Announcing #Hamiltonwashere — a new feature for this whole month of November 2017! Keep up to date both here and on the social media accounts (Instagram, Twitter) of the nonfiction graphic biography ALEXANDER HAMILTON: THE GRAPHIC HISTORY OF AN AMERICAN FOUNDING FATHER.

For the next several weeks we will be featuring contemporary photos and historical images and profiles of the places where Alexander Hamilton spent time when he lived and breathed.

Follow us for #Hamiltonwashere to walk in the footsteps of this inimitable Founding Father.

Especially if you’re in New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, even Delaware, you might be surprised just how close your path through the world was to his!
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 01, 2017
Let’s begin where Hamilton himself did. That is, when he first arrived in what is now the USA. In his mid-teenage years, the young Alexander Hamilton sailed from his home on the island of St. Croix in the Caribbean to begin an education in America. The first steps Hamilton took in America were at Boston Harbor. Plausibly, we assert, at Long Wharf. This was a long pier constructed in 1709 and 1710 that extended about 1/3 of a mile from land to sea, with storehouses standing side by side. Hamilton did not stay in Boston long. He immediately set out for New York. The Big Apple was then a smaller city than Boston, but Hamilton had closer personal ties to the merchants there who had placed themselves in charge of settling the young man in an appropriate situation in terms of lodgings and college.
A contemporary map and image of Long Wharf in Boston, where the Ten Dollar Founding Father first tread on American soil.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 02, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 02: “It’s Quiet Uptown.” Every Hamilton scholar and devotee of the musical knows about the Hamilton Grange — Alexander and Elizabeth’s country home in Harlem, New York City. But did you know that Hamilton also had purchased a roughly bow tie-shaped plot of surrounding land several acres in area? Today in a significantly less quiet uptown the parcel runs from just south of 140th Street to just north of 146th Street, bounded on the west by Hamilton Place and the east by Edgecombe Ave. Hamilton’s old plot of land was sold in 1833. His wife Elizabeth decided to move to Washington, D.C.—which barely existed at all when her husband was alive. The surrounding area was very much the country in 1800. It was still quite rustic up until decades after the Civil War, when beginning around 1886 the townhouses and other buildings seen today were constructed. Alexander Hamilton only enjoyed four years of gamboling about and cultivating this mid-Manhattan garden spot before his death in 1804.
As you can see from this 1815 map of New York City farms(?!), “The Blue Book,” even years after Alexander Hamilton’s death the estates around The Grange were few and far between indeed. You can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness at the words “Elizabeth Hamilton” recorded around the property. Find the original Blue Book digitized by the New York Public Library at https://goo.gl/EytzzW
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 03, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 03: This is a remarkable spot in the history of Alexander Hamilton. That’s because it’s a place he very nearly died! In fact Hamilton was erroneously reported to have been killed here, which aggrieved George Washington and his other aides for several grim hours until the man himself surprised them all by showing up unscathed.

BACKGROUND: In the summer of 1777, during the American Revolution, the British were preparing to capture the city of Philadelphia. The American side had been too disorganized to make use of a cache of bread flour sitting neglected at a mill some 18 miles northwest of the city. George Washington dispatched Hamilton as well as Captain Henry “Light Horse” Lee (father of Robert E. Lee) to burn the mill to keep the flour and other supplies out of Redcoat hands. Evidently, though, some local Loyalist spy tipped the British off to Hamilton’s mission. Hamilton, Lee, and their accompanying small commando of Americans were bushwhacked by a force of British dragoons. Hamilton made a by-the-skin-of-his-teeth escape. As live fire sang all around him, he was forced to dive out of his boat into the rain-swollen Schuylkill River. Hamilton’s horse and the man next to him in the watercraft were both shot dead. Captain Henry Lee escaped alive and made it back to the safety of American lines. He himself sadly reported to Washington that Hamilton was dead. When a damp and shaken Hamilton galloped up on a commandeered horse some hours later, there was great celebration in camp. Hamilton had lived to fight another day. Hamilton and the rest of them would all be back to the site of his near-death that winter: a harrowing season that would make the name “Valley Forge, Pennsylvania” ring infamously to American ears for generations to come.
Here’s the site of Hamilton’s nearly-deadly flour mill escapade on a contemporary map, as well as how our artist Justin Greenwood and color artist Brad Simpson brought the moment to life in our book in their impressive 2-page spread between pages 70 and 71.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 04, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 04: And this is the first of MANY that will be in the great state of New Jersey!

