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Thursday, July 7, 2016

The "The Remarkable Edward Hand: Part I - The Man" Story

It was an ordinary day. Just finished taking a few photos at Riverview Burial Park on South Duke Street in southern Lancaster City and as I began to leave, I decided to turn right toward Williamson Park rather than head back toward the city. As a young boy I traveled this road  many times over the years, since the midget-midget baseball team I played on held their practices in the park. Before long I had passed over the Conestoga River and made a right into the park. Just before I made my turn, I noticed the Historical Marker on my left telling me about historic Rock Ford, Hand's Colonial Mansion where he lived. The roads wound through the park and eventually I wound up on Rockford Road. Perfect place to stop for a few photos, I reasoned, and before long had parked at the Rock Ford Plantation, home of Edward Hand.  
This is one of my altered Polaroid prints
that I made years ago on Time-Zero Film.
Never heard of Edward Hand?  Well, Hand was the Adjutant General to George Washington during the American Revolutionary War.  Edward Hand was born in Clyduff, County Kings, Ireland on December 31, 1744.  He eventually earned a medical certificate from Trinity College in Dublin and then enlisted in the 18th Royal Irish Regiment of Foot as a Surgeon's Mate.  In May, 1767, he sailed to America from Cobh, Cork, Ireland, and made his way to Philadelphia, PA by July of 1767.  From there he proceeded to Fort Pitt, then in Indian territory, to serve on frontier duty.  He studied Indian medical practices and horticulture and bought and sold land.  With money he earned, he sold bought an ensign's commission and later served as a supply officer.  In 1774, after seeing the resentment the Colonists had for the English, he sold his commission, moved back to Philadelphia and found his way to the city of Lancaster where he began a medical practice.  
General Edward Hand.  His profile paintings and
photographs almost always show his left side due
to an accident that left his right eye injured.
The following year he married Katherine "Kitty" Ewing, niece of prominent Judge Jasper Yeates and they bought a house on King Street in the city.  The same year he was invited to join the Continental Army where he was given the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the 1st Battalion of Pennsylvania Riflemen.  1775 saw him serving in Boston, then to New York and New Jersey in 1776 where he was given Rear Guard Duty and recognized for outstanding service at battles in Long Island and White Plains.  In his letters he sent to Kitty, Hand complained of an inflammation to his right eye and the possibility that he would be wearing an eye patch when she saw him.  Perhaps that explains why in so many of his portraits only his left eye is shown.  He was part of the troop crossing of the ice-filled Delaware River on December 25, 1776 from McKonkey's Ferry in Pennsylvania to Trenton, New Jersey which was led by General George Washington.  During the battle on Christmas Day, Hand's regimen blocked the retreat of Hessian soldiers (British mercenaries), and achieved victory-a major morale booster for his exhausted troops.  
This is Emanuel Leutze's famous depiction of Washington's
attack on the Hessians at Trenton on December 25, 1776.
Leutze began his first version in 1849, but it was damaged
in his studio by fire in 1850.  It was restored, but once again
destroyed in a bombing raid in 1942.  This version of the subject
was placed on exhibition in New York during October of 1851.
Marshall O. Roberts bought the canvas for $10,000.  An
engraving of it was published in 1853 by M. Knoedler.  General
Edward Hand sits right behind the American Flag holding
onto his black hat.  Click on image to enlarge.
In the Second Battle of Trenton, Hand assumed leadership of his brigade and delayed the British advance.  The following day, Hand and his regimen performed admirably during the Battle of Princeton, saving Washington's army from destruction.  In January 1781 the Continental Congress selected Hand for the post of Adjutant General.  Hand was soon drawn into the southern theater where Britain's Lord Cornwallis was wreaking havoc in the Carolinas and Virginia.  For much of October American and French cannons pounded the British fortifications in Yorktown, Virginia.  On October 19th, Hand accompanied Generals Washington and Rochambeau to the British lines to await the official surrender document ending the last major battle of the American Revolution.  After the war, from 1784 to 1785, Hand was a staunch Federalist in the Continental Congress, served briefly in the Pennsylvania Assembly, and was a presidential elector to help select George Washington as the first President of the United States.  He also served as a delegate to the Pennsylvania Constitutional Convention in 1790.  As he grew older he served as Chief Burgess (Mayor) of Lancaster and was one of the original supporters of Franklin and Marshall College.  As far as his medical career, he became a skilled surgeon and pioneer in hospital quarantines and smallpox inoculations.  His obituary as listed verbatim in our local newspaper, the Lancaster New Era, from the week of September 8, 1802 read:  "Died, after a few hours of sickness of cholera morbus on the 4th Inst.  At his Seat on the Conestoga, in the vicinity of this Borough, Gen. Edward Hand, in the 58th year of his age, and his remains were interred the following day in the Episcopal Burial-ground in the Borough of Lancaster, attended by his weeping relatives, and a crowd of sympathizing Friends."  Truly, a great man and humanitarian.  During the next two days I will take you on a tour of the home of General Edward Hand, Rock Ford.  It was another extraordinary day in the life of an ordinary guy.  PS - Many thanks to my tour guide of Rock Ford, Debbie Smith, who told of the history of the magnificent plantation and home of Edward Hand as well as the information about the man, General Edward Hand, as reflected in my story.



This is the headstone for General Edward Hand as it appears in the Churchyard of St. James Episcopal Church in downtown Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  General Hand was a Vestryman of the church, as have been my father Paul, my wife Carol and myself.  My father shares a spot in this historic churchyard as eventually will my wife and myself.
On the reverse side of General Edward Hand's headstone is the inscription for his wife who is also buried in this historic site.  Remember to click on the photos to enlarge them.
Sitting immediately to the side of the Hand's headstone is this damaged headstone which tells the tale of two of the Hand's daughters.



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