Revolutionary War Curator Makes Historic Find

Fotokvadrat /
Fotokvadrat /

It’s been said that all of us have a bit of a hoarding gene, meaning most of us collect something during our years here on Earth. For my mom, it’s bells. For my high school girlfriend’s mom, it’s dairy cow figurines.

Usually, these collections don’t amount to much but nostalgia and sentiment. However, once in a great while, an extraordinary find is discovered among them.

Such is the case with Judith Hernstadt’s collection of 18th-century artifacts and paraphernalia.

For the last 40 years or so, Hernstadt has collected random items dating back to the 18th century and simply displayed them in her New York City apartment. However, considering the age of what she collected, Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution, Matthew Skic, heard of her collection and asked to see it.

According to the Washington Post, Skic had made plans to see it in 2020, but thanks to the COVID pandemic, those plans were postponed until August 2023.

When he was finally able to check out Hernstadt’s collection, it didn’t take long for him to notice a unique and very noteworthy pen and ink drawing. At first glance, it might not have seemed like much to you, me, or Hernstadt. It was a simple drawing of soldiers from the Revolutionary War, including men on horses and pulling a wagon with a couple of women and a baby.

But for someone as experienced in early American art and history as Skic, it was much more than that.

One thing he noticed was a “distinctive American garment called a hunting shirt. It was a typical garment of the Continental Army, worn by American soldiers.”

While it may have been rather commonplace during the Revolutionary War, people of today’s time likely have no idea what it is or what it looks like, indicating that this could have been a firsthand depiction, not merely something drawn at a later date.

The second significant detail is that the image includes women and a baby.

Now, again, of course, there were women and children not too far from the Continental Army at the time. According to ArtNet, there were usually an estimated 2,000 or so women who accompanied George Washington’s troops just about everywhere they went.

But very few artifacts or art pieces ever tell their tale or even hint at their presence. George Washington himself called them a “clog upon every movement,” in fact. Hence, the so little we have seen or heard from them over the centuries since.

To Skic, this could be quite a rare find indeed. As the Post reported, it could even be one of the “earliest eyewitness depictions of American troops and their female companions during the Revolutionary War.”

So he asked Hernstadt if he could borrow the drawing to study it more.

Upon enhancement, Skic found a barely legible and incomplete inscription at the bottom, proving all his theories.

It read, “An exact representation of a waggon belonging to the north carolina brigade of continental troops which passed thro Philadelphia august done by…” looking further, he found that the drawing dated back to 1777, officially making it the earliest depiction of “camp followers,” the women following the army, known to be in existence.

Prior to this find, the earliest had been drawn in 1782.

Additionally, the image was drawn by a Swill philosopher and artist, Pierre Eugene du Simitiere, who arrived in the US in 1774 and was known to have painted one of the first official portraits of Washington. He also helped design the official crest of the United States.

Due to the rarity of the drawing, Hernstadt has been kind enough to donate it to Skic’s museum, where it now sits on display for all to see.

As America seems to be losing her patriotism, at least under the Biden regime, it’s nice to see that some people still find our history and artifacts of that time inspiring.