BACKGROUND: In late December 1776, the prospects of the American Revolution were dim indeed. Hamilton—not yet George Washington’s aide—had been powerless to stop the British invasion. The Redcoats had decisively taken New York City. And they had gone on to chase Washington’s retreating and largely untrained army all the way across what many at the time still referred to as “The Jerseys.” (New Jersey used to be divided into East and West colonies). Hamilton had played heroic bit parts all throughout the Long Retreat, but by Christmas he was down for the count with illness. Facing utter devastation, Washington staked it all on a perilous gambit to re-cross the Delaware from Pennsylvania back into New Jersey and lay attack to a garrison of fearsome Hessian auxiliaries (British allies from what is now Germany). The Hessians had been stationed in Trenton, New Jersey, as a force to keep the land in British control during the winter. Hamilton roused from his sick bed and took the head of his small group of New York artillery. They crossed the ice-strewn river and at 3 am were told they would be marching 8 miles to Trenton. In a heavy snow, Hamilton arrived in then-tiny Trenton and was ordered to cover one of its two streets from an artillery firing position. The surprised Hessians, drowsy and hung over (it was, after all, the day after Christmas), struggled to rouse themselves into an organized defensive force. Hamilton had his men fire on detachments of enemy soldiers that began to appear. He pounded a swiftly-appearing Hessian artillery battery with grapeshot. Those who were still standing after that punishment ran. The Hessians surrendered. For the American patriots it was a glorious victory after a stultifying string of defeats. Hamilton, Washington, General Henry Knox, General Nathanael Greene, and the others slipped back into Pennsylvania to rest and plan their next move. For Hamilton it was his first, and by far from his last, experience of close combat in New Jersey. NOTE: This photo is of the Trenton Battle Monument, 348 North Warren Street, Trenton, NJ. The glorious memory of the victory stands in stark contrast to the economically unprivileged neighborhood in which it now stands.
A period war campaign map of Trenton, and a few of the key moments as captured in the book.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 05, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 05: We return to New York City, and another of a cornucopia of Hamilton sites in Lower Manhattan specifically. Not only was Hamilton here, but just about the entire constellation of known and unknown Revolutionary War patriots. Fraunces Tavern also plays an interesting role in African-American History.

BACKGROUND: Standing at the corner of Broad and Pearl Streets, the building popularly known as Fraunces Tavern has stood since 1719. It is often hailed as the oldest original building in New York City. (Before you bemoan America’s spotty ability with historic preservation, recall that about 1/3 of New York City burned to the ground in 1776 during a mysterious fire that took place shortly after the British occupied the city). Taverns both in Britain and America had become established, informal “free speech zones” of a sort. And as American patriots hoisted flagons of ale, wine, and punch in the late Colonial era, Fraunces Tavern (first operating as “The Queen’s Head Tavern”) was a hotbed of political activity. It was specifically known to be a headquarters of the Sons of Liberty—organized resistors of Crown and Parliament authority whom Hamilton disapproved of at first. But our man, as he was eventually radicalized towards the American independence movement, found himself working ever more closely with them.

Hamilton certainly would have had plenty of opportunity to raise a glass at Fraunces Tavern throughout his early career. And even after the Revolutionary War, he would have been to Fraunces Tavern possibly on a daily basis. It is a much-celebrated fact that George Washington bid farewell to his officers at a tearful and boozy affair here. But we don’t know if Hamilton attended: his relationship with Washington was somewhat rocky at that specific time in 1783.

