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Lancaster is the Capital of the United States - This Day in History - September 27, 1777

Posted on Monday, September 27, 2021

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On This Day in History, September 27, 1777, the Capital of the United States was Lancaster, Pennsylvania for just one day.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania - Present Day

 

After George Washington's Continental Army was defeated at the Battle of Brandywine on September 11, 1777, panic spread through Philadelphia as it became clear that the city would soon be taken over by the British Army. Many patriots fled the city and took with them anything they thought would aid the British war effort. That included the Liberty Bell, which many feared the British would melt down into cannon balls. But the most important thing that had to be moved from Philadelphia as the British advanced on the Capital City was the Continental Congress, America's makeshift government during the early days of the American Revolution. 

This was not the first time the Continental Congress had fled Philadelphia during the Revolution. The prior winter, in December of 1776, as the British Army was getting too close to Philadelphia for comfort, the Continental Congress left Philadelphia and for a time Baltimore served as the Capital of the United States. But a few months later on March 4, 1777, the Continental Congress returned to Independence Hall and Philadelphia was once more restored as the Capital of the United States. But now after the Battle of Brandywine the Contintal Congress was once again forced to leave Philadelphia.

As the British were approaching from the South, returning to the Capital to Baltimore was out of the question and with a strong British military presence in New Jersey and New York, so was heading North. That is why shortly after the Battle of Brandywine, the Contintal Congress began traveling West. By September 27th the Contintal Congress had in arrived in Lancaster, PA. While in Lancaster, the Continental Congress had an official session within the Lancaster County Courthouse. This means for one brief day, Lancaster, Pennsylvania, a small Pennsylvanian city that is mostly known for it's association with the Pennsylvania Dutch, was the Capital of the United States. 

Lancaster's reign as Capital was incredibly short. There were not enough accommodations within the city to even properly house the representatives in Congress and with the city of Philadelphia located just a 2-3 day march away, the representatives also felt they were still at risk. It was decided to continue West across the Susquehanna River to the city of York, Pennsylvania. Within three days the Representives of the Continental Congress had settled in York and held their first Congressional Session in the new Capital city. The Capital remained in York for months until the British finally abandoned Philadelphia and the Continental Congress was able to return to Philadelphia's Independence Hall on July 2, 1778.

The Capital would never return to Lancaster, but for one day at least, it was the Capital of the United States.

 

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