August 4, 1776

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Colonel Joseph Reed in New York, an astute member of Washington’s staff, observes to a friend that although Admiral Howe spoke convincingly of “peace and accommodation,” his written communications fail to disclose any “serious intention of relinquishing one iota of their despotic claim over this country.”  He also reveals that Washington had considered an attack on Staten Island where the British troops were garrisoned but a lack of men and boats forced him to abandon the idea.

During July and August the entire frontier from Virginia to Georgia was thrown into turmoil by Indian attacks instigated by British agents.  Colonel Andrew Williamnson reports to President Rutledge that the state militia has fought its way out of an Indian ambush and on the following day crossed the Kenowee River to destroy four Indian towns.

An anonymous citizen complains to George Washington about his bad treatment by the army:  “My House is forcibly entered & posessed by officers and Soldiers without my Consent, to the number of 60 or 70. . . . From A barrack, my House is now become A mere Hospital Noise & Disturbance day and night, reign in every part—The two Halls below are occupied by the rude hand of Insolence the Doors nailed, & I am at last reduced to such narrow limits that the next Encroachment must consign myself & family to the Fields, & Mr Clarkes Estate to every waste.” One wonders what redress the anonymous citizen can expect if he does not give Washington his name:

John Adams writes to Nathaniel Greene about regional differences within the army:  “The New England Collonells, you observe, are jealous, that southern Officers are treated with more Attention than they, because Several of the Southern Collonells have been made Generals, but not one of them.”  After discussing some of the specific cases involving who had been promoted and who not, Adams goes on to discuss his perception of the difference between the two regions:  “Military Characters in the southern Colonies, are few—they have never known much of War and it is not easy to make a People Warlike who have never been so. All the Encouragement, and every Incentive therefore, which can be given with Justice ought to be given, in order to excite an Ambition among them, for military Honours.”  Just what characteristics do we want in our officers?  “A General Officer, ought to be a Gentleman of Letters, and General Knowledge, a Man of Address and Knowledge of the World. He should carry with him Authority, and Command. There are among the New England Officers, Gentlemen who are equal to all this… It is not every Piece of Wood that will do, to make a Mercury. And Bravery alone, is not a Sufficient Qualification for a General Officer. Name me a New England Collonell of whose real Qualifications, I can Speak with Confidence, who is intituled to Promotion by succession and If I do not get him made a General Officer, I will join the N. E. Collonells, and outclamour the loudest of them in their Jealousy.  nay I will go further!There is a real difficulty, attending this subject, which I know not how to get over. Pray help me. I believe, there would be no Difficulty in obtaining Advancement for some of the N. E. Collonells here. But by promoting them over the Heads of So many, there would be a Difficulty in the Army. Poor Massachusetts will fare the worst.”

Meanwhile, Nathaniel Greene writes from Long Island:  “Col. Hand Reports 21 Sail seen off last Evening, Eight arrivd at the Hook this morning and thirteen coming in.The Enemies Guard Boats pattroled much higher up the Bay than usual last Night.  I apprehend a couple of Guard Boats are necessary to Pattrole from Red to Yellow Hook across the Bay leading to Rappelyeas Mills, providing there are Boats to spare.”

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August 3, 1776

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In view of the serious threat to New York and its own shores, the State Convention in New Brunswick, New Jersey, resolves to fine all able-bodied men who refuse to bear arms.

General Horatio Gates feels reassured that the energetic Benedict Arnold would be responsible for building and commanding the fleet in order to oppose the inevitable invasion from Canada.

Lieutenant Colonel Benjamin Tupper commanding 5 small boats attacked 5 British ships that passed up the Hudson River from Staten Island and anchored at the Tappan Sea.  The attack failed.  HMS Phoenix and HMS Rose were involved.

