The second-most commonly-seen image is probably the statue that stands in the United States Capitol, one of two statues representing the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. This statue, which was created in 1889 by Blanche Nevin, hardly resembles the Trumbull and Martin Gallery portraits. It depicts Muhlenberg as the new colonel of the 8th Virginia Regiment, removing his pastor’s robe to reveal a military uniform. It appears to be a Continental Army uniform, which would be incorrect--the 8th Virginia was a Provincial Virginia regiment for the first several months of its existence. He may, in fact, have worn the same hunting shirt that his junior officers and enlisted men wore. This statue is the prototype for countless other images of Muhlenberg as a dashing young pastor surprising his congregation by revealing a uniform under his cloak. Neither his commission nor his uniform were in fact a surprise, though there is no reason to doubt the sermon.
Trumbull worked hard to make his depiction of the people in his history paintings as accurate as possible. He wrote that “to transmit to their descendants, the personal resemblance of those who have been the great actors in those illustrious scenes” was one of the goals of his patriotic painting. A war veteran from a prominent Connecticut family, Trumbull knew many of his subjects personally.
More from The 8th Virginia Regiment
is researching the history of the Revolutionary War's 8th Virginia Regiment. Its ten companies formed on the frontier, from the Cumberland Gap to Pittsburgh.
© 2015-2020 Gabriel Neville