Historical Markers
Sconnelltown Historical Marker
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Philadelphia and its Countryside/Lehigh Valley


Marker Location:
Near intersection SR 3061 and SR 2001, just off PA 842, SW of West Chester

Dedication Date:
September 11, 1915

Behind the Marker

By the time the British Army under General Charles Cornwallis reached Sconnelltown at about 2:30 p.m., on September 11, 1777, they had traveled more than seventeen miles, marching in the full heat of the late summer since 4 a.m. The men were sore and tired. General William Howe allowed the various divisions to reorganize, rest and eat a meal for about an hour, until about 3:30 p.m.

Howe's decision to rest his army raised some eyebrows, and has been the object of second-guessing by historians ever since. The delay near Sconnelltown allowed the Americans, who had been confused by poor intelligence, to regroup and shift their defenses into better position to face the flanking maneuver. Although the British Redcoats still won the battle at Brandywine, some experts speculate that their victory would have been greater if General Howe had arrived there sooner.

There were several reasons that could explain Howe's decision to rest his troops. Believing in a political resolution to the conflict, Howe respected the colonials and hoped that he could use limited military force to bring them to a negotiated settlement. That is also why his object in this campaign was to capture the city of Philadelphia, not to defeat Washington's army. He believed by seizing the Rebel capital, he would send an indisputable message.

Another reason for the midday break was overconfidence. The British soldiers were professionals. The Americans offered only a ragtag collection of poorly trained soldiers. Even though Howe had experienced first-hand the bravery of American fighters at the Battle of Bunker Hill a year before, he still remained convinced that his troops were practically invincible.

Joseph Townsend, a local youth who prowled over the battlefield that day, recalled the striking impression Lord Cornwallis made at Sconnelltown. "His rich scarlet clothing, loaded with gold lace, epaulets, etc.," Townsend wrote, "occasioned him to make a brilliant and martial appearance." The young Quaker also remembered that a female neighbor noted that the British troops "were something like an army," unlike their opponents, the motley assortment of Continental soldiers and state militia. This marker is one of the original bronze plaques erected by the Pennsylvania Historical Commission in the 1910s.
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