John Adams writes to his wife, Abigail (original spelling retained):  Went this Morning to the Baptist Meeting, in Hopes of hearing Mr. Stillman, but was dissappointed. He was there, but another Gentleman preached. His Action was violent to a degree bordering on fury. His Gestures, unnatural, and distorted. Not the least Idea of Grace in his Motions, or Elegance in his Style. His Voice was vociferous and boisterous, and his Composition almost wholly destitute of Ingenuity. I wonder extreamly at the Fondness of our People for schollars educated at the Southward and for southern Preachers. There is no one Thing, in which We excell them more, than in our University, our schollars, and Preachers. Particular Gentlemen here, who have improved upon their Education by Travel, shine. But in general, old Massachusetts outshines her younger sisters, still. In several Particulars, they have more Wit, than We. They have Societies; the philosophical Society particularly, which excites a scientific Emulation, and propagates their Fame. If ever I get through this Scene of Politicks and War, I will spend the Remainder of my days, in endeavouring to instruct my Countrymen in the Art of making the most of their Abilities and Virtues, an Art, which they have hitherto, too much neglected. A philosophical society shall be established at Boston, if I have Wit and Address enough to accomplish it, sometime or other.—Pray set Brother Cranch’s Philosophical Head to plodding upon this Project. Many of his Lucubrations would have been published and preserved, for the Benefit of Mankind, and for his Honour, if such a Clubb had existed.  My Countrymen want Art and Address. They want Knowledge of the World. They want the exteriour and superficial Accomplishments of Gentlemen, upon which the World has foolishly set so high a Value. In solid Abilities and real Virtues, they vastly excell in general, any People upon this Continent. Our N. England People are Aukward and bashfull; yet they are pert, ostentatious and vain, a Mixture which excites Ridicule and gives Disgust. They have not the faculty of shewing themselves to the best Advantage, nor the Art of concealing this faculty. An Art and Faculty which some People possess in the highest degree. Our Deficiencies in these Respects, are owing wholly to the little Intercourse We have had with strangers, and to our Inexperience in the World. These Imperfections must be remedied, for New England must produce the Heroes, the statesmen, the Philosophers, or America will make no great Figure for some Time.

Our Army is rather sickly at N. York, and We live in daily Expectation of hearing of some great Event. May God almighty grant it may be prosperous for America.—Hope is an Anchor and a Cordial. Disappointment however will not disconcert me.  If you will come to Philadelphia in September, I will stay, as long as you please. I should be as proud and happy as a Bridegroom.”

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August 2, 1776

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Members of congress signed the engrossed copy of the Declaration of Independence.

Samuel Cooper writes to John Adams:  “The Small Pox is an Enemy more terrible in my Imagination, than all others. This Distemper will be the ruin, of every Army from New England if great Care is not taken. I am really Sorry that the Town of Boston attempted to clear itself of the Infection.2 I cannot but wish, that an innoculating Hospital, was set up in every Town in New England. But if this is not done, I am Sure that Some Hospitals, ought to be erected in Some convenient Places.  Between you and me, I begin to think it Time for our Colony to think a little more highly of itself.—The military operations have been at least as well conducted, under our own Officers, when left to themselves, as any others. You and several others of my best Friends have been pressing for a Stranger to command in Boston, and from two political Motives, I have been pressing for it too. The one was this, the People, and the Soldiery, at Boston, would not be so likely to respect, a General from among themselves, as a Stranger, the other was that the People of the Southern and middle Colonies, would have more Confidence in one of their own Officers, than in one from New England. And in Case of any Thing Unlucky I had rather hear them groan for one of their own, than scold or curse at a New England man.  The Reverse of Fortune in Canada, and the Arrival of the Hallifax Fleet, at Sandy Hook have now, removed all Expectation of having such an Officer Sent to Boston as We wished and therefore I wish that some Massachusetts Man, could command at Boston.”

In Congress, a proposal for term limits is drafted which will ultimately be passed:  “To prevent every danger which might arise to American freedom by continuing too long in office the members of the Continental Congress, to preserve to that body the confidence of their friends, and to disarm the malignant imputations of their enemies It is earnestly recommended to the several Provincial Assemblies or Conventions of the United colonies that in their future elections of delegates to the Continental Congress one half at least of the persons chosen be such as were not of the delegation next proceeding, and the residue be of such as shall not have served in that office longer than two years. And that their deputies be chosen for one year, with powers to adjourn themselves from time to time and from place to place as occasions may require, and also to fix the time and place at which their Successors shall meet.”

