American Revolution Museum at attention

By Kristen de Groot, AP

PHILADELPHIA — With muskets polished, flags aloft and one very commanding tent in place, Philadelphia’s Museum of the American Revolution is at the ready. After nearly two decades of planning, the museum that tells the dramatic story of the founding of the United States opens April 19, the anniversary of the first shots fired at the battles of Lexington and Concord in 1775 that ignited the war. The museum also reveals how a diverse population — including women, Native Americans, and enslaved and free blacks — helped push the revolution and shape the conversation about liberty. It does so with interactive exhibits, theater presentations and large-scale replicas, in addition to original artifacts and the occasional whiff of gunpowder. It’s 118,000 square feet of history, but here are a handful of can’t- and shouldn’t-miss exhibits, details that surprise and small gems not to pass by: Washington Slept Here The museum’s marquee exhibit is George Washington’s headquarters tent, which served as his office and sleeping quarters throughout much of the war. Sometimes described as the first Oval Office, it hosted discussions with the likes of Alexander Hamilton and witnessed dramatic moments like the 1781 Siege of Yorktown, the last major battle of the war. It was also the subject of a custody battle. After Washington’s death, the tent eventually passed to a great-granddaughter, who happened to be married to Robert E. Lee, the Confederate Civil War general. But Union troops ravaged Lee’s mansion at Arlington, Virginia, and seized the tent. After the war, a legal battle began over ownership of the tent, which was returned to the family in 1901. Lee’s daughter sold the tent about 100 years ago to the Rev. W. Herbert Burk, an Episcopalian minister from Valley Forge who dreamed of creating a Revolutionary War museum. The museum acquired it in 2002. Visitors enter a theater for a narrated audio-visual presentation that reveals the tent behind shatter-proof glass and in front of changing landscapes and seasons. Don’t blink, or you’ll miss the shadow of Washington moving within by candlelight on the tent’s left side.