New online exhibit "Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier" now available

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New online exhibit "Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier" now available
Installation view.

PHILADELPHIA, PA.- The Museum of the American Revolution’s award-winning 2019-2020 special exhibition Cost of Revolution: The Life and Death of an Irish Soldier is now available to virtual visitors from around the world through a robust online experience. The online exhibit is free and accessible to anyone with an internet connection.

The online exhibit is adapted from the Museum’s Cost of Revolution special exhibition, which ran from September 2019 – March 2020 and was critically and publicly acclaimed for its fresh scholarship and evocative storytelling. It explores the story of Richard Mansergh St. George, an Irish soldier and artist whose personal trauma and untimely death provide a window into the entangled histories of the American Revolution and the ensuing Irish Revolution of 1798.

The online exhibit chronicles St. George’s dramatic journey using audio and video elements as well as high-resolution images and information about more than 100 artifacts, manuscripts, and works of art from Australia, Ireland, England, and the United States, many of which were on display in America for the first time during the run of the exhibition.

“We are so pleased that more and more people will be able to explore Richard Mansergh St. George’s multifaceted life story through this online resource,” said Matthew Skic, Curator of Exhibitions at the Museum of the American Revolution. “Cost of Revolution reminds us of the immediate international significance of the American Revolution and how it changed the lives of the people who personally experienced it.”

Virtual visitors can explore five portraits of Richard Mansergh St. George, created over the span of 25 years. The portraits were reunited in the onsite exhibit for the first time since they left the possession of St. George’s descendants more than a century ago. Every known piece of surviving artwork by St. George himself—including cartoons, sketches from his military service in America, and a self-portrait—was also assembled for the first time in the exhibit. Together, the portraits, cartoons, and sketches reveal the physical and emotional toll of revolution.

Key artifacts highlighted in the online exhibit include:

• A portrait of Richard Mansergh St. George by English artist Thomas Gainsborough (1776) that depicts him just before he shipped out for New York to fight against the growing American Revolution, which was on loan to the Museum from Australia’s National Gallery of Victoria (Melbourne).

• Three portraits of Richard Mansergh St. George by Irish artist Hugh Douglas Hamilton (1790s) that show St. George as he struggled to manage the pain of the traumatic headwound he received during the American Revolutionary War. One of the portraits, which was on loan from the National Gallery of Ireland in Dublin, depicts him grief-stricken, mourning at his wife’s tomb. Hamilton painted this portrait as a movement for Irish independence, which St. George opposed, was on the rise.

• A signed self-portrait of Richard Mansergh St. George, recently donated to the Museum, that depicts him in a forlorn landscape wearing a silk head wrap to cover the scars of his head wound. This portrait is a rare example of art created by a veteran of the American Revolutionary War that refers to personal pain sustained during the War. 

• Paintings of the Battles of Paoli and Germantown by Italian artist Xavier della Gatta that St. George helped to create in 1782 to reflect on his participation in those battles. The paintings are in the Museum’s permanent collection.

• The British Army uniform coat and pistol that belonged to Richard Mansergh St. George’s grandfather, which was on loan from the National Army Museum in London.

• The 1775 bound maps of the estate of Richard Mansergh St. George in County Galway, which was on loan from the Galway County Council Archives in Galway, Ireland.

• A trephine, or skull saw, of the type that was used to operate on Richard Mansergh St. George’s head following the Battle of Germantown, which was on loan from the Mütter Museum of the College of Physicians of Philadelphia.

• American illustrator Howard Pyle’s 1898 painting “The Attack upon the Chew House,” which depicts the carnage of the Battle of Germantown, which was on loan from the Delaware Art Museum.

• The red uniform coat worn by British Army Lieutenant Ely Dagworthy on loan from Dumbarton House and the National Society of The Colonial Dames of America.

• The August 24, 1776, Leinster Journal, one of the first printings of the American Declaration of Independence in an Irish newspaper, which was on loan from the National Library of Ireland in Dublin, Ireland.

• A green uniform coat worn by Irish Revolutionary Henry Joy McCracken and a pike head carried by the United Irishmen during Ireland’s fight for independence from the British Empire in 1798, which was on loan from the National Museums Northern Ireland (Ulster Museum) in Belfast. 

• A rare silk flag carried by the Delaware militia that the British light infantry captured during the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777, which was on loan from the Delaware Historical Society.

• Richard Mansergh St. George’s personal sketches from the American Revolutionary War, which was on loan from a private collection. One sketch depicts St. George being carted off the battlefield following his wounding at the Battle of Germantown in 1777.

• Lord Edward Fitzgerald’s ribbon and Theobald Wolfe Tone’s membership certificate from the United Irishmen, which was on loan from the National Museum of Ireland in Dublin. Both Fitzgerald and Wolfe Tone died while helping to lead the United Irishmen in their struggle for Irish independence from Great Britain in 1798. The ribbon, taken from Fitzgerald’s body after his death, served as a memento of the Irish Revolution and was used to inspire later Revolutionaries in South America.

Over 75,000 visitors experienced Cost of Revolution during its run at the Museum. The onsite exhibition was awarded a 2021 Award of Excellence from the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) and a 2021 PA Museums Institutional Achievement Award. 

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