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August 1, 1776

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Congress continues to discuss issues regarding the Articles of Confederation, including the issue of how much money individual states must contribute to the central government, and the number of votes allocated to each state.  John Adams made the following notes of the on-going discussion:

Dr. Franklin moves that Votes should be in Proportion to Numbers.

Mr. Middleton moves that the Vote should be according to what they pay.

Sherman thinks We ought not to vote according to Numbers. We are Rep[resentative]s of States not Individuals. States of Holland. The Consent of every one is necessary. 3 Colonies would govern the whole but would not have a Majority of Strength to carry those Votes into Execution.

The Vote should be taken two Ways. Call the Colonies and call the Individuals, and have a Majority of both.

Dr. Rush. Abbe Reynauld Raynal has attributed the Ruin of the united Provinces to 3 Causes. The principal one is that the Consent of every State is necessary. The other that the Members are obliged to consult their Constituents upon all Occasions.

We loose an equal Representation. We represent the People. It will tend to keep up colonial Distinctions. We are now a new Nation. Our Trade, Language, Customs, Manners dont differ more than they do in G. Britain.

The more a Man aims at serving America the more he serves his Colony.

It will promote Factions in Congress and in the States.

It will prevent the Growth of Freedom in America. We shall be loth to admit new Colonies into the Confederation. If We vote by Numbers Liberty will be always safe. Mass, is contiguous to 2 small Colonies, R.[I]. and N.H. Pen. is near N.Y. and D. Virginia is between Maryland and N. Carolina.

We have been to[o] free with the Word Independence. We are dependent on each other—not totally independent States.

Montesquieu pronounced the Confederation of Licea the best that ever was made. The Cities had different Weights in the Scale.

China is not larger than one of our Colonies. How populous.

It is said that the small Colonies deposit their all. This is deceiving Us with a Word.

I would not have it understood, that I am pleading the Cause of Pensilvania. When I entered that door, I considered myself a Citizen of America.3

Dr. Witherspoon. Rep[resentatio]n in England is unequal. Must I have 3 Votes in a County because I have 3 times as much Money as my Neighbour. Congress are to determine the Limits of Colonies.

G[overnor] Hopkins. A momentous Question. Many difficulties on each Side. 4 larger, 5 lesser, 4 stand indifferent. V. M. P. M.4 make more than half the People. 4 may alw

C, N.Y., 2 Carolinas, not concerned at all. The dissinterested Coolness of these Colonies ought to determine. I can easily feel the Reasoning of the larger Colonies. Pleasing Theories always gave Way to the Prejudices, Passions, and Interests of Mankind.

The Germanic Confederation. The K. of Prussia has an equal Vote. The Helvetic Confederacy. It cant be expected that 9 Colonies will give Way to be governed by 4. The Safety of the whole depends upon the distinctions of Colonies.

Dr. Franklin. I hear many ingenious Arguments to perswade Us that an unequal Representation is a very good Thing. If We had been born and bred under an unequal Representation We might bear it. But to sett out with an unequal Representation is unreasonable.

It is said the great Colonies will swallow up the less. Scotland said the same Thing at the Union.

Dr. Witherspoon. Rises to explain a few Circumstances relating to Scotland. That was an incorporating Union, not a federal. The Nobility and Gentry resort to England.

In determining all Questions, each State shall have a Weight in Proportion to what it contributes to the public Expences of the United States.”

The bulk of General Sir Henry Clinton’s troops and Peter Parker’s warships arrived from their ill-fated expedition against Charlestown, South Carolina.

James Cresswell reported that Indian raids have converted the community into a frontier settlement.  “Plantations lie desolate and hopeful crops are going to ruin.  In short, dear sir, unless we get some relief, famine will overspeared our beautiful country.”

