“Emotional Brandywine,” the second collaboration between author Bruce Mowday and Chadds Ford artist Karl Kuerner has been released. Their first, “Emotional Gettysburg,” was about the Battle of Gettysburg. This one is about an older battle, the Battle of Brandywine. Both books include Kuerner paintings and Mowday essays.
Mowday, a former reporter and editor is now the author of multiple books, several about military histories involving both the War of Independence and the second war of secession, the Civil War.
“Emotional Brandywine’ tells the story, not only of Brandywine but of the American Revolution, of the patriots, and also the inner struggle among the different parts of the populace. We had the loyalists and people who wanted to stay out of it. We have the Quakers, of course. It’s such a great story,” Mowday said.
For Kuerner, it’s much more personal and, yes, emotional. He grew up in Chadds Ford and would often find artifacts, old musket and cannon balls, uniform buttons, and even some coins and clay pipes. But he said the big emotional grab came during the bicentennial celebration of the battle in 1977.
“For me, this started in the ’70s,” he said in a recent interview. “They had a reenactment behind the Chadds Ford Gallery. I was with some friends, and we wanted to see the reenactment. I said, ‘I know a shortcut, let’s go through the cornfield behind the gallery.’ So, we went up through the deer trails and cornfield. We came out and, as sure as I’m sitting here, we ran into a regiment of British soldiers.”
He admitted to being startled and shaken by that.
“What do you say? You’re back in time all of a sudden. That really hit me,” adding that it was actually scary to see them when not expecting to.
Before that, he said his emotional attachment to the battle was minor, involving only finding artifacts and listening to stories by Chris Sanderson. However, running into those redcoats unexpectedly led him to do a painting a few years later. And that ultimately led him to “Emotional Brandywine.”
“You’re in this little valley and you do some paintings that really lend to that era. I’m not saying that ‘I’m going to do this because I’m going to do a book 30 years later. You look at some of the things you do that [make you think] ‘Gee, this really fits into this,’” he said.
Kuerner, who still teaches painting and will use the family farm as a backdrop for his students, mentioned “September Past,” a painting he did of a cannon that overlooks Sandy Hollow.
“You look through that scene and you can almost envision the British coming out…There’s an energy, a magic here. It’s part of the root system, for me anyway. I grew up here, and that makes a big difference.”
And that’s where his art and life come together. “Paintings are a part of my life’s history.”
And while Kuerner shares his emotional relationship with the area and its history through his paintings, and says there’s a palpable energy, Mowday feels that, too.
“When you place yourself where the battle took place, you get a totally different understanding of what it’s like. And doing the research allows me to do that. But when I get a chance to go out into the field and walk it, that makes much more of an impression. And it actually makes me feel good.”
“Emotional Brandywine,” and “Emotional Gettysburg,” each include almost two dozen essays by Mowday and paintings by Kuerner. The book about Brandywine was released on Oct. 1 by Regent Press.