The Battle of Paoli site remains a lasting
testament to those who made the
BY RYAN J. CONROY
hen General Anthony Wayne arrived at the General Paoli
Inn on the morning of Sept. 19, 1777, he was only about 2
miles behind the British. The inn, also known as the Paoli
Tavern, was named in 1769 after a famous Corsican patriot,
Pasquale Paoli. Paoli was the President of the Republic of Corsica
and author of its Constitution. He represented liberty and
independence, which drew admiration throughout the colonies.
After arriving, General Wayne wrote several notes to General
George Washington with his exact location and plan of attack.
Unfortunately, Wayne didn’t know that the dispatcher who
carried the messages was likely captured, and the British knew
exactly where he was. He ordered his troops to set up camp near
the Warren Tavern on the evening of Sept. 19, in a field that was
surrounded by a small forest. Unbeknownst to them as they
waited for reinforcements, this location would become the spot
of the Battle of Paoli, also known as the Paoli Massacre.
As the Americans were on campaign, they carried very minimal
supplies, so their camp would have consisted of makeshift
shelters and anything that could be moved quickly. At 4 p.m. on
Sept. 20, just hours before the British attack, American Colonel
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Daniel Brodhead wrote, “We received orders to prepare for a
march. Accordingly, the Division formed but the weather was
cloudy and threatening to rain, so we were ordered to build
booths to secure our arms and ammunition and go to rest.” The
weather not only prevented Wayne’s troops from marching but
also prevented the arrival of reinforcements.
At midnight, Wayne went to the camp and rallied his troops—
he ordered them to form up and march toward Sugartown Road.
During the march, a wheel broke on one of the American
cannons. This mishap would prove to be fatal, as it resulted in the
British attack on the American troops.
The sheer brutality of the British against the American soldiers
earned the battle the name “Paoli Massacre.” The actions of the
British soldiers had such a profound impact on the American
soldiers that two weeks later, at the Battle of Germantown, the
Pennsylvania troops charged the British, yelling, “Avenge Wayne’s
Affair!” and “Remember Paoli!” The latter would become a battle
cry used by the Continental Army, and is possibly the first of its
kind used by an American Army.
The Battle of Paoli site remains a lasting testament to those
who made the ultimate sacrifice, and throughout the generations
has been the gathering place to commemorate American
veterans, drawing thousands to Remembrance Day anniversaries
(the precursor to Memorial Day). To learn more about the Battle
of Paoli, visit the Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund site at www.
pbpfinc.org. The PBPF is a local nonprofit dedicated to
protecting, preserving and promoting the historical significance
of the Paoli Battlefield.