Presentation during the Memorial Day Ceremony
May 30, 2021
from Bill Conley of the Pencader Heritage Museum and founder of the Veterans Resiliency Center
Hello, I am honored to be a part of this celebration on Memorial Day 2021. As Chaplain Major Tulloch has stated, I am a retired LTC in the U S Army, a former teacher and administrator at Glasgow High School, and, as part of the Pencader Heritage Association, I am deeply committed to sharing Delaware Revolutionary War history. My Mission today is to highlight several major Revolutionary War events that occurred in the immediate vicinity of the White Clay Creek Presbyterian Church.
Jeff has done a fantastic job highlighting the individuals from that era who were deeply connected with this church. As many of you already know, this church is only a few miles away from Delaware's only battlefield, the battle of Cooch's Bridge. In late August of 1777, the British Army in New York city decided to capture our Nation's capital in Philadelphia. A combined British and Hessian army of 17,000 men landed at the Head of the Elk River. Their goal was to march directly to Philadelphia thru Wilmington. But first this huge professional army had to cross the Cooch Bridge in Glasgow.
General Washington moved his army to Stanton, Delaware to intercept the British. But first Washington needed to know how many troops he would be facing. He therefore sent 800 of his best shooters under General Maxwell to meet the invaders at Glasgow. On the morning of Sept 3rd,1777, the American Army sprung a series of ambushes on the approaching army , which was lead by German Hessians. The Americans would fire and retreat behind another line of ambushers, also hidden in the trees. The three hour running battle ended with the British capturing both Iron Hill and Cooch's Bridge. The Americans retreated to their prepared positions in Stanton, leaving 24 dead Colonial Soldiers lying somewhere on the battlefield. To this day, we do not know where they were buried.
The British waited for three days to analyze Washington's plans before they decided to march to Chadds Ford, PA to cross the Brandywine. When they left the Cooch home , Gen. Howe's army marched directly past the White Clay Creek Presbyterian church, while the Hessians marched up Possum Hill Rd towards Hockessin and PA. Washington raced to the Battle of Brandywine, but Howe captured Philadelphia.
The second major story involving the Revolutionary War and Newark history happened in September, 1781. The combined French and American Armies under Gen Washington and French General Rochambeau marched down Old Baltimore Pike and across the Cooch Bridge en route to Yorktown. Imagine the look on the Newarker's faces as they see the 6,500 French soldiers and cavalry ride through our town, followed by several thousand Colonial soldiers. They will eventually march 700 miles from Rhode island to Yorktown. After their victory, the same army marched back to Rhode Island by way of Old Baltimore Pike again in 1782. The French left their 300 Cavalry troops in Wilmington for 6 more months to protect Philadelphia.
The last piece of history is the story of a Presbyterian Cavalry Officer in Washington's army named Allen McLane. He fought alongside Washington from Long Island to Yorktown, the entire war!!! After the war, McLane married a Delaware girl and lived in Wilmington. He built two new Presbyterian churches, one at Third and Walnut in Wilmington and one in Smyrna on Mt Vernon Street. Of Scottish heritage, he is deeply distressed by slavery and forms Delaware's first Abolitionist society. Allen McLane is definitely an unsung hero on several levels.
Thank you for listening.
LTC US Army ret