July 19, 2017, Chadds Ford-
My nephew wanted to hit the trail, this morning, so after a few rendezvous snafus, due to differing GPS entries, we met at Birmingham Friends Meeting House, near the site of some of the heaviest fighting. The battle raged here, on September 11, 1777. Today, we were the only people on this little hill, south of Chadds Ford. The Brandywine Valley, today, is better known for its wineries, for the Wyeth family’s presence and for the Longwood and Main Fountain Gardens, than for one of the heaviest battles of the American Revolution.
Of course, without the battle, which showed the British victors that the war was far from over, it’s likely that all the beauty of this valley would be under entirely different auspices, today. We spent the first forty minutes of our visit, in and around Birmingham Friends Meeting House and its Peace Garden. First, though, here are a couple of views of the area that was the battle zone, 240 years ago, next month.
What is the province of grazing cows, today, was a harrowing encampment, for men on opposing sides, but all far from home. The hospital where all, regardless of loyalty, would be treated for their injuries, was in this modest building- then and now, a Quaker Meeting House.
Many of their fallen comrades would be buried, in a mass grave, on the south side of this cemetery. Hundreds lie here, with no regard for their ideology. All were viewed as humans, by the farmers of Birmingham Hill.
This plaque announces the Peace Garden of Birmingham Hill.
Again, the serenity of the day- with the distant echo of muskets and cannonade.
This verse, by John Donne, is one of several cogent quotes, placed carefully, throughout the Peace Garden.
William Sloane Coffin also offers a simple comment on the world of today.
A poignant expression of love, from a local farmer to his departed wife, signifies the ongoing daily life, around the battle and its aftermath.
After time for reflection, we headed to Brandywine State Museum, and spent an hour or so there, before walking to Washington’s Headquarters. The museum offers detailed exhibits of muskets, British rifles (which were largely responsible for the Royal Army’s early successes) and cannonry. It is, like the Museum of the American Revolution, a well-balanced institution.
In the nearby woods, this long-abandoned gazebo tells of how nature regards the vagaries of war. It grows over the remnants, and challenges us to unearth them.
This was Benjamin Ring’s root cellar. Mr. Ring was the host to General Washington, and his troops, who camped in the fields.
The Rings most likely stayed in this “servants’ quarters”, during the Revolutionaries’ encampment.
Here is the main farmhouse, where the General and his staff planned what turned out to be an inadequate strategy. Much was learned from the battle, though, and it was the hubris of the British, combined with French and Polish support for the Americans, which led to the rising of the Revolutionary forces, after Valley Forge.
With this, my nephew was off to pick up his little girl, from pre-school, and I was headed to Philadelphia, after a fabulous lunch, at this bustling, somewhat friendly establishment.