Today, the George Washington Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin remembers the general’s objectives and march of the army through Philadelphia 239 years ago.
From Itinerary of General Washington from June 15, 1775, to December 23, 1783 by William Spohn Baker, published in 1892:
SATURDAY, AUGUST 23.
At the Neshaminy Camp:
“I beg leave to inform you, that the army marched early this morning, and I expect, will encamp this Evening within Five or Six miles of Philadelphia.
“To-morrow morning it will move again, and I think to march it thro the City, but without halting.
“I am induced to do this, from the opinion of Several of my officers and many Friends in Philadelphia, that it may have some influence on the minds of the disaffected there, and those who are Dupes to their artifices and opinions.” — Washington to the President of Congress.
The army moved down the Old York Road, and encamped for the night near the present Nicetown, within five miles of Philadelphia.
Washington made his head-quarters at Stenton, the homestead of the Logan family, and from which the same evening he issued the following general order:
“The army is to move precisely at 4 o’clock in the morning, if it should not rain. . . .
“The army is to march in one column through the city of Philadelphia, going in at and marching down Front Street to Chestnut, and up Chestnut to the Common.
“A small halt is to be made about a mile this side of the city until the rear is clear up and the line in proper order.”
SUNDAY, AUGUST 24. At Philadelphia:
“Last Sunday [August 24] part of the Continental army, amounting to about ten thousand men, with his Excellency General Washington at their head, marched through the city, and immediately proceeded over the river Schuylkill [at the Middle Ferry, Market Street], on their way, it is said, to the eastern shore of Maryland.
“And on Monday morning Gen. Nash’s brigade of N. Carolina forces, and Col. Proctor’s regiment of artillery, passed through the city, who, we hear, are to pursue the same route, in order to join our most illustrious general.” — Pennsylvania Evening Post, August 28, 1777.
“August 24th. — The army marched through the city [Philadelphia], and was allowed to make a fine appearance, the order of marching being extremely well preserved.
“We advanced to Derby. — 25th. The army marched through Chester to Naaman’s Creek, the General and family advancing to Wilmington, a pretty town and pleasantly situated.” — Pickering’s Journal.
The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography of 1892 included another view into the travels and orders of General Washington regarding the march through Philadelphia on August 24th:
An interesting account of this visit of the Commander-in-Chief to “Stenton,” is given us by Deborah Norris Logan, widow of Dr. George Logan, in a biographical sketch of her husband, written in 1821 (the year of his death), but still remaining in manuscript:
“When the army was passing down in August 1777, to intercept the British armament which was on the coast, and about this time landed at the head of Elk in Maryland, General Washington with his staff (about twenty officers and their servants) stopped at Stenton, then unoccupied by the family, where his guards and an aide-de-camp had arrived before him and where they all took up their quarters for that night.
“The General arrived about noon, and at three o’clock they dined on a sheep they had bought of the tenant, and killed and prepared immediately. One of the family who was accidentally there, remarked that they were all exceedingly civil and very quiet, and that the General himself appeared extremely grave and thoughtful, and was very silent.”
The house at “Stenton,” erected by James Logan in 1728, is still standing, but how different in its surroundings! In 1777, the ornament of broad acres, encircled by majestic trees, far from the city.
In 1892, abutted by streets, a few straggling old trees, in the city itself. Then, a home! now, a relic of the past!
The following general order was issued at “Stenton,” by the Commander-in-Chief:
“Head-quarters, Stenton, near Germantown, August 23, 1777.
“No officer or soldier is to leave the encampment this even ing without leave in writing from the Major or Brigadier under whom he acts, and they are desired not to give such leave unless there is apparent cause for it.
“The army is to move precisely at four o’clock in the morning, if it should not rain. The Division commanded by General Wayne is to join its proper place in the line, between Lord Stirling’s and General Stephen’s Divisions, and it is strongly and earnestly enjoined upon the commanding officers of corps, to make all their men who are able to bear arms, except the necessary guards, march in the ranks, for it is so great a reflection when all orders are disobeyed, and to see such a number of street-rollers (for they cannot be called guards) with the wagons, that it is really shocking.
“The army is to march in one column through the city of Philadelphia, going in at and marching down Front Street to Chestnut, and up Chestnut to the Common. A small halt is to be made about a mile this side of the city until the rear is clear up and the line in proper order. . . .
“That the line of march through the city may be as little encumbered as possible, only one ammunition wagon is to attend the field-pieces of each brigade and every artillery park. All the rest of the baggage wagons and spare horses are to file off to the right, to avoid the city entirely, and move on to the bridge at the middle ferry [Market Street) and then halt, but not so far as to impede the march of the troops by preventing their passing them. . .
“The drums and fifes of each brigade are to be collected in the centre of it, and a tune for the quick-step played, but with such moderation that the men may step to it with ease, and without dancing along, or totally disregarding the music, as has been too often the case.”
On the following day, Sunday, August 24, the army marched through Philadelphia, encamping for the night at Darby, and arriving at Wilmington on the 26th.
“I saw our army with the commander-in-chief at its head, pass down Front street. It amounted to but about eight or nine thousand men, according to Mr. Marshall; but these, though indifferently dressed, held well burnished arms, and carried them like soldiers, and looked, in short, as if they might have faced an equal number with a reasonable prospect of success.” — Graydon’s Memoirs.
The George Washington Commemorative Silver Half Dollar Coin shows with an artist’s image of the view from Schuylkill Falls, the army’s campsite in 1777.