Scrapped housing development a sign of hope for hallowed Brandywine Revolutionary War Battlefield in Chester County

Brandywine Battlefield 1, Free Markets 0: Scrapped Chester County housing development a sign of hope for hallowed Revolutionary War site

by Maria Panaritis, Regional Columnist  @panaritism |
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It was a firefight so consequential that the British sent Gen. George Washington and his troops fleeing and captured Philadelphia just two weeks later. Philly also lost its status as the nation’s capital because of it.

In the annals of local and American history, in other words, the daylong Battle of Brandywine in 1777 was one of the largest of the Revolutionary War. But measured by national parks, monuments, and museums, Brandywine is the forgotten stepchild of the war that introduced the world to modern-day democratic rule.

Until, quite possibly, now.

A few days before New Year’s, residents of Westtown Township, Chester County, cheered as their elected officials spiked a planned Toll Bros. housing development on a 322-acre privately owned parcel known as Crebilly Farm, where portions of the famous battle were believed to have been waged.

Township supervisors felt no need to disclose the reasoning behind their unanimous vote. A written statement is expected in the next few weeks. But the town a decade earlier had OK’d a different development at Crebilly and now decided this one was a no-go.

The rejection comes just a few months after reenactors celebrated the Battle of Brandywine’s 240th anniversary — and the preservation purchase of another hallowed patch, Dilworth Farm, for $850,000 with help from the nonprofit Civil War Trust.

The winds of change are finally blowing in the direction of Brandywine finally getting its due. And free-market capitalism is taking a backseat while it does.

What’s unfolding along the Brandywine Creek is a civil version of the tactical strategizing that made the historic battle such a dramatic confrontation.

Just as British Gen. William Howe hatched the plan that ultimately outmaneuvered Washington by landing an armada off the Maryland coast and skulking north toward rebel troops near Chadds Ford, preservationists have stepped up efforts over the past decade to give this diffuse stretch of mostly privately owned hallowed land the protections it has long lacked.

The Dec. 30 ruling was a stunner.

For several decades, Chester County’s gorgeous, rolling farms had been developed into houses faster than you could say, “Pennsylvania’s contracting dairy industry.” (Clue: This used to be dairy country.)

“We were losing a farm in Chester County just about every day in the Eighties and Nineties,” said David Ward, who would know better than most. The assistant director of the county Planning Commission has been at it for 40 years. “Wholesale farms were going up.”

That’s a lot of free-market mania to beat back if you’re a preservationist. Never mind, of course, that a pop quiz would probably reveal a stunning lack of knowledge among even educated locals about the American Revolution. In a nutshell:

Howe led 15,000 British and German mercenary troops into Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777, from Maryland, where they had landed to launch a surprise attack. They marched east from Kennett Square Borough toward Chadds Ford, where Washington had gathered over 14,000 soldiers and militiamen.

It was so brilliantly executed that Washington retreated to Chester, clearing the way for the British to take their intended prize — Philadelphia.

Nowadays, drive through the Brandywine area and you don’t see much suggesting this ever happened there. You’ll see winding state roads, houses, and purposefully quaint commercial strips.

In neighboring Montgomery County, conversely, Valley Forge National Historical Park is a sprawling, federally owned monument to a less significant chapter in the war’s history.

Near Brandywine, only a sliver of a tiny park along Route 1 is comparably available to the public. The rest of the 35,000 acres on which the battle was fought are spread across 15 municipalities in Chester and Delaware Counties.

No fair.

Until about a decade ago, there wasn’t even universal agreement over the battlefield’s 18th-century boundaries.

That began to change in 2000, when a National Park Service report identified Brandywine as one of the nation’s 30 most-threatened battlefields from that era.

With any luck, the citizen-troops looking to even the preservation score will only further secure its future in the years to come.

Published: January 5, 2018 — 3:01 AM EST | Updated: January 5, 2018 — 6:36 PM EST




THANK YOU FOR YOUR SUPPORT in Saving Gettysburg!

We won! Gettysburg and Adams County finally have a buffer zone against casinos!

Adams County Chooses No Casino: 20 of 21 Townships, 11 of 13 Boroughs opt out of hosting a Casino.

The remaining township, Conewago, votes this Thursday 12/21 at 11AM at 541 Oxford Ave., Hanover, PA. Conewago is next to Hanover and previously decided NOT to opt out but have decided to re-visit their decision. They may not opt out but we are still quite happy with the results.

