Tredyffrin Easttown Historical Society
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Source: October 1998 Volume 36 Number 4, Pages 123–125

Reminiscences of Paoli
[Of the Parade Grounds and those who took part, by one of the Participants]

Page 123

When a boy I remember with what supreme pleasure I looked forward to Paoli Parade Day. For many years this outing was anticipated by many, old and young, for a radius of twenty miles of the grounds, all hoping for a fair day for the military display, so as not to mar the gorgeous trappings of the soldiers or detract from their numbers.

The field officers who usually attended these yearly parades were Major General Isaac D. Bernard, Major General George Hartman, Brigadier General Thomas Trimble. Colonels Wm. Harris and Evans. Majors McConkey, Peck and Yocum, Aide-de-Camp Lewis Lewis and others, whose names are forgotten, who by their influence and example sustained and encouraged the military ardor in the country.

The military companies of those days mustered with full ranks, among which may be mentioned the Great Valley Light Infantry, Captain John G. Wersler, the Chester County Fencibles, Captain George Hartman (these two companies were chiefly composed of men who had served part of the time in the War of 181 2); the Delaware County Biues, Captain Litzenberg; the West Chester Blues, Captain Osborne; the Delaware County Riflemen, Captain Smith (a large company who drilled by the tap of the drum and not by word of command);

Page 124

the Delaware and Chester Cavairy, Captain Jones; The Chester County Cavairy, Captain Samuel Holman; the Chester County Riflemen, Captain Alexander Marshall, and Captain Sinquett's Company from Willistown; The National Guards of West Chester, Captain Irwin; and The National Greys, Captain William Apple, who were always admired for their neat, and soldierly appearance and efficient drill; the Republican Artillerists, who always boasted that the large company was made up entirely of Democrats, and who possessed the large brass field piece called the Diana, while the Junior Artillerists, a large organization of oppo­site politics, possessed an iron gun named Minerva.

There was much rivalry between the two companies, to see who could excel in rapid firing. Both companies possessed large military bands, and other companies possessed martial music only. These were the old com­panies that assembled at the old parade grounds, for many years, numbering often 1000 uniformed men in line, together with the before men­tioned brigade and division officers in full uniform.

The morning was given over to a regimental parade and review, and a mock funeral to the old soldiers buried on the ground, while the afternoon was devoted to the sham battle. In later years this was omitted, owing to the danger of some in excitement forgetting to return ramrod in loading. The skirmishing of the troopers and riflemen afforded much amuse­ment to the crowds.

The enforcement of the laws requiring company and battalion drills on all had its effect in bringing ridicule on military musters, which were enhanced by a few elections to office of men who in refusing and neglecting to attend to their duties brought disrepute on the volunteer system, and in this manner sided to break up all military spirit within the county, but they were not loath to assume the titles of Generals, Colonels and Majors, if not epauletted, and so the military in this county for many years fell into desuetude. It was on these occasions that the bullies of the county assembled to settle their differences and many bloody fist fights occurred at such times.

For many years the gamblers from the city utilized the day to spread their roulette and sweatcloths under the trees of the grounds dressed in rustic garb and assuming rural manners to allure country lads to bet and gamble on games of chance. Their brazen and disreputable acts determined the field officers to put a stop to them by a wholesale arrest and prosecution; so one evening after a parade a company was marched outside of the gates and formed into a hollow square and ail the gamblers and their paraphernalia were gathered up and placed in the hollow square and shipped off to West Chester, to the old jail.

Page 125

There were some amusing scenes accompanying these arrests; many hid in the adjoining bushes, while others took to their legs, running and scattering like quarter horses. The old jail had a larger number of tenants that day than it had seen for many years, and for several days afterward their wives and sweethearts were very busy in procuring bail for those who had been caught.

When court called in October instead of the rustic crowd picked up by the military, a flashy array presented themselves in gaudy habiliments some assuming a clerical garb, while their wives and sweethearts flaunted elegant silks and satins and flashed some diamonds. This together with the pleadings of attorneys, did not avail, and as they had been taken flagrante delictu they all received a greater or less term of imprisonment, and this broke up gambling at the Paoli Parades.

The last large encampment, lasting several days, was commanded by Colonel Fairlamb, of Philadelphia, and was participated in, with his brigade, by several volunteer companies from the city. One day the rowdy element became quite riotous, Captain Small's company was ordered to quell the mob, headed by the Captain with drawn sword, at a charge crying, "I hate a mob." So unruly did they become that a squadron of cavalry was required to scatter the rioters.

signed W. D. H.

[Copied from a scrap book loaned me by Mr. Henry Pleasants. A. W. Baugh, August 10, 1913.]

The Baugh Notebooks are presently in the possession of the Tredyffrin Library, Strafford, Pa.


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