Frequently Asked Questions
What is “Remember Paoli”?
This was a rallying cry of American soldiers after the Battle of Paoli, especially by the Pennsylvania Line. The British atrocities violated accepted war-time norms when they gave “no quarter (mercy) and used “cold steel” on the wounded and captured. The British units involved in the Battle of Paoli were forever marked by this disgrace. Americans returned the favor at later battles, such as Germantown and Stony Point, where the battle cry “Remember Paoli” urged no quarter for the Redcoats.
Was the Paoli Massacre a “surprise” attack?
The British certainly meant it to be a surprise. They marched in the middle of night and captured all civilians living along their path to prevent word of the attack from reaching the Continentals. The British commander, Maj. Gen. Charles Grey ordered his troops to be quiet under threat of the death penalty. He also ordered that all flints be removed from firearms to prevent accidental discharges, earning him the nickname of “No-Flint” Grey. However, American Gen. Anthony Wayne received a report about the possible attack through a farmer who was at the Paoli Inn. Another local told him that he had been “with the enemy” and had heard British soldiers say they would attack that night. Wayne put out additional pickets and prepared his soldiers to maneuver and possibly retreat from a potentially larger British force.
Was it a “massacre” and a rout?
No, despite popular lore. The American troops were standing at arms and retreating in good order when the British attacked. It was the middle of a rainy night and confusion and delay added to the terror of the engagement when the well-disciplined British forces charged, screaming, into the camp. Wayne led a detachment to cover the retreat. However, the ferocity of the attack by sabre-wielding dragoons, the bayonets and pikes of the Light Infantry and the savagery of the feared Scottish Highlanders created a scene of terror and horror that survivors never forgot. Despite the attempts of British officers to curtail the actions of their troops, captured and injured Americans were given no mercy and many were killed and mutilated with multiple wounds. This was never forgotten nor forgiven by the Americans. American casualties were at least 53 killed and over 200 wounded or captured out of more than 2100 troops. It was considered a “massacre” due to its brutality and the atrocities committed by the British.
Why were the Americans camping so near the British Army?
General George Washington, after his defeat at Brandywine Creek on September 11, 1777, continued to maneuver and skirmish with the British to try to prevent them from occupying the City of Philadelphia. On Sept. 19th, he moved most of his troops to the northern side of the Schuykill River in order to attack the British forces if they tried to cross the Schuykill above the City. Washington left General Wayne and his veteran Pennsylvania Continental troops on the south side of the Schuykill with orders to attack Howe’s supply trains and the British rear but to avoid a full engagement. Because of dense woods and poor weather and roads, large bodies of soldiers could be near each other but unaware of their proximity.
Why is it called the Paoli Massacre when it is located in Malvern, PA?
In 1777, there were no paved roads and few established towns in the United States compared to today. The Lancaster Pike joining Philadelphia and Lancaster was an early road and had both milestone markers (distance from Philadelphia) and many taverns and inns to support the slow travel on foot or cart. At Milestone 18 was a popular tavern that, in 1769, was named the “General Paoli Inn” after a popular Corsican general who represented the fight for freedom in Europe. The area boasted at least three well-known inns: the Paoli, the Warren and the White Horse. While the Warren Inn (still in operation) was nearest the site of the battle, traditional lore claims its owner was a suspected Tory (Loyalist). The Paoli Inn was about a mile east and closest to General Wayne’s home. It became the namesake of the battle. The battle cry “Remember Paoli” was spelled out in copper pennies hammered into the Inn’s floor around a central stove. The Paoli Inn was destroyed by fire in 1892. It was located near the current Paoli post office.
Is the monument on the grave mound at Paoli the oldest in America?
It is the second oldest war memorial in the United States and the oldest in Pennsylvania. It was erected in 1817, forty years after the battle. Only the monument at Lexington, MA (1779) pre-dates this memorial.
Is the Battlefield Park the most “pristine” Revolutionary War battlefield?
Most battlefields from the War of Independence have been developed or changed over the past 225+ years. The Paoli Battlefield site, however, has either remained as its original farmland and woods (the portion east of the grave site) or has been protected since the early 1800’s as a Parade Ground. The area where most of the fighting took place still looks much as it did in 1777.
Is the annual Malvern Memorial Parade the oldest Memorial Day Parade in America?
It has a strong claim to this honor; at least it is the oldest continuing memorial parade in the country. The first recorded memorial event was attended by hundreds of citizens and Revolutionary War veterans when the Memorial Marker was dedicated on September 20, 1817. Four hundred volunteer soldiers (militia) led the contingent in a “slow solemn march.” The Parade Grounds, operated by the state militia, was the center for memorial celebrations throughout the 1800’s. It was used for a “Corps of Instruction … for all eastern Pennsylvania” during the period of the Mexican War to the Civil War. In 1868, the veteran’s association, Grand Army of the Republic (GAR), established a national “Decoration Day” the precursor of Memorial Day. The Paoli Massacre “Remembrance Day” was traditionally held on the September 17th anniversary but was changed to coincide with the national memorial celebrations. These events drew as many as 10,000 participants from around southeast PA. Later, an agreement was reached to resolve conflicting celebrations in Wayne and West Chester: West Chester would hold its Memorial Day celebration on the day before the National Memorial Day; Wayne’s on the Memorial Day and Malvern’s on the Sunday following Memorial Day. The current Malvern Memorial Parade upholds a 189-year tradition and is sponsored by VFW Post 5203 and the Main Line Memorial Association. The parade ends at the Paoli Battlefield Park and Memorial Grounds.
Is the Paoli Battlefield a national park?
No. The Paoli Battlefield is on the National Register of Historic Places and is currently applying for the National Historic Landmark designation.
Who owns the Paoli Battlefield?
The Paoli Battlefield National Historic Site has two owners. The main battlefield area is owned by the Borough of Malvern and administered by the non-profit Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund (which originally purchased and then deeded the property to the Borough). The adjacent Paoli Memorial Grounds is owned and operated by the non-profit Paoli Memorial Association — the successor to the original Paoli Monument Committee of Minutemen established to oversee the property in 1889.