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Paoli after the Battle

September 21, 1777 the Paoli camp was littered with both the living and the dead. The British troops were the first to return to the smoking ruins of the camp to account for losses. The British losses were light as one might expect. One account was about 20 killed in action. Captain John Andr`e estimated that about 200 killed and wounded remained on the field. Also eight wagons and teams were captured. He further stated that about 80 prisoners were taken which was close to other counts. The British were convinced they had disabled Wayne’s elite by brutally wounding and killing great numbers of his men and assuming, after all the bloodshed, many of his soldiers would defect.

The wounded were picked up, both British and American, and taken back to the Tredyffrin Camp, along with the bodies of the British killed in action. The badly wounded were left at different homes along the way back to camp. The British continued to search for wounded soldiers who were well enough to take back to camp as prisoners. There was no further organized military action taken by the British believing their work had been satisfactorily completed. Had they again attacked the day after and caught Wayne and Smallwood in disarray, they could have finished off the corps and taken what was left of the militia.

Howe, by the military “civilized war” custom of the time, sent a trumpeter on horse with a truce flag and a note providing Washington the first notification Wayne had been attacked and requesting direction on what to do with the severely injured. The trumpeter took a circuitous route, obviously collecting intelligence data concerning the depth of the river at Long Ford, here-to-fore not known to Howe. The trumpeter also rode along Washington’s left flank from its outermost edge taking in the American deployment. Washington was infuriated with this event and issued orders to keep any enemy on the other side of the river and retrieve immediately whatever they were wishing to send to the General. Washington responded as etiquette required. McGuire quotes:

‘Your Favor of this date [September 21, 1777] was received this Evening & agreeable to yor request, I have set Doctor [Lewis] Wilson to take charge of the Wounded Officers & Men of the Army under my command who have fallen into your hands at Howels Tavern & the Neighboring Houses. The Doctor has directions to give a receipt for All that are delivered him, and they will be considered as Your Prisoners.’

Howe put his troops in motion the next day and broke camp at 6:00 a.m. marching northward on the same route the trumpeter had taken the previous day. The British were very aware Americans would retaliate if given the chance. McGuire quotes Lt. Martin Hunter of the 52 Light Company as saying: ‘The Americans ever after call us The Bloodhounds I don’t think our battalion slept very soundly after that night for a long time.’

While the British searched the camp early Sunday morning September 21, 1777, Wayne was at the crossroads covering the withdrawal of his force. He rallied troops around the 4th Regiment, which was fortified with cannons presenting a strong front. The crossroads were north of the camp and through the long strip of woods passed by his troops during the night retreat. Few British troops wisely pushed in that direction, but moved westward through open fields halting at Sugartown Road with light infantry pushing as far as Chester Road. Wayne, apparently not fully aware of the disarray of his own troops or the desertion of considerable militia, considered briefly a counter attack. Intelligence indicated the British were now moving on his left flank. In response Wayne gave orders to march toward the Red Lion Tavern across the road from Umchlan Friends Meeting. Wayne had found Smallwood and brought him and the remaining militia with him to Red Lion.

Wayne was clear from the very beginning that he was not surprised by the attack. His second in command, Colonel Humpton, however, was never aware of a missing picket or the two intelligence reports giving warning of the impending attack. He remained ignorant of these events for several days after the attack and later stated that he was not only in Wayne’s disfavor but Wayne did not have the esteem of his subordinate officers either. This included Colonel Brodhead, Joseph’s Regimental Commander. The animosity between Humpton and Wayne would eventually provoke Wayne into requesting a military review of his actions that night at Paol

Wayne wrote a letter to Washington briefly reviewing the battle and indicated he had reason to believe that several letters from Washington had fallen into enemy hands. Wayne told Washington he would provide a count at a later date. This document has never been found.

It is noteworthy that the Pennsylvania line held together after this battle and was not affected significantly by desertion. The discipline and courage of the men was seriously tested. The soldier’s obedience reflected well the elite nature of these troops as part of Washington’s Main Army. The lessons of bravery and persistence in this battle would reappear in subsequent conflicts against the enemy and nature herself. The 8th had only begun to be challenged.