When reenacting or acting as a historical interpreter, its good to have a few historical dates and stories to share. This series will publish a few.
September 20, 1777 – PAOLI MASSACRE: Major General Charles Grey launched a surprise attack on General Anthony Wayne’s camp, near the General Paoli Tavern. To ensure that the Americans were not alerted, General Grey ordered that troops should advance with muskets unloaded and attack with the bayonet alone. British forces approached the camp from a wood and were able to achieve complete surprise. Completely unprepared, Wayne’s troops fled from the camp and were pursued. the British routed an entire American division.
On the evening of September 20, 1777, near Paoli, Pennsylvania, General Charles Grey and nearly 5,000 British soldiers launch a surprise attack on a small regiment of Patriot troops commanded by General Anthony Wayne in what becomes known as the Paoli Massacre. Not wanting to lose the element of surprise, Grey ordered his troops to empty their muskets and to use only bayonets or swords to attack the sleeping Americans under the cover of darkness.
With the help of a Loyalist spy who provided a secret password and led them to the camp, General Grey and the British launched the successful attack on the unsuspecting men of the Pennsylvania regiment, stabbing them to death as they slept. It was also alleged that the British soldiers took no prisoners during the attack, stabbing or setting fire to those who tried to surrender. Before it was over, nearly 200 Americans were killed or wounded. The Paoli Massacre became a rallying cry for the Americans against British atrocities for the rest of the Revolutionary War.
Less than two years later, Wayne became known as “Mad Anthony” for his bravery leading an impressive Patriot assault on British cliff-side fortifications at Stony Point on the Hudson River, 12 miles from West Point. Like Grey’s attack at Paoli, Wayne’s men only used bayonets in the 30-minute night attack, which resulted in 94 dead and 472 captured British soldiers.
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