Abigail Adams writes to John, apologizing for her recent lack of correspondence:  “You complain of me. I believe I was to blame in not writing to you, I ought to have done it. I did not suspect you would hear of my intention till I told you myself. I had many cares upon my hands, many things to do for myself and family before I could leave it. The time granted was only ten days. I got here upon the 6th and then [wrot]e you a very long Letter. Since that I have scarcly omitted a Post, you will have more reason to complain of being tired out; I find the Method of treating the small pox here is similar to that sent by Dr. Rush, except that they use Mercury here. The common Practice here to an Adult is 20 Grains after innoculation. I took but 16; I dont admire this Mercury at this Season of the Year. Loyd I find practicess much more upon Dr. Rushs plan, makes use of the same medicines, but has not had greater success than others.  I greatly rejoice at the Spirit prevailing in the middle colonies. There is a fine company formed in this Town, call’d the independant Company consisting of young Gentlemen of the first families. Their Number is 80, they are the School for forming officers, they take great pains to acquire military Skill and will make a fine figure in a little while. Your Pupil Mason is one. He is an ambitious enterprizing creature and will make a figure some how or other, he always applies to his studies with method and diligence. I have lamented it that you have not been able to take him under your perticuliar care, as I know his abilities would have gratified you.  I Received by the Post a few lines from you july 20. It really greaved me to find you so anxious. Your kindness in so often writing shall be returnd in kind. I know not how you find the time amidst such a multitude of cares as surround you, but I feel myself more obliged by the frequent tokens of your remembrance, but you must not forget that tho my Letters have much less merrit, they have many more words, and I fill all the blank paper you send me. “

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July 30, 1776

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Debate on the “Articles of Confederation” continues.  On the subject of voting in Congress, Dr. Franklin argues that for the smaller colonies to have an equal vote, they should have to give equal money and men.  John Witherspoon, however, fears that “smaller states will be oppressed by the great ones.”  The following discussion takes place in regards to how African Americans should be treated in this new confederation (according to notes taken by John Adams) –

“Chase. Moves that the Word, White, should be inserted in the 11. Article. The Negroes are wealth. Numbers are not a certain Rule of wealth. It is the best Rule We can lay down. Negroes a Species of Property—personal Estate. If Negroes are taken into the Computation of Numbers to ascertain Wealth, they ought to be in settling the Representation. The Massachusetts Fisheries, and Navigation ought to be taken into Consideration. The young and old Negroes are a Burthen to their owners. The Eastern Colonies have a great Advantage, in Trade. This will give them a Superiority. We shall be governed by our Interests, and ought to be. If I am satisfied, in the Rule of levying and appropriating Money, I am willing the small Colonies may have a Vote.

Wilson. If the War continues 2 Years, each Soul will have 40 dollars to pay of the public debt. It will be the greatest Encouragement to continue Slave keeping, and to increase them, that can be to exempt them from the Numbers which are to vote and pay…. Slaves are Taxables in the Southern Colonies. It will be partial and unequal. Some Colonies have as many black as white…. These will not pay more than half what they ought. Slaves prevent freemen cultivating a Country. It is attended with many Inconveniences.

Lynch. If it is debated, whether their Slaves are their Property, there is an End of the Confederation. Our Slaves being our Property, why should they be taxed more than the Land, Sheep, Cattle, Horses, &c. Freemen cannot be got, to work in our Colonies. It is not in the Ability, or Inclination of freemen to do the Work that the Negroes do. Carolina has taxed their Negroes. So have other Colonies, their Lands.

Dr. Franklin. Slaves rather weaken than strengthen the State, and there is therefore some difference between them and Sheep. Sheep will never make any Insurrections.

Rutledge…. I shall be happy to get rid of the idea of Slavery. The

Slaves do not signify Property. The old and young cannot work. The Property of some Colonies are to be taxed, in others not. The Eastern Colonies will become the Carriers for the Southern. They will obtain Wealth for which they will not be taxed.”  This is a discussion that will continue on, through the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and beyond.  General Washington informed British General William Howe that Congress had authorized a “General Exchange of prisoners, to those of equal rank.   Soldier for soldier, sailor for sailor, and citizen for citizen.”  A particular mention, he noted, was made of Colonel Ethan Allen, who would be exchanged for any officer.

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July 29, 1776

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On the frontier of North Carolina, to discourage a reported Indian alliance with the British, troops from Virginia, North and South Carolina invade Cherokee territory and begin a campaign, which will ultimately destroy 32 towns and villages.

