The National Park Service’s American Battlefields Protection Program (ABPP) just awarded PBPF a grant of $58,500 to continue the documentation and research on the Battle of Paoli. This is the second grant approved to study the battle in the past 4 years. The first grant, awarded to Chester County in cooperation with PBPF, established the boundaries of the battle (it turns out it involved over 5 municipalities) and the scope (it wasnot a skirmish but a battle involving nearly 4,000 of the best troops in the British and Continental armies). This new grant will further validate the earlier findings and focus on new research, both historical and archaeological, to establish the impact of this brief but bloody battle to the rest of the Revolutionary War (including the battle cry Remember Paoli& the Battle of Stony Point) as well as the significance of the battle and its commemoration to the America, including its monuments and parades held from 1817. These steps are vital as a basis for potential future recognition as a National Historic Landmark.
The next steps in the grant process are a training session in Washington, DC for grant reporting, identification of consultants, community involvement and public outreach & education. Sean Moir, well-known for his leadership in a number of earlier ABPP grants as well as his nationally recognized animated battle maps using GPS technology, is the project director for this grant.
There has never been anything easy about the Battle of Paoli, from the actual conflict to today’s endeavors to understand the history and significance that a single night’s combat can have on both individuals and nations. We often hear the phrase that “everything is local”. It is so very true of this battle and this site.
Many of the Americans who fought and died with the Pennsylvania Line that night were local, including Wayne himself whose nearby home was raided. The farmers who buried the dead in the mass grave were local. The Paoli Memorial Association, who protected the gravesite and the monuments since 1896 were all local people. The preservation of the 43 acres arose from the patriotic stance of the Malvern Preparatory School who decided to take less than full market value of the land if money could be raised to preserve it. Believe it or not, there was a major battle to even get the property onto the National Register of Historic Places in the 1990’s fought by local preservationists and Chester County. To get the full funding after PBPF had raised over $1.25 million, a campaign was started to secure federal funding. It was accomplished through the work of local citizens, including elementary school students who raised Pennies for Paoli, and local politicians. The result was a bi-partisan unanimous vote by the US Congress & Senate for the Pennsylvania Battlefields Act that funded both the rest of the Battle of Paoli needs as well as nearly $10 million to buy conservation easements for the Brandywine Battlefield. It was local when the citizens and taxpayers of Malvern Borough agreed to take ownership of the land in order for the federal funds to be received – protecting an historical resource for the entire nation.
Then, with the protection of this land, the ABPP dropped the site from its endangered sites category, basically eliminating the chance for future grants, let alone possible National Historic Landmark designation. It was the local communities and businesses, including both non-profits and professional preservation and archaeological groups, that helped get enough evidence to have the current ABPP grants. The support by local, state and federal elected officials for these grants has been very rewarding and appreciated. The battle for recognition continues with this grant. In the meantime, 65 acres of open space has been open to the public and commemorative events, which started in 1817 continue to this day.
Thank you to all involved in the past and a forward thank you to all those who will come to the Battlefield and attend the events that honor those founding citizen soldiers who put action to their beliefs that inspire and guide us to this day.