Friends General Conference

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Battle of the Brandywine

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The first shots of the Battle of the Brandywine were from this area, where colonists hid behind the stone walls of Old Kennett Meetinghouse to pick off British troops as they marched up the hill.  Before daybreak on September 11, 1777, an American light infantry corps led by General Maxwell was sent from the encampment at Chadd’s Ford to delay the approach of the British force.  Those 5000 soldiers, Hessians, Highlanders, and English, were marching up from Kennett and were surprised by the gunfire from behind the stone wall which surrounded the cemetery at that time. Eventually, they rallied and drove General Maxwell’s small force back to Chadd’s Ford.

The battle was a resounding defeat for General Washington, the blame primarily resting on poor information. Hessian soldiers killed then, and in the great battle in the hills north of Chadd’s Ford that afternoon, are buried in this graveyard.  Friends worshipped quietly within the meeting house while the battle raged outside.  It is said one of the British armed men opened the door of the meeting house and looked in, but the Friends paid no heed to him. 

One diarist noted from the battle that “there was tumult without, but Great Peace within.”  The Quaker adherence to pacifism kept them out of active participation in the American Revolution.  Quakers had dominated early Colonial life in Pennsylvania; in commerce, in government, and education, but Quaker tenets to treat Native Americans equitably and to eschew violence and military action were at odds with the growing non-Quaker population.  Irreconcilable differences in the French and Indian War caused Quakers to withdraw from public office and concentrate their efforts on social benevolence. Local Quakers did not participate in the fighting of the American Revolution, and many were punished for their intransigent pacifism.