Years after New York City was returned to American control and eventually became the nation’s first capital, the federal government leased space in the building for administrative offices. This included the Treasury Department, of which Hamilton of course was in charge. According to Hamilton’s personal cash book for 1782-1791, he had several business transactions with Samuel Fraunces, the tavern’s proprietor. Both Hamilton and Burr also both visited the establishment on the same night in 1804, just a week before the latter shot and killed the former in their infamous duel. Interestingly enough, barkeeper Samuel Fraunces also served as George Washington’s steward. Rumors persist to this day that Fraunces was of mixed race, but with light enough skin to pass as white. The tavern was colloquially known as “Black Sam’s” in its heyday.


And just before the Redcoats evacuated Manhattan, British General Samuel Birch held a number of hearings here to establish the future status of many thousands of runaway slaves who had taken their freedom from supposedly liberty-loving American masters and joined the British side. Birch, though treacherous to some, delivered to many blacks the opportunity to move to Britain or British Canada (especially Nova Scotia) to live the rest of their lives in freedom. And finally, Lin Manuel Miranda is on the record having visited Fraunces Tavern during the research and writing of the smash Broadway musical. The numbers “Aaron Burr, Sir” and “My Shot” are imagined as having happened here.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 06, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 06: Today we begin dipping into the many Hamilton sites in the great city of Philadelphia. Philadelphia is perhaps the all-American locale that is most “unsung” when it comes to Alexander Hamilton. That’s because so, so much—really, so much—of the action in the Hamilton musical took place here. And not in New York City as Lin Manuel Miranda would allow us to believe! Miranda, who gave the 2016 commencement speech at the University of Pennsylvania, apologized for this and claimed to be “painfully aware” of the oversight.

BACKGROUND: It was hardly Hamilton’s first time in Philadelphia when he and his family moved here in the fall of 1790. But as we know, the summer of that year witnessed a hugely consequential closed-door meeting among Hamilton and future presidents Thomas Jefferson and James Madison. (That closed-door meeting is the one most recently made famous in the musical number “The Room Where it Happens.”)

Born out of the back-channel deal Hamilton helped make was the 1790 Residence Act. The Residence Act established the future site of Washington, D.C., and directed the federal government to begin constructing a purpose-built capital city there—to be ready to open its doors by 1800. In the meantime, the federal government would move its operations from New York City to Philadelphia. So Hamilton, as Secretary of the Treasury, moved with it.

Hamilton, his wife Elizabeth, and their children Philip (then 8), Angelica (then 6), Alexander Jr. (then 4) and James Alexander (then 2) moved into 79 South 3rd Street—the modern view of which we see here. Philadelphia was still America’s largest and most beautified, sophisticated city at the time, wowing European visitors who still mostly expected to see a “howling wilderness” with “Red Indians” running around everywhere.

So what exactly happened under Hamilton’s roof while he resided in what is today the Old Town section of Philadelphia? Oh, not much… Just his steamy affair with Maria Reynolds, the writing of his proposal for a National Bank, his Report on Manufactures, the financial Panic of 1792 (which Hamilton ably contained), the birth of his fifth child John Church Hamilton, his newspaper war with Jefferson, the debate over neutrality in the Anglo-French War of 1793-1802, the affair with Citizen Genet, his and his wife’s brush with death in the Yellow Fever Epidemic of 1793, and more. In other words, about a third of Act II of Hamilton: An American Musical.
Here is the site of the Hamilton residence on a contemporary map. Also please check out this stereographic photo of the immediate neighborhood from the early 1900s.

FULL DISCLOSURE: The City of Philadelphia actually recognizes another structure (226 Walnut Street; the Nelson Building) as the Hamilton residence, and adorns that place with a plaque. My own research, however, leads me to conclude otherwise. The Hamilton address was 79 South 3rd Street according to my sources, which should make it on the first block south of Market (or High) Street. I recognize that lot numbering systems for cities may change over the course of two centuries. But anyone with better information is welcome to contact and contradict me!
#HAMILTON WAS HERE CORRECTION: Further research into where Alexander Hamilton lived during his tenure in Philadelphia has exposed a mistake.

In the course of human events as they say, municipalities occasionally have reason to alter their numbering systems for city blocks. Honestly this should not come as any surprise, and the City of Philadelphia had the correct placement of its historical marker all along.

