Save 21 Acres at Brandywine

A message from Jim Lighthizer, American Battlefield Trust president


Jim Lighthizer, president of the American Battlefield Trust.

August 3, 2018

Dear Friend and Fellow Preservationist, 

As we approach the 241st anniversary of the Battle of Brandywine, I could not wait another moment to tell you about the historic opportunity to  save 21 crucial acres of one of the most important Revolutionary War battlefields in the country!

The Revolutionary War Trust has been asked to help save 21 critical acres of battlefield land on two tracts at the Brandywine Battlefield outside Philadelphia . . .

. . . land that has recently been under some of the most intense development threat in the entire country! In other words, if the Revolutionary War Trust did not wade into the fight to save this land now, chances are that someone was going to be able to build new massive modern houses directly upon the Brandywine Battlefield!

Brandywine is the major engagement of the 1777 campaign by the British to capture Philadelphia, which they eventually did.

And right now, I can turn every $1.00 of your support into $16.48 to save this crucial part of America’s history!

This battle, fought on September 11, 1777, saw several of the Revolution’s key participants on the field. On the British side, Major General Sir William Howe and his subordinate Lord Charles Cornwallis squared off against General George Washington, Major General Nathanael Greene, and the Marquis de Lafayette on the American side.

As historian Michael Harris writes in his book Brandywine: A Military History of the Battle that Lost Philadelphia but Saved America, “more troops fought along the Brandywine (nearly 30,000) than during any other battle of the entire American Revolution, its 11 hours of fighting make it the longest single-day battle of the war, and it covered more square miles (10) than any other engagement.”

At every point on the battlefield during that hot, late-summer day, the Americans were outnumbered nearly two to one. The battle featured a British flanking movement that caught Washington by surprise, followed by bayonet charges, artillery duels and patriot countercharges. But eventually, the force of numbers was too much for Washington’s army to bear, and he and a wounded Lafayette had to retire from the field.

So yes, today I am asking you to help save 21 acres of a battle field that was an American tactical defeat. But Brandywine is significant more for what it wasn’t rather than for what it was.

It wasn’t a panic-stricken rout . . . it wasn’t a demoralizing loss for the Continentals . . . it wasn’t the end of Washington’s army or the end of the war. In fact, it was just the opposite.

Over the years, many historians have written about the tremendous significance of the Battle of Brandywine. Christopher Ward writes, “Though they had been as badly beaten as any army could be without being entirely destroyed, there had been no panic; there was no suggestion of despair.”

Another historian, John Reed, wrote that “Though Brandywine was militarily an American defeat, it had stunned Howe by its fierceness and gave the Americans spirit . . . American troops had proved that they could stand against British regulars in open fight.”

And yet another historian, Bruce Mowday, said “The most important reason the Battle of Brandywine was crucial to the American cause for freedom was the confidence the American army received from standing up to the British army, one of the most professional in the world.”

In September 1777, Howe and Cornwallis managed to defeat Washington and Lafayette at Brandywine, and soon occupied Philadelphia. (Then, as Howe dithered there, Benjamin Franklin wryly noted, “Instead of Howe taking Philadelphia, Philadelphia has taken Howe!”)

But as we all know, four years later, in October 1781, Washington and Lafayette would face Cornwallis on another battlefield, at Yorktown, and the outcome of that battle would determine the outcome of the war.

Let me quickly give you the specifics of this amazing opportunity.

First, the price of both of these tracts combined including transaction costs but excluding restoration costs is $1,565,940, which, I don’t need to tell you, is a lot of money! Unfortunately, the land is so expensive because the Chadds Ford region is now a high-priced suburb of Philadelphia. As historian Michael Harris confirms in his book, the battlefield “is under constant threat from development.”

However, the good news is that the land is currently very open ground, maintaining its wartime terrain. Local historians tell us these tracts would be exceptional areas for interpretation, telling the story of this battle and the civilians who lived there.

If we had to pay the full price for this land, well, unfortunately, I would have to tell you that we just couldn’t do it, even as important as it is. We would have to walk away.

But as we nearly always do, the Revolutionary War Trust is partnering with a superb local organization (Brandywine Conservancy) and local government (East Bradford Township), which are acquiring these important properties using grant funding from the American Battlefield Protection Program, along with local grant sources, and their own funds, for a total of $1,470,940! That means 93.9% of the total needed by our partners to purchase the property is already on the table – we just need to raise the raise the final $95,000!

