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Paoli Massacre

Paoli Massacre

Following a defeat at Brandywine Creek and a later, indecisive engagement shortened by rain, George Washington led the bulk of his army to Reading Furnace in Pennsylvania for new ammunition supplies. Anthony Wayne was left behind with a regiment at Paoli to harass British forces under William Howe.The main British camp lay at Tredyffin, where preparations were underway for a final push into Philadelphia. However, word was received that Wayne was in the area and the decision was made to ambush that force before moving against the American capital.Major General Lord Charles Grey did all he could to ensure a complete surprise of the encamped Americans. Wayne’s camp was quickly overrun; the tents were set on fire and many soldiers were bayoneted as they slept.Wayne was eventually able to rally his troops and form an orderly retreat, succeeding even in saving their cannon. The event quickly became known as the Paoli “Massacre” — a term clearly intended to arouse revulsion in the minds of American patriots, many of whom viewed the bayonet as barbaric.A formal review of Wayne’s actions determined that he had committed tactical errors at Paoli. That body reprised the matter and acquitted Wayne with honor.Following the attack at Paoli, the door to Philadelphia was unguarded. Howe and his forces entered the American capital on September 26.


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