Prior to the Civil War, the largest battle in America occurred along the banks of Brandywine Creek in Chadds Ford, Pa., and to the north in the fields of Birmingham Township. During the Battle of the Brandywine on September 11, 1777, roughly 30,000 soldiers ? double the population of Chester County ? converged to fight in the most crucial action of the Philadelphia Campaign. Though the British prevailed and eventually took control of the colonial capital, General George Washington demonstrated that he could stand against the most powerful army in the world and survive to fight another day.
This battle is significant for other reasons, as well. It was the first of seven Revolutionary War skirmishes in which the Marquis de Lafayette volunteered his fortune and risked his life to. In addition, two future Presidents ? George Washington and James Monroe ? fought here, along with John Marshall, a later Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court, and Alexander Hamilton, our first Secretary of the Treasury.
In the midst of this conflict, the course of American history could have been radically altered. British Captain Patrick Ferguson, inventor of a deadly accurate rifle that bore his name, took aim at a high-ranking rebel officer well within range of his gun. He paused and said, ?It was not pleasant to fire at the back of an unoffending individual, who was acquitting himself very coolly of his duty, ? so I let him alone.? That officer was later identified by some historians as General Washington himself.
On May 17 from 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and Sunday May 18 from 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Birmingham Township is sponsoring ?On Hallowed Ground,? a re-enactment of this important battle. There will be hundreds of soldiers, rifle demonstrations, Fife and Drum Corps, mounted cavalry, historical lectures, ?period? food and beverages, encampments and activities for the entire family. You can even meet General Washington and the Marquis de Lafayette!
Proceeds from the event benefit Birmingham Battlefield Preservation and the Wounded Warrior Project. For more information, please visit the Township website.
Gene Pisasale is an author and lecturer based in Chadds Ford, Pa. He’s written six books focusing on local history, including ?Lafayette’s Gold – The Lost Brandywine Treasure.? His website is www.GenePisasale.com. Gene can be contacted via e-mail at Gene@GenePisasale.com.