Statement by No Casino Gettysburg chair Susan Paddock:

Over the last 12 years, the people of Adams County have fought off every category of casino and now have opted out of the PA legislature’s bad idea. We are so grateful that Gettysburg and the hallowed ground surrounding it are protected. No Casino Gettysburg is ready to retire! 


The Pa gambling expansion bill signed 10/31/17 calls for 10 satellite “Category 4” casinos (up to 750 slots and 50 table games) to be awarded to the highest bidder. The auction winner selects their location. The law allows municipalities to opt out of having a casino in their municipality by adopting a resolution before Dec 31, 2017. If they do not opt-out, they will not be able to say no later. However, they can say “yes” later. This action by the borough or township is the only remaining opportunity for municipal leaders to prevent a casino in their neighborhood.

Here are 2 news stories about it.

No Casino Gettysburg has been fighting casino proposals for the Gettysburg Area since 2005. The first three proposals were from a local developer, David LeVan. In 2005 he proposed a Stand-alone casino in Straban Township. In 2010 he proposed a “resort casino” in the Eisenhower Inn, in Cumberland Township. Neither the first or second proposal ever received a single yes vote from the PGCB. From PGCB reasons for rejecting Crossroads:

“The Gettysburg area itself is primarily a rural area without large population centers nearby to sustain the casino”… “During the public input hearings in April and May,2006, community group representatives and individual members of the community testified overwhelmingly in opposition to the project. Opposition was strongest in relation to the proximity of the casino to the historic Gettysburg battlefield areas and the effect the casino would have on the traditionally rural nature of the community.”

The third proposal from LeVan was in 2017 for a harness racing track and casino in Freedom Township. The citizens demanded a referendum. The day that was approved, Mr. LeVan withdrew his application, citing uncertainty regarding the new gaming law. The referendum, held on Nov. 6, 2017, resulted in 80% of citizens voting against a racetrack in the township.

Just before the vote, PA’s Gambling Expansion Law was passed.

Having most of the County opt out provides the buffer zone we needed to protect the historic treasure of Gettysburg. THANK YOU for YOUR support throughout these 12 years.This is our last e-mail! Happy Holidays!

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world: indeed it's the only thing that ever has." Margaret Mead


Preservation Update ~ November 2017

From Our Paymaster, Jim Duffy

     At the end of each year most of the monies raised by the CWRT of Eastern PA are earmarked for preservation. This year was no exception. Here is how the money was allocated:

  • $1000.00 was sent to save 3 VA stations (Bristoe, Trevilian, and Reams Stations - $76.26 to $1 ratio - our $1000 garnered $76,260);
  • We also sent $1000.00 to Save Gettysburg (2 acres on the 1st Day's Battlefield - $10 to $1 ratio - our $1000 generated $10,000 of support.
  • In addition, we also provided $1000.00 for 3 properties at Appomattox Court House ($1.80 to $1 ratio - our $1000.00 donation generated an $1800.00) and finally Slaughter Pen Farm at Fredericksburg ($1 to $1 ratio) and our $1000 provided a $1000.00 contribution.
  • Thus our $4000.00 contribution, ultimately, was transformed into $89,060.00. Thanks so much to all of you who helped to make this gift possible.

SAVE BRANDY STATION - Two critical pieces totaling 244 acres. DONATE NOW!

With your support, we have already saved over 2,000 acres at Brandy Station battlefield, the site of the largest cavalry fight in North American history. Now, I’m asking for your help in saving an additional 244 acres of Virginia hallowed ground. Will you help ensure these two historic tracts are preserved for future generations?

First, we can save 70 acres near Beverly’s Ford and Fleetwood Hill where—on June 9, 1863—near Beverly’s Ford and Fleetwood Hill, Confederate forces under General W.H.F. “Rooney” Lee repulsed multiple Union attacks in what one observer called “the finest fighting of the war.”

To the south, near the village of Stevensburg, Confederate forces from South Carolina and Virginia were locked in fierce cavalry combat with Union forces under Colonel Alfred Duffié. It is here that we have targeted 174 acres to preserve in perpetuity.

For future generations to truly understand what took place on this ground in 1863, we must strive to provide an understanding of the battle in its entirety. By adding these 244 acres to what already has been preserved, you're doing just that: saving two crucial portions of the Brandy Station battlefield, where the valor of individual soldiers shaped the course of the battle and our nation's future.

We have been recogonized by the Civil War Trust

January 20, 2017


CWRT of Eastern Pennsylvania Inc. PO Box 333

Allentown, Pennsylvania   18105-0333

Dear CWRT of Eastern Pennsylvania Inc.,

You, my friends are true heroes of preservation! It is my extraordinary privilege to recognize you as part of our most esteemed recognition group here at the Civil War Trust: The Top 300. In terms of cumulative giving amount, you are among our top 300 lifetime donors - in the history of our 16 years in battlefield preservation. Thank You!

