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Sites of Military Interest

Explore the birthplace of the Army, Navy and Marines.

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There’s a reason Historic Philadelphia is called America’s Most Historic Square Mile. Not only is it the place where the Declaration of Independence and US Constitution were created, it is also the birthplace of the Army. And the Navy. And the Marines. And if airplanes and high-tech patrol equipment had been around back then, the Founding Fathers would have started up the Air Force and Coast Guard here, too.

Up and down Historic Philadelphia’s cobblestone streets, you’ll find centuries-old landmarks that have played a role in America’s military history. So come discover your roots. Because no matter where you are from, if you are wearing a uniform, your roots are in Philadelphia.

Battleship New Jersey – Take a tour of the nation’s most decorated battleship, docked across the Delaware River in New Jersey. Guides, many of whom served on board, will lead you through the ship’s hospital, communications center, mess halls, machine shop, brig, gun turrets and other parts of the ship including the Combat Engagement Center with eye-popping video recreations of a Tomahawk missile launch.

Carpenters’ Hall – Its flawless architecture is just part of its appeal. It was also the place where the First Troop Philadelphia City Calvary was established in 1774. It is the oldest mounted military in the U.S. and is still active today. The Troop deployed to Iraq (sans horses) in the early days of the current conflict.

Christ Church Burial Ground – This is the final resting place for more military heroes than any other non-government graveyard. Among the notables who are buried here are Commodore William Bainbridge, the commander of Old Ironsides and one of the fathers of the US Navy, Major William Jackson, Revolutionary War officer, Joseph Hewes, a signer of the Declaration and First Secretary of the Navy, and Civil War generals George Cadwalader and George McCall.

Free Quaker Meeting House – During the Revolution a small band of Quakers who believed that independence outweighed their pacifist views formed their own congregation. Meet one of the “Fighting Quakers” – Timothy Matlack, Lydia Darragh or Samuel Wetherall who made waves with their controversial beliefs.

Independence Hall – This is where everything started. Here, in 1775, one year before the colonies declared independence, Congress formally created the Continental Navy, created the Army by appointing George Washington as its commander and also formed the Marines.

Independence Seaport Museum – Hands-on exhibits reveal Philadelphia’s maritime past but the two historic ships, the Spanish-American War’s Cruiser Olympia battleship and the WWII Submarine Becuna are must-sees for sailors and landlubbers alike.

Military Muster – The Continental Army is looking for a few good kids for drills in the art of marching and 18th century musket etiquette.

National Constitution Center – Get sworn in as president, vote on legislation, cast your opinion on court cases and learn how the Preamble “provides for the common defense” in the world’s only museum dedicated to the U.S. Constitution.

National Liberty Museum – The fragility of freedom is depicted in this museum’s collection of glass artwork. An exhibition in Liberty Hall displays various Pentagon Medals and shows film of various U.S. presidents awarding the Medal of Honor.

New Hall Military Museum – This little museum, once the headquarters for the first Secretary of the Army, tells a big story – the history of America’s military.

Thaddeus Kosciuszko House – During the Revolutionary War, the Polish freedom fighter and military engineer designed fortifications for Philadelphia, Saratoga and West Point. His Philadelphia home displays many of his personal belongings and artifacts.

Second Bank of the United States – Among the Who’s Who of American history featured in this portrait gallery are such Revolutionary War military leaders Marquis de Lafayette, the French officer who led American troops in battle and the only life portrait of Captain John Paul Jones, the Continental Navy commander who laid the groundwork for the modern navy.

Storytelling Benches – Look for the 13 iconic curved benches located throughout Historic Philadelphia and settle back while professional Storytellers regale you with tales from America’s past.

Turmoil and Treason: The Path to Independence – Declare independence? Go to war? Pledge allegiance to the King? Your 18th century guide will lead you through landmarks in Independence National Historical Park where you’ll meet colonial Philadelphians who debate war, peace and the risks of breaking away from England.

Vietnam War Memorial – Pay homage to local heroes who were lost during this conflict.

Washington Square – American freedom-fighters are memorialized at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, located in one of William Penn’s original city squares. Free. 6th & Walnut Streets.

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