We were the southernmost large city in the north back then, and the Confederate Army had their sights on the city. In fact, had General Meade, a Philadelphian, not prevailed at Gettysburg, the city would have been vulnerable to attack.
In a typical summer, Historic Philadelphia, Inc. has storytellers and actors throughout Old City relating takes of the American Revolution. But this summer, it's all about the Civil War... a limited opportunity to learn that you and your family shouldn't miss.
One way to participate is just to drop by the neighborhood. You won't have trouble finding Once Upon A Nation signs marking places where storytellers tell their tales. There are 13 locations in all. But if you want to make sure you find them all, start your day at the Independence Visitor Center where you can pick up a free newspaper identifying all locations.
As you hear each tale, the storyteller will award you a sticker. Present a completed card with all 13 stickers at the location listed and you get free ice cream. You'll also find actors roaming the district portraying important Philadelphians of the Civil War era.
On our visit, we met up with actor Bob Branch, who portrays Octavius Catto. Catto was a black man born free in South Carolina. He made his way to Philadelphia to pursue an education and wound up teaching school, playing professional baseball, and, unfortunately, being murdered for his work as an early civil rights activist. Branch told Action News he's fascinated by the reaction his character gets - either joy at seeing the historical figure come to life or, more often, a sense of discovery as someone previously unheard-of makes his mark on another life.
The storytelling benches and the history maker actors are active daily through Labor Day. You can get a free newspaper detailing all locations by stopping at Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market Streets. There's also a special program daily at Betsy Ross House on Arch Street where you can see a flag her daughter made for the U.S. during the Civil War.
For more information, visit Historic Philadelphia's website, http://historicphiladelphia.org/index.php, where you'll find details of these and many other programs that will enrich your visit to town and your knowledge of local and U.S. history.