Alexander Hamilton did in fact reside at 79 S. Third Street in Philadelphia. But in the 1770s, that lot was at the southeast corner of South Third and Walnut, NOT the northeast corner of South Third and Chestnut as it is now—and as I erroneously reported. If the numbers had remained the same, that would have been a boon to the “Little Lion” Tavern now doing business at aforementioned northeast corner. The Little Lion—a pub and victualer—actually takes its name after one of Hamilton’s old nicknames.

The edifice now at the site of Hamilton’s residence—The Nelson Building—is not the same one occupied by the Ten Dollar Founding Father.
#HAMILTON WAS HERE CORRECTION: This old city map of Philadelphia portrays the accurate placement of Hamilton’s house. And the early 1900s photo, which presents a view “below Chestnut” along South Third, is actually more accurate in this sense than it was before.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 07, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 07: Continuing on from yesterday’s exploration of Hamilton’s Philadelphia residence, today we bring you the first place he lived in New York. That is, if the three sets of street numbering Lower Manhattan have evidently had make it at all reliable to trace.

BACKGROUND: With the Revolutionary War over, the British in 1783 were making the final preparations to evacuate from New York City. Hamilton had been out of the active theater of war since the 1781 Battle of Yorktown, and was making preparations of his own: to have a future career that did not involve being a soldier. After studying law in Albany and pouncing upon a government program to allow prewar law students to finish getting their credentials at expedited speed, Hamilton was ready to begin what he jocularly described as “the art of fleecing [his] neighbors.”

In November of 1783 he moved with his family from the Schuyler household in Albany to the battered, postwar remains of New York City—where there was opportunity aplenty for young lawyers. The Hamiltons lived at 58 Wall Street until departing for Philadelphia in 1790 so Hamilton could continue his work at the Treasury Department. Today 58 Wall Street is 57 Wall Street, and deep in the financial quarter of the city, with hardly a historic building in sight. (But Fraunces Tavern is not too far away).

However, there is some reason to believe that Hamilton’s 1783-1789 home and law office were actually located at today’s 31-33 Wall Street. The Hamiltons, after their years in Philadelphia, returned to New York and the records tell us they moved around a bit. Hamilton is listed as having law offices in 1795 at 63 Pine Street, 26 Broadway for the next bunch of years, and finally keeping a townhouse at 54 Cedar Street while spending the rest of the time at the Hamilton Grange in Harlem.
The first Hamilton and Elizabeth New York City crash pad as located on an early 19th Century map of Lower Manhattan, as well as a few visions for what the area was like at the time. The depiction heavier in detail is an artist's rendering from 1913.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 08, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 08: Off the beaten track both cartographically and in relation to more well-studied portions of the American Revolution, today’s Alexander Hamilton historical site brings us just about to the dead center of New Jersey—Somerset County to be exact.

BACKGROUND: The French officially cast their lot with the American patriots, and against their age-old enemies the British, in February 1778. The entry of this then-superpower into the conflict brought about a sea change in how the the forces of King George III approached the war with America.

The Redcoats, who had captured Philadelphia, left the city after 261 days and began to march back to New York. Hamilton was a one man force to be reckoned with as both sides trudged across New Jersey, almost acting like he had a death wish at the Battle of Monmouth in summer 1778. By December, though, Washington decided to have his army construct a winter’s quarters at a site then known as Middlebrook or Middle-brook (pictured). His own headquarters were established at the Wallace House in neighboring Somerset.

Middlebrook was a strategic site adjacent to the heights of Watchung Mountain, and a solid locale at which to keep out of harm’s way while keeping the British fairly locked up on the coasts in Manhattan and Perth Amboy, New Jersey.