John Adams writes to Abigail, first asking her about her small pox vaccination, but then moving on to discuss a “knotty problem” that will, indeed, engage those who meet at the Constitutional Convention over ten years later:  “How are you all this Morning? Sick, weak, faint, in Pain; or pretty well recovered? By this Time, you are well acquainted with the Small Pox. Pray how do you like it?  We have no News. It is very hard that half a dozen or half a Score Armies cant supply Us, with News. We have a Famine, a perfect Dearth of this necessary Article.  I am at this present Writing perplexed and plagued with two knotty Problems in Politicks. You love to pick a political Bone, so I will even throw it to you.  If a Confederation should take Place, one great Question is how We shall vote. Whether each Colony shall count one? or whether each shall have a Weight in Proportion to its Numbers, or Wealth, or Exports and Imports, or a compound Ratio of all?  Another is whether Congress shall have Authority to limit the Dimensions of each Colony, to prevent those which claim, by Charter, or Proclamation, or Commission to the South Sea, from growing too great and powerfull, so as to be dangerous to the rest.  Shall I write you a Sheet upon each of these Questions. When you are well enough to read, and I can find Leisure enough to write, perhaps I may.”

Meanwhile, Adams receives a letter from Abigail:  “I write you now, thanks be to Heaven, free from paine, in Good Spirits, but weak and feeble. All my Sufferings produced but one Eruption. I think I can have no reason to be doubtfull with regard to myself as the Symptoms run so high and my Arm opperated in the best manner. The small pox acts very odly this Season, there are Seven out of our Number that have not yet had it, 3 out of our 4 children have been twice innoculated, two of them Charles and Tommy have not had one Symptom. I have indulged them in rather freer living than before and hope they will not long remain doubtfull. Mrs. Cranch and Cotton Tufts have been in Town almost 3 weeks and have had the innoculation repeated 4 times and can not make it take. So has Mrs. Lincoln. Lucy Cranch and Billy are in the same State. Becky Peck who has lived in the same Manner with us, has it to such a degree as to be blind with one Eye, swell’d prodigiously, I believe she has ten Thousand. She is really an object to look at; tho she is not Dr. Bulfinches patient. Johnny has it exa[c]tly as one would wish, enough to be well satisfied and yet not be troublesome. We are ordered all the Air we can get, and when we cannot walk we must ride, and if we can neither walk nor ride, we must be led. We sleep with windows open all Night, and Lay upon the Carpet or Straw Beds, Mattrass or any thing hard, abstain from Spirit, Salt and fats, fruit we Eat, all we can get, and those who like vegetables unseasond may Eat them, but that is not I.—This doubtfull Buisness is very dissagreable as it will detain us much longer, but there are several instances now of persons who thought they had had it, and were recoverd, and lived away freely, and now are plentifully dealt by. Mr. Joseph Edwards wife for one, and queer work she makes of it you may be sure. The Doctors say they cannot account for it, unless the free presperation throws it of[f]. Every physician has a number of patients in this doubtfull State. Where it does take and the patient lives any thing free, they have a Doze of it. Cool weather is much fitter for the small pox. I have not got rid of any terrors of the small pox but that of not being liable to it again, which you will say is a very great one; but what I mean is that I should dread it more now than before I saw it, were I liable to it. If we consider the great numbers who have it now, computed at seven thousand, 3 thousand of which are from the Country, tis very favorable, tho not so certain as it was last winter with many patients. Mr. Shaw who was innoculated at the same time when I and 3 of my children were out of the same Box, and has lived lower by his account than we have, has a full portion of it for all of us. There is no accounting for it. We did not take so much phisick as many others neither. If this last does not take I shall certainly try them with some wine.  Dr. Sawyer of Newbury Port lost a child 9 years old last week with the Distemper, and Coll. Robinson of Dorchester lies extreem bad with a mortification in his kidneys. Some such instances we must expect among such a variety of persons and constitutions.  I rejoice Exceedingly at the Success which General Lee has met with. I believe the Men will come along in a short time. They are raising, but the Massachusets has been draind for Sea Service as well as land. The Men were procured in this Town last week; we have taken a vessel from Halifax bound to New York, which we should call a prize but that it containd about 14 Tories among whom is that infamous Wretch of a Ben Davis the Ginger Bread Robber. How many little ones can say I was an Hungry and you gave me no Bread, but inhumanely took what little I had from me.2 I wish the Sea or any other Element had them rather than we should be tormented with them. Friends and connextions are very bad things in such times as these. Interest will be made, and impartial Justice obstructed, we catch flies and let the wasps go.—Hark a General Huzza of the populace, these wretches are just committed to jail.  The Continential Troops are near all gone from this Town, all I believe who are in a Marching State. The small pox has been General amongst them and exceeding favourable.  I have requested of Judge Cushing to write you an account of his circut and he has promised to do it. Both he and his Lady are under innoculation. When I came into Town I was in great hopes that if we did well we should be able to return in about 3 weeks, and we should have been able to have effected it, if it had opperated as formerly. Now I fear it will be 5 weeks before we shall all get through but I must not complain. When I cast my eye upon Becky whose Symptoms were not half so high as mine or some of the rest of us, and see what an object she is I am silenced, and adore the Goodness of God towards us.  Her Dr. says she is not dangerous. Col. Warren has sufferd as much pain as I did, but has more to shew for it, he is very cleverly spatterd. Mrs. Warren is now strugling with it, to one of her constitution it opperates in faintings and langour. It did so upon Betsy Cranch, yet when it found it[s] way through, it opperated kindly.—I believe you will be tired of hearing of small pox, but you bid me write every post and suppose you are anxious to hear how we have it. The next post I hope to tell you that they all have it, who now remain uncertain.”

