Brandywine and Paoli Battlefields

In the rolling countryside west of Philadelphia, the battlefields of Brandywine and Paoli offer visitors a poignant reminder of the human toll of war.

The American War of Independence was in its third year when British General Sir William Howe landed an army of more than 15,000 troops at the head of the Chesapeake Bay, just sixty miles from Philadelphia, on August 25, 1777. Over the next four months, British and American forces maneuvered and clashed in a series of marches, battles, skirmishes and sieges that led to the British occupation of Philadelphia and the American winter encampment at Valley Forge. This is known as the Philadelphia Campaign.

Travelers who wish to retrace the Philadelphia Campaign can explore numerous historic houses and sites in southern New Jersey, southeastern Pennsylvania, eastern Maryland and northern Delaware. Philadelphia’s Independence Hall Association has developed a “Virtual Marching Tour” that includes highlights of the campaign. Local historian and GIS specialist Sean Moir has developed two engaging animated maps of the Brandywine and Paoli engagements.

Battle of Brandywine

On September 11, 1777, nearly 30,000 troops under British General Howe and American General George Washington faced off in the largest land battle of the American Revolution. The volunteer group Friends of Brandywine Battlefield work to preserve and interpret a portion of the battlefield and two structures that served as the headquarters for Generals Washington and Lafayette. The Chadds Ford Historical Society preserves and interprets John Chads House (c. 1725) and the Barns-Brinton House (c. 1714), both of which witnessed the clash of arms during the Battle of Brandywine. The Birmingham Meeting House has been in continuous use by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) since the 1690s. On September 11, 1777, thousands of soldiers fought on the grounds of this historic place of worship, where visitors may pay their respects to the memory of those who fell on that day.

Battle of Paoli

Just a short drive north from Chadds Ford, the Paoli Battlefield Historical Park preserves the site of a fierce nighttime battle between British troops and Pennsylvania forces under Brigadier General Anthony Wayne, and the mass grave of fifty-three American soldiers who died in that action on September 20-21, 1777. The original marble Paoli Monument was placed on the gravesite in 1817, and is the second oldest American war memorial of the American Revolution.