Excavating the Bowen House

One of the aims of the archaeological work at Paoli Battlefield is to understand and interpret the relationship between the battle and those who lived in the community.  At the time of the battle, Wayne and his men camped on the property of Ezekiel Bowen, a farmer who was sympathetic to the Revolution.  The Bowen house stood  “to the right rear of the camp, on the slope of a notch in the hills” (McGuire, 2000: 74).    Historical documents do not point to whether or not the house was utilized by any of Wayne’s officers.  Therefore, much can be learned about the battle by understanding the lay out of the Bowen farm (the house and it’s outbuildings) and the material remains associated with this cultural landscape.

Bowen Farm House ca. 1910 (mislabeled as Wayne's Headquarters)

Bowen Farm House ca. 1910 (mislabeled as Wayne’s Headquarters)

Over the last two weeks, our excavations are uncovering the landscape of the Bowen Farm.  Below, images show the progression of our excavations and the discovery of a foundation.  It is unclear at this point whether the foundation is associated with the house or another outbuilding.   The exciting discovery shows the promise of archaeology to better interpret the Battle of Paoli!


Pre-excavations


Uncovering a Foundations


Uncovering a Foundation

Historical Background

Many of the subsequent posts to this blog will be centered on the archaeological excavations that are taking place this summer; however, in order to provide context and meaning to those posts it is important to understand the history of the Battle and of the site as a whole.

The Battle of Paoli

 battlepaoli

In the Summer of the 1777 the British forces occupied New York City.  Wanting to put an end to Revolution, the British set out to capture Philadelphia, the capital city of the 13 colonies.  In late July, General Howe and his British army landed at the Head of Elk, Maryland.  From there, they began to march Northward into Pennsylvania.  On September 11, 1777 British forces clashed with George Washington’s Continental Army at the Battle of Brandywine, the largest battle of the American Revolution.  Following the Battle, which was a British victory,  Washington and Howe both began to strategically move their troops.  During this period, Washington sent local Pennsylvanian General Anthony Wayne to move behind the British forces with the hopes of cutting the British off from their supplies.

On the night of September 20, 1777, General Wayne camped in a field near the Paoli Tavern with the British camped in Tredyffrin, just a mile away.  Although Wayne believed that his location was secretive, the British learned of his movements.  Rather than allow Wayne to attack, the British dispatched General Grey to attack the encamped Americans.  As the British set out from their camp in Tredyffrin in the early morning hours of September 21, Grey ordered his men to remove their gunflints and use solely their bayonets as they stormed into the American camp.

The subsequent battle was brutal.  Wayne, though, was able to rally his troops and retreat with relatively minimal losses, 53 killed.  Yet, the damage was done.  The battle of Paoli became recognized as the Paoli Massacre due to the fact that the nighttime bayonet raid seemed uncouth and ungentlemanly to many.

Following the battle, “Remember Paoli!” became a battle cry of the Continental Army, especially among the Pennsylvania Brigades. Today, the site of the Battle of Paoli remains as a memorial park.  It is at this location where archaeological excavations are taking place to better understand the battle as well as to gain an understanding of how the Battle affected the community in 1777 and over the subsequent 238 years until today.

Be sure to check in for updates regrading this summer’s excavations!