9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on October 15, 2000
As someone who has been studying the American Revolution for over 25 years, Mr. McGuire's book is one of the best to date. He quells the myth that the British snuck up on the sleeping Colonials and bayonetted them in thier sleep. He has gone into Anthony Wayne's court martial records to uncover the truth about this incident. He also draws from the numerous journals left behind by the combatants and tells the story through their eyes as well. His writing is solid and his style is such that the book does not read like a school history text. Anyone with any interest in the American Revolution will find this book to be a wonderful addition to their library.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
The author is to be commended for writing this book and lifting the veil of obscurity that has relegated the "Paoli Massacre" to a few lines in most works on the Revolutionary War. McGuire isn't an accomplished writer and some parts are disjointed, but the nuggets contained are worth the mining.
McGuire accurately plays up the important aspects of this battle. First, the British were able to surprise Wayne's Pennsylvania troops who were on their home turf. This was due to the dark and rainy night, the fact that the British moved forward without flints so there would be no firing from the British side, and the Pennsylvanians were silhouetted against their campfires while the British were almost invisible in the dark woods. Secondly, it was only due to good fortune that Wayne's entire command was not annihilated. Third, the case can be made that Wayne should never have been in the exposed position he was in without some form of cavalry cover. Fourth, this battle "made" Wayne in that he learned from his mistakes and was able to turn the tables on the British later at Stony Point. And last, the survivors were energized to greater efforts and became better soldiers as a result.
Although the Court of Inquiry's findings concerned with the Paoli battle have been lost, Wayne was obviously not exonerated at the inquiry, and at least four of the sixteen officers who testified criticized him. Wayne was then brought up on charges at a court-martial and acquited.
About one-half of the book covers events before the battle and supplies a great deal of information on the units, dispositions and movements preceeding the night of battle. The battle itself takes up less than fifty pages.
One of the best features about this book is the detail it goes into debunking the many myths concerning the battle and putting the event in proper context. The British posessed an excellent plan that was not executed well in its entirety, but nevertheless inflicted a crushing defeat on good soldiers and competent officers. On the American side there is confusion, mistakes, and an inability to adapt at all levels. It could have been worse, but Howe's thought that the Americans had been sufficiently humbled so as to pose little threat to his army was roundly shown to be in error only two weeks later at Germantown.
In short, this is a specialist's book, well worth reading.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
on August 5, 2002
The following excerpt is from a review in the Tredyffrin Easttown History Club Quarterly, January, 2003, Vol., XVI, No. 1.
"The Battle of Paoli" provides a long awaited in-depth analysis of the movements of the Continental Army and the British Army in September 1777, both preceding and after the Battle of Paoli, more commonly referred to as the "Paoli Massacre". The TE History Journal carried two well researched articles on the subject by Franklin M. Burns, our local historical authority, in its April and July 1940 editions. The articles provide an interesting departure point for a review of Mr. McGuire's book.
The battlegrounds themselves are in Willistown Township and in the present borough of Malvern, Chester County, Pennsylvania. However, much of the activity before and after the battle took place in Tredyffrin and Easttown Townships. We will particularly review these events as described in the book and attempt to identify the present locations in Tredyffrin and Easttown where the activities took place.
"POSITION OF THE BRITISH ARMY AT
TREDYFFRIN THE 19TH OF SEPTEMBER 1777"
The British troops which overwhelmed Anthony Wayne's two brigades on September 20-21, 1777 were encamped in Tredyffrin Township along the north slope of the southern ridge which defines the Great Valley. Their positions are shown in a manuscript map made by Captain John André of the British Army and another beautifully reproduced map which shows the same positions as "drawn by an officer on the spot." Franklin Burns prepared his own map, TEHCQ, Vol. II, No. 2, p. 33, (the Burns map) on which he endeavored to combine the data from the published maps with "the traditional sites and the cartographer=s knowledge of the terrain." The maps commonly show the positions of many units of the British Army but not all units are commonly shown. Comparing positions shown on the three maps and relating them to known present day locations is a fascinating exercise.
The topography shown on the Andrè, the "officer on the spot", and the Burn's maps conform quite well to the present topography considering the absence of a scientific survey for the old maps. The encampment maps reproduced in the McGuire book show four small hills along Swedesford Road and three larger hills extending west to east further to the south. These hills are discernable to the present day viewer with a little imagination.
