Paoli Battlefield Needs Your Help.

By Dennis Kane


History textbooks may not reveal a great deal about the Battle of Paoli on September 21, 1777, but it was a significant battle fought by a heroic Continental force overcome by military strategies which resulted in a bloody encounter. After suffering a serious defeat at Brandywine and having their ammunition destroyed by a drenching rain at the "Battle of the Clouds" in nearby Goshen, part of the Continental Army under General Anthony Wayne camped near Paoli and prepared to attack the rear of British forces under General Sir William Howe. British intelligence, however, revealed Wayne's position and, while Wayne awaited reinforcements, British forces attacked at night with muskets unloaded and bayonets fixed. Revealing their own positions by firing their muskets, Wayne's troops were easy targets for bayonet-wielding British light infantrymen and saber-swinging British light horsemen. Daybreak revealed a grim reality. At least fifty-three Americans were dead; scores of others were brutally wounded. The personal account of Lieutenant Edward Fitz Randolph of the Fourth Pennsylvania Regiment provides one man's chilling account of the nightmare that was the Battle of Paoli:

"Twenty-three-year-old Lt. Randolph was on picket duty when the British attacked Gravely wounded and left for dead, when two British soldiers rode by, one observed to the other. "There is a head that looks as if it has some life in it." Their commanding officer happened by and ordered them to save their ammunition for "live rebels, instead of wasting it on those already dead." Randolph thus survived. He married in 1779 and fathered 15 children. Lieutenant Edward Fitz Randolph died in Philadelphia in 1837, sixty years after the Battle of Paoli.

Historic Significance

The essence of history is people. Individuals whose heroic deeds and acts of personal sacrifice ultimately shape the nation and the world in which we live. The men who fought and died at the Battle of Paoli who were remembered at the Battle of Germantown and who provided the inspiration for the Continental Army's success at Stony Point, New York in 1779 gave their lives so that others might be free. Many who survived did so at great personal cost.

Numerous battles were fought during the American Revolution. Some were won and many were lost. But all were fought by men young and old alike who believed that the idea of "freedom for all" was worth dying for. Fifty-three soldiers are buried on the Paoli Battlefield.

Importance Today

As the United States of America has grown to become an international leader, most of the ground where the American Revolution was fought has become obscured by urban sprawl and industrial development.

Much of the Paoli Battlefield has been spared. Currently owned by Malvern Preparatory School, the 45-acre Battlefield remains virtually unchanged. A unique opportunity now exists for the Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund to purchase the Battlefield from Malvern Preperatory School. Soon to be listed on The National Register of Historic Places, the hallowed ground where soldiers of the Continental Army made the ultimate sacrifice would then be permanently preserved and protected.

The Result

For almost two hundred years, the memory of this battle has been preserved through the efforts of Chester County volunteers who have cared for the grave of the fallen. This revered site was first marked by local citizens in 1817 with a tall granite marker. In November. 1997, the United States Department of the Interior declared that this marker was the oldest Revolutionary War memorial in the country, older by six years than the marker commemorating the Battle of Bunker Hill. The Paoli Battlefield, together with the adjoining Paoli Memorial Grounds (the burial site for the fifty-three men who died at the Battle of Paoli), will become a significant memorial park. Plans are underway to develop a park that will appropriately recognize those who fought and died at the Battle of Paoli and whose ultimate sacrifice guaranteed a free society for generations to follow.

The battlefield is located on the grounds of Malvern Preparatory School. The School's Board of Directors has made a decision to sell the land, but in the interests of aesthetics and history, would much prefer to see the site preserved as open space. As a result, the School's Board and the Paoli Memorial Association approached the Borough of Malvern in 1995 to consider purchasing the land and combining the battlefield and memorial park to create a single memorial park. While the Borough government was unable to underwrite the proposed purchase, in 1996 Patrick J. McGuigan, Command Sergeant Major, US Army Retired, the Manager of Malvern Borough, recruited a twenty member all-volunteer Board of Directors and incorporated as a 501(C)3 non-profit corporation, The Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund. The Board is comprised of respected civic and preservation leaders as well as corporate executives and representatives of lineage societies and military organizations. Mr. McGuigan has served as President of the Fund since its inception. Thomas J. McGuire, a published historian with expertise in the Battle of Paoli, serves as Vice President, The Fund Board set as its first priority the securing of $2,500,000 in public and private dollars by April of 1999 to purchase the battlefield from the School. Until that time, as an indication of their good faith and confidence in the Fund's Board of Directors, Malvern Preparatory School has taken the forty acre battlefield parcel "off the market".

What You Can Do to Help

The Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund, a nonprofit corporation, is currently seeking support from individuals, corporations, foundations and government funding sources to purchase the Paoli Battlefield from Malvern Preparatory School. The Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund asks that everyone who believes in freedom and the American dream consider making a contribution today. Your tax-deductible gift will ensure that further development will not obscure the sanctity of the Paoli Battlefield.

For more information or to make a contribution, please contact:

Patrick J. McGuigan, Jr.
Paoli Battlefield Preservation Fund
P.O. Box 437
Malvern. PA 19355