225 years ago, Delawareans welcomed with proverbial open arms a
veritable horde of soldiers -- American, French and a
miscellaneous assortment of other European varieties. Little
wonder that. The troops were on their way to a place called
Yorktown on a peninsula in eastern Virginia to settle once and
for all whether these 13 colonies were and by right ought to be
free and independent of the British crown.
ends of those open arms were fingers longing to grasp the coin
the Europeans among them carried -- pieces of eight and Spanish
milled dollars, real hard currency for the purveyors of food,
fodder, tools and the various and sundry things and services
that an army on the march needs. For most, it had been for six
or more lean years that they had to subsist on paper which was
not worth a Continental.
September next there will be a commemoration of that long-ago
march which, its organizers hope and expect, will signal the
beginning of an extended period during which dollars -- plastic
and paper worth considerably more than a Continental -- will
flow into Delaware coffers.
The observance this autumn will
mark the victorious end of the Revolutionary War. Contrary to
what we may have learned in school, Yorktown wasn't actually the
end of the war for independence, but it was its culmination and
its last major battle. The surrender of General Charles
Cornwallis's Red Coats induced the war-weary Brits to agree to
talk and that led to an independence-recognizing treaty two
be observed prior to the anniversary of the battle -- the
weekend of Sept. 28 through Oct. 1 in Delaware -- will be the
march along the Washington-Rochambeau Revolutionary Route.
Between Sept. 4 and 9 in the year 1781 more soldiers passed
through northern Delaware than the 50,000 people who lived in
the state at the time. They marched from Claymont through
Wilmington, Newport and Christiana to the Maryland border along
the Baltimore -- now Old Baltimore -- Road.
Commemorating the event 225 years and three weeks after the fact
is part of the coordination that goes with a nine-state event.
The largely volunteer effort is known by the 21st Century
Burdick, president of the Delaware W-3-R organization and
national executive co-chairman of the whole thing, said what
promises to be the biggest single historical observance since
the Bicentennial a quarter century ago is intended to enkindle
the patriotic spirit and acquaint folks with aspects of their
heritage about which they were, at best, only vaguely aware and,
for the most part, ignorant.
is nearly complete for a series of lectures, re-enactments, open
houses and such during the commemorative weekend. Burdick
pointed out that some of the structures that were around then
are still here.
peripheral, but not insignificant, benefit, she said will be a
continuous flow of tourists -- and, to be sure, tourist dollars
-- along what the National Park Service is expected to
commission a National Historic Trail between Boston and
Yorktown. The route through Delaware happens to coincide with
the planned Maine-to-Florida East Coast Greenway and that it is
hoped, will augment historical interest with ecological, biking
and hiking interest.
now has been pretty much glossed over in history class is the
fact that we Americans literally couldn't have kicked British
tail at Yorktown were it not for French allies. Specifically, it
could not have been accomplished
absent the services of the expeditionary force
commanded by Lieutenant General
Jean Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, le Comte de
Rochambeau. A professional soldier, the count placed himself and his
troops under the command of General George Washington, whom,
strictly speaking, he could have claimed to outrank. A French fleet
commanded by Admiral Admiral François de Grasse took care of a
British fleet at the Battle of the Capes, preventing them from
relieving the surrounded Cornwallis.
Another little-known fact is that the
American forces included a significant number of free blacks.
Remembering their roles and contributions will be a feature of
the Delaware commemoration, Burdick said.
Still to come after the battle was a
further French connection. A unit in Rochambeau's force,
Lauzun's Legion, a regiment commanded by Colonel Armand-Louis de
Gontaut, the Duc de Lauzun, wintered in Wilmington. The enlisted
men were put up in Delaware Academy on the site of what is now
the Grand Opera House. Officers were quartered in local homes.
Most of those soldiers sailed home in 1783,
but some remained to form the nucleus of a French-American
component of the state's population. Most renowned was Eugene
Phillippe Cappelle, a military surgeon who became one of the
founders of the Academy of Medicine and who now rests in Old
The commemoration next autumn will "provide
a fresh look at our history," Burdick said. Although only a
minor Revolutionary battle was fought on Delaware soil -- a
skirmish at Cooch's Bridge -- Delaware played a prominent part
in the war. "We're the 'first state' for a reason," she
Hot Lips, Radar and Colonel Blake have long since passed on. And
now they're being followed by M*A*S*H itself. The U.S. Army will
donate the last Mobile Army Surgical Hospital to Pakistan, where
the unit has been caring for survivors of last year's massive
Mash units have been replaced by smaller casualty
surgical hospitals that sit closer to battlegrounds and the
wounded, according to an Associated Press article. Doctors in the new
units make quick decisions in the field and stabilize patients before flying
them to bigger hospitals.
While the last real one will live on, at least for a
while, in Pakistan, the fictional Korean War-era 4077th will no doubt survive
forever in reruns. After all, there were more episodes in the television series
than there were days in the war. And the reruns somehow manage never to loose
you catch the atrocious rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner at the
start of the Super Bowl? It was the worst of what has become a tradition of bad
presentations at sports events. They should be outlawed. No one honors America
by mutilating the anthem.
the end of summer, a venerable Delaware Valley institution will pass into
history. Federated Department Stores is shutting down the Strawbridge & Clothier
chain and consolidating its outlets with the Macy's chain. In shopping centers
like Christiana Mall, where both stores exist, the Macy's will survive.
Elsewhere, Strawbridge will use the Macy's name.
Strawbrige & Clothier began as a dry goods store founded
in 1862 by Quakers Justus Clayton Strawbridge and Isaac Hallowell Clothier. Six
years later, the business was located in a three-story brick building on the
northeast corner of Market and 8th Streets in downtown Philadelphia which had
been Thomas Jefferson's office while he served as Secretary of State. The old
building was soon replaced by a five-story department store offering a variety
of fixed price merchandise under one roof. The present building was built in
Strawbridge joins John Wanamaker, Gimbel Brothers, Lit
Brothers and the rest as memories from a time when visiting department stores
was both an adventure and a pleasure.
of us who routinely toss out white envelopes which come bulk mail have to be
careful. One may contain a government check. The light-brown variety carrying
Social Security, tax refunds and the like are being phased out in the name of
making it easier for letter-sorting machines to read bar codes.