It was at Middlebrook that Hamilton bid farewell to John Laurens. Laurens departed for South Carolina in March of 1779 on a mission to convince the government of that state to allow blacks to fight for the American side in exchange for their freedom. Hamilton later wrote Laurens a now slightly infamous letter about the qualities he would want in a wife, and boasts about the size of his manhood in coded form in a comment about the length of his “nose.”
Though Hamilton was sometimes bored (he complained of a “stagnation” of news) here, the winter of 1778-1779 was at least a largely comfortable one for the Americans who had endured a frigid hell of near starvation at Valley Forge the year before. Washington wrote that the weather was “remarkably mild and moderate.” He also mused that “the American troops are…in a more agreeable and fertile country and they are better clad and more healthy than they have ever been since the formation of the army.” Hamilton rode off on the army’s new campaign as summer weather set in in early June, 1779.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 09, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 09: It’s back to New York City for a minute’s worth of college days nostalgia. Many with savvy minds for Hamilton history know that today’s Columbia University is miles and miles uptown from where it was in Hamilton’s too-brief time as a student there. But in fact Columbia has moved a whole handful of times. Even in 1775 when our man matriculated, the college was in its sophomore spot. It began in a small schoolhouse adjacent to Trinity Church, where Hamilton is now buried.

BACKGROUND: There were no colleges on the island of St. Croix in Hamilton’s teenage years. Becoming educated—as only a small and single-digit percentage of men did at the time—was the point of Hamilton’s voyage to the American mainland. He enrolled at what was then known as King’s College after a few years of preparatory classes. Hamilton planned to be graduated with the class of 1776. But war got in the way. And how it did!

When the British occupied Manhattan that year they not-so-gently used the college as a barracks. When New York City was turned back over to Americans in late 1783, Hamilton was too long in the tooth to be a student. And King’s College was a shambles, bereft of funds and a faculty.

But Hamilton joined the trustees of the now patriotically-named Columbia College. He submitted an ambitious educational and organizational plan for the school, attended meetings every week, and helped raise money for it. In 1925 the university president commented that exactly everything included in the “Hamilton Plan” for Columbia was implemented. “Educator” should therefore always be included on Alexander Hamilton’s crowded resume.

In his lifetime King’s College/Columbia was, like the rest of the city, far downtown, just west of Broadway on today’s Park Place (pictured). In 1857 it moved uptown to 49th St. and Madison Avenue. In another 40 years it would pack up and move again, this time its present location in Morningside Heights at Broadway and 116th.
#HAMILTON WAS HERE: Pictured here on an excellent 1776 map, Plan of the City of New York as it was When His Majesty’s Forces Took Possession of It in 1776 is the contemporaneous site of King’s/Columbia College. The original building in this image from 1852 had been expanded on both wings.

And here is a conjectural image from the book of Hamilton attending classes in the 1770s. We imagine an anatomy class because there has been some speculation that a young Alexander Hamilton may have aspired to be a doctor—or, at least, that’s what West Indian mentors bankrolling his education may have wanted him to be.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 10, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 10: One of the surest ways to appreciate Alexander Hamilton as a man ahead of his time—sometimes too far ahead of his time for his contemporaries—is to visit Paterson, New Jersey. Specifically, the impressive Great Falls of the Passaic. Barely removed from the infancy of the Industrial Revolution, Hamilton perceived that this location, with its abundant and unexploited water power and proximity to the ports and businesses of New York, could help catapult the young and vulnerable United States to economic and military security.

BACKGROUND: In the days of the Early Republic, even John Adams predicted it would be a thousand years before the United States would be capable of meeting its own manufacturing needs. The primacy of agriculture was a given. It was something utterly taken for granted by most everyone. But not Hamilton.

Many had seen this close up, but young Alexander really took it to heart that no domestic power could come even close to providing the often miserable American military forces with what they needed in terms of crucial items like gunpowder, boots, and sailcloth. Another war with a foreign power could break the United States if what she needed in terms of military supplies were to be embargoed. As he multiply crisscrossed New Jersey during the Revolutionary War, Hamilton had encountered the Great Falls of the Passaic River. For a man who, as an adult, never exploited the poetic tendencies he may have had as a young person, the sense of place he got from the Great Falls never left him.

In the early 1790s as Secretary of the Treasury, Hamilton took bold moves to advocate that an American Industrial Metropolis be established on home soil. Not only could such a place provide plentiful jobs and economic activity, but it would render the United States far less dependent on great industrial powers like Great Britain (and to lesser extents, the Netherlands and France).

