The Brandywine Conservancy Board of Trustees have approved for purchase a 13-acre tract of land in the heart of the historic Brandywine Battlefield. This parcel of land is the final piece of Brandywine’s 25-year endeavor to preserve over 500 contiguous acres around Meetinghouse Road in Birmingham Township, where the fiercest fighting occurred during the Battle of Brandywine in the Revolutionary War.
Owned by the estate of Mrs. Roberta Odell, the 13-acre tract on Birmingham Hill was near the epicenter of the Battle of Brandywine. Once purchased, this tract will be merged with an adjacent 100-acre property previously acquired by Brandywine in 2007, bringing the total battlefield permanently protected to over 500 acres. This purchase will also conclude decades of work and major fundraising efforts to preserve the area as a contiguous whole, preventing development in the heart of one of the nation’s most important historic battlefields.
Beginning in the mid-1990s, the Brandywine identified five large undeveloped and unprotected neighboring properties along and near Meetinghouse Road in Birmingham Township, which included the sites where the most intense clashes of the Battle of Brandywine occurred. By 2007, Brandywine and its partners had raised more than $16 million in public and private funds to acquire the properties and/or place conservation easements with the landowners, resulting in the permanent protection of 485 acres of the battlefield. The remaining 13-acre parcel on Birmingham Hill is the final piece of this major fundraising effort.
“Piece by piece, and with the strong support of our major funders, our goal to protect the historic properties in the battlefield’s Meetinghouse Road corridor is nearing completion,” said David Shields, Brandywine’s associate director. “This is a personally gratifying moment for me, as I’ve been working on this project since its inception.”
“This is a key piece of land that Brandywine has long sought to preserve in order to protect this historic site in honor of the battle and those who fought, and I’m pleased to see it finally coming to fruition,” said Ellen Ferretti, director of the Conservancy. “I want to thank David Shields and the many supporters who have previously contributed over $16 million to make the first phase of this effort possible. We look forward to the next chapter in preserving this piece of cultural heritage for future generations.”
Following the purchase and additional fundraising efforts, Brandywine will develop a master plan for the combined properties. While Brandywine is in the beginning stages of planning for the use and management of the entire Birmingham Hill property, the initial goals will be to preserve the property’s historic integrity; conserve existing natural resources; provide opportunities for public visitation; develop interpretative and educational programs; and seek out qualified partners to work with Brandywine to help realize these goals.
About the Battle of the Brandywine
The Battle of the Brandywine took place on September 11, 1777. Success on the battlefield enabled the British to capture Philadelphia, beginning an occupation that would last until June 1778, while the Continental Army spent an arduous winter at Valley Forge. Starting from Kennett Square, British general Sir William Howe led half his army on a 12-mile march, crossing the Brandywine five miles north of Chadds Ford, and took a strategic position on the heights of Osborne Hill overlooking the Birmingham Friends Meeting House. The British were hoping to make a surprise assault on the rear of Washington’s Continental Army amassed as Chadds Ford. On Birmingham Hill and neighboring parcels, Continental forces hastily formed into battle lines to defend against the British forces attacking from the north.
More troops fought in the Battle of Brandywine than in any other battle of the American Revolution. The battle lasted for 11 hours until darkness forced a halt. Both sides suffered heavy losses and while the Americans eventually retreated, they gained a new respect for their demonstrated resolve and discipline in battle. The Brandywine Battlefield is designated as both a National Historic Landmark and the first Commonwealth Treasure for its historic integrity and significance to our national history.