Today the area is covered with office parks, retail centers and housing developments. However, it can be viewed from the bounds of Swedesford Road, Valley Forge Road, Hickory Lane, and Howellville Road. Tea Garden Park, D'Ambrosia Park and the Little League ball fields are on the site of the British encampment and Cold Stream Drive runs through the center of it.
GENERAL PAOLI TAVERN
This tavern was a reputed gathering place for local revolutionaries including Anthony Wayne, whose home, Waynesborough, is less than a mile away. It is mentioned in the McGuire book as a place the British Army passed on their way east toward their encampment in Tredyffrin and as a place that Colonel Musgrave's forces passed going west toward his defeat of Anthony Wayne's forces at Malvern.
The site of the Paoli Tavern is on the north side of Lancaster Pike, adjacent the present train station, about where the present post office is.
BLUE BALL TAVERN
The old road to Lancaster had regularly spaced taverns at which travelers stopped for the night. The Blue Ball was the next one east from Paoli.
McGuire's book records the march of 10,000 British troops eastward on Swedesford Road through the Great Valley in September 1777. Cornwallis' troops passed the General Paoli Tavern and continued two miles further east to the Blue Ball Tavern.
The 1777 Blue Ball Tavern, today, is a private home at the corner of Conestoga and Irish Roads across the street from Conestoga High School. In the 1790's the Blue Ball Tavern moved to what is now a meticulously maintained little gem of a house on Old Lancaster Road just north of the Daylesford train station.
NEWTOWN ROAD, EASTTOWN TOWNSHIP
British Colonel Harcourt made an excursion from the British encampment in Tredyffrin Township to collect horses. He went east on the Lancaster Road toward Philadelphia but came back to the camp through Newtown Square. Easttown residents, Robert Stephens, Casper White and Peter Ubles each reported losing a horse to the British and Michael Bingers reported losing three mares. McGuire quotes British Captain Montresor as saying that Colonel Harcourt took "two Creators (creatures) worth thirty-six pounds" from William Burns. One wonders if the plundered William Burns was a relative of our local historian, Franklin M. Burns or of the Burns family who were instrumental in building Berwyn.
The locations of these residences are unknown to the author but Newtown Road follows approximately the same path that it has always followed.
According to McGuire, the ancestral home of Anthony Wayne was searched by a squad of British soldiers hovering near the Paoli Tavern about the time of the Paoli Battle. Waynesborough has been restored recently to a splendid condition. It is located on Waynesborough Road just south of Paoli.
The Anglican Churches, St. Peter's in the Great Valley and St. David's, had a loyalist pastor. On the other hand, the Great Valley Baptist Church and the Presbyterian Church in the Great Valley were the centers of the colonialists who were rebelling against British authority. A Hessian officer later wrote that the war was really an Irish-Scotch Presbyterian Rebellion.
All of these churches are in the same location, in approximately the same condition, and house the same denominations as at the time of the Battle of Paoli.
Mr. McGuire's book is a "must-read" for a wide range of people from serious students of the Revolutionary War to local residents who will be intrigued by actions which took place in our own back yards.
9 of 12 people found the following review helpful
The Battle or Paoli (September 21, 1777) or the "Paoli Massacre" is one of three tactical engagements in the 1777 Philadelphia campaign in which General George Washington's army was out-maneuvered and outfought by General William Howe's army. Yet while the other two actions - Brandywine and Germantown - are fairly well known, Paoli has slipped into obscurity. Thomas J. McGuire, a history teacher in Pennsylvania, sheds much light on the Battle of Paoli in this book, which relies heavily upon primary source documentation (including previously unused sources). Yet while McGuire's approach is erudite, he lacks the narrative skill of a writer like David Hackett Fischer and much of the book meanders along until the moment of battle arrives. McGuire also lacks the military skill to analyze the Battle of Paoli and examine its tactical meaning and operational implications. Nevertheless, McGuire's book is useful for its examination of this battle and its effect upon the defeated commander, Brigadier General Anthony Wayne.
