In September 1777 the Revolutionary War was not going well for the American Rebels. Philadelphia was under threat and the rebel army was in no one position which would be able to stop the British march towards the capital. General Washington, in an effort to keep his rag tag army in fighting condition, ordered his troops to secure vital lines of communication and supply around Philadelphia. Outside of Paoli tavern General Anthony Wayne made camp with his 2,500 men secure with the knowledge that the British were over ten miles away and the on coming rain storm would slow any British movement.
1,200 British forces under Major General Charles Grey moved late on 20 September and managed to get the jump on the rebels. Bayonets made quick work of over 50 rebels and around seventy Americans were taken prisoner.
American propagandists created stories about the British not taking prisoner and called the battle a massacre. The cry of "Remember Paoli!" became one of the main rally war cries of the Revolution. Forty years after the battle (1817) veterans and locals gathered together to mark the battle and dedicate a memorial to the dead. The memorial is the second oldest American war memorial, the oldest American war memorial is at Lexington, Massachusetts and was dedicated in 1799. The myth of a massacre was made permnament on the landscape with multiple interpreative signs around the memorial discussing British brutality and quoted sources making statements such as
"I with my own Eyes, see them, cut & hack some of our poor Men to pieces after they had fallen in their hands and scarcely shew the least Mercy to any..."
The Annals of the Age Cannot Produce such another Scene of Butchery...
The memorial itself is on top of a mass grave of American dead and in a park open to the public.
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