A scrupulous public servant, Hamilton never invested a penny of his own money in the venture. But he helped establish what was initially styled S.U.M.: the Society to Establish Useful Manufactures. After helping raise hundreds of thousands in capital, Hamilton unveiled the Great Falls as the planned site of his Industrial Metropolis. Things got off to a shaky start indeed.

The city built around the falls— it became Paterson, New Jersey—opened a few mills and began working to fulfill its wildly ambitious plans. 
There were many fits and starts, and not a few times after Hamilton’s 1804 death when it looked like his scheme had preposterous from the start. But by the 1830s Paterson—and American industry in general—found its footing and took off at a sprint. By the time the city was 100 years old in 1892, no city east of the Mississippi had grown at a faster rate. It was for many reasons the pride of the entire region. Anyone visiting Paterson today can see that there was no permanence to Hamilton’s prophecy. But there should be no disdain for a man who could only see 100, not 200, years in the future.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 11, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 11: Hamilton left New York City and returned again many times in his life. And so shall we in this series here. But one thing that has never returned to New York City, and in all likelihood never will, is the nation’s capital.

The seat of government that has since 1800 been in Washington, D.C,. was first but only briefly situated on Wall Street. And it was a stone’s throw from where Hamilton first made his postwar home in Manhattan.

BACKGROUND: The building now serving as a museum, which lies close to the New York Stock Exchange, is not the genuine article. That came down in 1812—though not at the hand of British invaders, which is more than can be said for the White House and the U.S. Capitol. The former building was constructed at the turn of the 17th and 18th Centuries to serve as New York’s City Hall.

And in that capacity it also housed the Mayor’s Court. Hamilton, outfitted in black robe with white powdered wig, argued a number of cases there. One of those cases was Rutgers v. Waddington, a landmark 1784 case I wrote about in a piece called “Alexander Hamilton and… Beer.” http://www.jonathanhennessey.com/alexander-hamilton-and-beer/

But both Hamilton’s and the building’s role would get major upgrades in 1789 when City Hall was repurposed to house the first United States federal government.
#HAMILTON WAS HERE: George Washington took the oath of office and was inaugurated here on April 30, 1789. Hamilton was not in attendance. But he and his family were reportedly watching from his balcony close by at 57 Wall Street.

Hamilton and Washington had had a rocky period beginning late in the Revolutionary War. But their ties, personal and professional, were beginning to deepen again. Even before Washington decided to appoint Hamilton as Secretary of the Treasury, he was writing his former protege for advice on how a president should act and what norms should surround the office—a tricky business because the chief executive had to inspire awe and loyalty like a European monarch but still retain the republican virtues of being one of the people and a public servant.

As Secretary Treasury, Hamilton was present for the first few sessions of the earliest congresses of the U.S. before the government moved to Philadelphia in 1795. The building, which had gone from City Hall to Federal Hall, went back to being part of the New York City government again. When Hamilton returned to practice law, he returned an untold number of times on various sorts of business. And of course he met his demise eight years before old Federal Hall did.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 12, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 12: Here’s a simple truth that easily exposes the gap between the casual narrative of history we tend carry around in our heads and the granular-level detail of what really played out.

Almost everything George Washington did as President of the United States, he did in Philadelphia.

It was, of course, the nation’s capital from 1790-1800. There was no White House. But Washington had to live somewhere. And on important occasions, Hamilton could be counted on to be in that somewhere too.

BACKGROUND: The Philadelphia house in which George Washington lived while serving as president in Philadelphia was a mansion that had previously house “financier of the American Revolution” Robert Morris—who believed in Washington (and American Independence) so much that he personally loaned money to Washington to undertake his daring 1776 raid on Trenton.

Washington described it as “the best single house in the city” even though he allowed that additions would need to be added to it starting, um, yesterday.

In accordance with Hamilton’s advice in a 1790 letter, the presidential mansion was at least occasionally open to all comers, as it should be in a republic. Hamilton very well may have attended some of the weekly public “levees.” But we know for sure he came in person to the large house at (then) 190 Market Street for cabinet meetings with the president, Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson. Secretary of War Henry Knox, Attorney General Edmund Randolph, etc. If you’re of a mind to have HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL on your mind, the number “Cabinet Battle #2,” in which the country’s appropriate stance on the war between Revolutionary France and Great Britain was contemplated? Well, that would have happened here.

