Battle of Paoli

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The British camp from which Grey's men attacked Wayne's.

The Paoli Massacre or Battle of Paoli was a battle of the American Revolutionary War. It happened at night on September 20, 1777 in Pennsylvania. British fighters led by Major General Charles Grey surprised Continental fighters led by General Anthony Wayne at night near what is Malvern, Pennsylvania today.[1][2]

In September 1777, the British army was in Philadelphia. They had made the Continental Army run away from the city. George Washington decided to keep the Continental Army nearby so he could watch the British Army. They also needed the supplies stored at Reading, Pennsylvania, so he put the Continental Army between Philadelphia and Reading.

General Anthony Wayne had troops near Chester, Pennsylvania. He thought the British did not know he was there, but they did. Wayne and his men camped near Paoli Tavern on the night of September 20. During the night, General Charles Grey's men came out of the woods and Anthony Wayne's men mostly ran away. The British either killed or captured 272 Continentals.[1]

Battle[change | change source]

One Hessian soldier said, "We killed three hundred of the rebels with the bayonet. I stuck them myself like so many pigs, one after the other, until the blood ran out of the touch hole of my musket."[2]

Most of the Continentals lived, but many had bad injuries from being hit with bayonets or swords.[2]

The battle of Paoli was fought with bayonets, which are long blades that soldiers put on the ends of their rifles. There was almost no shooting. General Grey told his men not to fire their weapons as guns.[3] He told them that this would tell the Continentals where they were. He also told them that this way, they would know anyone firing a gun was an enemy. This would make them less likely to kill men on their own side in the dark. Major John Andre said what Grey said:[2]

It was represented to the men that firing discovered us to the Enemy, hid them from us, killed our friends and produced a confusion favorable to the escape of the Rebels and perhaps productive of disgrace to ourselves. On the other hand, by not firing we knew the foe to be wherever fire appeared and a charge (of bayonets) ensured his destruction; that amongst the Enemy those in the rear would direct their fire against whoever fired in front, and they would destroy each other.

Outcome[change | change source]

Major General Charles Grey told his men to take the flint out of their guns. This way, the guns would not make sparks that the Continentals could see and would not fire by accident, making gunshots that the Continentals could hear. They took the Continentals by surprise. For this, Charles Grey got a nickname: "'No Flint' Grey."[1][4]

General Anthony Wayne was court-martialed, but the court decided he had only made a mistake and not acted dishonorably.[1]

American writers called the battle a "massacre," or brutal killing. This was propaganda to get readers to believe the British were bad. General Anthony Wayne would tell his fighters to "remember Paoli" in later battles.[1] Some British fighters also thought Grey had not done the right thing. British Colonel Charles Stuart called the Battle of Paoli a murder.[2]

References[change | change source]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 "Paoli Massacre". American Battlefield Trust. Retrieved July 3, 2021.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Max Hunsicker. "The Paoli Massacre: A Battle Won By Bayonet". Pennsylvania State University. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  3. Henry Pleasants Jr. (1948). "The Battle of Paoli (Preview)". The Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography. University of Pennsylvania Press. 72 (1): 44. JSTOR 20087956. Retrieved July 4, 2021.
  4. "Charles "No Flint" Grey". American Battlefield Trust. Retrieved July 4, 2021.