McGuire organizes his volume into 26 chapters, most of which cover a period of 24 hours or less. Unfortunately, McGuire seems unconcerned for the necessity of chronological order in historical narrative and his first chapter covers September 26, 1777, then the second chapter jumps backward to August 24, then the third jumps ahead to September 14. While McGuire then steadies on course toward the Battle of Paoli on 21 September, his narrative is further obscured by the lack of decent maps. Washington detached one of his best divisions of continental troops under Anthony Wayne to harass the rear of Howe's army (McGuire spends little effort questioning this order, but splitting one's force in the face of a skilled enemy seems highly questionable), and there was considerable maneuvering in the period 14-21 September 1777 by both armies. Frankly, I had a great deal of trouble following McGuire's "they marched from this tavern to that tavern" kind of narrative, particularly with the one inadequate map he provides (which depicts no tactical movements). Aside from an inadequate tactical narrative, this first third of the book is quite weak for several reasons. First, McGuire spends little effort discussing his central characters - Anthony Wayne and British Major General Charles Grey; instead, they appear almost as ciphers. Second, McGuire seems completely unconcerned with anything going on beyond eastern Pennsylvania and ignores the strategic implications of a protracted campaign around Philadelphia. While Howe was inflicting three defeats upon Washington around Philadelphia, his army was not available to support Burgoyne's army in upstate New York, which at that moment was getting into serious trouble. Howe was so focused on his tactical battles that he lost sight of the "big picture" and Burgoyne's subsequent defeat and surrender at Saratoga owes something to these battles around Philadelphia.
Once McGuire gets to the Battle of Paoli itself, the quality of his narrative improves considerably and it is clear that this was the author's main emphasis. In short, the British discovered Wayne's division lurking in their rear and dispatched a picked brigade under Charles Grey to crush it. Quite unusual for the period, Grey's force conducted a fast night march and night attack upon the American camp and dispersed Wayne's force with considerable losses. The actual tactical action at Paoli was humiliating for the reputation of American arms and Wayne, with some of the best continental regiments offered up as bayonet practice for the British. While the question of whether or not Wayne was caught by surprise - and it appears that he was - is open to debate, the clumsy handling of American troops is not. Wayne's troops were bottled into their camp, which lacked any real defenses, in a trap of their own devising. McGuire does not bother to ask why Wayne thought it prudent to bivouac his entire division in such a small, congested area. American commanders still made many mistakes at this point in the war and unfortunately, Paoli was part of that learning curve.
The last several chapters cover events after the Battle of Paoli, including the American defeat at Germantown, the investigation into the battle and Wayne's court martial (of which few records have survived). McGuire displays the orientation of a local historian in these final chapters, spending great effort discussing the care of the Paoli Battlefield and various local inns after the war. While this may be charming for local readers, it means much less to someone outside Pennsylvania. Larger issues, such as Wayne's reputation, get much less attention. Indeed, one suspects that the reason Paoli became obscure was the possible blot that it represented on Wayne's early career and that, as he went on to later successes, this early defeat and court martial was conveniently ignored. Certainly McGuire should have asked the question, did this defeat at Paoli make Wayne a better commander in the future?
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on July 23, 2009
This is a very good book, and not at all American propaganda, despite being written for the local "Battlefield Trust". Note for wargamers: this could serve as a design specification for a classic Columbia Games wooden block game - one of those early ones like Quebec, 1812 or Napoleon, before the hubris set in.
This is the British campaign to take Philadelphia. The book starts just after the battle of Brandywine, where allegedly the Americans might have won, if one of their Generals hadn't blundered, causing them to have to retire from the field. Although it is a detailed day by day account of the campaign from there until after the battle of Germanstown a couple of week later, even down to the cap badges, it is less than 200 pages, and not at all boring. The author doesn't analyse the strategy of either side, but he does make enough comment on it for you to be able to construct a different book in your head, as I started doing. Looking at a map, at the bottom right, you have the head of the Chesapeake, where the Royal Navy has landed the British army; along the right edge of the map is the river Delaware, leading to Philadelphia, the American capital. Half way along that river, the river Schuylkill flows in, running across the centre of the map. There are several fords over this river, and towards the head of it, on the left side of the map, are Lancaster and or Reading (I forget which is more important) which are the main arsenals of the Continental army. There are several forges and powder mills in the area about the fords (including Valley Forge) and lots of Welsh place names too, as this is Pennsylvania where all the radical Welsh emigrated to, both before and after the Revolution. Anyway, there is a network of roads running all over the place, and the American army has initially retired into the middle of this area (still on the south side of the Schuylkill). The British are moving slowly forward as they have to gather transport and supplies, and place their wounded from the battle of Brandywine. Eventually they rumble forward to the Valley Forge area, and after an attempt at a battle, which got rained off, Washington takes his army over the Schuylkill. However, he has detached a division under "Mad" Anthony Wayne to circle around the British right flank, where he is to rendezvous with a militia force from Maryland and attempt to attack the British rear and destroy their baggage train and supplies. From memory, there was another force trying to get round the other flank as well. If he could destroy their baggage train, then the British would be short of ammunition, and if they could be forced to retire back to the ships, they would be in no state to continue the campaign, and have to evacuate.
