On this day in 1777, the only battle on Delaware soil was fought.
The Battle of Cooches Bridge, also known as the Battle of Iron Hill, came with clashes between revolutionary troops and British and German (Hessian) mercenaries.
The Brits and the Hessians had marched from ships at the head of the Chesapeake Bay near Elkton, passed by Iron Hill along what is now Old Baltimore Pike south of Newark. They encountered Washington’s troops who fought to slow down the large force.
Accounts vary on casualties and wartime dispatches often inflate the numbers. The Americans retreated and the British briefly occupied the Cooch family home off Old Baltimore Pike.
The Cooch house remained in the family for centuries and was only sold a few years ago to the State of Delaware.
The battle remains the stuff of legend, with some claiming that the original stars and stripes sewed by Betsy Ross was first displayed on the battlefield.
One enduring mystery is the location where the Hessian troops might are buried. The state may perform some archeology work on the Cooch property to come up with answers, although there is some evidence that battle sites were spread over a wider area that extended toward Route 40 (Pulaski Highway) in Glasgow.
After a brief stop in Delaware, the British moved on to Pennsylvania, where Washington’s forces suffered a defeat at the Battle of the Brandywine near Chadds Ford.
Delaware never saw another land battle, with the Civil War staying to the south and west.
After that victory and others, the British were content to stay put in Philadelphia during the winter and Washington managed to hold the army together at Valley Forge.
A disastrous attempt by General Burgoyne to end the revolution by way of Canada contributed to a war of attrition, with the French and other European nations supporting the rebels as a way to tie down the world’s mightiest military power.
It left the British bogged down in an unpopular war that ended when Washington’s troops, joined by the French marched down Old Baltimore Pike on their way to Yorktown, VA.
With the help of French naval power, British troops surrendered, and independence was secured.
The scene of the Delaware battle was quiet today, with no one visiting the markers and monument.
Today’s sticky weather offered a small sample of what troops on both sides may have endured, especially for the British who were said to have been wearing wool uniforms.
My thanks to the Delaware Public Archives for offering a heads up on an important day in the state’s history. –Doug Rainey, chief content officer.