PurelyPA! Tomb of Unknown SoldierIn the early days of the Revolutionary War, Washington’s battered army sought shelter in rural towns sympathetic to the patriot cause.

One of those communities was Bethlehem, a Moravian town whose residents opened their homes and buildings to help shelter and treat wounded soldiers. The three-story stone Single Brethren’s House at Church and Main streets, now part of Moravian College, served as a hospital for hundreds of soldiers, many of whom fought with Washington after a British victory at the Battle of Brandywine in September 1777. Among the wounded was the Marquis de Lafayette, who spent two months in Bethlehem before rejoining the Continental Army.

Many of the soldiers, arriving in Bethlehem on exposed wagons pulled along dirt roads, died from typhus and smallpox.

Mount Lebanon, a grassy hillside in west Bethlehem – just west of today’s Route 378 – was used as an unmarked cemetery for at least 500 American Revolutionary War soldiers who died in the town between 1776 and 1778. Their comrades buried them there, out of sight from snooping loyalists and to avoid damaging morale.

In 1996, the city honored all of their sacrifices, and laid to rest three Revolutionary War soldiers who spent their last days in the Bethlehem field hospital. Their remains had been unearthed the previous year from a Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission archaeological site in west Bethlehem.

“We do not know their names nor their families nor their suffering,” then-U.S. Rep. Paul McHale said during the interment ceremony. “We know only that they gave their lives for a cause greater than themselves.”

Brethen's House Gravemarker      Brethen's House Historical Marker