Blogging Along the Brandywine


Driving
to work last Friday, I felt like someone playing a giant game of “Where’s Waldo.”

Although
I wasn’t looking for the little boy in a red and while striped shirt and
matching beanie, I was looking for a flag with a red field and a red and white American flag
image in the canton- the so-called Brandywine regimental flag.

As
we know, Friday, Sept. 11, was the anniversary of the largest land battle of
the American Revolution – the Battle of the Brandywine. And the Pennsylvania
Historic and Museum Commission closed the 55-acre Battlefield Historic Site in
August.  

So
the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates under the leadership of Linda Kaat,
asked the Village of Chadds Ford to come together in show of unity by flying
the Brandywine Flag from September 9 -13 to commemorate the battle.

Flags
were flying from the ReMax office on Route 202 as well as Jimmy John’s. On
Route 1, the Chadds Ford Township Building and Post Office, The Bistro on the
Brandywine, the Brandywine Prime and the Pennsbury Inn. And on Creek Road, The
Sanderson Museum, the Chadds Ford Historical Society and on up to the
Dilworthtown Inn and the Blue Pear. There were even Brandywine flags flying in
New York, Massachusetts, California and England!

According to historian
and veteran re-enactor Paul Loane, who commands the
re-created Second Pennsylvania Regiment and 43rd Regiment of Foot…these regimental flags not only helped to instill unit pride, but:

“….served
an important function in battle, as officers used them to align their companies
in the correct position since they could usually be seen through the smoke and
chaos that were a part of 18th century warfare.”

If
you watched “The Patriot“ you saw Mel Gibson charging the British while waving
a “Betsy Ross” flag.

Now,
I don’t really have time to burst your bubble about the near fictional legend
of the thrice-married Elizabeth Griscom Ross Ashburn Claypool who sewed ships
pennants and claimed to have done some tailoring for General Washington. But
according to Loane:

“There
are no known Revolutionary War examples of the iconic “Betsy Ross” pattern flag
in existence and, if ever produced, probably did not appear until the last
moments of the conflict in the first half of the 1780s.”

 But
in doing some basic research last week, I didn’t think I would accidentally
discover a fact about the Brandywine flag’s origins that even leading
authorities on the battle had…well how do I put this….wrong !

For
years, the Brandywine flag had always been represented as being the regimental
flag of Captain Robert Wilson’s 7th Pennsylvania and was believed to
have seen action at Cooch’s Bridge in Delaware, Brandywine and Germantown. A
footnote mentioned that the original was housed at the Independence National
Historic Park in Philadelphia.

So
I contacted Karie Diethorn, Chief Curator at the Independence National
Historical Park, who dropped the proverbial bombshell.
 

”The
Brandywine Battle Flag was not the flag carried by the 7th Pennsylvania
Regiment at the 11 September battle. Rather, it was carried by Richard Wilson’s
Chester County militia, ” she stated.

“The
confusion about the flag's identity arose because the commanders of these two
units had the same name-- Wilson. The Chester County Wilson was correctly
identified because it was his descendents who donated the flag to Independence
Hall in 1923.” 

Isn’t
t amazing how a little piece of red cloth can unite a community?

Huzzah
Chadds Ford! Let’s keep it flying high!

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About Sally Denk Hoey

Sally Denk Hoey, is a Gemini - one part music and one part history. She holds a masters degree cum laude from the School of Music at West Chester University. She taught 14 years in both public and private school. Her CD "Bard of the Brandywine" was critically received during her almost 30 years as a folk singer. She currently cantors masses at St Agnes Church in West Chester where she also performs with the select Motet Choir. A recognized historian, Sally serves as a judge-captain for the south-east Pennsylvania regionals of the National History Day Competition. She has served as president of the Brandywine Battlefield Park Associates as well as the Sanderson Museum in Chadds Ford where she now curates the violin collection. Sally re-enacted with the 43rd Regiment of Foot and the 2nd Pennsylvania Regiment for 19 years where she interpreted the role of a campfollower at encampments in Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Va., Monmouth, N.J. and Lexington and Concord, Mass. Sally is married to her college classmate, Thomas Hoey, otherwise known as "Mr. Sousa.”

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