Wednesday, May 4, 2016

C Is For Continental Army - the Unknown Soldiers (Nonfiction)

Historical marker code HM2YS located in Lititz, Lancaster County PA
  N 40° 9.289', W 76° 17.68   

The navy and gold plaque pictured at the top reads:

On this site are interred the remains of 110 soldiers from General Washington's Continental Army. Wounded at the battles of Brandywine and Germantown, these soldiers were transported to Lititz between December 1777 and August 1778. Hospitalized in the Moravian Brethren's House, they succumbed to their wounds or illnesses and were buried in unmarked graves due to the religious beliefs of the community. To honor their ultimate sacrifices this memorial was dedicated in 1930. Their remains were discovered in 1932, and re-interred here. They were buried without written record of their identities making them some of America's first unknown soldiers.

Lititz was founded by members of the Moravian church in 1756 and was named after the castle Litice in what was then Bohemia. In 1777 during the American Revolution, General Washington ordered that wounded and sick soldiers be transported from Brandywine and Germantown and quartered in the Moravian Brethren (Brothers') House, built in 1759, which served as a hospital. (There was also a Sisters' House, BTW. The Sisters' House is now the Linden Hall Junior College building. These buildings originally housed the unmarried of each gender, where they could have direct religious instruction/supervision and be taught a skill or trade.)

Approximately 450 - 1000 soldiers of the Continental Army as well as some Hessian prisoners of war spent time in the hospital between Christmas 1777 and late summer 1778. (I found conflicting numbers on the actual number of soldiers.)

The distance from Brandywine battlefield to Lititz is approximately 60 miles. I cannot imagine the suffering of these soldiers while being transported by horse and wagon over the kinds of roads and trails that existed back then, in the brutal cold of the winter thru the humid heat of August.

I've also found a few conflicts in details about the soldiers and whether they died of a combination of wounds and illness, or whether they were all victims of "camp fever" (probably epidemic typhus). At any rate, the soldiers were buried together, probably without any sort of marker (Moravians aren't big on fancy memorials and headstones for anyone) and pretty much forgotten over the years.

The remains of the soldiers were discovered in 1932 when Morris Frederick was digging a cellar on a property at Locust Street. The remains were removed and re-interred on land which was donated for a Revolutionary War Memorial area (currently along E Main Street).

(Reprint) Thursday Morning's Litiz Record Express
March 8, 1928
• Legion to Purchase Unmarked Graves - Under the supervision and direction of Garden Spot Post 56, American Legion, there is being formed a project which when completed will be of far-reaching value to the historical and patriotic interests of Lititz.
The movement, which the Legion will start immediately, is to purchase the lot of ground on which are buried in unmarked graves the 110 soldiers of the Revolutionary War, who died in Lititz over 150 years ago.
The plot is on East Main Street, immediately opposite the residence of Dr. Harry Bender. The plan of the Legion is to acquire this burial site and donate it to the community.
A monument will be erected by the Federal Government, by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission or by the Lancaster County Historical Association.
Everyone is privileged to contribute to this very worthy cause. Alfred Douple, the Post treasurer, will welcome such contributions at his office in the Farmers bank.

I'm glad that these soldiers were discovered and honored with their own memorial instead of being forgotten. But I have to admit, it makes me terribly sad when I think of them dying away from home - and the fact that their families may never have known what happened to their sons. In my mind's eye, I picture a mother, old and gray, who after many years still sees a faraway figure coming up the lane...and just for a moment, hopes that it's Johnny, finally come home.


  1. last few lines are beautifully written, great post

  2. Loved this post. So interesting. Thanks.

    Greetings from London.

  3. When Lafayette visited, he was shocked to see that about one in eight of Washington's soldiers were black. The Continental Army was completely integrated.

  4. I hope this finds you and yours doing well. May we display your header on our new site directory? As it is now, the site title (linked back to your home page) is listed, and we think displaying the header will attract more attention. In any event, we hope you will come by and see what is going on at