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Forum Home > General Discussion > PART 2 OF 2 - Bruce Mowday Tricentennial Lecture, Quakers and the Revolutionary War, 8/29/2010

Lars Farmer
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This is the text of the historical lecture given by Bruce Mowday at Old Kennett Meeting on August 29th as part of the Old Kennett Tricentennial Celebration



Quakers and The Revolutionary War

Old Kennett Meeting Tri-Centennial

Sunday, August 29, 2010



At the same time Washington’s army utilized the home of Gideon Gilpin, a Quaker farmer, lived here with his wife and six children. They farmed their 130 acres and the home has been called Lafayette’s headquarters, even though it is unclear if Lafayette stayed in the home during the battle.

Neither Ring or Gilpin volunteered to have their homes used by the military and they weren’t sanctioned by Yearly Meeting. But both families suffered hardships because of actions taken by the British army afterBrandywine.

A grandson of Ring wrote that the Ring family was told to leave after the battle. “Grandfather favored the side of the colonies and many thought he went further in his politics than he ought and in taking side with what was called the Rebel congress and Rebel Army, … He was pointed out as a rebel and his property given over to the enemy for destruction.”

After the battle the Gilpin property was plundered by foraging soldiers. He filed a claim where he said he lost 10 milk cows, a yoke of oxen, 48 sheep, 28 swine, 12 tons of hay, 230 bushels of wheat, 50 pounds of bacon, a history book and a gun. – he was a successful farmer before the battle. Afterwards, to support his family, the home was turned into a tavern and operated from 1778 to 1789. Gideon Gilpin was disowned by the Concord Monthly Meeting on January 6, 1779, for running the tavern.

Many suffered and didn’t recover for decades. The Chadds Ford Historical Society did an exhibit on the losses a few years ago. (More losses reported on Page 163).

I spent six years researching and writing the book on the Battle of Brandywine and one of the mysteries that I didn’t uncover involved the Ring home on September 9. Washington held a meeting there with his staff and some local residents. The local residents gave him advice – bad advice – that directly led to Washington’s defeat. I never did discover the name of the local residents.

British Generals Howe, Cornwallis and Knyphausen, a Hessian, received better information from area residents and some of his informants were Quakers. At least one Quaker, a man named Parker, did give Howe assistance during the battle of Brandywine as a guide. General Howe was disappointed in the Quakers and other residents of the area for not giving his army more assistance. He believed since the King’s army was in the area the people would rally to his cause. That wasn’t true during the war as about a third wanted freedom, a third wanted to stay under British rule and a third didn’t really care.

General Washington also was disappointed with the Quakers. (STORY OF MILL STONES)

Early in the morning of September 11, 1777, General Howe put two wings of his army into motion. AtKennett Square, he split forces and he went with half of the forces on a 17-mile march that concluded at Osborne’s hill, near the Birmingham Meeting House. The rest of the army under Knyphausen marched eastward towards the Brandywine River.

About 7 a.m. the first shots were fired near Welch’s Tavern, just west of where we are today. Members of Baylor’s Light Horse was inside the tavern (it did seem a little early for indulging) and fled. The first causality was an American horse.

American General William Maxwell was in charge of his portion of the field and he placed his defenders outside this Meeting House behind the stone walls, near the graveyard. That graveyard today contains the remains of some of the Hessian soldiers.

Inside this Meeting House a mid-week meeting was taking place and Jacob Pierce noted outside the engagement was taking place but “while there was much noise and confusion without, all was quiet and peaceful within.”

Taking part in that confusion was future American President George Washington and a British officer by the name of Patrick Ferguson (STORY OF WASHINGTON”S SHOOTING)

A description of what was taking place at Osborne’s Hill and the Birmingham Meeting House comes from a

Quaker teenager, Joseph Townsend, who wrote down his experiences. Thursday was a day of meeting and since the Birmingham Meeting House was being used as a hospital the meeting was moved to a wheelwright’s shop in Sconneltown.

Townsend wrote that neighbors who supported Washington moved out of the way and took possessions and family members away while others stayed. “A majority of the inhabitants were of the Society of Friends, who could not consistently with their principles take any active part in the war and who generally believed it right to remain in their dwellings, and patiently submit to whatever suffering might be their lot, and trust their all of a find protecting Providence, who had hitherto protected and prospered their undertaking in an extraordinary manner, ever since their first settlement of the country under the proprietor and governor William Penn.”

Townsend ordered to remove a fence by a German officer and while doing so “I was forcibly struck with the impropriety of being active in assisting to take the lives of my fellow beings, and there desisted

He reported on Birmingham as a hospital: “We hastened thither and awful was the scene to behold – such a number of fellow beings lying together severely wounded, and some mortally a few dead, but a small portion of them considering the immense quantity of powder and ball that had been discharged. It was now time for the surgeons to exert themselves and divers of them were busily employed. Townsend and his friends helped to tend to the wounded.

The boy who witnessed the battle later moved to Baltimore, married three times and had 23 children before his death in1841.

There are many stories and legends involving Brandywine and the Quakers. One story has a Quaker woman trying to stop the fighting approaching General Knyphausen and asking him not to proceed because George Washington has all the world with him. Knyphausen was to have replied, “Never mind, madam, I have all the other world with me.”

The day of the battle was hot and fog covered the march of General Howe and his troops. Rain had also swollen the Brandywine to the height of a man’s waist.

Looking outside today it is difficult to imagine what took place more than 230 years ago. I think it is easier to imagine what the great Kennett Square writer Bayard Taylor saw in 1840 when he visited the Brandywine Battlefield. Taylor’s first published work was a report on that visit and it was published in an area newspaper.

The visit he said, was made during a “lovely morning. The sun had just appeared above the horizon, the sky was clear and unclouded, and all nature wore the barb of beauty.”

I thank you for attending today and I’ll take questions if you have any.


August 29, 2010 at 8:49 PM Flag Quote & Reply

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