Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Philadelphia

The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a practice utilized throughout the world to memorialize soldiers who have died in modern wars without being identified. The first monument of this kind was the Tomb of Unknown Soldiers in Fredericia, Denmark (1858), which memorialized unknown soldiers who died in the First War of Schleswig. Another such Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is found in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and was erected in 1866 to honor those soldiers who died during the American Civil War.

The history of Tomb of Unknown Soldier begins in modern times in 1920. A Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was erected while burying an unknown soldier who had fallen, unidentified, during the First World War. The soldier was buried to commemorate all of the unknown soldiers and was laid to rest in the famous Westminster Abbey. Throughout history, Westminster Abbey has been the burial place for British monarchs and nobles, and as such erecting a Tomb of Unknown Soldiers at this spot was seen as a highly significant and meaningful gesture. This first Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in modern times has the inscription, "They buried him among the kings because he had done good toward God and Toward His house".

Since that time, many other countries have also created a Tomb of Unknown Soldiers to honor veterans from following wars, including France, also after the First World War. The history of Tomb of Unknown Soldiers also extends to the United States, where such a tomb was erected to honor fallen during the Revolutionary War, and later came to commemorate all soldiers fallen during wars involving American soldiers, including the American Civil War. The history of Tomb of Unknown Soldiers also includes a long and moving letter written by John Adams in 1777 after he toured the site himself.

Although the site of the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Pennsylvania began simply as a place to bury the masses of soldiers who died during the Revolutionary War, in later times it would be dedicated to the memory of George Washington and the soldiers he commanded. Visitors today will see a life-sized statue of George Washington resting above the site, which is located within Washington Square in Philadelphia. Although there are a number of inscriptions found on the wall of the memorial found just behind the statue of George Washington, perhaps the best-known is the statement, "Freedom is a light for which many men have died in darkness". The tomb itself bears the inscription, "Beneath this stone rests a soldier of Washington's army who died to give you liberty". An eternal flame also burns here at the site, and the eyes of the George Washington statue purposefully look directly at nearby Independence Hall, which is adjacent to the Liberty Bell. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is within easy walking distance of both of these historical sites, and is also within walking distance of the Franklin Institute of Science and the Philadelphia Museum of Art.

Top image: Ron Cogswell (flickr)

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