Tourists at Philadelphia's Independence National Historical Park aren't getting the whole story about the birth of the nation, says a group fighting for U.S. recognition of a burial ground for George Washington's army.
The 2,000 members of the undermanned army were buried more than 210 years ago in what is now Washington Square, and they should be honored by making the square a national park, a Senate energy and lands subcommittee was told Thursday.Washington Square receives scant tourist attention compared to adjacent Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell.
"How pathetic that these greatest of patriots were buried without even a headstone to mark their contribution," Philadelphia attorney Malcolm Lazin said. "The fact that Washington Square is not a part of our National Park Service is a disgrace to their memory and an embarrassment to all who pride themselves on being an American."
In 1777, John Adams, later the second president, wrote in a letter to his wife, "I never in my whole life was affected with such melancholy" as at the sight of the graves and trenches. Adams wrote he had been told that "upwards of 2,000 soldiers" were buried at Potter's Field, later renamed Washington Square.
Only in 1957 was the flame of the tomb of the Unknown Revolutionary War Soldier placed at the square.
Now, it is time that "those who fought and died and are buried in unmarked mass graves in Washington Square should be honored and celebrated by the United States," said William E. W. Gowen of the Pennsylvania Society of the Sons of the Revolution.
Sponsors have placed no price tag on the bill. Sen. John Heinz, R-Pa., and other backers envision Philadelphia, which owns the land, leasing it to the National Park Service, perhaps for $1 a year.
"As the bicentennial of the Constitution has just been celebrated, we must not forget those who made it possible," Heinz said.