When it comes down to it though we do our best to secure grants and work with government entities for funding, we can only preserve land if we have the money with which to purchase it. In total, our Top 300 members have given over $81 Million to the Trust -all in the name of battlefield preservation. That's equal to a third of all of the money we've raised, ever. Truly amazing.

 Your generosity to the Trust reflects your patriotism and your vision for the future. On behalf of all future generations of Americans, I thank you! As a small token of my thanks, I 'm enclosing a series of postcards featuring battlefields that you have helped save -just a sampling of the more than 44,000 acres we've saved in 23 states, at I23 battlefields across the country. I hope that as you look at these images, and use these postcards, you will be proud of the difference you are making.

 It is my honor to partner with you in this historic effort. We look forward to working closely with you as we continue the fight to save even more hallowed ground.  Andas always, pleaselet me knowif thereis anythingIcan do for you.

 Your friend in preservation,

Jim Lighthizer President


Whether it was the big, influential battles or one of the countless small engagements that are not household names, Virginia and West Virginia played pivotal roles in our Civil War. What we now call West Virginia was still part of the Old Dominion in 1861 when Union and Confederate forces lunged blindly at one another in an effort to control the region. Just east of the Alleghenies, the verdant fields of the Shenandoah Valley were also vital to the strategies of Northern and Southern armies, leading to a seesaw struggle that lasted nearly the entire war. And, of course, the land surrounding the Confederate capitol of Richmond became one vast battleground in 1864 and 1865 as the blue and the gray grappled with one another in the war’s desperate final months. The Civil War touched every part of the United States, but its impact on Virginia and West Virginia was immense.

The Civil War Trust now has the opportunity to save 243 acres at four battlefields in Virginia and West Virginia. We are saving a vital tract at the heart of the Cedar Creek battlefield in Virginia, as well as additional acres at another Virginia battlefield, New Market Heights—a battle in which 23 members of the United States Colored Troops received the Medal of Honor. In the Mountain State, we are preserving a massive 200-acre tract at Harpers Ferry, which figured prominently in the 1862 battle and siege. Lastly, we are saving the first acres ever preserved at Greenbrier River, scene of an early war clash in West Virginia.

Take advantage of a $14.96-to-$1 match and help us save these four battlefields!


Petersburg National Battlefield Gets OK To Expand

The site of the 6th Corps Breakthrough during the siege of Petersburg, would be added to Petersburg National Battlefield under legislation sent to the president to sign/NPS

Congress has passed legislation to give the National Park Service permission to expand Petersburg National Battlefield in Virginia by more than 7,200 acres. The park currently consists of approximately 2,700 acres; however, with the passing of this legislation, it now has the opportunity to expand by another 7,238 acres.

The Siege of Petersburg was the longest military event in the entire Civil War, lasting more than nine months. Eighteen separate battlefields are commemorated by Petersburg National Battlefield. The specific battlefields, which can benefit from the authority to protect additional lands, include Five Forks, Peebles Farm, Ream’s Station, the Crater, and the site of the Union Army’s breakthrough on April 2, 1865.

The Petersburg boundary expansion legislation was included in the National Defense Authorization Act, for Fiscal Year 2017, after first being introduced in separate bills by Sens. Mark Warner, D-Virginia, and Tim Kaine, D-Virginia, and Reps. Bobby Scott, D-Virginia, and Randy Forbes, R-Virginia.

“We are excited about this new opportunity to join with the battlefield community to save our national treasures. Nowhere else in our nation’s history have so many Americans fought and died for ideas they so strongly believed in – some even against their own families," said battlefield Superintendent Lewis Rodgers. "We are looking forward to open up new places for our children to learn about their heritage and enjoy ‘America’s best idea,’ its national parks.”


Shiloh National Military Park Gains 350 Acres Thanks To Friends Group


Shiloh National Military Park  is more than 350 acres larger than it was last month, thanks to the efforts of Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth, Mississippi.

The Corinth Unit of Shiloh National Military Park was established on September 22, 2000, and has an authorized land area of approximately 950 acres. With a land donation made December 8, the park now owns more than 800 acres of the Corinth battlefield unit. Among the donated lands are Battery Robinett, Confederate Siege works, various surviving fortifications, and significant portions of the battlefield landscape, where attacking Confederate forces engaged the Union garrison occupying the town in October 1862.

