CHESTER COUNTY, PENNSYLVANIA
Part of the
AMERICAN LOCAL HISTORY NETWORK


HOSPITALS FOR WOUNDED REVOLUTIONARY SOLDIERS

HOME | BACK


After the battle of Brandywine it became necessary to provide hospitals for the sick and wounded.  Gen. Lafayette was cared for by the Moravians at Bethlehem.  The German Seventh-day Baptists, who had a monastic institution  at Ephrata, in Lancaster county, and who were decided Whigs in sentiment, although opposed to war, opened their whole establishment, and converted their large building into a hospital.

The barn of Joseph Downing, at Downingtown, was used as a hospital, and also the next summer, its use in 1778 prevented the storing of hay in it.  Forty soldiers were buried on the Downing farm, but no marks now remain to show the place of interment.  In the fall of 1777, Mr. Downing's team was away in the army, when the seeding was done with an old mare and oxen, driven by Joseph Downing, Jr., father of Richard I. Downing, who says he cut up the steps the soldiers used in going up and down the barn.

The Uwchlan Friends' meeting-house, at Lionville, was occupied as a hospital.  This stone meeting-house was erected in 1756, is still standing, and used by the society and traces of blood therein are still visible from the wounds of the Revolutionary soldiers who for months were lodged in it, many being of the wounded at Paoli.  The old school-house at the intersection of the Valley and Brandywine roads, at the Turk's Head tavern (now West Chester), was occupied as a hospital for the accommodation of the wounded Americans who had suffered in the Brandywine battle, a number of whom died and were buried in the open space left for the use of the school-house, on the north side of the road leading to the Brandywine.  The hospitals at Yellow Springs (since called Chester Springs) where Washington had for a time his headquarters, were well arranged and quite commodious, as, owing to the Springs having been a place of great resort since 1750, great improvements for those days had been made to it by John Bailey, a silversmith of Philadelphia.  Washington utilized all these improvements, especially for the sick and wounded of his men.

The wives of Zachariah Rice and Christian Hench died from typhus fever contracted in the hospital at the Yellow Springs while on errands of mercy, carrying food and delicacies to the invalid soldiers.  The following spring a surgeon of the army, named Dr. McCuryher, in going from the camp to the Yellow Springs, stopped to water his horse in the creek below the hospital, and the horse becoming frightened, threw his rider, breaking his neck.  The doctor's effects were administered to by Maj. Christy, who commanded at the hospital, and were sold at public sale.  Maj. George Hartman had seen the notice, and attended the sale with a view to purchase his silver watch.  He purchased it for eight hundred dollars, Continental money, being his wages for three campaigns as drummer and driving team for Washington's army while at Valley Forge.  This watch he directed should descend to the eldest son in a direct line.  During the time the army was encamped at Valley Forge, the hospital at the Yellow Springs was full of soldiers with typhus fever and smallpox, many of whom died.  One of George Hartman's brothers-in-law, who was at home during the winter and played the fife, was sent for almost every morning to assist in playing the "Dead March" at the funeral of a soldier who had died during the night, numbers of whom lie buried in the meadow in front of the old hospital at the Yellow Springs.  It being a difficult matter to obtain necessary drugs for the use of the army, our surgeons had recourse to many articles of our indigenous flora, American senna and white-walnut bark being substances largely in demand.

On the farm of Herman Prizer, in East Coventry township, formerly stood a barn, torn down many years ago, which was used as a hospital for the American forces during the Revolutionary war.  About one hundred and fifty yards northwest of the barn, in a small copse of woods belonging to John Ellis, Esq., are the graves of sixteen American soldiers.  The mounds over these graves are still visible, being side by side, in a straight line, and about four feet apart.  There are no head or foot stones.  About three hundred yards north of the hospital more soldiers were buried; but a public road was laid out through this section many years ago, and the mounds were leveled down to make a thoroughfare right over the patriots' heads.

Many churches and meeting-houses in Chester County were converted into hospitals, and among them were the German Reformed church in East Vincent township, on the Ridge or Nutt's road, and Zion Lutheran church, on the Schuylkill road, in East Pikeland township, about one mile apart.

Many of the wounded soldiers from the field of Brandywine were removed to these churches, and their moans and groans as they passed along the roads gave the inhabitants indications of how near to them the tide of war was rolling.  A small detachment of soldiers accompanied them, and were encamped for a time in a buck-wheat field belonging to Peter Miller, near the German Reformed church.  The grain was nearly ready for the sickle, and was wholly destroyed.  After the main army took up their winter quarters, in the month of December, 1777, at Valley Forge, the sick and wounded were provided for in private houses, meeting-houses, and wherever suitable accommodations could be had.  The German Reformed and Lutheran churches above alluded to continued to be occupied as hospitals during the entire winter of 1777-78.  The German Reformed church on the Ridge road, then a log structure, stood on very high ground, and was visible to the naked eye from the Valley Forge encampment, on the North Valley hill, and with the aid of a glass one could be very plainly seen from the other.  Geo. Washington, whose heart was with his men, frequently visited these hospitals, and while at the one on the Ridge road his headquarters were at an old log house on the farm recently owned by George Snyder, about one-fourth mile north of the church, and within sight of it.*

*(In the winter of 1777-78, it is said a detachment from the British army, probably piloted by Tories, crossed French Creek at what is now Snyder's Mills, one mile south of the German Reformed church on the Ridge road, for the purpose of endeavoring to capture Gen. Washington while he was on a visit to the hospital, but they failed in their purpose.  There was a village of some seventeen houses near where they crossed the creek, and in their rage they burned these houses, and killed some of their occupants before they could make their escape.  This is the tradition of that neighborhood.)

A very malignant fever broke out among those quartered in the churches named, and many of them died.  Twenty-two were buried on grounds belonging to Henry Hipple, Sr., near the East Vincent church.  He always preserved the spot as sacred ground and protected their graves with a good fence.  Two soldiers also died in an old log barn on the farm lately owned by James Hause, about five hundred yards from the church, and were buried on the bank of a small stream on the farm.  The place of their burial was marked and is known.  During the same period a number died at Zion church, but there is nothing to mark their resting-place, and their exact number is not known.  In the year 1831 steps were taken by the military volunteer organizations of Chester county in inclose the remains of twenty-two solders who were buried near the church on the Ridge road, and to erect a monument to their memory.  The monument is at the foot of the hill, and is a marble pyramid about eight feed high, inclosed by a strong wall.  [the remaining information is about the monument]...


The above information was extracted from the book:
History of Chester County, Pennsylvania; Futhey & Cope; Louis H. Everts; Philadelphia; 1881.


HOME | BACK


This site is maintained by Cathy Wentz-Eisenstadt
Copyright 2003-2010.   All Rights Reserved.

 This page was last updated on:02/18/2009  

This free web space has been provided by RootsWeb.

People for better PA Historical Records Access (PaHR-Access)
Learn about the grassroots effort to make older PA state death certificates available on-line!!  Please consider helping.