That works out to an $16.48-to-$1 multiplier of your donation dollar today! That’s some serious leverage, in my book.

As important as it is that we raise this money as soon as possible, to me, it is just as important to remember what you and I are accomplishing, as we save threatened battlefield land from America’s First Century:

You and I are saving the crucial story of America’s founding era, one of the greatest stories ever told, from the Revolutionary War up through the Civil War.

And for those of us who care deeply about this country and its exceptional, remarkable history, this is some of the most important work we will ever do in our lives. I truly believe that.

I’m sure you will agree that the memory of the American Revolution – indeed, all of American history – has been fading for decades. The time devoted to teaching history is dwindling. The Revolution and the War of 1812 are often overlooked or discarded as irrelevant.

By supporting the Revolutionary War Trust today, you are helping to reverse that terrible trend. By saving the actual ground where those conflicts were fought, you and I are preserving the outdoor classrooms that will be accessible to all future generations.

We are saving the stories not only of great leaders like George Washington . . .

. . . but we are also preserving the stories of the American citizen soldier. They answered their country’s call, picked up their muskets, fought and won our freedom, then peacefully went back to their farms, their shops and their fields. They created the first government in the history of the world dedicated to the rights and freedom of ordinary people.

The hallowed ground of the Brandywine Battlefield represents a key moment, then, not only of the history of our nation, but also in the history of the world.

Shouldn’t we help preserve these 21 acres of open land in memory of those ordinary citizens who went into that battle with a handful of bullets, and who ultimately defeated the greatest military power of their age to win their liberty?

Isn’t it the highest and best use of these irreplaceable acres to preserve them so that future generations can learn of the momentous events that happened there, rather than to destroy forever the land’s ability to impart its heroic and inspirational stories?

The issue at stake is far larger than the construction of more enormous houses on a battlefield. The issue is this: Are you and I going to allow an irreplaceable part of our nation’s magnificent history to be destroyed for all time to satisfy a short-term interest, merely out of convenience?

I have asked much of you lately; I know that. Your dedication is awe-inspiring, and even though I am asking you for your help and support once more, I hope you will stand with me to preserve a true national treasure. Those hungry, rag-wrapped citizen soldiers who sacrificed all to give us the nation we have today deserve no less.

Before September 11, the 241st anniversary of this historic battle, will you help me raise the $95,000 we need to help save these 21 acres of hallowed ground at Brandywine? If just 1,000 patriots answer my call to arms today with a gift of $95, we will be able to declare this land saved forever. Will you please consider being one of those patriots?

To thank you for being one of the first 1,000 people to send a gift of $95 or more, I am pleased to offer you – quite frankly – a historic gift that is not available to the general public. Thanks to the generosity of our friends at the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati (the hereditary society formed by the officers of the Continental Army), we have 1,000 full-sized reproductions of a rare map of the Brandywine Battlefield.

Meticulously prepared by British engineers in 1778, this map is entitled “Battle of Brandywine in which the rebels [that’s you and me!] were defeated,” and it measures a generous 22 inches wide by 28 inches tall. Each one is printed on high-quality paper stock and will be shipped to you rolled in a protective tube – not folded! This is a true work of art which you will want to frame and hang in your home, I can assure you, but please act quickly; once they are gone, I may not be able to get any more.

Of course, if you can possibly give more than $95, it will help us reach our goal of $95,000 even quicker, and save this land!

In closing, let me leave you with the inspiring words from a publication of those friends at the American Revolution Institute of the Society of the Cincinnati:

“We must never lose sight of the fact that our revolution was won by brave men on fields of battle – men who risked and in some cases lost their lives to secure the freedom we enjoy. Those battlefields are sacred places where the drama of our War for Independence can still be imagined and remembered. Population growth and the economic success of our country – success that is a consequence of the very free institutions established by the heroes of our revolution – put continuously mounting development pressure on these great historic places. We can save them, but we have to do it now.”

Please support the Revolutionary War Trust today with your most generous gift and help save even more of America’s precious and irreplaceable history right now. Thank you.

With deepest gratitude, 

Jim Lighthizer Signature

Jim Lighthizer

P.S. Please visit our website at for even more information about the battle and this effort to save 21 acres there. Thank you for helping to save even more of our nation’s history and heritage for future generations. That makes you a hero, as far as I am concerned. There has never been a national push like this to protect the remaining unprotected battlefields of the Revolutionary War. Don’t we owe it to those future generations of Americans to do everything we can to save this part of our history, too? I obviously think so, and hope you do, too. Thank you again.