Historical Markers
Birmingham Friends Meeting House Historical Marker
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Birmingham Friends Meeting House

Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
Wall of meetinghouse, SR 2001 (Birmingham Rd.) .5 mil SE of PA 926

Dedication Date:
September 11, 1915

Behind the Marker

Every Thursday, local Quakers attended a midweek meeting at the Birmingham Meeting House, but not on Thursday, September 11, 1777. That day, the meeting house was engulfed in a hail of bullets, bayonet charges, and cannon fire, as the British and Continental armies clashed in the one of the most heated engagements of the American Revolution.
Birmingham Monthly Meeting house as seen from the front driveway.
Birmingham Monthly Meeting, West Chester, PA, 2011.

The day before the markerBattle of Brandywine, on September 10, General Washington had commandeered the meeting house and converted it into a field hospital to take in the expected casualties of the battle to come. With their meeting house in the possession of the American army, the Birmingham Friends held their midweek meeting at a wheelwright shop in markerSconnelltown.
On the morning of the 11th, Washington sent two divisions under Alexander Stirling and Adam Stephens to defend Birmingham Hill, a half mile south of the meeting house. There, they were soon joined by General John Sullivan’s division [markerBattle of Brandywine]. Two miles to the north of the meeting house,   
markerGeneral Howe, after a long and arduous march, rested his troops on markerOsborne Hill,
At 4pm, German Jaegers and British Grenadiers captured the meeting house, then led the attack [markerBattle of Brandywine] on Birmingham Hill. “In a few minutes the fields were literally covered with [Redcoats]” a local youth later reported, “Their arms and bayonets being raised shone as bright as silver, there being a clear sky and the day exceedingly warm.”
A photograph of The Birmingham Friends Meeting House.
The Birmingham Friends Meeting House, postcard, circa 1910.

After six bayonet charges the British drove the Americans from the field. Watching from Osborne Hill,Joseph Townsend, a young member of Birmingham Meeting, watched the battle unfold, and later wrote about what he saw in the most famous civilian account of the fighting.  “Awful was the scene to behold-such a number of fellow beings lying together severely wounded, and some mortally-a few dead, but a small proportion of them considering the immense quantity of powder and ball that had been discharged.”
Blood Stained Floor, Birmingham Friends Meeting House, Chester County, PA, 2015.
At the end of the battle it was the British, not the Americans, who used the Birmingham Meeting House as a field hospital. There, too, local Quakers, among them Joseph Townsend, helped care for the injured and dying. “It was now time for the surgeons to exert themselves,” Townsend later wrote, “And divers of them were busily employd. Some of the doors of the meeting house were torn off and the wounded carried thereon into the house to be occupied for an hospital, instead of the Americans sick for which it had been repairing some days previous…. After assisting in carrying two of them into the house, I was disposed to see an operation performed by one of the surgeons, who was preparing to amputate a limb, by having a brass clamp or screw fitted thereon, a little above the knee joint."  Townsend watched as the surgeon, with "knife in his hand," offered his patient "a little wine or brandy to marker keep up his spirits.” The brave soldier refused.
Shortly after the battle, the Birmingham Friends constructed a cemetery where more than 300 fallen American, British, and German soldiers still share a final resting place.
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