Taking a break from a constant rainstorm on a long road trip on Interstate 95 through Delaware to visit the site of the Battle of Cooch’s Bridge reminded me why it is essential to visit Revolutionary War sites in all-weather conditions. Despite protective synthetic garments, a brief shiver upon exiting the car and walking the Cooch’s Bridge battlefield evoked images of the privations and weather exposures suffered by all Revolutionary soldiers.
In September 1777, Washington deployed a handpicked light infantry unit and several militias under the command of Brig. Gen. William Maxwell to impede the advance of the British Army aiming to attack and capture the Rebel capital in Philadelphia. Hard rains and bad roads hampered the British northerly advance into Delaware from their Head of Elk base in Maryland. A day-long hard-fought, running battle ensued with the British forces overrunning Rebel forces guarding Cooch’s Bridge over the swollen Christiana River. Estimates of losses on both sides vary widely from just a few to thirty to forty killed and wounded. Eyewitnesses recount British soldiers burying slain Rebels on the battlefield and Rebel units fleeing to their main camp guarding Wilmington.
Several days later the main British and Rebel armies clashed a few miles away at Chadd’s Ford over the Brandywine River. During the Battle of Brandywine, the British inflicted a significant defeat on the Rebels opening their way to capture Philadelphia.
Oft overlooked the Cooch’s Bridge battlefield is just south of I-95 at the Delaware Route 896 exit. Currently, Delaware commemorates the only Revolutionary War battle waged in the state with a small parking lot and a few memorial signs. In December 2018, the State of Delaware purchased an adjacent ten-acre plot of land to preserve better the site on which the action took place. This exciting purchase will allow a complete visitor experience to walk the battlefield and better understand its outcome.
During the dark days of 1776, Thomas Paine famously coined the term “Sunshine Patriots” in his pamphlet Common Sense. Don’t be a “Sunshine Visitor”! For a more realistic experience, visit a Revolutionary War site in the cold, rain or snow to better grasp the rebellion’s battlefield conditions and the impact on its participants.