York County History: The American Revolution

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"The stile of this confederacy shall be the United States of America."

These powerful words marked the first time the thirteen colonies – who had declared themselves independent from British rule on July 4, 1776 – came together to create the United States of America. They are from the Articles of Confederation, one of the single most important documents in U.S. history. Many people don’t realize that the draft document, which came to be known as the Articles of Confederation, was adopted in York, Pennsylvania in November 1777 by the Second Continental Congress, which met in York from September 30, 1777 to June 27, 1778. During these mostly dark days of the American Revolution, the Second Continental Congress also proclaimed the first national Thanksgiving in celebration of a victory in Saratoga, New York.

In 1781, a site east of York Town was chosen to be the site of Camp
Security / Camp Indulgence.  Its primary purpose was for the imprisonment
of General Burgoyne's men, originally captured during the Battle of
Saratoga (NY) in 1777.  At the time, the Second Continental Congress was
meeting in York.  These prisoners were marched to Boston, then to
Charlottesville, VA.  In 1780, they were again relocated to Fort Frederick,
and again to Lancaster, PA, where they were incarcerated with British
soldiers captured in South Carolina.  These men were then separated, with
most of the Hessian soldiers sent to Reading, PA, and the British marched
to Camp Security in York.

Upwards of 2,000 men were imprisoned at Camp Security.  In addition, many
of these soldiers brought their families with them.  As time progressed,
many of these prisoners were permitted to move into huts with families
(Camp Indulgence), and some were even allowed to go into York to sell goods
they had made, including spoons, buckles, and other items.  In 1783, a
fever raced through the camp, taking the lives of many British soldiers in
the process.  Many of these prisoners were buried nearby, and there may
still be many remains under the York County soil.  Prisoners stayed until
the Treaty of Paris was signed, and then freed.  Stockades, huts, and
fences were slowly dissembled and used for other purposes (e.g., firewood,
construction, etc.)  It is believed that Camp Security is the last
remaining prisoner-of-war camp from the American Revolution.  Part of the
site has been developed, and a developer is currently looking to develop
the rest of the site.  As a result, a number of groups including the U.S.
Army Corps of Engineers, Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission,
Historic York, and others have banded together to preserve the site.  For
more history and information on the group attempting to preserve Camp
Security, visit www.campsecurity.com.

In 1788, both York and Wrightsville were considered for the location as the permanent national capital.

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© 2000, 2002 by Scott D. Butcher


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