LANCASTER, Pa. (WHTM) — Yes, you read that correctly. Lancaster was in fact the United States Capital. But there is a catch.
It was only the Capital for one day.
On Sept. 11, 1777, the Continental Army led by George Washington was defeated in the Battle of Brandywine. This caused panic in the nearby city of Philadelphia, which was the Capital of the United States at that time.
It became clear that the city would be taken over by the British Army soon and many patriots fled the city and took anything they could with them, including the Liberty Bell. They took the bell in fear that the British Army would melt it down and turn it into cannonballs.
With the British approaching from the south, the Continental Congress was trying to find a new Capital. Baltimore was out of the question since it was south of Philadelphia, and with a strong British military presence in both New Jersey and New York, they were not seen as options either.
So, the Congress began to travel west. By Sept. 27, 1777, they ended up in Lancaster. While there, they held an official session within the Lancaster County Courthouse. Because of this, Lancaster, Pennsylvania was the capital of the United States for one day.
There were not enough combinations within the city at that time to properly accommodate everyone involved in the Congress. With Philadelphia being a two to three-day march away, the Congress felt they were still at risk from the British Army. Because of that, they continued to march west and settled in another Midstate City: York.
York was then made the US Capital for nine months.
Afterward, Lancaster was never named the US capital again but was the capital of Pennsylvania from 1799 to 1812.