For six months in 1862, from April until October, the fight to control Corinth’s crucial railroad crossover elevated this town to a military prominence perhaps second only to Richmond, Virginia. During this time, five armies comprising nearly 300,000 men fought for control of the Corinth railroad junction. Soldiers, slaves, and later contrabands moved hundreds of thousands of tons of earth to construct nearly 40 miles of rifle pits, forts, and artillery positions. The surviving earthworks in and around Corinth are rare examples of fortifications constructed early in the Civil War, making their continued preservation important to understanding the evolution of military tactics in the United States.

While the initial fortifications were built by Confederate forces, the vast majority of the fieldworks were constructed by Union forces. The most intense period of fortification was between March and October of 1862, representing four distinct phases of construction.

  • First was erection of the "Beauregard Line," named for General Pierre G. T. Beauregard, and built by the Confederates from March thru May, 1862, to defend the vital railroad hub from attack from the north and east.
  • Second were a series of extensive siege lines, constructed throughout May 1862 to protect the advancing Northern armies from surprise attacks by Confederate forces occupying Corinth.
  • Third was the “Halleck Line,” named for Major General Henry W. Halleck, commander of the western Union armies in 1862. Constructed in June and July of 1862, this line consisted of six forts, fronting west and south of the city, designed to extend the captured Confederate earthworks completely around the city.
  • Finally, the “Rosecrans Line,” named for Major General William S. Rosecrans, commander of the occupying Federal garrison during the Battle of Corinth, was comprised of seven forts constructed close to the railroad crossing, making it more realistic for an increasingly smaller garrison of Union soldiers to defend the community.

The properties were originally acquired by the Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth, Inc., a nonprofit entity that assists the community and the National Park Service by raising public awareness of the importance of these sites. Since 1993, the Friends of the Siege and Battle of Corinth, Inc., has counted on the generosity of individuals, businesses, and non-profit foundations, such as the Civil War Trust, to raise funds in support of a variety of projects and land acquisition efforts that benefit the preservation of these significant sites. This donation culminates more than a decade of work by the friends group.


Article Submitted by Joe Riggs

Discovering new information relating to my ancestor’s regiment is my pastime.  I enjoy working with and discovering original documents relating to his regiment. Over the years, visits to several small Wisconsin county historical societies, GAR Halls, libraries and such produce a wealth of new information. During these trips to Wisconsin, I realize much is being lost to the effects of age.

In my opinion, a missing section in the preservation conflict is saving the handwritten record of this war. Schools todays are dismissing cursive writing and reading in lieu completing everything on the computer. Soon, the old folks will be the few able to read cursive including our Declaration of Independence. The original records, diaries, letters and such are in cursive. In my research of my ancestor’s regiment, I examine countless shoeboxes of cursive accounts covering the events of 1860-1865 then interpreting and transcribing these wonderful gems. Owning a Webster’s 1864 dictionary also helps with the task. The English consider one hundred and fifty year old documents as modern history. However, they realize that time is running out and are employing over a thousand volunteers to transcribe and preserve older official papers. Should we follow their example? Our local historical societies are bursting as such. Consider the wealth of information at the Army War College, Gettysburg, Vicksburg or even the National Archives.

What must we require to begin transcribing these wonderful history treasures? A volunteer organization is essential; however, it is also necessary to have the cooperation of the depository. Oftentimes, this can be a problem where the curators may believe we are invading their turf. We all need to cooperate for our mutual benefit such as, the easy exchange of information via the internet and a new source of income for organizations storing and sharing the data.

Round Table members such as Richard Matthews (discovering the grave sites of nearly one thousand Civil War veterans), Lewis Schmidt (the 47th Pennsylvania), William Goble (New Jersey regiments), Ed Root (Nisky Hill GAR Civil War plot), Jeff Stocker (153d Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry) and others accomplish much; however, additional material is waiting for our discovery. I wonder if we and other organizations ought to involve ourselves in this side of preservation, or should we lazily wait and hope someone completes the assignment?

If you wonder what tidbits are waiting for discovery, here are two from my ancestor’s regiment.

A Wisconsin private writes to his brother about his night in Nashville. “I had a really, really great night in Nashville. Do not tell mom. This is our secret.” Translation: I passed the night drinking and with hookers.

Wisconsin serves as the rear guard during the disastrous Red River retreat. They destroy everything of value and strategic importance such as bridges, food supplies and plantations. At one plantation, they discover the owner’s stash of gold coins. There’s enough loot for everyman in the detachment to receive a $20 gold piece.

Should we allow this opportunity to pass and not preserve our local wealth of Civil War data?