Anyway, as the author makes clear, British intelligence gathering was very good, and they had a couple of Washington's dispatches as well as (unconfirmed) Loyalist help. A force of Light Infantry, a Highland battalion, and a couple of dozen dragoons were sent off to make a night raid on the American detachment, camped near the Paoli tavern. Wayne got wind of this, and had his troops forming up to retire as the British approached; however, one of his artillery pieces broke down in the road and stopped the infantry retreating; Wayne was the other side of the camp, forming a defensive position while this was happening. There were camp fires alight, and some of the camp shelters had been set on fire, so the American forces were illuminated. The British light infantry had unloaded muskets, so when American pickets started firing, they were shot at by their own side, who couldn't see the British. The light infantry made a bayonet attack on the American riflemen, who couldn't reload as fast as smoothbore men would have been able to; the Americans were not all equipped with bayonets either, and were routed; the dragoons charged through the camp, and then a highland battalion charged the American column with the bayonet. No contest. The British then pursued and overran the Militia force that was approaching, which disintegrated. Wayne was able to rally his regulars later, but the British had in effect cleared the south bank of the Schuylkill, and were able to occupy the American supply depots and destroy the forges and factories, and even blew up a stockpile of 100 tons of gunpowder.
The fight itself led to all sorts of wild accusations. The British were accused of letting the Hessians "massacre" the Americans in their beds, although there were no Hessians present, and the Americans were well out of their beds; Wayne was accused of all sorts of incompetence, but cleared himself at the inquiry. 52 Americans were buried on the field the next day, but there were many more wounded scattered around, plus those who subsequently died from wounds. British losses were minimal.
Howe or Clinton (I forget which) sent a messenger next morning to Washington with the news and a request for surgeons to attend the wounded. (The British took their wounded away, as well as many wounded Americans). The messenger took the long way round, and rode through the American army and across a couple of important fords, which caused Washington to arrest the officer who let him through the lines.
Washington had to decide whether to cover Philadelphia (from where the Congress had already bolted) or the manufactories further west; and he chose the manufactories, as without them, the army couldn't continue, so he shifted his weight upriver. The British meanwhile had been countermarching and got over a couple of fords before Washington could react in time. They then moved off to Germanstown and then into Philadelphia. Washington moved closer up, and launched a dawn attack on the army camped at Germanstown. The outlying light infantry were chased back on the main camp, but the Americans were held up by a stone house defended by light infantry who had been told to expect no quarter in retaliation for the Paoli affair, so they were not going to give up easily. This held the American attack up long enough for the main British force to deploy and drive the Americans back. And so the campaign and book end.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2009
Battle of Paoli. Author: Thomas J. McGuire. 270 pages. 2006.
This is perhaps the best book written on the Battle of Paoli/The Paoli Massacre/ Wayne's Affair. The battle itself is an obscure battle which occurred during the Philadelphia Campaign of 1777 after the Battle of the Brandywine. The battle is mostly forgotten in popular memory and merely a footnote in the best of Revolutionary War Histories. The actual Paoli Battlefield is fairly well preserved and marked. The field is located in Malvern, PA.
The battle itself occurred when a British detachment attacked a Continental force commanded by Anthony Wayne which had gotten astride of the British Lines of Communication and Supply. General George Washington had instructed Wayne to seek out the enemy's flanks and rear and shadow him. It is unclear if the intent was to actually launch a full scale attack, a harassing attack at a moment of opportunity or to jeopardize further British moves towards Philadelphia with a compromised supply corridor. The reason for the continuing uncertainty is that some of the primary documents were lost and during the court martial later on myth had already taken hold as reputations were at stake.
What this battle did show was that Washington was no mere Fabian seeking to avoid combat by a system of defending posts. It showed that the conflict from Brandywine to the occupation of winter quarters at Valley Forge was a conflict of aggressive maneuvering, competing intelligence gathering and guessing. The actual battle itself is a testimony to the advantages of trained troops and the use of shock action at night instead of firepower. This lesson would be paid back to the British some two years later at Stony Point when Wayne and some of these very same troops would carry a fortified British defensive position with cold steel at night. The Battle cry that night was, "Remember, Paoli!"
