The Battle of Brandywine, largest land battle of the American Revolution, was fought near Chadd's Ford in 1777--September 11, to be exact. Washington led the Continental Army to defeat here; but what he and his army learned helped lay the groundwork for eventual victory in the war. The site is a National Historic Landmark, and until recently a functioning Pennsylvania state park.
Until a few years ago the battle anniversary would have been commemorated by the rattle of musketry and the sight of colorfully uniformed re-enactors sweeping across the field--at least, if the weather was clear. But there was no re-enactment last year (2009), nor will there be one this year. And that is because the state has virtually closed Brandywine Battlefield State Park.
Administering the park has fallen to a citizens' organization called Friends of Brandywine Battlefield, which has most things going and accessible except for the historic Gilpin House. But it cannot do the re-enactment.
Beth Rorke, education programs and volunteers coordinator for the Friends organization, regrets that. As she observes, the re-enactment, when it happens, is a good way to draw public attention to the battlefield and what occurred there. But it is too expensive to do right now. She does expect a re-enactment in 2012, the 135th anniversary of the battle.
Friends of the Brandywine Battlefield has a stiff fight on its hands to keep the park viable. The fact that its 52 acres are strategically located to appeal to developers of such "amenities" as shopping malls, housing, and even--maybe-- casinos only makes things more difficult. How can the rest of us help win this new battle?
There is always the need for money. The Friends organization is attempting to acquire all the acreage of the site and set up an endowment to preserve it as it is. To contribute, or to join Friends of the Brandywine Battlefield, go to www.brandywinebattlefield.org
Would you like to volunteer? Or to apply for a prestigious but unpaid internship? In either case, contact Beth Rorke, 610-459-3342 x3003; or email her at ETRorke@gmail.com.