Help! Play the Beatles’ song.
Washington Irving wasn’t content with the Legend of Sleepy Hollow or Rip Van Winkle. Washington appealed to his imagination. His biography of Washington contained an illustration. It depicted a moment in Winchester VA. Washington was beseeched to stay in Winchester VA to defend it.
And Washington’s Captain Mercer, is a part of that.
Captain Mercer is here in Winchester VA, less than one month before his company is involved in building Fort Loudoun.
Captain Mercer is part of the Council of War to discuss defending the back inhabitants fleeing to Winchester.
April 21, 1756
The Captains of the Council of War agreed to stay in Winchester rather than go to Fort Cumberland. “…The most judicious of the Inhabitants solicited our continuation here [Winchester VA] in the most earnest manner; and represented in the strongest light, the impossibility of their making a stand, should any accident happen to the small party we proposed marching with…”
See letters Washington writes on the same day of this Council of War in Winchester VA.
What made this moment that precipitated the decision of the Council of War in Winchester VA famous? An illustration captioned “The People of Winchester Appealing to Washington” in Washington Irving’s Life of Washington (Volume 1 of 4) 1856. made this moment famous. Felix Darley drew it. This picture at top is a copy and not Darley’s original. We’re still looking for the original to show here.
A painting based on Darley’s drawing appeared on the ceiling of the Empire Theatre on northwest corner of Rouss and Cameron streets. After the Empire Theatre/ Capitol Theatre was torn down, Farmers and Merchants Bank acquired the property and recovered the painting and after restoring it, displayed it in the bank. See Handley Library Archives photos of Empire Theatre.
In 1932 the bicentennial of Washington’s Birthday, another version was created. The Winchester Frederick County Historical Society commissioned the artist, Burtis Baker. The picture above shows a metal engraving used to help Burtis Baker paint his copy. See link at Handley Library Archives.
The final product by Burtis Baker’s version of Darley’s drawing, still exists in the west wall reading room of Handley Library.
This picture of the West Reading Room at Handley Library Winchester VA was taken December 2015.