The book does a very good job of providing the lead up to the battle. Much of the marching, counter-marching, skirmishing, and reactions were unknown to me. It seems that where I now live was part of a British encampment. The sheer size of these columns and encampments will surprise most readers unfamiliar with these aspects of warfare. The actual battle is covered in as good a detail as is possible. The author relies on primary source documents from both sides as well as the terrain itself. He provides a good follow up and legacy section as well. The appendix is highlighted by transcripts from the court martial of Anthony Wayne (he was acquitted). The dire supply situation of the Continental Army is probably best brought into focus by the lack of much written correspondence due to a chronic shortage of paper. Many transcripts being scribbled on what ever was available, such as troop strength returns, supply requests etc.
Unlike the authors' Philadelphia Campaign series where the actors do most of the speaking with the author providing direction and linkage this book turns that approach on its head. The author provides the bulk of the story in traditional historical linear narrative format. He sprinkles the text with numerous passages from the actors as appropriate. I think that this was a wise choice given the many conflicting points of view and myths which quickly grew up around this Battle. Many of these myths seemed to be ready made even as the Battle was approaching. The myths grew and magnified to the point where the truth is probably lost in its entirety and only segments, glimpses, and pieces can be put together.
Given these obstacles the author does a very good job of providing both what is probably the closest version o the truth and some of the myths and their probable origins. This book is an excellent piece of history about a battle which deserves to be better known and studied.
3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on April 7, 2001
And nowhere, probably, as much as in the Philadelphia area, where I have spent my life. McGuire has used the papers from the court of inquiry into the Battle of Paoli to debunk some of the myths surrounding this particular episode. He shows, for example, that it was not the "Paoli Massacre," as it has come to be known in our area, and that neither madness, drunkeness, nor a mercurial temper, on the part of Anthony Wayne, were responsible for this tragic defeat.
I will admit that part of the excitement, for me, in reading this book is that I live a mere five miles from the site, and often travel the same roads as the Continental and British armies (albeit, in heavy traffic). Indeed, I thought one of the most poingnant parts of this work was contained in the epilogue. On the placement of the monument, forty years after the battle, Maj. Isaac Barnard noted "...in a few short years the place of their internment would have been in doubt and uncertainty...fruitless would have been the zeal of the patriots..." The same words could have been repeated just two years ago, when the site of the Battle of Paoli was just barely saved from developers. Thank heavens for people like Thomas McGuire who remind us of the treasure trove of historical sites we are in danger of losing.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on January 17, 2009
I was delighted to find that "Battle of Paoli" -- a fairly specialized work on a secondary engagement in the Revolution -- is available as a Kindle book. The author has reviewed a massive amount of primary sources in tracing the movements of the forces of Washington and Howe after the Battle of the Brandywine on Sept. 11, 1777, and in reconstructing what actually happened in the so-called Paoli Massacre on the night of Sept. 19-20. The narrative he tells, with the help of letters, memoirs, and inquiry transcripts, is very different from the version commonly offered in histories of the American Revolution. The Continentals were not completely surprised, were not bayoneted in their sleep, and were not fatally silhouetted against their campfires.
The Kindle formatting is about standard for non-fiction books. As I've come to expect, the illustrations are murky and the maps illegible. The table of contents is linked, but the footnotes are not (the one significant flaw).
The book also includes the complete surviving transcript of the court of inquiry that was held after the battle and lists of the men known to be in the Continental forces, with indications of those killed and wounded.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 29, 2000
During my sixty-nine years of residence in Tredyffrin Township I have learned a lot of local history, particularlly concerning the Paoli Massacre. However, Mr. McGuire has meaninglfull recorded all this history in one magnificent, easily readable book. I am so delighted with the book that I have begun documenting present locations of the events and I hope to mark a modern topographical map with the locations. Perhaps somone, possibly Mr. McGuire, has already done this. It is not easy because many of the buildings, i.e. Howell's Tavern and the Paoli Tavern, have been torn down and the roads have changed. Nevertheless, it wil be an exciting exercise. Thank you for this wonderful book. Dick Kurtz Kurtz@woodcock.com
on December 22, 2014
Having grown up literally across the street from the battlefield, this book was a must read to the extent that I bought a copy for each member of the family. As a kid I'd heard all the Malvern folklore about drunk soldiers etc, and I was at the rededication of the Memorial Grounds years ago, so I was very familiar with the locations and narrative. It was great lining up the narrative and maps with where my friends as a kid lived, several of them literally where the various pickets were located. Must read for anybody living in the area !!!