Washington and wife Martha kept a number of slaves in Philadelphia and often retired to Mt. Vernon in Virginia when Congress was not in session.
HAMILTON WAS HERE: When he became president,John Adams began his administration here as well before becoming the first president to occupy the White House after 1800. I have not been able to establish if Hamilton ever visited at that time. It's unlikely he did, I would venture, because the notoriously ever-working-from-home John Adams was nearly always in Quincy, Massachusetts!

Of course Hamilton was no longer Secretary of the Treasury under John Adams. But he had been appointed Major General of a new army mustered in preparation for a possible war with France.

Also interesting about this building is that its exact location was lost to history for a great number of decades. The building, after becoming a hotel after the departure of the government, was demolished. As Philadelphia changed over the years no one could quite recall where it had been. Then, in 2000, as the welcome center for the Liberty Bell was being redesigned, builders stumbled upon parts of it. Something of an uproar (and a poignant metaphor for all of American history) rightfully ensued when it was discovered that the Liberty Bell portico would be just steps from the slave quarters of George and Martha Washington. Social pressure induced the powers that be to include interpretive exhibits about slavery in general and the Washingtons’ specifically.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 13, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 13: At the extreme southwestern end of the Island of Manhattan lies Battery Park. A confusing name to those whose age or experience has only granted them the contemporary definition of the word! In this case, “battery” indicates a position of cannon or heavy guns—usually with some accompanying fortification work like a wall.

When New York City comprised little more than Lower Manhattan, anyone attacking the town from the sea would do so from here. Which is why “The Battery” was the premiere site from which to defend the city’s inhabitants for most of history.

Alexander Hamilton walked these acres many hundreds of times in his life.

BACKGROUND: In Hamilton’s time and beyond, the Battery was an important social gathering place and essentially open-air park where ocean breezes could sweep away the acrid smells of the city (including a mother lode of cow and horse manure back in the day).

This is the spot where, while transitioning from a King’s College student to a militia leader, a young Alexander Hamilton in August, 1775, with pal Hercules Mulligan joined an impulsive and daring raid to steal some cannon belonging to the Redcoats. (HAMILTON: AN AMERICAN MUSICAL re-stages this episode almost a whole year later).

When the British and Hessian expeditionary force arrived in overwhelming “shock and awe” numbers in June, 1776, Hamilton was stationed here to try his New York artillery troop against the incoming invaders. A cannon under his command exploded by accident, killing and injuring several of his men.

Like the rest of New York City, Battery Park was far behind enemy lines from summer 1776 to late autumn 1783. Hamilton would not have been here once during that entire period. But he would have returned, of course, as Battery Park slowly re-commenced its earlier quotidian role in civilian life.
Hamilton mentions the Battery specifically in a 1789 letter to his sister in law and rumored paramour Angelica Schuyler Church.

She, who had gone to live in France and Britain in 1783, had returned home that year for a visit. It was a heartbreaker for the Hamilton family when she departed again just as the North Atlantic would have been beginning its harsh winter conditions. Elizabeth Hamilton was inconsolable as Angelica left. But Alexander attested that, “The Baron little Phillip and myself, with [Elizabeth’s] consent, walked down to the Battery; where with aching hearts and anxious eyes we saw your vessel, in full sail, swiftly bearing our loved friend from our embraces.”

More than a decade later, during the Adams Administration, Hamilton—though already something of a political has-been—was elevated to Major General in the army. The United States was anticipating going to war with its Revolutionary ally, France. General Hamilton and no less than his future murderer, Aaron Burr, who had had skills as a surveyor, collaborated on a plan to upgrade New York City’s fortifications.

The day the news of Hamilton’s death was reported, guns were fired from here to commemorate him. Today Battery Park lies at the foot of the Wall Street Financial District with the Staten Island Ferry departing close by. These illustrations show Battery Park both in the Dutch times and closer to the Revolutionary Era, when Hamilton would have first experienced the place.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 14, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 14: “I think the game is pretty near up,” George Washington wrote to his brother Samuel on December 18, 1776.