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July 28, 1776

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Colonel Paul Sergeant and Israel Hutchinson with their Continental troops from Boston, as well as several British ships, arrive at Horn’s Hook, New York.

At Fort Ticonderoga, in New York, the Declaration of Independence is read by Colonel Arthur St. Clair and when he added “God save the free independent states of America,” the Army demonstrated their joy with cheers.  “It was remarkably pleasing to see the spirits of the soldiers so raised, after all their calamities, the language of every man’s countenance was.  Now we are people, we have a name among the States of the world.”

Joseph Ward writes to John Adams from Boston:  “I have the pleasure to inform you that the Continental armed Schooners Hancock and Franklin sent into Marblehead this day a Transport from Hallifax bound to New York with provisions and dry goods. There are many Tories on board, among whom is the noted Benjamin Davis.  Last Sunday a Transport from Ireland came into this Harbour, (not knowing the Pirates were gone) and was taken; She had seventeen hundred Barrels of Beef and Pork and four hundred Casks of Butter for the use of the Enemy.  Some days since our Hearts were made glad with the glorious Declaration of the Independent States of America! Blessed be their memory and immortal Fame attend those who had the Wisdom and Virtue and Magnanimity to Do This! We have undoubtedly many and great things yet to do, but in my humble opinion, the greatest is done; the Foundation is now laid.”

Nathaniel Greene writes to George Washington from Long Island:  “Col Hands reports that the Enemy continues as they were. they fird several Guns last Night different from any custom that has prevaild amongst them since the Arrival of the fleet, A considerable noise and movement of the Boats was heard, after the Signal Guns; and the hurry and confusion they seemd to be in after the firing discoverd they were Alarm’d, Perhaps they have heard of the fire Ships.  Capt. Talbut of Colo. Hitchcocks Regiment, begs the command of one of these Vessels. he is a daring Spirit and I dont doubt will execute the command agreeable to your Excellencys wishes. As I am totally Ignorant of the matter, I could give him no encouragement until your Excellencys pleasure was known.”

Join us at Bow Tie Tours for Philadelphia’s Best Historical Walking Tours.  To learn more about George Washington, take our take our Valley Forge Tour.  Or, enjoy our four-hour “Independence Tour Extraordinaire,” which includes tickets to Independence Hall.  If your interest lies in the Civil War, you will not want to miss out on our extraordinary Gettysburg Tour.  Finally, if you are a huge history   fan please check out our exciting Vacation Packages, which include week-long excursions to learn about George Washington or Thomas Jefferson.