wealthy widow and it was not uncommon for someone of her status to have a pre-nup, Martha and George did not, again according to the Mount Vernon website. They never had children of their own together but raised two grandchildren as their own.



He also spoke of a particular meeting he attended at Mount Rushmore and he gave very convincing imitations of other presidents and told of their answers to a two part question, best day, worst day. Thomas Jefferson's worse day was the day his wife died.  Washington agreed a very bad day indeed for any man.  Jefferson's best day was getting the Louisiana Purchase.  It did double the size of the  United States, a great achievement but Washington said, it was illegal. He did not get approval from Congress. Abraham Lincoln spoke, his worse day was when his son Todd died while the Lincoln's were living in the White House.  Can you imagine Washington said, nothing worse than losing a child.  The best day for Lincoln was signing the Emancipation Proclamation, illegal, Washington said. Then he gave a very convincing rough and tumble Teddy Roosevelt imitation. The best day for Teddy was the day he was elected President of the United States, his worse day was when he lost the next election.  He never understood why the people didn't re-elect him.  Washington then spoke of his own best and worse days. Becoming president was his worse, he never wanted to be president, his best was his last day as president.  Martha had bags packed and ready to go almost the entire time they lived in Philadelphia, her husband smirked.

He was not part of any political party nor was he fond of them.  He felt that if you belonged to a particular group you supported that more than worked for the good of the country. It was his idea that no person should serve longer than two terms.  This tradition held for many years and when it changed it didn't last very long. Mr. Washington did not say why he thought that was a good idea but I am venturing to compare running the country to a sporting event.  It is always good to get a fresh set of legs and eyes into the game. Sometimes if the same people are looking at the same things all the time you get the same results.


After Washington spoke, I was admiring a picture of Lafayette on the wall at the Brandywine visitor's center. As His Excellency walked past me, he motioned to the picture and admiringly said, that is Lafayette. I shared a moment with our first and to date greatest president and we both had something in common, we admired Lafayette. I believe I now have 10 traces of paths where Lafayette and I have crossed, an upcoming blog, without a doubt and I think I have pictures.


There are more things to see at the Brandywine Battlefield including Washington's Headquarters, by the time we wandered up the hill it was closed, story of my life but not many people can say they had the opportunity to hear George Washington speak for over an hour.  I can't say if all characters are as convincing but Carl Closs is the real deal.  If you have a chance to hear him speak, take the opportunity. I could have listened to George Washington for hours.

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