With the Continental Army having been forced to flee all the way across New Jersey with Redcoats at their heels, the cause of American independence seemed at a very low ebb indeed. His soldiers were starving and half naked in the cold.

But the very next day, the commander-in-chief of the American rebel forces was to first write a certain name in his warrant book. A name he could not realize he was destined to be linked to for decades. Here in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, Washington recorded: “To Capn Alexr Hamilton his pay for his Coy. Arty from 1st Sepr to 1 Decr—1562 [dollars].”

BACKGROUND: A Founding Father particularly noted for his prodigious writing, it says an awful lot about this period of time in Hamilton’s life that there is a more than two month-long gap in the proceeds from his pen.

Attached to the beleaguered Continental Army under Washington’s command, Hamilton’s New York artillery company had still managed to acquit itself with distinction during the “Long Retreat” after the fall of New York City to the British. Washington needed to put some kind of barrier between himself and the pursuing Redcoats. The best available to him was the Delaware River, just a handful of miles northeast of the present state capital at Trenton.
#HAMILTONWASHERE: Hamilton must have crossed from New Jersey into Pennsylvania with the rest of the army on December 7, 1776. They famously used flat-bottomed “Durham boats” popular in the area for transporting bits of mined iron ore.

New Jersey had not generally proved itself a welcome country to the American rebels. Many country farmers thought they saw the writing on the wall and, concerned for the future of their families and their land, had pledged loyalty to the king and refused to give men like Hamilton any aid.

Hamilton was not yet Washington’s aide at this time. And the punishing life on the front lines of the war was taking its toll. In the weeks between December 11 and Christmas, Hamilton grew seriously ill. But as first noted in our visit to the Battle of Trenton monument, Hamilton and the others may have first crossed the Delaware in the shame of retreat. But on the snowy morning of December 26th they re-crossed the river—it at this same place—to begin a risky and glorious ten day campaign.

Hamilton and Washington proved to the world they were not defeated.
#HAMILTONWASHERE:
NOVEMBER 15, 2017
#HAMILTON WAS HERE 15: So, yes… This photograph of a Hamilton history site leaves something to be desired. But I was only passing through Elizabeth, New Jersey, on the train. The young Alexander Hamilton, however, stuck around quite a bit longer.

BACKGROUND: Cheek by jowl with Newark International Airport, the landscape is quite different in Elizabeth (then Elizabethtown), New Jersey, than it was in 1773. That’s when Alexander Hamilton arrived to hit the books and learn enough Latin and Greek to pass the entrance exams for college.

For this whip-smart, low-class charity case fresh off the boat from the Caribbean, a college education could transform him into a respectable gent with a future. Less than one in three thousand Americans attended the teeny-tiny institutions that passed for college in those days.

Elizabethtown was then the New Jersey capital. And New Jersey, of course, wasn’t a state—it was a British colony. Hamilton’s pre-college crash-courses took place at the Presbyterian Academy of Francis Barber.

Hamilton studied for about nine months in a now long-gone building that would have been right near the church and schoolhouse now existing at the corner of Caldwell Place and Broad Street. Now across the street from a McDonalds.

Where did Hamilton’s school go? The Redcoats burned it down in 1780. During the Revolutionary War, Hamilton was kind of a gangsta on the battlefield. But it’s not likely the limey dragoons and their Tory lickspittles were there to settle some personal score.
Hamilton’s headmaster, Francis Barber, who became Colonel Francis Barber during the war, wasn’t much older than his star student. But the student became the master at the Battle of Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781. That’s because when Hamilton led his famous charge against Redoubt #10, Barber was one of the men under his command.

Barber lived to tell of the glory and valor of the successful attack but not for long. In 1782 some of his fellow American soldiers were chopping down trees and one fell on and squashed him. Barber had long had a reputation for being a domineering taskmaster. And rumors persisted for years that the death by lumber was no accident.

Why else is Elizabeth so important in the life of Alexander Hamilton? It’s very possibly where he first laid eyes on a vacationing lass from Albany who would someday be his wife. And it’s also very possible that he and Aaron Burr, who was older but had gone to the same academy, first crossed paths and sized each other up here.